Marcotte weighs in on editorial integrity of university-owned pubradio stations

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Public radio news veteran Michael Marcotte acknowledges feeling conflicted by the proposal by Minnesota Public Radio founder Bill Kling to cut institutional ties between universities and public radio stations. As a former news director, reporter, anchor for more than one university-owned NPR outlet, Marcotte writes in a blog post that he understands the simplicity of Kling’s argument – “Universities have different missions than public radio stations, so their goals clash.”

“I have spent many an hour working on heat-shield policies, ethics statements, codes of editorial independence, etc. toward fortifying journalism at university licensees. This is because Kling’s point has its basis and I’ve [known] many news directors who needed back-up. … At the end of the day, I refuse to believe that university licensees are structurally compromised in their editorial integrity. And I believe Mr. Kling has some self-interest in play — hoping to pick off a few more stations for his empire.”

Marcotte wrote his critique as a contributor to Carnival of Journalism, a revived blog that relaunched this month with a discussion of the role of universities as journalism hubs.

2 thoughts on “Marcotte weighs in on editorial integrity of university-owned pubradio stations

  1. Mike & readers,

    First off, I must apologize for hiding behind the shield of anonymity in this post. But as you read on I believe you’ll come to understand why I’ve opted to hide behind my keyboard.

    Over the past 10 years I have managed two institutional stations. In both venues I was commanded by high-level administrators, acting on behalf of leadership, to present news reports or features that had no purpose other than to cultivate institutional donors or curry favor with powerful interests.

    At both venues public radio was seen as just another tool in the marketing kit. My efforts to patiently explain how this sort of manufactured news was ultimately counterproductive for all concerned fell on deaf ears. Hence my only alternatives were to live to fight the next fight, or publicly fall on my sword, an act that rarely has a happy career outcome.

    In discussions with peers, my sense is that this type of behavior is more common than many of us would like to think.

    Mike’s former employer undoubtedly falls into the category of Enlightened Institutional Licensee and, thankfully, there are scores of them.

    Nonetheless, I believe Bill Kling speaks an inconvenient truth that many of us must consider.

    I’m most curious to see the reactions of other current or former institutional General or Station Managers and learn whether their experiences align with mine.

  2. I appreciate this post and appreciate the cloak of anonymity that makes it possible. I know many university station managers do their best to protect their newsrooms from interference but can’t always prevail. The best disinfectant in these cases would be to bring the case to light so the role of public trust can be considered.

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