For Some, An Apology Offends

Friday, September 17, 2010


Last week, the Portland Press Herald of Portland, Maine, published an apology to its readers that read, in part, "Many saw Saturday's front-page story and photo regarding the local observance of the end of Ramadan as offensive, particularly on the day, September 11, when our nation and the world were paying tribute to those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks nine years ago." Press Herald editor and publisher Richard Connor defends his paper's mea culpa.

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Comments [68]

Paul Donohoe from Lake Oswego

Your interview was very well done. The offensive link between radical Islamic terrorists and all Muslims was made by the paper's editor, and rather than passively accepting that editor's disingenuous re-wording of his position on your show, you called him on it. Would that other interviewers had the courage not to passively accept the circumlocutions of their evasive interviewees more often. Your questions were pointed but fair. Those who have attacked you for rudeness or bias seem to value politeness and "not stirring the pot" over truth and accountability. Too many people in America wish to be "nice"; unfortunately, it's left them craven. Thank you for having the courage to make your interviewee feel rightly uncomfortable, when it was his own cowardly apology that caused his discomfort.

Oct. 01 2010 07:20 AM
Alan Miller from Louisville Kentucky

I should have known there would be a large response to this article but wasn't thinking in that mode after hearing it last week. I commented to several friends, "You have to hear this." I felt the interviewee was being snotty and self contradicting and that the interviewer had every right to pursue an answer to his dodged question. I am of the opinion that Conner either agrees with or caved to the hate mongers on this one and felt after that he thinks everybody but him is being a fool on this one. Joke's on him.

Sep. 25 2010 05:32 PM
Robert from New York City

The problem is not that Bob challenged Mr. Connor. The problem is that in doing so, Bob lost his cool, generating sympathy for Mr. Connor that he didn't otherwise deserve. Connor's stance was ridiculous, but by becoming belligerent Bob let him off the hook.

Sep. 25 2010 08:57 AM

I finally got to hear the podcast tonight, and I'm glad to see all the discussion here about this item. I know where both the "Bob was uncivil" and "Connor was lying" groups are coming from. This interview just made me feel really uncomfortable. And in the end I think it was mostly Connor's fault.

I think Connor is a decent man who is torn between doing the right thing and keeping his readers. As Ralph Hansen (#51) says in his article, he was having a bad week. But I feel Bob Garfield was absolutely right in calling him out. And I think Connor knew that--that's why he asked Garfield to "go with the new statement."

Garfield did good journalism, but he essentially gave Connor a Hobson's choice: defend the bigoted customers who prompted the paper's first panicked apology, or retract his apology and call his customers bigots. Either way, if the interview went mainstream Connor would lose readers. Connor managed to avoid that trap, but he had to lie to do it. No wonder he was so unhappy.

I hope this interview was part of the reason why he published a better statement on the 19th.

I agree with other readers who say OTM and NPR should do this to people with national power instead of local newspaper editors, but of course Karl Rove and Rahm Emanuel would simply never allow such a searching interview. I think the BBC can do it because there's still less of a PR filter between media and politics in Britain. I wish that were the case here.

In any case, thanks to OTM for an interview that forces people to think deeply about what's going on, and that doesn't shy away from the deep issues as the original apology did.

Sep. 25 2010 06:17 AM

Reminded me of BBC's main interviewers, who arguably set the standard for non violent interrogation, having perfected the four letter wordification of "with all due respect"

(notwithstanding BBC's frequent arrogant & ignorant sounding general disapproval of the us and israel)...

...though, admittedly, as with BBC when interviewing the newest democratically elected king of a former british colony who, the week before the election, ate his opponent, cutting one's way to moral high ground can be done with a smirk and a spoon when one's opponent subject is directly underfoot.

Sep. 24 2010 09:06 AM
Chris Sweet from Westbrook, ME

As a daily reader of the Portland Press Herald I commend Bob for taking Mr. Connor to task. This story-about-a-story was covered by the local media here in Maine but the coverage ended with the published (actually there were two) apology by Mr. Connor. Thank you On The Media for digging a bit deeper and giving us better insight into the thinking that went into this decision by our local paper of record.

Sep. 23 2010 05:38 PM
Uplift from North Carolina

All the people complaining that Bob was "rude": how, precisely, do you think that an interview ought to deal with liars and dissemblers? Should they meekly acquiesce? THAT's the kind of press you want? No? Then what, precisely, did Bob do wrong?

Sep. 22 2010 10:27 PM
Andrew Sleeth from Raleigh, NC

Bob Garfield, I am so proud of you! You rightly perceived the duplicity arising from the Press Herald editors' decisions and its publisher's personal lack of a spine, vis-à-vis, the apology. Once Richard Connor realized you wouldn't accept his whitewash of the glaring contradictions, he knew he'd been sussed out and bailed in well-deserved shame. Way to go, man!

