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Simple Googling dug up what Daisey had hidden

Within a few hours of phoning the translator who refuted key details in a This American Life show about factories that manufacture Apple products in China, Marketplace correspondent Rob Schmitz was on a plane to meet her... Continue Reading

New NPR ethics code discourages outside contracts

NPR journalists must seek management approval to sign work contracts with other media outlets, and most such requests will not be granted, according to a comprehensive revision of the network’s ethics guidelines approved unanimously by the network’s board Feb. 24. The board reaffirmed the network’s desire to regulate moonlighting such as the ongoing appearances of former NPR news analyst Juan Williams on Fox News — a gig that led to his firing in 2010 and an extended hullaballoo exploited by Fox and Republican partisans. Publication of the NPR Ethics Handbook concluded a 15-month process that the Board initiated after Williams’s dismissal. The guidelines specify that a news employee must get written permission “for all outside freelance and journalistic work,” a continuation of NPR’s previous policies. Continue Reading

Jim Ascendio

No-chat zone ’twixt funders and reporters?

Radio news veteran Jim Asendio resigned as news director of Washington’s WAMU-FM last week after an internal dispute over a private fundraising event turned into a public clash over the editorial firewall protecting the station’s newsroom. Asendio objected when top managers required him and two reporters from his staff to participate in a “Meet the Producers” breakfast and panel discussion that the station hosted for major donors Feb. 22. The choice was stark, the news director said: “I could either not show up and be in trouble, or show up and violate my ethics, so I tendered my resignation.”

The showdown, first reported by Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple, put a spotlight on one of the touchiest subjects in cash-strapped newsrooms — firewalls designed to protect working journalists from undue influence by funders and to prevent appearances that such conflicts exist. Similar conflicts are playing out behind the scenes at public radio stations across the country, according to Iowa Public Radio’s Jonathan Ahl, who is president of Public Radio News Directors Inc.

“Some of our members have given us the indication that people aren’t necessarily crossing the firewall, but they’re walking up to it and peeking over it” too often, Ahl said. Continue Reading

Unvetted war story slips past producers

A commentary created through an experimental radio project of the New America Foundation turned a harsh spotlight on the editorial vetting process at Marketplace, which broadcast a first-person account Jan. 30 [2012] of a man who falsely claimed to be a heroic Army sniper. Whatever the editorial process at Marketplace missed, there were similar shortcomings at San Francisco’s KQED-FM, which also aired the piece, and at the big liberal foundation, whose media project was focused on inclusivity rather than excluding fakers. The two-minute piece by a man named Leo Webb, part of a commentary series titled “My Life Is True,” turned out to be largely untrue. As soon as it aired, the first-person commentary sounded like a load of bull to readers of This Ain’t Hell, a blog that critiques media coverage of the military and takes special glee in exposing phony war stories.  It took only some basic fact-checking and a sharply worded blog post to set off an online spanking for producers of Marketplace, American Public Media’s flagship drivetime broadcast, and KQED, one of pubcasting’s top news stations. Continue Reading

Lisa Simeone

News leaders draw hard line on employees’ public comments

Update, Nov. 10: The NPR Board postponed considering the ethics policy scheduled for its Nov. 10-11 meeting. Spokesperson Dana Rehm said work was not complete on two of the three ethics documents. "Management and the board determined that the best course of action would be to release the guiding principles of NPR's journalism, the handbook and the employee code of conduct at the same time so we're in a position to confidently answer everyone's questions about which principles apply to whom," Rehm said. Continue Reading

Simeone’s activism prompts inquiry into ethical standards for pubradio freelancers

Public radio is once again struggling to define the line between on-air talent who report as ethically bound journalists and those personalities who are permitted to express opinions. Freelance radio broadcaster Lisa Simeone, a veteran host of public radio documentary and music programs, was fired late Oct. 19 from Soundprint, the independently produced long-form doc series, for violating NPR's ethics code. Her role as spokesperson for “October 2011,” an anti-war group aligned with the Occupy Wall Street movement that has staged protests in Washington, D.C., put her longtime affiliation with public radio in jeopardy. The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call first questioned whether Simeone’s activism violated journalistic ethics in an Oct. Continue Reading

After scandal, fundraisers debate ethics

Having witnessed the damaging one-round knockout of NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller in March, public radio’s development pros are working to adapt the lessons they’ve learned about ethics and prudence into a set of best-practices guidelines for use throughout the field. But they’re already tiptoeing around a clear discrepancy between the major ethical code of professional fundraisers and a common practice in public broadcasting — paid commissions on underwriting sales. DEI, the national agency for pubradio fundraising that convenes its annual Public Media Development and Marketing Conference in Pittsburgh later this week, has assembled a group to draft ethical standards for fundraising in nonprofit public media. DEI is leading the re-evaluation as part of its CPB-backed Leadership for Philanthropy project, which aims to help stations improve their major-gift fundraising. The main starting point for DEI’s advisory council is the Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, which prohibits commission-based compensation for nonprofit fundraisers. Continue Reading

Editorial integrity panel says the time’s right to think about principles

Now might not seem like the best time for the public broadcasting system to be pondering philosophical questions of identity and purpose, since its unwanted promotion to high-profile partisan punching bag in Congress. The official ponderers of the system’s Editorial Integrity for Public Media initiative beg to disagree. Now more than ever, they say, public broadcasting must make its case by defining its purpose and identity to the larger world — because if it doesn’t, its critics will. “In this political environment there’s a lot being thrown around about integrity, bias, and ‘just who are these public broadcasting guys, anyway?’” said Tom Thomas of the Station Resource Group, co-director of the editorial initiative. “We should be able to say, here’s how we do our work, here’s the way in which we make decisions, here’s what money we take or not, here’s how we balance funding and content.”

“In the work I’ve done, facilitating Dynamic Inquiries and Round Robins, one of the key things that comes up is, we don’t have an articulated vision for public broadcasting — and, frankly, that has gotten louder,” said Ted Krichels, director of Penn State Public Broadcasting and chair of the Editorial Integrity project’s 20-member steering committee. Continue Reading