Friday, November 19, 2010

The Unbearable Lightness of Heft and Humanity

After hearing NPR - on Tuesday's ATC - tout Robert Siegel's selection for the 2010 Chancellor Award, I decided to email Columbia University's School of Journalism's Abi Wright (Director of the duPont and Chancellor awards) and Nicholas Lehmann (Dean of the Journalism School and chair of the Chancellor selection committee). I've yet to hear back from either, so I've decided post the letter here (with no changes).
Dear Abi Wright and Nicholas Lehmann,

I'm contacting you to ask how Columbia University's School of Journalism can justify giving the Chancellor award to Robert Siegel. In the award announcement on the School of Journalism web site, Mr. Lehmann states:

"Robert Siegel brings intellectual heft and a profound humanity to his reporting."

I find this disturbing given that I have been closely following NPR reporting and can provide several examples of Mr. Siegel exhibiting an utter lack of intellectual rigor and a rather callous attitude to the sufferings of people when they are victims of US foreign policy. For example:

Siegel was instrumental in selling the phony intelligence that led to the Iraq War

And where is Siegel's "intellectual heft" as he fails to inform listeners about the basic background of Conservapedia's Andy Schlafly or challenge Schlafly's biased statements Again, where is "intellectual heft" or "profound humanity" in the long overdue piece Siegel hosted on torture/rendition flights where he is chuckling during this discussion of one of the most barbarous aspects of the US War on Terror?

It really saddens me that a lackluster newsreader and lightweight apologist for US State Department/Pentagon interests such as Robert Siegel garners a distinguished award from one of our nations premier journalism schools. But perhaps I should not be surprised, since as Chris Hedges so recently pointed out, our liberal establishments refuse to take principled, radical stands - opting instead to "pay homage to the marvels of corporate capitalism [and militarism] even as it disembowels the nation and the planet"

Matthew Murrey
NPR Check
I also cc'd the letter to a few other Columbia School of Journalism faculty members, to the editors of the Columbia Journalism Review, to FAIR, Media Matters and Truthdig. If I receive any responses I will post them if given permission.


Jay Schiavone said...

They might consider renaming it the Shithead Award.

miranda said...

Thank you, thank you -- for saying what needs to be said.

Anonymous said...

MyT Words: I hope you aren't holding your breath for a reply.


Anonymous said...

People like Bob Siegel are why I never listen to NPR anymore when I can help it. But these Bozos take care of their cronies.

informedveteran said...

Thanks for that letter mytwords.

Mainstream American journalism's Best of the Least Worst Award

I am always amazed that the stink of the Iraq war never sticks to these clowns. Apparently in the United States of Amnesia, facts don't matter. I think Chris Hedges is correct when he talks about most Americans now confusing the way they are made to feel with knowledge. Seigel merely sounds like he knows what he is talking about, and that is all that matters to most people. Can you imagine if Seigel sounded like RFK JR.? Unfortunately there are consequences to this orchestrated mass delusion, the most recent being the collapse of the housing bubble that "no one" could have possibly seen coming.

There is a great book called "How We Decide" about new neuroscience that explains how emotions play a much greater role in our decision making than previously thought. It also explains why a dart throwing chimp makes better predictions than most pundits.(265 pages)

b~ said...

Bunny luv that the inimitable MTW clip-art's back in circulation!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said: they "take care of their own" Cuz of NPR (PBS) takes care of others also:

“And, you know, politics aside, the success of Sarah Palin and women like her is good for all women – except, of course –those who will end up, you know, like, paying for their own rape ‘kit ‘n’ stuff.’ But for everybody else, it’s a win-win. Unless you’re a gay woman who wants to marry your partner of 20 years – whatever. But for most women, the success of conservative women is good for all of us. Unless you believe in evolution. You know – actually, I take it back. The whole thing’s a disaster.” – Tina Fey, accepting the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize. However, television viewers didn’t hear Fey say that because PBS edited it out of the broadcast. The network says the show simply ran long and that they “snipped from everybody.” Right.


gDog said...