Connor is a disgrace to all the Founding Fathers held dear in an unfettered press. For christsake! You don't apologize in print for editorial judgments. Errors in fact, major investigative failures, yeah, maybe. Failing to challenge government claims of WMD in Iraq, definitely; THAT you make public apologies for. But sure as heck not on story selection or placement. Geez, what a wimp!

Without a doubt, local dailies hold the public's trust. On the other hand, they earn no one's respect when they bow to public sentiment. Connor abdicated his sovereignty -- his American obligation, if you will -- as a newspaper publisher, and caved to terrorists, namely, a few ignorant, Fascist rubes who mistakenly assume our press isn't free, and that readers have a right to censor it.

The reality is, if those readers don't like the Press Herald, they're free to stop their subscriptions at any time (if they're even that committed) and go soothe their feeble brains with mind-numbing, flag-waving propaganda that’s forcibly dispensed by tyrannical governments across the globe, including a few fundamentalist Islamic states. For it's clearly evident such folk aren't prepared to accept the advanced citizenship our First Amendment rights here afford.

Sep. 22 2010 08:51 PM
thomas from portland

Jill's scolding of Garfield [58] and her suggestion that he ought to emulate the highly-regarded Tim Russert reminded me of Lewis Lapham's reflections on Russert in his absolutely brilliant Elegy for a Rubber Stamp:

Which I think helps put Garfield's critics here in their proper light.

Sep. 22 2010 02:54 PM
Emily from Brooklyn, NY

Thank you, Bob and Brook. I didn't hear rudeness in this interview; I heard persistence. It reminded me of a Cindy Sheehan interview years ago when BBC asked a totally appropriate question of fact and Cindy responded "none of your business" and slammed the phone down.

Sep. 22 2010 12:06 PM
Jill S. from NJ

"It is not what you say, but how you say it." You can be an excellent journalist asking pointed, persistent questions without being rude, condescending and obnoxious as Bob Garfield was to Mr. Connor. Tim Russert on Meet the Press was so successful in his career and highly regarded by all because he was a tough and well-researched interviewer, but always fair and RESPECTFUL. I have listened to NPR since I was a young child, and as a listener I have never been as disappointed as I was last Sunday. Mr. Garfield, if you wish to act that way, go work for a cable news show. I expect much more from NPR.

Sep. 22 2010 10:36 AM
Josh Long from Toronto, Ontario

I don't even think that Garfield was being aggressive so much as he wasn't able to make the jump to a plane of reality that did not exist.

Upon reflection, I can't help but think that some people might not be as critical of the interviewer had he informed them of some quotes from the apology. On the other hand, some might consider that an attempt to beat down Conner. It's a bit of a tightrope that would've been easier to walk had Conner been more explicit in his apology instead of trying to dance around the issue.

Sep. 21 2010 09:45 PM
thomas from portland

Connor's position that he was apologizing to only the un-bigoted portion of the complainers while tacitly acknowledging the full basis of their complaint is absolutely intellectually disingenuous. And it's a weasel. And Garfield was absolutely right to press him on it. And if Connor can't be challenged without becoming indignant and obnoxious he should find a job where his unprincipled compromises aren't on such public display.

Sep. 21 2010 08:17 PM
Patrick Hothersall from Chicago

September 19
Richard L. Connor: Remembering E.B. White's sage advice

I have failed my writing hero, E.B. White, whose guiding principle, outlined in the classic "Elements of Style," was: "Omit needless words."
Related headlines

If I'd followed that rule last week, I would have responded to criticism of our newspaper on 9/11 with this:

"Our coverage of the conclusion of the local Ramadan observance was excellent and we are proud of it. We did not adequately cover 9/11 on the 9/11 anniversary, which also should have been front-page news, in my opinion."

Why would I have omitted the other words in last week's column?

Their lack of precision led to mischaracterization and misunderstanding. They were used to prove the maxim that a lie travels faster than truth. Mostly they allowed those with a personal ax to grind or a political agenda to advance to twist and misinterpret.

I meant to apologize for what we did not print -- front-page coverage of 9/11 on the anniversary of a day that stirs deep and unhealed wounds. I was in no way apologizing for what we did print in a deservedly prominent position -- a striking photo of our local Muslim community in prayer.

Externally, the controversy allowed many readers to express themselves and, yes, vent. Internally, the issue has allowed our staff to re-examine how we define news and how we play it. Our intention is to be fair every day.

There have been no mass subscription cancellations of our newspapers, but there have been many opinions, delivered to us online, via e-mail and written letters. They have been almost equally divided on opinion about our coverage and what I wrote.

