Both the PBS and NPR ombudsmen are receiving complaints about public broadcasting’s production of the Democratic National Convention this week.
PBS NewsHour and NPR, collaborating on coverage of both parties’ conventions, opted to cut away from New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s speech Monday night, prompting many complaints from viewers and listeners.
In a column Tuesday, PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler said he received “a blast of emails” from “angry PBS viewers all over the country.” Getler said he agreed that the cutaway “was certain to anger viewers and cause them to change channels.”
In a statement, NewsHour told Getler that coverage producers “are seeking to strike a balance” among speeches, delegate action and analysis. It noted that a direct feed from the stage for viewers who prefer to watch only the speeches is available on the NewsHour website.
NPR Ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen updated her previous column, which mainly addressed audio problems, with similar listener complaints about coverage of Booker. She noted that producers opted to air Paul Simon’s entire musical performance but only part of Booker’s speech.
Michael Oreskes, NPR news chief, responded to Jensen that producers aired 12 minutes of Booker, “broke away for discussion and reporting, and then returned to the end of his speech. This is an entirely reasonable editorial judgment. We captured all his main points and the full speech is easily available online.”
“Our total presentation of speeches is clearly greater than any other broadcaster’s, except for C-SPAN,” Oreskes said, adding that the cable public affairs network does not provide “independent reporting or analysis” in its coverage.
I was watching Booker speech on PBS via antenna. Our home wi-fi is very slow, does not support streaming to “go to internet for full story.” The Heidi Principle in tv ought to apply here. It is better to start any coverage late, than to cut away before the finish.
We love both. #DEMSinPHILLY #ThisIsNPR #PBSNEWS
Excuse this comment from an “old” former editor of EBR, but you would be a loser-viewer, if you did not know to just switch to CSPAN to get entire podium feeds. Of course, if you were a digital, free-air viewer watching with your rabbit ears, PBS/NPR could be your only gavel to gavel coverage.