The context here is important. About a year and half ago, Robert revealed his seminal trauma induced at the hand of peace and justice activists: Chaos at Columbia University Epitomized 1968. Blob observes,

Some SDS members saw the sudden radicalization of kids who had been witnesses or victims of police brutality, and they put two and two together and got: Nineteen. America was on the verge of revolution, they reasoned, provoke more Columbias, more police crackdowns, and then more radicals would emerge. The Weather Underground came of that.

Of course, just a handful of people became urban terrorists.

And that's the enduring impression I have of those events: How few people it really takes — a few impetuous activists, one aloof and insensitive university president, cops who abandon discipline, the protestor who destroys a professor's papers — how very few people it takes to ignite a crisis, to create chaos and to write a piece of history.

For 1968, which was a time of war, assassinations, protests and riots, the chaos at Columbia epitomized the state of things. I remember that time, I was shaped by it.

But I certainly don't miss it.

Poor baby - those damned peace and justice SDS badies gave him an owie! To avenge this, Blob has chosen to be the voice of calm, soothing puckered erudition, blithely ignoring any war crimes or social injustices in the greater cause of pursing his kisser to chuckle softly at quaint cries of pain and horror from those less fortunates who are tortured by our government.

Anonymous said...

the award to Siegel is not the least bit suprising when schools like Columbia Journalism School are directly responsible for producing 'journalists' like Siegel (and for the sorry state of American Journalism in General)

Columbia is basically in deep denial and giving out awards is basically their way of showing it.

Anonymous said...

maybe this is what they mean by "intellectual heft"

If I'm not mistaken, Siegel even makes a cameo in the video on the right.

Anonymous said...

MTW Thanks for sharing that trip down the memory hole

I especially loved this:

A little further into the interview Siegel asks, "...what kind of evidence does the military cite...?" To which Raz (echoing the February 2003 report) says, "Well some of it is indeed compelling…and some of it is circumstantial…the compelling evidence is that the military has shown mortar rounds that have serial numbers on them…are Iranian serial numbers…they have to be made in Iran..."

...under the little pictures of the Ayatollah?

Porter Melmoth said...

It is genuinely heartwarming to see such conscientious and well-placed criticism aimed in the direction it belongs.

Speaking for myself, I freely admit to getting immediately hung up on an NPR person's style of delivery, voice, quirks, personality, etc. While I believe all these items are subjectively important, I can often miss the deeper currents of what's really transpiring on the air.

I grew up with two brothers in commercial radio, and many in that biz make a second career out of critiquing such superficial items as the ones mentioned above, mainly because, when you're in commercial radio, you do as you're told and you read the copy you're given. WHEREAS, at NPR News, the 'thinking' people there have the leeway to get all propagandistic through their freedom to interpret, so to speak.

Blob Siegel to me represents the conservative core of NPR. He loves being at the center of its establishment, and because he wouldn't surrender that for the world, he's very similar to a privileged CEO, surrounded by a comfort zone of both money and prestige.

Plus, I JUST CAN"T STAND THE WAY THAT GUY TALKS, with all his dainty musings and puke-making little asides and smuggishness, and -

I know, I know...

Anyway, bravo once more Myt. It would seem that if you never get any genuine response, once more we have evidence of the Skull & Crossbones-ization of upper echelon media.

One hand washes the other...


One hand masturbates the other...

I mean, this is Blob Siegel we're talking about! What the hell do we expect??

gDog said...

More crudity:

When Blob purses his kisser he flexes the sphincter of his oral cavity in the interest of filling his purse.

Anonymous said...

I find it "interesting" that both Robert Siegel and Justice Alito found their political moorings by observing priveleged kids behaving "badly". It scarred them for life I guess.

And I am still waiting for my "application" to NewsWorks (WHYY net attempt at "citizen journalism") to be approved. I doubt that it will be because they only want "like-minded" people speaking to "like-minded" people. They want a bubble but I suspect they need a bubble. Otherwise unpleasantries seep into a listener/financial supporter and we sure don't want that.

