Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Balanced and Favorable - Congratulations Sorya Sarhadi Nelson

Some of you may recall that - back in August of 2009 - Stars & Stripes broke the story of how the Pentagon was using the services of the Rendon Group to rate reporters who sought to embed in Afghanistan. NPR gave this story brief on-air coverage - two stories to be exact:
  • On August 27, 2009 ATC JJ Sutherland reported the story from the perspective of two military spokespersons.
  • On August 29, 2009 ATC Guy Raz did a decent interview with Charlie Reed the lead reporter on the story for Stars & Stripes.
At the time, I remember thinking that any truly public news organization would have reported on whether its own reporters had been subjects of the Rendon ratings. Given NPR's failure to seriously report on US/NATO atrocities in Afghanistan that was definitely something I was curious about. Instead of wasting my time with NPR apologist/ombudsman Alicia Shepard, I decided to file my own FOIA request (a first for me). After a bit of research into the process, I contacted USCENTCOM and included the following request:
"Pursuant to the federal Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, I request access to and copies of information contained in the reporter profiles provided to the US Department of Defense by The Rendon Group for profiling reporters seeking to embed with US forces in Afghanistan. I specifically am interested in profiles related to the following National Public Radio (NPR) reporters: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, Tom Bowman, and Renee Montagne.

Through this request, I am gathering information on ratings provided to the US Department of Defense about reporters from National Public Radio who have embedded with US forces in Afghanistan. This information is of current interest to the public because the story of profiling reporters has recently broken and yet no mention of whether NPR reporters were profiled has been made public.

This information is being sought on behalf of the blog "NPR Check" for dissemination to the general public. My blog is a media critique of National Public Radio news. I post to it about 2-3 times per week and have been posting for over three years. The blog currently has about 250 readers per day."
Well, the wheels of government do turn slowly, but this Monday, September 27th, I finally received my FOIA documents and I'm posting them as Google Documents / PDF files that you can click on to read and then download if you like. The only alteration I made was in the letter to me; I removed my mailing address. The most striking comments come in the "Memorandum" from Rendon where it states:
  • "Nelson's reports have largely been balanced and favorable."
  • "She recently reported favorably on US military aid to victims injured in Taliban attacks as well as US military training of the Afghan police."
  • "Based on her past reporting trends, you may expect Nelson to provide balanced or favorable coverage of her embed experience..."
Below are the documents I received (click on each to read):
  1. Letter of response to my FOIA from USCENTOM.
  2. Memorandum of "Media Analysis for Soraya Sarhadi Nelson" from Rendon to a Staff Sergeant in the Army.
  3. Rendon Group profile of Soraya Sarhadi Nelson.
I will post another open thread in a couple of days - I've been enjoying the lively critiques and comments.

17 comments:

Patrick Lynch said...

I just found this site today. I am so relieved to see someone saying the very same things I've been saying about NPR for the last eight to ten years.

I have not the slightest bit of surprise that anyone who hops into bed with the Pentagon the way NPR has will get any rating other than "balanced and favourable"

Totally get your sense of "groundhog day" and the despair that goes with it, but you are providing something extremely valuable that I am going to point other people to. Proof that NPR is really National Propaganda Radio.

goopDoggy said...

"Nelson has reported heavily on [..] Iranian support for the Taliban."

Not so much on CIA support for the Taliban, then? How favorable is that? Poor CIA never gets the credit they're due.

Welcome Patrick Lynch and a big ¡Howdedo! to MyTwords!

GRUMPY DEMO said...

ALL HAIL THE RETURN OF MYTWORDS!

Good stuff, since we're strolling down memory lane, NPR prior Ombudsmans has his own blog.

It this post he seems to almost admit the NPR was pro-war (now he tells us).

"t wasn't that senior editorial staff were openly pro-war. But there was a growing sense of being on the verge of the biggest story in years. And the opportunity to cover a war was an unstated and unseemly "vibe" I encountered in talking with reporters, editors and managers. Some quietly expressed reservations about NPR's coverage, but these usually came from more junior journalists and were quickly dismissed and overridden in the morning editorial meetings.

It was that attitude combined with an unhealthy deference to the Bush White house in that strange post-9/11 atmosphere that tended to downplay or ignore anti-war sentiment in the country."

http://nowthedetails.blogspot.com/2009/09/newsroom-goes-to-war.html

Today, NPR has just replaced it "unhealthy deference to Bush" with deference to any GOP/FOX approved source.

GRUMPY DEMO said...

Hey Lads and Lassies!

