Ombudsman points to another diversity challenge for NPR

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NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard applied a different lens to recent complaints about the lack of diversity of NPR’s programming–the presence of women as commentators and news sources–and was discouraged by what she found. Males dominated the roster of regular commentators across all NPR newsmagazines across a 15-month period and comprised 74 percent of the news sources quoted on the air, according to a content analysis conducted by her staff from April 13, 2009 to Jan. 9, 2010. Morning Edition cohost Steve Inskeep challenges the study’s methodology in Shepard’s column about her findings. Shepard’s objective wasn’t to produce a scientifically rigorous analysis, she writes: “My goal is to get NPR journalists to think more seriously about integrating female sources into stories and work harder at getting them on shows. The same is true for the voices of blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities.” NPR is taking steps to identify and audition new, diverse voices for its programming, Shepard reports. Carol Klinger, a veteran booker for All Things Considered, has been assigned to find and recruit these new sources, focusing specifically on the topics of politics, arts and national security. When NPR came under fire last year for failing to recruit, train and retain journalists of color, it hired Keith Woods, a veteran journalist with expertise on newsroom diversity, as v.p. of diversity in news and operations.

  • Diversity as a topic in general needs to be retooled in a way to present real benefits to people. Only when the benefits are realized will people truly embrace it.