I find this throughout NPR. I dogged Stamburg/Collio collaboration on that stupid bit they did concerning the awful cranberry relsih. I was told to "lighten up" cause people don't want to hear doom and gloom 24/7. When i googled and NPR social networking sites some of them i saw they only comment on subjects like music, arts, and books. I doubt that they even listen to the news by accident that occurs at NPR. And this isn't the first time. Rudin sock puppet (Gary Crumb) and others said the same when i challenged rudin on his assertion that Colombus "discovered" America. Many of these people need the constant reassurance by NPR fundraising gurus that they are educated, committed, and involved (not like those Foxbots). In reality they are pretty shallow,uninformed and willingly duped by state media such as NPR. I could be wrong but i don't think i am.


Anonymous said...

Anyonewho has any delusions of Siegel being a REAL "journalist" should read this

It's actually very typical of the "interview" pattern at NPR:

Totally credulous announcer lets 'expert" guest spout all sorts of unsubstantiated nonsense with no challenge whatsoever (other than the occasional "Really?")

Siegel may even have a patent on the method.

PS I normally would not link to anything Alcia Shepard writes, but she does get the basic facts straight on this one, at least, even if she also makes excuses for why siegel did not ask the obvious questions that any third rate reporter would ask (but Siegel somehow fails to ask).

Anonymous said...

Blob Siegel to me represents the conservative core of NPR. He loves being at the center of its establishment..."

you mean like a porn star?

gDog said...

Right, Alito was ROTC and miffed enuff at the razing of the Princeton ROTc that he supported "Concerned Alumni of Princeton" which was pro-war, sexist and racist. Something like that, anyway. He and Blob are brothers in arms for the neofascist/corporatist state. The same willful ignorance of the harm they do accompanied by the same calm self-assurance of a lobotomized drone.

Anonymous said...

Columbia giving Siegel an award is just another instance of what makes this country so great: cronyism.

The current Congress doesn't look too closely (or at all) at the rampant fraud on Wall Street cuz that would mean biting the hand that feeds them.

The current President absoves the former one of all his crimes (includiing war crimes) -- cuz the current one certainly doesn't want the next one holding HIM accountable for any of HIS crimes.

..and on an on.

the pattern is the same.

If you play the game, you get rewarded.

you ONLY get screwed if you refuse to play (eg, if you are a whistelblower) -- and then you REALLY get reamed.

Anonymous said...

I would have asked the 2 folks responsible for the award 2 simple questions:

(1) For what stories--SPECIFICALLY--is Siegel being given this award?

(2) What was it about those stories that you regard as so exceptional?

Siegel is little more than a news-reader. Like other NPR folks, he never challenges anything interviewees say.

Instead of asking these 2 simple questions, Murrey ranted about NPR; note that instead of referring to actual Siegel statements, he made *self referential* posts to this blog! OF COURSE the folks responsible for this award will ignore him--and rightly so.

Murrey, you would do well to learn to focus more on clear statements (and omissions) rather than rant about NPR. You would be so much more effective if you did that!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Advice Giving Troll says:

"Murrey, you would do well to learn to focus more on clear statements (and omissions) rather than rant about NPR. You would be so much more effective if you did that!"

Don's comments about AAGT:

"AAGT shows regular visitors to this blog that s/he is too lazy, stupid, or both to read MM's extensive NPR critique."

Don's comments to AAGT:

"Why should MM -- or anyone else for that matter -- take your advice seriously?"

Don Q. Public

Anonymous said...


I guess the links provided constitute *self referential* posts to this blog!".

"OF COURSE the folks responsible for this award will ignore him--and rightly so."

They will ignore him because he dares to point out the figure behind the curtain. How do they justify this award other than they had to find somebody since Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hanitty never graduated or even attended Colombia who were their first choices.

Edward D. Kriner