(my apologies to real wolves)
I had to post on the Ombudsman's repulsive write-up on NPR's Howard Zinn slander. Alicia Shepard's words pretty much speak for themselves so here they are in order of appearance:
"Horowitz, 71....is also founder of Students for Academic Freedom, a national watchdog group that promotes tolerance of conservatives on college campuses.[That is some serious tolerance.]
"Many critics pointed to NPR's even-handed coverage of William F. Buckley, "a figure as admired by the right as much as Zinn was on the left," according to FAIR, which gave its members talking points and urged them to contact the Ombudsman.
NPR was complimentary and respectful in memorializing Buckley....The network was equally nuanced in remembering pioneering televangelist Oral Roberts...."[It's interesting how Shepard conflates giving praise and respect as "even-handed" and "nuanced." She also manages to get a dig in at the NPR critics as being nothing but unthinking FAIR zombies repeating its talking points.]
"Obituaries are news stories that place a person in time and history -- not tributes. For this reason, Zinn's obituary did need to mention that he was controversial and that some historians were dismissive of his work. But, several professional obituary writers said, Horowitz's harsh comments about Zinn were not appropriate."[How Shepard squares "not tributes" with NPR being "complimentary and respectful in memorializing Buckley" defies logic. She also pulls out the reliable NPR cudgel of vagueness (i.e. some) in claiming validation from those anonymous historians dismissive of Zinn's work.]
"Adam Bernstein, the Washington Post's obituaries editor, also heard the Zinn obit.[The vague cudgel of "some" is now the sledgehammer of the anonymous "many": "many scholars...felt Zinn was not a force for good..." It's also clever - and cowardly - how Shepard slips this in by way of quoting someone else.]
....'It seems to me your story would have been better to get a more-neutral authority who expresses why Zinn was influential and helps the reader/listener understand why many scholars -- not just conservative firebombers like Horowitz -- felt Zinn was not a force for good in academia.'"
"After the flood of emails, I asked Sweeney [NPR managing editor] to take another listen.[See, it was a legitimate point, just should have been backed up by evidence - which Sweeney fails to mention does not exist!]
He agreed the Horowitz quote is harsh in tone. 'That doesn't undermine the legitimacy of using his point of view,' said Sweeney. 'If there is a problem with what Horowitz has to say, it's that he's allowed to wield a sharp tongue without providing any justification or evidence to support his words: more heat than light.' "
"I also asked Alana Baranick, author of "Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers," to listen to the story. She wrote obits for the Cleveland Plain Dealer for 16 years. She thought it was fair to use Horowitz to balance out leftist academic Noam Chomsky, who said "Zinn had changed the conscience of a generation."[This is the kind of idiocy that the NPR Ombudsman consults for advice. As if Horowitz "balances out" a quote from Chomsky. And as if being political activists disqualifies a historian from being taken seriously. Especially given that part of Zinn's legacy was as a scholar and an activist for such radical things like civil rights for Black folks.]
"If I had been doing that NPR obit, I would not have cited Horowitz or Chomsky," said Baranick. "I would have looked to less controversial figures for comments. [Quoting] historians, who are not considered political activists, would have been more appropriate."
"Critics are right that NPR was not respectful of Zinn."[Respectful?! I could care less about "respectful." If there is truth to a criticism of someone who dies, let's have it - what else is news for? No, the problem is that NPR news aired completely dishonest and unsubstantiated slurs against one of the leading American historians who was also a decent and progressive activist - but when any rightwinger or Christian fundamentalist kicks the bucket, NPR is there to provide "nuanced" "complimentary and respectful memorializing" while refusing to document their shortcomings - something any journalist worth her salt could do both thoroughly and respectfully.]