Last Thursday's newspaper, which can be accessed online, carries a sampling of letters to the editor on the subject. This sampling is representative of all the opinions we received, and you will see that these views are almost equally split on the issues.

Editor and Publisher

Sep. 21 2010 03:09 PM
Patrick Hothersall from Chicago

I think you should have accepted Mr Conner's explanation on his newspaper's mistake. I think the interviewer should have listened to his explanation, instead of treating Mr Conner like he was trying to weasel out of a previous statement.

On the 19th he published the following statement. I think it deserves to be read.

Sep. 21 2010 03:08 PM
Jackie from Downers Grove, IL

Opinions are like...well, you know the saying. However, it's not "infantile" or "ridiculous" to express opposition to Mr. Garfield's interview. I don't appreciate when Fox News is rude to an interviewee, and I certainly don't appreciate when OTM does it. I didn't read it as persistent so much as belligerent. Life goes on, but hey, since OTM is embracing this type of journalism, maybe we'll see more of it where it really matters.

Sep. 21 2010 02:40 PM
Sue T. from California

I totally agree with Marc in comment #50: the apology "is in total contradiction with the version given by the editor, to the point were he is in my eyes not only a sniveling coward, but a lying sniveling coward." Garfield did a great job. I was proud to be an OTM listener & supporter (hey, I texted in my $10 a couple of weeks ago!) during that interview.

Sep. 21 2010 01:43 PM
Ralph Hanson

What is even more interesting is Mr. Connor's followup commentary on Sept. 19.

Sep. 21 2010 11:45 AM
Marc Naimark from Paris

I can only hope that those who were shocked, shocked, shocked by Bob's "grandstanding" were not listening well. I do know they did not actually bother to read the "apology", which is in total contradiction with the version given by the editor, to the point were he is in my eyes not only a sniveling coward, but a lying sniveling coward. It is the editor who writes of needing "balance" to coverage of Ramadan. It is he who claims to be responding to those offended, not by lack of coverage of the September 11 attacks, but by the smallest mention of a Muslim holiday:

"Many saw Saturday's front-page story and photo regarding the local observance of the end of Ramadan as offensive, particularly on the day, September 11, when our nation and the world were paying tribute to those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks nine years ago. We have acknowledged that we erred by at least not offering balance to the story and its prominent position on the front page."

Sep. 21 2010 04:12 AM
John Z from Germany

It occurs to me that those reacting negatively to Garfield's interview are reacting to the rising intensity of the tone of the interview, rather than the substance. There are few opportunities today to experience honest and rigorous debate about any issue and so to encounter it is uncomfortable. This is a symptom of a serious systemic problem with society, particularly civil political society that is leading western political culture down a really unfortunate path.

Sep. 21 2010 01:14 AM
Gregory Slater from East Palo Alto, California

p.s. - I'll up my pledge by 30% to support the kind of persistence in interviewing that Garfield showed here, and to make up for commenter Grandgeorge's infantile threat of a 25% reduction (he probably only gave 15 bucks anyway). Again, Garfield was respectful and polite but presistent - Conner was angry and belligerent. He didn't even say 'I disagree with you.' He said, 'You're wrong.'

One request for Garfield and OTM in general - This was a model of persistent and aggressive journalism, but Garfield was dealing with essentially a nobody. Please show the same guts when talking to Dick Cheney, Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama, etc., etc, and they are being equally disingenuous, belligerent, or evasive...


Sep. 21 2010 01:14 AM
Gregory Slater from East Palo Alto, California

I feel I have to send a second post because it is very important to support real journalism which is what Garfield did here. We have so few examples of it. And timid journalism has cost us so much. I will also write Conner to complain about his disingenuousness and his attempts to bully Garfield into accepting his obviously bogus characterization. Conner now owes Garfield an apology for his behavior, but I don't expect to hear it.

You did a good aggressive job in this case, Garfield. You were polite but persistent in the face of a belligerent and dishonest interviewee. Exactly the right balance.

Gladstone's supporting comment is also on the mark.

Thanks for this piece.

Sep. 21 2010 01:01 AM
Gregory Slater from East Palo Alto, California

Bob Garfield,
Those condemning you for agressively questioning Richard Conner have either been become so used to gutlessness from journalists that they cannot comprehend real journalism, or they are idealogically disposed to side with Conner. But Conner was completely disingenuous about insisting that he made no connecton between the two stories - read the apology - he explicitly refers to lack of balance! What? Lack of balance? Why does he need to balance a story on Ramadan with 9-11? I think the best comment here suggested imagining the Ramadan piece replaced with a piece on a local lobster festival and then imagining whether the outrage would have occurred. It would not have! There is no question that Conner was apologizing to the bigots for doing a story on Ramadan. And it was Conner who repeatedly and angrily tried to bully Garfield into accepting his obviously bogus explanation - not the other way around.
You did good this time Garfield. Stay aggressive and adversarial. That's what real journalism is about, even if these fragile rube commenters are unaware of it. Aggressive and adversarial journalism is what might have kept us out of Iraq and saved 100,000 lives including 5000 Americans, and 4 trillion dollars. And it's what we need to avoid further unnecessary catastrophes. Stay adversarially - not milktoast.

