NPR apologizes for “dark continent,” but should it?

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NPR apologized to listeners Feb. 16 after newscaster Jean Cochran referred to Africa as “the dark continent” in a newscast. “This is simply an outdated reference as well as being outrageously offensive,” said one of many listeners who complained. But the apology in turn drew criticism accusing NPR of hypersensitivity. Should the network have apologized? “Given the intense listener reaction, it would have been arrogant for NPR to ignore the use of the controversial term,” writes ombudsman Alicia Shepard. “But in not offering any serious explanation for its apology, NPR missed an opportunity for a broader discussion — on air, online, or both — about the power of language.”