Wednesday, July 8, 2009

NPR's Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Story

I listen to NPR almost every day, and like my friend Petpluto, I'm a huge fan of their Planet Money blog. But every once in a while, NPR produces a story that is so insanely one-sided it give me goose bumps.

That was definitely the case with their latest attempt to explain the public option. The story sounded like it came directly from the mouth of the Obama administration's press secretary. There were so many controversial ideas presented without any qualification, I was shocked when the commentary ended so abruptly. How could NPR not see the blatant bias in its presentation?

Fortunately, I'm not the only one who felt this way. NPR's own Alicia Shepard recently acknowledged that the story was poorly executed, and promised that NPR will try to do better next time.

I have to applaud NPR for its accountability and its journalistic integrity. It's very refreshing.


MediaMaven said...

Many newspapers and news organizations have an ombudsman, which is an in-house critic who monitors the organization for ethical lapses and complaints in the way they report stories. The New York Times famously added one after the Jayson Blair scandal in 2003; the post changes every two years. The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times also have ombudsmen; a list is available here.

mikhailbakunin said...

Yeah, I understand what an "ombudsman" does, but I only recently stumbled across the term. I had no idea most news organizations actually employ an ombudsman. (The term itself is kind of pretentious, so I suspect other news agencies use a different title.)

I think NPR just hired Alicia Shepard a few years back to take on the job. I'm not sure if they employed anyone else before her.

Do you think that other news organizations would have done the same thing that NPR did? Maybe I shouldn't be so impressed with their reaction.

Thanks for the link, by the way.

MediaMaven said...

Many do use another title; the Times calls the position "The Public Editor", although many all call the persona a reader's representative, or something similar.

I can only speak for the Times, since I read that paper (and the Public Editor column) regularly, and I know that they definitely would pick up on that story and have criticized similar Times stories in the past for being biased for one reason or another. It might be worth it to check out the column, or a few others to get a better sense of how they operate.

MediaMaven said...

*That type of story. They obviously wouldn't mention the NPR story unless it impacted a Times story or was referenced by the Times in some way.

petpluto said...

For a second there, I thought you were saying that Planet Money did a thing on the public option. I was like, "What?! No way! The last two I heard were about teacher pay and living on 2 dollars a day!"

In other news, Talk of the Nation had a similar slant. The only guest-guest was John Podesta, and Matt Bai (the fill-in political junkie) wasn't really disagreeing on any point. Plus, the one naysayer caller was a guy who'd been in Russia and taken a spill on a skateboard, and was complaining about the lack of electricity and linking that to the socialized medicine - completely missing how it was Russia in the '90s and television sets tended to explode if you left them plugged in.

Neal Conan tried to balance out the debate, but didn't really do that well.

mikhailbakunin said...

That's an unusual argument.

Socialized medicine leads to shortages . . . of electricity? Not to mention its effects on a population's skateboarding skills!