Saturday, February 13, 2010

In the Mainstream

Imagine if a national radio news organization were committed to providing coverage that had to be "fair, unbiased, accurate, complete and honest." If instead of trying to ape the narrow, acceptable range of opinion and coverage that the mainstream media provides - think how dynamic it would be if that news organization was determined to "present all important views on a subject." Think of the daring stories one would hear if that news organization demanded that it "not approach any coverage with overt or hidden agendas" (including unspoken trust in government spokespersons and a belief in the nobility of military actions and war.)

Clearly, it would be a dramatic change if such a a news organization promised to be "skeptical of all facts gathered and report them only when we are reasonably satisfied of their accuracy....[and] make sure that our language accurately describes the facts and does not imply a fact we have not confirmed." That would definitely be an end to hearing about "militants" being killed in drone attacks and air strikes and "terrorists" being anyone the US government claims is a terrorist.

In these times of obscene financial scams and fraud at the highest levels of our corporate government, just consider how refreshing economic news coverage would be if that imaginary news outlet made "rigorous efforts at all levels of the news gathering and programming process to ensure our facts are not only accurate but also presented in the correct context."

Surprisingly, there is a large, national news organization that is publicly committed to upholding all the standards listed above. Every one of them comes from NPR's published code of ethics. It is a code of ethics squarely at odds with the goal of being mainstream, and yet NPR's ombudsman, Alicia Shepard, repeatedly - and unabashedly - reminds listeners that NPR is determined to be nothing but mainstream. Her most recent statements on the subject came in an interview on WAMU highlighted on her blog,
"NPR started in 1971 as an alternative news network and it has definitely - and more towards the left - and it has definitely and intentionally become more mainstream. I am not advocating that it be mainstream; I am explaining that that is what has happened and that they consider themselves - and I speak of them in the third person - to be like the New York Times or the Washington Post. You can listen to NPR and you can get everything..."
Despite claiming that she is "not advocating that it be mainstream" she then goes on to respond to a caller by stating
"I don't think that you hear a lot of libertarians or socialists or Green Party people on NPR and part of my job is to pass that on. I don't think it's going to change dramatically....I think it's always a matter of balance and what your goals are and what your intention is and as I've said I think NPR's intention is to be more mainstream."
Someone needs to remind Ms. Shepard to read NPR's code of ethics and explain to listeners how it can possibly meet it's commitments while aiming to be "more mainstream." And claiming that "You can listen to NPR and you can get everything..." just doesn't cut it as an explanation, especially considering the evidence to the contrary that this blog has amassed over the years."


Anonymous said...

You can listen to NPR and you can get everything..."

reminds me a of a song:

"You can get anything you want, at Alicia's Radio"
"You can get anything you want, at Alicia's Radio (excepting accuracy)"
Walk right in, ('long as you ain't black)
Ask for truth, and you won't get jack
But You can get anything you want at Alicia's Radio

gDog said...

Har. Alicia looked at all that garbage the MSM has dumped on America and decided, rather than picking theirs up, she'd add hers to the pile. So MTW is in the role of Officer Obie? That's quite a twist - I love it!

Truly, MTW heeds the advice of Collosians 4:5 to Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.

The Code of Ethics is a perfect wedge between NPR pious claims and the perverse contrary behavior of their "reporters" and ombudsman/NPR advocate. For instance,

16. The grant of anonymity should be a last resort.

Clearly the attributions to "some" and "many" and "Pentagon spokespersons" are not anonymous! And I'm a hippopotamus!

Nate Bowman said...


Well thought out, well put together and well written. Thank you.

I rather think he is the ombudsman's ombudsman (Officer Ombie?)

Dina said...

Whatever happened to just reporting the news? What has happened in this celebrity obsessed culture is that journalists are now public personalities and those that have catapulted to stardom want to keep their status. Maintaining that status is dependent on ‘playing ball with the big boys’. At the end of last August, Steve Innskeep was interviewing Michael Steele, the Republican chair, and contrary to the typically rehearsed Morning Edition interview promoting the Republican agenda, Steve asked some hard hitting questions. However, coincidentally or as punishment, Steve was on vacation for the next week or so, and now he’s back to his usual deferential interviews with the right.
I have heard people say that bringing in people to comment on an issue like so many media outlets do is the lazy way of reporting. If they didn’t, it would be difficult to milk the commercial aspect. The roots for mainstream news spring from commercial interests which preclude the chance for a free press because of self-censorship. The irony is, until the Internet and forums like this, the major outlet for creating a national dialogue was television. Sadly, I don’t think the Internet will significantly galvanize enough of the population to preempt the U.S. oligarchy.

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

N P R...

You can't spell R e P u b l i c a N without it...