Thursday, July 02, 2009

Putting Out Reliable Information


On her blog Alicia Shepard recently made an enhanced response to her initial harsh defense of not using "coded language" like the word torture, Alicia Shepard makes the following bold claim:
"But I am shilling for strong, credible journalism that is as objective as humanly possible. I am shilling for NPR to practice journalism based on putting out reliable information, to the best of its ability -- without taking sides -- so the public can make its own informed decisions."
Hey that's a noble thing to shill for, eh? Let's see how her employer's doing in "putting out reliable information" about some major news stories of the past week.
How did NPR do?
How's that for "strong, credible journalism"? My math might be a bit weak, but I'd say that's 0-for-4. At least Shepard was right about the shilling part.

36 comments:

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Porter Melmoth said...

It was strange, but this morn, at the tail end of a segment on reporters who were looking for jobs in other fields (a very rinkydink report, all told) I heard Davy Greenehorn say that NPR was teaming up with 'other' reporters to do some 'investigative journalism'. The fastidious Greene wryly labeled investigative journalists as 'whiskey-drinking' and that they looked like an 'unmade bed'. Of course, there aren't any of those types at NPR because NPR is not famous for investigative reporting.

And talk about shilling, yesterday Tom Bowman confidently assured us that the US Splatter going on in Afghanistan right now was a jaunty but hard hit against the Taliban, and their multi-billion dollar poppy industry. Attention, Buck Private Bowman: EVERYBODY who matters in Afghanistan is in on the poppy industry. Karzai's brother, the Northern Alliance, the Taliban, farmers, and no doubt stories will trickle out - found out by whiskey-drinking investigative reporters - that yes, Nato hands are in on the dealing as well.

If Shepard's proud of shilling for 'journalism', Bowman's shilling for the poppy industry falls under her protective shield.

NPR would of course plead ignorance in these matters. Sgt. Schultz-ism meets stenographic propaganda...

(DN! recently reported that the US was going to stop its poppy eradication program...)

Porter Melmoth said...

Sorry Juan, Glenn link didn't go through...

Porter Melmoth said...

Just in case:

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/07/02/npr/

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...

Sorry all. Thanks, Port!
Glenn Greewald's post from today, July 2nd.

Porter Melmoth said...

A very strong, BS-spotting column from Greenwald. Very welcome indeed.

NPR has stepped into deep doo-doo with this one. Whatever are they going to do?

(I expect a Luntz-engineered counter-attack, to 'outsmart' Greenwald & Co.)

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...

I haven't said this in a long time, but...TOTN might just be interesting today. Wanna bet the phone lines go down unexpectedly?

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...

Newspaper payola scandal? While NOT about NPR, you have to believe that when NPR follows "the papers of record," like the NYT, WSJ and WaPo, we get the same shit, once removed. Right?

Anonymous said...

Let's face it.

NPR's refusal to call interrogation methods like waterboarding and Shepard's lame excuses are just part of the very broad effort led by our government -- and facilitated by a servile media -- to, as ACLU put it, "sweep the abuses of the last eight years under the rug."

it's as simple as that and no amount of word-parsing is going to hide that fact.

Anonymous said...

"Putting out" (self-ignited fires) might be a good description of the NPR ombudsman's job.

Porter Melmoth said...

One of Ms Shepard's other pronouncements to straighten us out, as to what NPR really is:

"Public radio is at heart, a public service. But it's a complicated public service that doesn't operate like other media." (from June 19th)

She will be the recipient of the first-ever Lead Balloon Award for losing a record number of NPR subscribers.

Nightmarish Public Radio will never be the same. Even Anne of Green Zone Garrels could claim battle fatigue for her landmark transgression (!), but Alicia, at NPR HQ, has no such luxury.

Anonymous said...

Even Anne of Green Zone Garrels could claim battle fatigue for her landmark transgression (!), but Alicia, at NPR HQ, has no such luxury."

What do you mean?

Alicia is battling the "Snark Side" (bloggers like yourself, MTW, and Glenn Greenwald)

She is fighting the good battle so that journalists everywhere can rest easy knowing that they will never have to be questioned for their choice of words (or outfit).

Who knows, she may even go down in history as "Alicia of Snark"

Anonymous said...

NPR Ombot on TOTN during the second half of hour 1.

Anonymous said...