Sep. 21 2010 12:52 AM
Josh Long from Toronto, Ontario

One of the reasons I tune into NPR is that I find the people are as respectful and civil to their hosts as is humanly possible. This exchange is no exception.

Conner has the audacity of a PR guy, but not the subtlety. He should be more careful with his words, and stand behind what he says, rather than what he wishes he had said.

Sep. 21 2010 12:09 AM
P Grandgeorge from KUNI Radio

No excuse for the OTM behavior in this story. My public radio stations headline their annual fund drives extolling the virtues of NPR in providing insightful, nuanced news and civil discourse. I've always believed it too.

OTM made them liars.

You can dispute a point with candor and respect. The real journalist at TM don't believe in that hokey-pokey.

I've been pledging for just shy of 15 years. If I pledge this year, I will do so for 25% less than last year, since what I've been paying for - civility and discretion - is not being offered anymore.

Thanks to OTM for helping me see through the marketing and into the real heart of the NPR journalism!

Brooke - good point on being presumptuous - you've got that in spades!

Sep. 20 2010 10:54 PM

One more voice of support and appreciation for this piece--and for the necessary journalistic act of calling out people in positions of power who do not respond truthfully when asked about what they have stated on the public record. I'm a regular NPR listener, but never paid much attention to "On the Media" before. I think that's about to change.

Sep. 20 2010 10:49 PM
Charlie Greenman from Minnetonka, Minnesota

Brooke, Thanks for your explanation and persistence in staying on point. Maybe it's my Minnesota sensibilities that made me cringe at Bob's strong questioning. This show is first rate! Charlie Greenman

Sep. 20 2010 10:43 PM
Uplift from North Carolina

Bob's behavior was entirely appropriate. The editor was lying, trying to pretend that his apology didn't say what it clearly said.

@36, Jackie: you're going to teach your media class that when an interviewee lies to your face - as happened here - that as the interviewer you shouldn't press them on the issue? That trying to call people out on their lies and obfuscation is an "underhanded and rude" trick? I guess that's okay, but in the interests of honesty, you should make sure that any references to "journalism" in your class are properly identified as "stenography." And maybe you could rename your class from "media" to "how the media ought to abandon their role as the fourth estate"? Just a thought.

Sep. 20 2010 08:26 PM
mary kuhn from Syracuse, NY - WRVO

Thanks for your response Brooke. You make a good point about the need for more follow-up questions, especially when there seems to be a disconnect between the question and the response. And usually I do like it when journalists do that but there seemed to be an edge to Bob's persistence that just grated........I will try to listen again. I really do love your show and try to catch it every week. Keep up the good work. Including such a wonderfully prompt and thoughtful reply.
Mary Kuhn

Sep. 20 2010 05:20 PM
sonoken from Cary, NC

Great response, Brooke! Unfortunately, for those who would benefit most from listening again, the entire interview is not available from the link above.

Sep. 20 2010 02:31 PM
Brooke Gladstone

As editor of the segment, I feel I need to weigh in here. Bob did his job, that is, to ask the questions the listener would likely ask (had he/she read the apology or even heard the information in the introduction). Perhaps it is presumptuous to attempt to stand in for the listener, but as many observe, journalism IS a presumptuous business.

I strongly urge anyone who charges Bob with rudeness to listen again. Bob was persistent. He heard the newspaper editor re-cast his published apology to exclude the connection drawn between the coverage of end of Ramadan, the lack of 9/11 coverage and reader "offense." By merely repeating a false assertion, he hoped to prevail with it(a strategy that seemed to work for several commenters on this string.) Bob's unwillingness to be brushed off put him outside the style boundaries of much of American broadcast journalism (it's more common on the BBC)but again, he was doing his job.

The question arises: Why beleaguer this editor of this small paper? OTM has no personal animus for Richard Conner, but we believe his apology was a clear example of the news media's tendency to flinch, reflexively and unreflectively in response to criticism - especially now, when the nation and its media are fraught with religious tension.

This was the question we wanted to examine. But since the editor insisted on recasting his own remarks, we could not. We ran the interview anyway, because we though it was still valuable as an object lesson to help us consider the way our own local media cover these issues.


