"I've said it before, and I will reiterate it. NPR is a mainstream news outlet." - Alicia Shepard, Nov. 2, 2009
I have to hand it to NPR's ombudsman, Alicia Shepard, when she posts on her blog, she really knows how to put ugly out there. This was manifest in her June21, 2009 defense of not calling torture torture and her similarly enhanced defense of the same on June 30, 2009. If you've not read Glenn Greenwald's critique of Shepard on this matter, it is well worth the read.
On her Monday, Nov. 2 post, Shepard's back with a doozy, distorting her critics' positions and selectively misquoting herself in order to defend her stated desire to have MORE conservative voices on NPR news.
Shepard is writing about a complaint she received regarding comments she made on the Kojo Nmadi show on the Washington, DC public radio affiliate, WAMU. A caller had just hung up after noting - with examples - that NPR's usual range of experts/pundits ranged from the hard right to slightly left of center at best. Shepard's response (starting at about the 42 minute mark) was telling:
"Public radio listeners are very passionate about what they hear...people hear things selectively....people hear groups that they think shouldn't be on NPR and then they latch on to that and I think that's just how we're wired as human beings..."and then comes
"...do I think NPR could do a better job? I think of having more conservative voices on NPR ah, you know rather than saying that they pander to conservatives, I just think some of the conservative names Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck. I mean when Glenn Beck is on NPR I can be assured that there will be a lot of emails about that, and I feel like, 'Hey you should hear what Glenn Beck has to say. You know, like it or not, he is influential.' "It's crucial to note that there is absolutely nothing in Shepard's on-air comment indicating that she thinks it's important to report on the views of people like Beck and Limbaugh - to hold their statements up to facts and to explore the phenomenon of the popularity of hate and misinformation news-opinion shows. Is there any other way to interpret Shepard's remarks, except to conclude that she believes more conservative voices such as Beck and Limbaugh should be on NPR?
And so she received an angry email from a listener who wrote,
"I was outraged by your comment today on the Kojo Nnamdi program that NPR should have more people like Glenn Beck who represent a certain point of view not heard on NPR."Seems like a pretty open and shut case of Ombudsman says something stupid and unethical, gets caught, and should issue an apology/retraction. Not in Shepard's "Beck and Me" land. First she whines,
"Usually I am the one examining those on air, and now I know how it feels to be on the other side of the mic, where it is perceived that I did something wrong."Then she selectively edits her statement from the WAMU show,
"When Glenn Beck is on NPR I can be assured that there will be a lot of emails about that, and I feel like, 'Hey you should hear what Glenn Beck has to say. You know, like it or not he is influential.' " [Notice how she removes the damning opening to her statement "...I think of having more conservative voices on NPR ah, you know rather than saying that they pander to conservatives, I just think some of the conservative names Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck.]And finally she distorts her critic's opinion so that it is easier to dismiss,
"That quote does not indicate that I think Beck should be on NPR every day..."It's worth re-reading the complaint she's referring to: "I was outraged by your comment today on the Kojo Nnamdi program that NPR should have more people like Glenn Beck who represent a certain point of view not heard on NPR." Is there anything in that quote alleging that Shepard wants Beck on NPR every day?
I can't think of a column that makes a stronger case for what I've been attempting to show in this blog - NPR news is indistinguishable from the pandering-to-power corporate/mainstream media news outlets in this country. Alicia Shepard - with her thirty years of journalism experience! - says it better than me:
"I've said it before, and I will reiterate it. NPR is a mainstream news outlet. Its duty is to inform the public of all that is going on - and that means airing voices and stories that many listeners might not like or agree with."This begs the question of just what unique perspective or qualities NPR contributors are getting for their donations that they can't get on CNN, FOX, etc.