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New ethics policy at National Public Radio

NPRLogoI recently wrote about a problem I see with media reporting, in my article: The Wikipediazation of the mainstream media. I bemoaned the tendency of news organizations to repeat whatever newsmakers say, without regard to whether it’s true or not. They cover “both sides of an issue” by finding two people with opposing opinions, giving equal time to facts and spin.

I did not know when I wrote my article that a news source that I have listened to for decades and for which I have the highest regard1, National Public Radio, introduced a new “Ethics Handbook” last month that addresses my concern specifically. It says, in part:

At all times, we report for our readers and listeners, not our sources. So our primary consideration when presenting the news is that we are fair to the truth. If our sources try to mislead us or put a false spin on the information they give us, we tell our audience. If the balance of evidence in a matter of controversy weighs heavily on one side, we acknowledge it in our reports. We strive to give our audience confidence that all sides have been considered and represented fairly.

The check is in the mail.

As I have had the opportunity to read the handbook in detail, I have found many principles that I can apply in my own writing and blogging. I very much appreciate the section on accuracy, for example. A lot of it I knew, but having it codified is good and I don’t feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants.

Learn More:


1NPR is not perfect and they have made some mistakes. Some people have had to resign. One of the purposes of the new Handbook is to insure those lapses don’t happen again.

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19 Responses to New ethics policy at National Public Radio

  1. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    I was curious to see how they handled the Maricopa County Cold Case Posse. All they did was republish the AP wire story, which was OK, but hardly in depth.

  2. avatar
    JPotter March 15, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    I would note that NPR notes corrections and listerner feedback daily. And I can’t think of a time when they let two “commentators” go at each other unrestrained or unchecked. It is a far more communal platform and model. I enjoy the near complete absence of talking heads.

  3. avatar
    y_p_w March 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    I think it needs to be noted that “public radio” has a large marketplace of different “vendors”. Some programming is independent of any of the large distributors. Some programming has even switched distributors, such as Selected Shorts from NPR to Public Radio International. I’ve heard of a lot of people lumping all of public radio broadcasting into “NPR”.

    There was controvesy over the participation of the radio host Lisa Simeone. She actually worked as a contractor for the show she was most identied with – Soundprint, which was created and distributed by an independent producer. She also produced a show for an NPR affiliate that was distributed by NPR. She was fired by the latter, but many people attributed her firing to NPR, which didn’t drop her.

  4. avatar
    donna March 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    doc: do you know that canada doesn’t allow fox news?

    Fox News will not be moving into Canada after all! The reason: Canadian regulators announced last week they would reject efforts by Canada’s right-wing Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to repeal a law that forbids lying on broadcast news.

    Canada’s Radio Act requires that “a licenser may not broadcast … any false or misleading news.” The provision has kept Fox News and right-wing talk radio out of Canada and helped make Canada a model for liberal democracy and freedom.

  5. avatar
    ellen March 15, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    Bringing this interesting posting to your attention:

    http://turningthescale.net/?p=688

  6. avatar
    MattR March 15, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    donna:

    I am pretty sure you are repeating an urban legend. Fox News is already available on most cable systems in Canada and has been since 2004 when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved it.

  7. avatar
    donna March 15, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    your article is from 2004

    mine is from 2011

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-f-kennedy-jr/fox-news-will-not-be-moving-into-canada-after-all_b_829473.html

  8. avatar
    MattR March 15, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    donna: your article is from 2004mine is from 2011http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-f-kennedy-jr/fox-news-will-not-be-moving-into-canada-after-all_b_829473.html

    Sorry, but RFK Jr is wrong. He correctly took information about the regulator and Candian Parliament ending a 10 year long effort to change Canada’s Radio act and incorrectly assumed that it meant that Fox News is not allowed in Canada (or he is conflating it with the rejected effort to create a Fox News Canada in 2003). The fact is that Fox News is currently available on almost every cable system in Canada. I wish this was not true because it would make communication with my uncle a whole lot more pleasant, but it is (see Wikipedia or go to tvguide, enter in a canadian location and check out the results)

  9. avatar
    MattR March 15, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    MattR:

    As but one example, here is the Rogers channel lineup for the Toronto area. Fox News is channel 181.

  10. avatar
    sactosintolerant March 15, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    On the other end of the journalistic ethics scale:

    “Ironically, the foreign press reported widely on the story. For example, Pravda — that’s right, the former official organ of the Soviet Communist Party — did an extensive analysis of Mr. Arpaio’s findings.”

    That’s a Washington Times columnist talking about an American FReeper’s Pravda.ru article… not THE Pravda.

  11. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

    Good article. Thanks.

    ellen: Bringing this interesting posting to your attention:

    http://turningthescale.net/?p=688

  12. avatar
    Thomas Brown March 15, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    MattR: As but one example, here is the Rogers channel lineup for the Toronto area.Fox News is channel 181.

    Shame they let the Mouthpiece of Satan broadcast their filth in your fine country.

    My condolences.

  13. avatar
    JPotter March 15, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    sactosintolerant: That’s a Washington Times columnist talking about an American FReeper’s Pravda.ru article… not THE Pravda.

    It ain’t called the Moonie Times fer nuthin’!

    The Washington Times is a daily broadsheet newspaper published in Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States. It was founded in 1982 by Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon, and until 2010 was owned by News World Communications, an international media conglomerate associated with the church.
    …. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Washington_Times

    Every aspect of our Capitol, even its newspapers, has a stupid half. If The Post makes the same mistake, that’s a story. (They didn’t, did they?)

  14. avatar
    MattR March 15, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

    Thomas Brown:

    I’m actually a natural born American (unless you completely misread Minor and ignore Wong Kim Ark), but the vast majority of my relatives are in Canada.

  15. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 15, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    I used to go to a Canadian ex patriot dentist who had Fox News on a monitor over the dental chair.

    donna: doc: do you know that canada doesn’t allow fox news?

  16. avatar
    donna March 15, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

    doc: I used to go to a Canadian ex patriot dentist who had Fox News on a monitor over the dental chair.

    lol

    i would have asked for MORE GAS

  17. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 15, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

    (Steering back on topic) I put one over on my Canadian dentist one time. I was in the chair having molars filled on both sides so my mouth was packed with junk. He said, “You Americans know nothing about Canada. You probably don’t even know we had an election yesterday.”

    With everything I could muster, I forced the words through the packing:

    “The Parti Québécois lost seats.”

    He was speechless. Of course, I had heard that on Morning Edition (NPR) on the way to his office.

    donna: i would have asked for MORE GAS

  18. avatar
    Scientist March 15, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: “The Parti Québécois lost seats.”

    If it was a federal election, it would have been the Bloc Quebecois. The Parti Quebecois is a provincial party.

  19. avatar
    Northland10 March 15, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: With everything I could muster, I forced the words through the packing:

    “The Parti Québécois lost seats.”

    And then did you say?

    “Bonasera, Bonasera. What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully?”