Sep. 20 2010 11:11 AM
Josh from Austin, TX

This could have been such a great interview if Richard Connor hadn't been such a defensive, rude, spin-doctor.
If he didn't want to answer direct questions pertaining to the language of the apology (which as a journalist he should have fully expected) then why did he even bother to agree to do the interview?? Bob did a great job of choosing substantive questions to ask, but when an interviewee refuses to directly answer legitimate questions/concerns, and then gets noticeably agitated while trying to change the subject . . . . well it's no wonder the interview was cut short.
Richard Connor is a worthless "journalist" and those who think Bob did something wrong are somewhat deficient.

Sep. 20 2010 11:10 AM
Jackie from Downers Grove, IL

Wow, what a piece. As I listened in my car on Sunday morning, I drove along, mouth agape. I will definitely use this interview for my media class, but only to reflect how an interviewer (Mr. Garfield) should not treat an interviewee. For a program that finds Fox News "incredibly boring" it sure is resorting to the same underhanded and rude tricks. (Considering how OTM obsesses over the network, it's not surprising...)

BTW, I'm pretty much done with any program that covers so-called Islamophobia. It's been beaten to death and methinks the coverage far, far outweighs any real incidents. Frankly, it's a shame that the time around 9/11 has been bogarted by the media's perceived need to balance a Muslim holiday with a devastating act perpetrated in the name of Islam. Religious celebrations of any faith should always warrant a fleeting mention (yes, Christmas, too, but the coverage has largely been about its commercial nature, not the religious observation), not be on par with national tragedies--unless, of course, you're a religious publication.

Sep. 20 2010 10:20 AM
Edie Doty from POrtland, Mane

I am a subscriber to the Portland Press Herald, and I was appalled by Richard Connor's apology. On the Media has taken NOTHING out of context. The questioning of Richard Connor is fair, and the reason the interviewer questions him harder is because Connor is denying what he quite plainly wrote. His apology does indeed state that the coverage of Ramadan should have been balanced with coverage of 9/11. Her could have written a column that said the folks who complained about ther lack of 9/11 coverage on 9/11 are right, but those who complain about the Ramadan coverage are wrong and here’s why. (For background: ten years ago, there were only a handful of Muslims in Maine; Portland has since resettled many Somali refugees, so a Ramadan ceremony of the size covered in the newspaper is indeed news.) Connor, who is relatively new to Maine himself, had a golden opportunity to address the anti-Muslim hysteria sweeping the country and to appeal to people's better selves. He blew it.

Sep. 20 2010 07:23 AM

Agree with those above who found Bob's approach appropriate. The interview didn't start out hostile, Bob asked the editor a question and the editor lied. There are no two ways about it, he lied. It's clear if you read the piece in question exactly what he meant and no amount of parsing after the fact changes it. What seems so bizarre is that the editor got his hackles up over such a minor issue and then tried to pretend that he didn't say what he said based on the position of a comma.

The interview turned from interrogative to hostile not when Bob asked the editor to confirm his position, but then the editor implied that Bob was making this up to push an agenda - at which point Bob read his full quote back to him and was interrupted.

There is no side to this issue. There is a lying editor and a person doing his job in questioning him. This is how honest journalism should, but usually doesn't look in our society. It is perplexing, though, how this editor took his position.

Sep. 20 2010 05:24 AM
John Z from Germany

Count me among those here that support Bob Garfield's approach in attempting to get Richard Connor to acknowledge the linkage between the apology and the Ramadan coverage. I hesitate to label Connor a weasel; I believe he thought he could fudge his way through with his contrived explanation for the apology. As a (now known) media kow-tow-ee, he probably likewise expected Garfield to accept his explanations without the refreshing cross-examination. If so, Connor clearly doesn't much listen to OTM.

Connor reflects I think an unfortunate aspect of our culture that drills us all never to admit a mistake. Pity. My only criticism of the piece is Garfield's choice at the end to include the sound of Connor hanging up. I found that gratuitous revenge from the party in control of the reporting. Overall though, kudos and keep up the great and essential work!

Sep. 20 2010 02:53 AM

well sometimes the mistake is just so dumb you just have to rub it in the guys face if he's *cough* enough to pick up the phone and talk some more!

Sep. 19 2010 11:47 PM
David Haulbrook from Brooklyn NY

Did you go to the Portland newspaper and read the "apology" or did you just take WNYC's side on faith? Oh my gosh, I said the "F" word!

Sep. 19 2010 11:08 PM
Jason T from Portland, ME

Didn't get to check out the interview, but as a native of Portland I'm really embarrassed by this "apology".

Maybe if they follow up an article on Christmas celebration by apologizing to clergy sexual abuse survivors I might at least give them the credit of being honest and stupid, instead of bigoted and dumb.

Most residents of Portland would agree with the Steve Chapman #16 comment.