Does Alicia Shepard's appearance on several NPR programs to "splain" herself seem incestuous to anyone else?

Or perhaps it is just me.

The problem with ANY NPR program (no matter how "hard hitting" and "independent" it appears), of course, is that Shepard gets to set the conditions and determine the questions she will (and possibly will not) answer on air.

krameroneill said...

I really don't want to vilify Shepard, she is just doing her job, and this issue is a symptom of NPR's problem, not the problem itself.

But...her appearance on Talk of the Nation makes it very hard to have any sympathy. She pulled out the same straw men she's been ripping on for a month ("some people say abortion is bad," "the Times and WaPo failed just as badly as we did," etc) and still doesn't seem to understand any of the criticisms she's getting. Incredibly frustrating, even more than I thought it would be.

Anonymous said...

TOTN segment was full of strawman aruguments, by both Shepard and O'Brien.

Porter Melmoth said...

Shepard is ostensibly an ombudsperson, but she is clearly a representative of the NPR management. It is remarkable that she would take up this cause (indeed, if she had any choice in the matter), and take the fire that results, while the higher-ups remain protected, mysterious and invulnerable.

miranda m. said...

Thankfully I heard only the very end of this predictably shameful spin-terview. But can we add to our growing list of Orwellian terms the title "Reader Representative," my hometown paper's ombudsman, whose job, like Shepard's, is to advance the view that "Management is ALWAYS RIGHT."

gopol said...

To be read only on an empty stomach:

Schiller addressed the NewsVision conference and tells how women are always coming up to Inskeep saying "I wake up with you every morning."

Porter Melmoth said...

Viv Shill-er certainly wants in on the hot NPR action.

To those who are not kreeped out by Steven's early morning lovin' - well, there's no accounting for taste.

And Alicia Shepard - NPRepresentative of the Moment - surely she has an ego to match the Blob's, or Maw-ra's or practically anybody else. That's another pissy factor about NPR - everyone poses as such modest little things, while bulging, tumescent egos throb behind the scenes.

Porter Melmoth said...

Couldn't resist a Madoff yak over at my cobweb-enshrouded blog:

http://yakkingmelmoth.
blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

I called in to the Talk of the Nation show today about NPR's cowardly avoidance of the word "torture," when reporting about, well ... you know.

When the screener asked me what point I wanted to make, I said that Alicia Shepard was wrong to state that, while she thought waterboarding was torture, that was just her "personal opinion." I pointed out that the U.S. government had always classified waterboarding as torture and had prosecuted soldiers for engaging in it during the Philippine-American War, World War II, and Vietnam. The screener said, and I quote: "She doesn't know about that. She's not a historian." Which I guess means that if Shepard is unaware of certain highly pertinent facts ... they can't be a topic for on air discussion. I was told to come up with a point that related directly to something that Shepard had said. I said I had just done so, that Shepard was wrong to argue that calling waterboarding torture was just a matter of personal "opinion" rather than a matter of judicial and historical fact. The screener told me that the history of waterboarding had no bearing on the conversation, that I could only talk about it in the present, in terms of the Bush Administration. I said "So, the Bush Administration is allowed to just erase history? There is no historical record prior to the Bush Administration?" The screener paused for a few seconds, and then said I could try calling back, and again I quote, if I "... had something simpler to say." Then she hung up on me.

By "simpler," I'm assuming she meant like the woman who was put on the air to talk about how happy she was that NPR stuck to the center, unlike that well-known bastion of left-wing radicals, MSNBC ...

Anonymous said...

I called in to the Talk of the Nation show today about NPR's cowardly avoidance of the word "torture," when reporting about, well ... you know.

When the screener asked me what point I wanted to make, I said that Alicia Shepard was wrong to state that, while she thought waterboarding was torture, that was just her "personal opinion." I pointed out that the U.S. government had always classified waterboarding as torture and had prosecuted soldiers for engaging in it during the Philippine-American War, World War II, and Vietnam. The screener said, and I quote: "She doesn't know about that. She's not a historian." Which I guess means that if Shepard is unaware of certain highly pertinent facts ... they can't be a topic for on air discussion. I was told to come up with a point that related directly to something that Shepard had said. I said I had just done so, that Shepard was wrong to argue that calling waterboarding torture was just a matter of personal "opinion" rather than a matter of judicial and historical fact. The screener told me that the history of waterboarding had no bearing on the conversation, that I could only talk about it in the present, in terms of the Bush Administration. I said "So, the Bush Administration is allowed to just erase history? There is no historical record prior to the Bush Administration?" The screener paused for a few seconds, and then said I could try calling back, and again I quote, if I "... had something simpler to say." Then she hung up on me.

