NPR’s mistake causes real pain, loss of trust

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Tucson-based NPR correspondent Ted Robbins and Scott Simon, host of Weekend Edition Saturday, recall their reactions to erroneous NPR newscasts reporting the death of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Jan. 8. Both NPR journalists heard directly from friends and family members of the Arizona lawmaker, they tell Ombudsman Alicia Shepard, and had to explain on what basis NPR was reporting her death. The newscasts were based on inadequate sourcing; both Robbins and Simon testify to the “real, excruciating pain” caused by the mistake.

When he learned the report was wrong, Simon called the Giffords family member who reached out to him. “But I made no attempt to defend NPR,” he tells Shepard. “Someone believed for a moment that she had died. In fact, more than one person did. The mistake NPR made was reprehensible.