Sep. 19 2010 10:32 PM
AM from Los Angeles

I heard one journalist (Bob) offended that another journalist (the 'editor/publisher'--a job blending that is fraught with problems but I digress) did not uphold his professional responsibility to report the news without apology. The man from Portland lacks backbone, he knows it and he was caught. Embarrassed by Bob's calling him out, he lashed out.

And Satan, you're kidding, right? I mean I know you're the Prince of Darkness bla-bla-bla but you question why a 'religious holiday' was covered in a newspaper?! You must crawl under your rock come November and miss all the coverage on Christmas cuz it's there--and it should be. It's news.

Sep. 19 2010 07:45 PM
ALM from Alabama

I really appreciated your interview with Connor, Bob. I'm glad you refused to allow him to spin the facts. He seemed to be talking out of both sides of his mouth by claiming his apology didn't mean what it implied yet refusing to retract it. I wonder why, in addition to telling us what he really meant to say, he couldn't simply acknowledge that he took some wrong turns in that apology and gave readers an unintended impression. I would have respected that. Instead, I'm left with the impression that he did mean what he implied in that apology. On another note, I can't believe he became so defensive and abandoned civility to such an extent. I'm surprised by his lack of public relations skills. Did he actually hang up on you at the end? Anyway, thanks for asking "the tough questions." After a disappointing interview on another NPR program this week, you've restored my faith in NPR.

Sep. 19 2010 04:57 PM
Darrin from Philadelphia

Bob Garfield asked the editor to explain what he wrote in his apology. The editor refused to do so. What surprises me is how many listeners are upset because Bob Garfield did not give him a pass. If you want to be pandered to, I urge you to listen to the broadcast or cable news outlet of your political or ideological persuasion. Frankly, it is evident that you cannot cope with someone simply wanting his question to be answered.

Sep. 19 2010 12:30 PM
Ali from Mcallen, TX

Hats off to you Bob, we need more journalists like yourself in MSM. The editor was clearly trying to dance around his 700 words apology comment and it did not work. It seems like some of their sponsors were threatening to pull the plug on them for running the Eid coverage.

Sep. 19 2010 12:00 PM
Chris from Chicago

Bob is rude to his interviewers sometimes but I feel he was in the right for this one.

Bob began reading the editor his OWN WORDS from the apology and the editor stopped and said "I gave you a new statement just now. Why don't you go with that?" He tried to change what he said for the interview without admitting he suggested something different with his written apology. The fact that he hung up rather than explain his own words is proof the guy was full of it.

Kudos, Bob and Brooke.

Sep. 19 2010 11:55 AM
Jph from New York

I agree with Joe and Steve above. You committed an act of journalism. Nothing to be ashamed of. I would like to see more of it. Our press is obsessed with good manners often at the expense of accuracy, honesty and real context. The editor wrote something hard to interpret as anything but a craven apology for printing a positive story about local citizens peacefully celebrating their faith. I recommend that those commenters critical of Bob's approach go to the newspapers website and read some of the many reader comments.

Sep. 19 2010 11:03 AM
David Haulbrook from Brooklyn NY

Before you judge either party, go read the newspaper's apology first. I think you may agree "On the Media" did a hatchet job on this one.

Sep. 19 2010 10:58 AM
David Haulbrook from Brooklyn NY

I found your reporter's treatment of the Portland Press Herald editor to be much more offensive than that newspaper's apology. Face it, commercial news sources depend on their advertising revenues to pay their bills. Frankly, I understand the Press/Herald's position and support it. Their advertisers and readers felt the publication had paid undue attention to the end of a secular religious event while at the same time failed to pay respect to a national tragedy. More than that, I was embarrassed to be listening to what I feel amounted to a personal attack by your reporter on the editor. It's not the kind of balanced reporting I would expect from a public radio program. Could you find your reporter a job for which he's better suited, like cleaning toilets?

Sep. 19 2010 10:49 AM
Stan G

I find it strange when American secularists suggest that 9/11 had nothing to do with Islam. Islam, like any religion, is defined by it's adherents. Despite our wish that all Muslims are peaceful and tolerant we have to recognize that millions of Muslims celebrate 9/11 and think anyone who offends Islam should be killed. These people are as much Muslim as any new-age Sufi even if we wish they weren't.

Sep. 19 2010 10:36 AM
Satan from Hell

Wow, Bob Garfield,you really stuck it to the small town newspaper guy! Way to go! You should be in line for a Pulitzer. Was the story...(long pause) edited...(longer pause followed by vomit-inducing, sickeningly sweet voice affectation) byyyyy Brooook? Aww.

If only you held "bigger fish" to the same standards.

But really, to me, the REAL story should have been why a religious holiday warrants coverage in a newspaper? The same tried stories about the the same tired traditions that take place EVERY YEAR for hundreds of years. This is news?!