By "simpler," I'm assuming she meant like the woman who was put on the air to talk about how happy she was that NPR stuck to the center, unlike that well-known bastion of left-wing radicals, MSNBC ...

Anonymous said...

sorry about the double post. Damn internets.

Porter Melmoth said...

Anon, thank you for the illustration of how the NPR mentality trickles down into the roots of the organization until the roots, and the very organic nature of the mechanism as a whole, becomes as one with the mandates from above.

Orwell and many others have warned us about this. It's nothing new, but there always seems a newness to the audacity of propaganda.

Your effort to break through to the propagandists is to be applauded.

Porter Melmoth said...

A busy day. Sorry, folks, for the inundation of PM-yak.

And I complain about Blob Siegel!

gopol said...

Porter,

Our collective nattering is but a molecule on the molar of a mole in contrast to the great monolith of the NPR's logorrhea that flows nonstop from the great radio tower in Langley to every other car stuck in rush-hour nano-creep.
Thanks to your suggestion I went to the archive to search for Orwell.

When NewSpeak is compulsory the revolution will be complete.

I'd be smokin' something to think we made some progress today, but I got an inkling of how the Iran/Contra conspiracy and ensuing Gary Webb/Walter Pincus(et al) war really caused a significant cleavage of the MSM away from reality and further into NewSpeak fiction. Clearly Webb lost and people like Alicia Shepard scrambled to get on the money side of the war. If there's a moral at this stage it might involve noticing that Alicia has several decent paying gigs (ombusdman, professor of journalism) and Webb was exiled and alienated. Supposedly he shot himself in the head twice.

logorrhea : excessive and often incoherent talkativeness or wordiness
–log£or£rhe£ic \-*r*-ik\ adjective

Francois said...

@Anonymous @ 10:22
Please! Tell us you recorded your exchange with the screener. It'd be a bombshell.

Pwetty pleaaasse?

Anonymous said...

I really don't want to vilify Shepard, she is just doing her job, and this issue is a symptom of NPR's problem, not the problem itself.

I agree with the second part of that, but not with the first.

As a point of fact (that has been made several times here), Shepard is NOT doing her job as an ombudsman (not even as she herself describes it: as a respresentative of NPR listeners)

Who the hell does she think all those folks commenting are if not listeners?

criticism of Shepard for NOT DOING HER JOB is not "vilification".

It strikes me that this is precisely what she wants people to think, that she is being "vilified".

If NPR want to use Public in their name and take public dollars (both directly and from member stations) I think it is high time that they actually started acting in the "public interest" rather than in their own financial interest and in the interest of the government and corporations financing them.

If i had my way, I'd give Vivian Schiller and ultimatum. Either you change the way NPR operates or "You're FIRED"

bet that would make her sit up and smell the Morning Edition coffee.

Anonymous said...

Alicia has several decent paying gigs (ombusdman, professor of journalism) and Webb was exiled and alienated."

There's an understatement for ya.

As NPR's lamebotswoman, Shepard gets about $150K in salary (plus benefits) for writing her lame excuses for NPR's Newspeak rubbish.

My guess is she probably gets another $20-30K per year as a part time "journalism professor" (I use both terms loosely: She may profess to know what (real) journalism is about, but clearly has no clue.)

So, she makes close to $200K per year on her "gigs".

And Webb apparently committed suicide in despondency over his inability to get a job -- a state of affairs that was directly the result of totally unethical (thuggish, actually) efforts to discredit him.

BTW, How can one vilify someone who is already vile?

Anonymous said...

the entire news industry is changing before our very eyes [eg. Washington Post is now selling access at massage parlors..I mean "salons"]… This is one of those moments where people are tested. And the news industry is being tested [to see if we our average reporter can score higher than 400 on the SAT's]…. I say we absolutely must embrace the way people are using media today [except blogs, of course. As everyone -- especially Alicia Shepard -- knows, they're just filled with diatribes and shouting matches -- Glenn Greenwald's for example]. It’s scary, it’s risky, the revenue models are unsure [except the $70 million we get from from NPR member stations every year like clockwork] But we have no choice [but to keep whoring ourselves for corporate interests, cuz that's the only way we can expand ...and take over the worl ...I mean ensure "quality programming]”

-- Vivian Schiller (Shiller for those who don't speak German)

Anonymous said...

