NPR has asked Twitter to remove a “US state-affiliated media” label from its account, which was added Tuesday despite the social media platform’s own policy on usage of the tag.
“This must be a mistake as it contradicts Twitter’s own guidelines,” said an NPR spokesperson in an email to Current. “We have reached out to Twitter to have the label removed.”
“We were disturbed to see last night that Twitter has labeled NPR as ‘state-affiliated media,’ a description that, per Twitter’s own guidelines, does not apply to NPR,” said NPR CEO John Lansing in a statement shared with Current. “NPR and our Member stations are supported by millions of listeners who depend on us for the independent, fact-based journalism we provide. NPR stands for freedom of speech and holding the powerful accountable. It is unacceptable for Twitter to label us this way. A vigorous, vibrant free press is essential to the health of our democracy.”
According to Twitter’s website, “state-affiliated media is defined as outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution.” The U.S. government does not control NPR’s editorial content.
As of Tuesday, the policy went on to say that “state-financed media organizations with editorial independence, like the BBC in the UK or NPR in the US for example, are not defined as state-affiliated media for the purposes of this policy.” The mention of NPR has since been removed from that sentence.
In a tweet replying to a Twitter user who praised Twitter CEO Elon Musk for adding the label, Musk said, “Seems accurate.”
“NPR is not state affiliated media. It is public media,” said former NPR host Lulu Garcia-Navarro in a tweet Wednesday. “… The bias as to who is being targeted on this site by its leadership is so very clear. And it’s not a small thing.”
Update: The Public Media Journalists Association posted a statement Wednesday objecting to the “state-affiliated” designation. “What is to prevent Twitter from labeling every local public media outlet in the United States in the same way even though every outlet is editorially independent?” wrote PMJA President Priska Neely and Executive Director Christine Paige Diers. “This inaccurate label is a disservice to our democracy.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists and PEN America also issued statements supporting NPR.
What’s it gonna take, NPR? What’s it gonna take before you finally realize you are giving far, far more to twitter than you’re getting out of it? That you’re lending your air of authority and your quality content to a platform that now only exists to normalize hate and right-wing propaganda? When are you finally going to kick this nasty drug habit?
While my original comment was snarky by design, because frankly I think Twitter’s usefulness to journalism is WILDLY overrated. But it occurs to me that the way NPR…and public radio writ large…is responding to this is exactly the wrong thing to do: protesting our innocence and expecting Twitter to act in good faith.
Twitter cannot act in good faith, because there is no “Twitter” anymore; there is only Elon Musk and His Ego. And he does not act in good faith. He never has. Not once in his professional career. This plaintive response from NPR/pubradio is exactly what he wants: tacit acknowledgment that he has all the power and NPR must grovel at his feet.
The correct response here is some “truth-jitsu” in the form of calling Musk’s bluff. Either delete the NPR twitter account until Musk agrees…in writing and in a public appearance…to remove the label. Or, double-down on it. Say that NPR is indeed state-affiliated label because there is no “the state”. The state is just your fellow citizens. And NPR is proud to be labelled as your fellow citizen. Because NPR cares about its fellow citizens. It wants to see them succeed and thrive; that’s part of NPR’s mission. And contrast that to these corporate entities that couldn’t care less if you lived or died. NPR shall choose to wear this “state-affiliated media” as what it should be: a badge of honor and of trust.