Sep. 19 2010 10:36 AM
Charles E. Hughes from Frankfort, KY

I listen to On The Media because I enjoy being "talked down to" by a group of elitist who are so liberal that they would not eat the right wing of a chicken. They have been lamenting the demise of traditional media influence, for example newspapers, for some time. Their main concern is that they no longer control content in a world of technology that allows sources beyond their control voice. Today Bob Garfield gave proof: when he could not get the editor to allow him to spin and interject his prejudice, he badgered the man. Not everyone who objected was an anti-Muslim fanatic as Garfield wanted to portray them. Some voiced concern. That was not an interview! It was not even thinly veiled. It was an open attempt to spin the story to the left. I am not surprised. I am disappointed. I am sad that it will not end his career. He should be sent to the sidelines to confer with other media greats like Dan Rather.

Sep. 19 2010 08:29 AM
Joe from Minneapolis

The interview with Connor was completely fair and utterly refreshing. It’s disturbing to hear anyone argue otherwise. Garfield asked Connor to explain a glaring discrepancy between his written apology and his on-air statements. Again, Connor wrote that many people saw the front-page story on the observance of Ramadan “as offensive, particularly on the day…when our nation and the world were paying tribute to those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks nine years ago.” Connor goes on in the apology to argue that “we should have balanced [our coverage of Ramadan] with one that showed sensitivity to today’s historic importance.”

Connor is admitting that it is “offensive” to put on the front page Ramadan on September 11. If he was simply apologizing for not covering 9/11 more extensively, as he argues in the interview, he would not bring up Ramadan at all. Arguing that a story on Ramadan needs to be “balanced” with a story about 9/11 is, by the very nature of the word “balanced,” suggesting that the two stories are somehow related. And if we need to start talking about planes crashing into buildings anytime we talk about a Muslim holiday to be “balanced,” then we have some major problems in this country.

Garfield asked Connor to explain himself. Connor said he was only apologizing about short-changing 9/11 coverage. Garfield asked him to explain the discrepancy between that argument and *the actual words he wrote in the newspaper* and Connor refused to acknowledge any such discrepancy. Garfield pressed the issue increasingly forcefully and Connor became belligerent. When it was clear he was not going to get anywhere, Garfield ended the interview and Connor slammed the phone. That is not being biased or having an “agenda”—that is being a good journalist. And those are few and far between these days.

Sep. 19 2010 04:33 AM
Not a Chance

Steve Brannon,

For some reason, you completely misunderstood my post, though it was simply worded.

It is Mr. Connor and his paper which need some backbone to keep from cowtowing to every moronic whim of the fanatical, intolerant right.

Sep. 19 2010 01:42 AM
Steve Chapman from Akron, OH

Proof-reading is so important...

Much like the people of Portland probably don't want me to paint them with the broad brush of bigots or lump them with the Rush Limbaughs, Glenn Becks and Sarah Palins of the world; the Muslims represented in the article in the Portland Press do not want to be lumped in with those Extremists.

Sep. 19 2010 01:00 AM
Steve Chapman from Akron, OH

Evidently I didn't listen to the same interview that others above did. I found the newspaper editor to be a coward. He came across rude and distasteful. Did you all not hear that he hung up on Bob?

The editor knew that he was being interviewed by NPR. He shouldn't have expected a pass for his clearly misguided apology.

So the people of Portland, ME were offended by someone doing a positive story about the Muslim faith. Seems to me that it is a community issue and they need to be educated about the differences between Muslims who desire to practice their faith as Christians and Jews and so many other belief systems do and the EXTREMISTS who committed the horrible acts of 9/11. Much like the people of Portland probably don't want me to paint them with the broad brush of bigots or lump them with the Rush Limbaughs, Glenn Becks and Sarah Palins of the world; the Muslims represented in the article in the Portland Press.

Evidently we went back in time and it is now the early 1950's again and McCarthy is in the UnAmerican House committee. I thought we had past that but I was sadly mistaken and the apology that this editor provided seems to support my view.

Sep. 19 2010 12:55 AM

Finally!! I'm so tired of NPR letting fools like this newspaper editor get away with their half-truth spin! This guy and his bigoted readers obviously have a problem with Islam and want to link radical Islam to the few freaks from thousands of miles away who perpetrated 9/11. NPR is too nice and I appreciate an interview that tries to get to the point (the real point!) without backing away out of politeness. As Americans, we should not allow, sanction or downplay bigotry against Muslims.

Sep. 18 2010 09:59 PM
Marty in Boise

If the Newspaper's apology had actually taken ONLY the approach that the editor emphasized in the interview, I would agree that Bob Garfield was badgering him unfairly. But then I read the text of the apology, which is, as others have pointed out, not primarily about the omission of coverage on 9/11, but about the seeming insensitivity of portraying local Muslims positively without also "balancing" the story with mention of an unrelated atrocity.