"Anon, thank you for the illustration of how the NPR mentality trickles down into the roots of the organization..."


Hey, thanks! The whole thing made me feel sort of angry and helpless, so I'm glad I could at least share it with others.

For me it is really indicative of two things. One is a technique/trick to keep unwanted callers off the air. I had a very similar encounter with the exact same screener a few weeks before, when Talk of the Nation did a show about Dick Cheney's and Obama's "competing" speeches ... I called to ask why anyone should take anything Cheney says seriously, given how wrong he has been about everything else, and how disastrous his "mistakes" have been in terms of money and lives. I cited his "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction" line, prior to the invasion, and his repeated insistence that the Iraqi resistance consisted of a few "dead enders" whose efforts would peter out any day now.

The screener demanded that I refer only to something that Cheney had said that very day. Everything he had said prior to today was off limits. She was very aggressive about it. She then asked, in an incredulous voice, if there was nothing I "...found moving or inspiring in Cheney's speech?" She told me that if I could come up with a comment directly related to a specific thing that Cheney had said in his speech that very day, that I could call back, and then she hung up on me.

So, the way it works is, whatever the caller says, you just tell them that it isn't pertinent enough to the topic of the day--that it has to be directly connected to a specific sentence that Cheney/Shepard/Whomever said that very hour, or they can't get on the air.

Strangely, this criteria did not seem to apply to the woman who called in to lavish praise on Cheney ... without citing a single sentence from his speech, as the screener had demanded I do.

The second thing about this, is, it is very revealing of a particular perspective, which I like to call The Eternal Now.

There is no history. The past not only doesn't matter, it doesn't even exist. All that matters is what our Dear Leaders are saying NOW. If Dick Cheney has a long history of making completely false statements, that has no bearing on whether we should trust him now, because those statements no longer exist. Alicia Shepard is not "a historian" so why should she (or NPR) care about the fact that waterboarding was considered to be torture by practically everyone on the planet prior to the Bush Administration's decision to begin using it. There really IS no history prior to the Bush Administration. All we can talk about is what Dick Cheney has to say about it right now, this very hour.

Everything else is irrelevant and off-topic.

It sounds crazy, but I used to be a reporter at a daily newspaper, and I saw this very philosophy in action. It is not something NPR would ever state directly on the air, of course, because they know how ridiculous it would sound if stated publicly. But they don't have to state it publicly.

They can have their screeners do it for them.

Anonymous said...

"Blogger Francois said...

@Anonymous @ 10:22
Please! Tell us you recorded your exchange with the screener. It'd be a bombshell.

Pwetty pleaaasse?

7/3/09 10:34 AM"

Sorry, I really wish I had. When I used to have a landline, something like that would be a little easier. I'll have to figure out a way to record cell phone conversations before calling in to NPR again. But I seriously doubt this is an isolated incident, as this is the second time it has happened to me. Others must be experiencing something similar ...

One lesson I've learned is, if you want to get on the air ... lie. Tell them you have something positive to say about Dick Cheney or NPR or whatever ... Those criticisms from the left that do get through seem to be vague and lacking specifics ... which I suppose makes them easier to dismiss.

larry, dfh said...

Wow, what a great idea for a Jon Stewart or Steven Colbert bit, calling up and recording conversations with the gate-keeper trolls @ npr.

krameroneill said...

Anonymous: I've gotten decent results from taping a cheap lavalier microphone (like the $10 Radio Shack kind) close to the earpiece of a cell phone and running it into a minidisc or flash-drive digital recorder. Picks up both sides of the conversation nicely...not to go all AV nerd on you.

I really wish that conversation were recorded; "she's not a historian" as justification for all this nonsense is such a perfect encapsulation of the "it's not my job" mentality that's killing mainstream journalism...even while they blame their demise on the internet or whatever.

Anonymous said...

The irony is that NPR probably itself records all the call ins (and probably refers some to the "proper authorities")

I suspect that it will probably take someone from the inside (using NPR phone records, etc) to expose NPR for the fraud that it has become.