The NPR (Not An)Ombudsman is leaving:

Anyone want to apply?.

My guess she'll be replaced by someone who's worked for Rupert Murdock or another washed up Washington Post villager.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, MM. I will enjoy reading.
DonQP

Anonymous said...

Washed up Washington Post Villager? You mean, Village idiot?

slightly!resuscitated!bunny!hop!hop!hop! said...

^ Oh gee, Grump. The burning question, then, is - what'll Rapunzel's next gig be?

Is the launching of a salacious tell-all Blog-punzel in the cards as well? - the ol' C.Y.A. bridge-burning, meager attempt at vindicating, well, a rather pathetic tenure.

Nate Bowman said...

Thank you for the work myT.

I know how frustrating FOIA requests can be and how much patience they require. Thank you for having the idea, the inititative, the stick-to-it-iveness and for sharing.

Hail!

Nate Bowman said...

Grumpy

I had written to Dvorkin as the head of the Organization of News Ombudsmen to complain about Ms. Shepard not doing her job as ombudsman and asking him to aske her to do her job.

He basically said that he is no longer there and could do nothing about it and write to NPR if you are not happy.

In the process, I looked into what the Organization of News Ombudsmen does, and it seemed that they were more worried that there were fewer of them (and how to reverse that trend) than that they did their jobs. More of a lobby group than an excellence-monitoring vehicle.

Anonymous said...

Off subject, but...

Senator Al Franken is taking on NPR corporate sponsor, Ally Bank. Ally Bank, the sole corporate underwriter for Planet Monkey.

Don Q. Public

goopDoggy said...

Buns writes "Is the launching of a salacious tell-all Blog-punzel in the cards as well?"

Yes, I can image her bemoaning the slings and arrows of Murrey, Boulder Dude, Nate Bowman, DonQ and their various incarnations in a page turner, "The Tears of a Tea Bag Sympathizer," where "tears" rhymes with bears, as in Mama Grizzlies. She'll start with "dibs" on TOTN, move on to Terry Gross, do Tell Me More and then finish with a flourish on ME and ATC.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I am rendered almost wordless except to say: MyT Words rocks!

edk

Anonymous said...

Can't access any of them. What's up with that?

goopDoggy said...

More recently, Nelson worked with the Orange County Register covering Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

So I looked at one of her articles there from five years ago: Checks, balances of signing season where, to her credit she references Bob Stern, president of the non-partisan Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, who ticks off the following points:

...the governor's critics, [..] have circulated the names of several key donors to his campaign and their connection to bills he's signed. They include:

$250,000 from Christy Walton, the widow of former Wal-Mart heir John Walton, the same day Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill, opposed by Wal-Mart, that would have had the state identify companies whose employees use state health programs for low-income people.

$100,000 from the Henry Wine Group on Oct. 7, the same day he vetoed a bill, opposed by the wine industry, that would have increased pesticide regulations.

$105,000 from the American Insurance Association on the day he vetoed a bill that would have increased medical insurers' liability.


But the article ends with this bizarro conclusion:

Stern said he has no doubt Schwarzenegger is sincere about not trading favors for contributions. "I'm sure there's no quid pro quo," he said.

Really?

goopDoggy said...

I'll try again with a post that was lost...cyberganger will be shorter.

Nelson reported on Shwarzenegger for the Orange County Register. She didn't last long there. Her report Checks, balances of signing season made some good hits from Bob Stern, president of the non-partisan Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles who circulated the names of several key donors to his campaign and their connection to bills he's signed. They include::

$250,000 from Christy Walton, the widow of former Wal-Mart heir John Walton, the same day Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill, opposed by Wal-Mart, that would have had the state identify companies whose employees use state health programs for low-income people.

$100,000 from the Henry Wine Group on Oct. 7, the same day he vetoed a bill, opposed by the wine industry, that would have increased pesticide regulations.

$105,000 from the American Insurance Association on the day he vetoed a bill that would have increased medical insurers' liability.
...and yet the article concludes with this bizarro conclusion:

Stern said he has no doubt Schwarzenegger is sincere about not trading favors for contributions. "I'm sure there's no quid pro quo," he said.

Really?

larry, dfh said...

My only question is: why is MTW writing nelson's resume for her?

Anonymous said...

These blogs are really interesting , and occasionally the main stream media MSM, will pick up one of these stories and give us some real news. In europe they do it all the time because the populace can do nothing about real change, and they have been slowly indoctrinated into the benefits of socialism. Americans tend to believe in the rags to riches story for everyone who works hard