NPR catches longtime freelancer recycling audio in newscast spots

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NPR has ended its relationship with a freelance journalist after discovering that she had recycled interview clips in more than 30 reports she had filed for NPR newscasts since 2011.

Danielle Karson, who has reported for NPR since the 1980s, reused audio of interviews from old newscast spots in new reports, making them seem new to listeners, NPR newsroom leaders said in a statement.

“Listeners would have thought those persons were commenting on the day’s news when in fact the comments had been made months or sometimes years earlier,” the statement said. “That was misleading and not in line with NPR’s editorial standards.” The statement was attributed to Chris Turpin, acting SVP for news and editorial director; Sarah Gilbert, acting VP for news programming; and Mark Memmott, standards and practices editor.

For example, in a 2014 spot about storms in California, Karson used a clip of an interviewee who said “The rainfall basically collects all of our urban slobber and drains it out on to our beaches, and that creates significant water quality problems.” The clip was reused in 2015 and twice in 2017.

A producer and editor caught Karson attempting to reuse audio this week, leading to a review of her earlier reporting.

The recycled clips escaped notice for so long because Karson waited months or years to reuse them, NPR said. In addition, Karson worked with multiple editors, so no one person regularly reviewed her stories.

“I understand the logistical and financial reasons that they are not transcribed, but perhaps this is an argument in favor of NPR changing that policy,” NPR Ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen said in a post about the findings.

NPR is conducting a review of its procedures “to protect against something like this occurring again,” according to its statement.

Jensen said that one reason sources whose clips were reused did not complain about the recycled clips is because transcripts of newscasts are not posted on NPR’s website.

Karson told Jensen in an email, “I’m heartbroken I will no longer work with the talented producers and editors I’ve known for years.” She added that “actions have consequences when they disrespect the bond with the public.”

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