Mr. Connor's approach to the OTM interview was no different from any other corporate spokesperson in damage control mode. Given the editorial's occasionally self-congratulatory tone ("I expect no accolades for what I see as our prompt and courteous responses" [to readers' complaints), it's possible that Connor was surprised that Garfield wasn't actually praising him for his thoughtful reply to community concerns.

Sep. 18 2010 09:08 PM
andrea w from Maine

Um, have any of you actually read the comments on the Press Herald's website? This guy made a gravely bad decision to issue an apology for running this story, and he did apologize for running a story about muslims on 9/11! It is a load of crap to say that he was apologizing for not having more coverage of 9/11. I'm glad Bob tried to hold him to his own words!

Sep. 18 2010 05:24 PM
Rolf Linder from Lexington, Ky

Bob Garfield was off base in the interview. He had an agenda, and it showed. It would have been more interesting if he had engaged his guest in a dialogue about how to balance real news reporting with public opinion.

Sep. 18 2010 05:24 PM
Will Kelley

Bob Garfield's grandstanding was distasteful, but increasingly characteristic of On The Media. Do your guests not provide you the interpretation with which you arrived at the interview? Browbeat them. Do they contradict you? Bully them.

Flexibility in real-time, a sense of nuance, an acceptance of the basic humanity of the people on the other end of the story -- these are all fading fast in the mass media. And OTM is being dragged down with the rest, as is public media more generally.

You have my sincere condolences.

Sep. 18 2010 04:34 PM
Steve Brannon from Albany, NH

In response to 'Not A Chance':

"The media has lost its backbone when confronting the whiny, intolerant, fascist right in this country"

Whether or not your assumption is correct, the 'backbone' exhibited by Bob was unfortunately targeted toward an editor who, at least from his argumentation on-air, does not qualify for your above-quoted label -i.e. 'whiny, intolerant, fascist right...'.

If Bob's approach to this interview is what you would call 'backbone' I would unfortunately have to label it unproductively combative - not to mention mis-directed. Save it for the "whiny, intolerant, fascist[s]" who may, or may not, have been the ones who wrote in and complained.

Sep. 18 2010 03:49 PM
William Cannon from Walpole, Ma.

I was truly disappointed in Bob's exchange with the editor of the Portland Herald. It was synthetic. It was disingenuous. It made me want turn off my radio. I did. Bob should be the one offering the apology next week. Lead with heart, not a broken nose.

Sep. 18 2010 01:40 PM
Linda Powell from New York

I rarely write in, but felt compelled after listening to the interview with The Portland Press editor. I see I'm not the only one who found the interview uncharacteristically heavy handed and unnecessarily argumentative. I thought the editor made his point clearly and persuasively. Of course, there's a reasonable argument to be made that bowing to community sensitivities is a slippery slope. I also think that the paper made a mistake in not providing the community it serves with information and coverage of a day of some importance for its members. Both things can be true.

But even if for the sake of argument I believed that the Portland Press caved in to anti-Muslim sentiment at the expense of journalistic integrity, I am smart enough make my own decisions about the paper's statement. Bob seemed to be pressing his own agenda at the expense of a civil conversation and seemed not to trust his listeners to make up their own minds.

Sep. 18 2010 01:16 PM
Not a Chance

Thanks for challenging The Portland Press herald's motives Bob.

The media has lost its backbone when confronting the whiny, intolerant, fascist right in this country, and too typically they let the right shove them into submission.

Progressives would be as powerful as ever if the media stuck to its guns in pushing for truth, justice, and reason, but its hard for progressives not to become disheartened by the media's cowtowing to the distortions and lies of the right... especially when those in Congress are so easily swayed by fickle public opinion and so much of the public is too ignorant to distill truth from the tripe the media presents as "equal time" for the right's views.

Our country would be infinitely better off if cowardly behavior like the Herald's were challenged more often. We deserve a media which pursues truth and reason, rather than struggling to give fringe whacko idiots "equal time" for the sake of the improved ad revenues that wee higher ratings might provide.

Sep. 18 2010 10:50 AM
Robert from New York City

To continue, I dare say that Bob bored into that guest as Fox Noise would, albeit from a different point of view.

Sep. 18 2010 08:06 AM
Muzz Z. from The Empire State

Agree completely with Greg's comment. I could not believe that I had tuned into OTM (especially as a long-time listener). After reading the PPH apology, including its detailed description of real time response to readers, I was particularly disappointed in the way OTM "painted" this story.

Sep. 18 2010 08:02 AM
gil mann

Typical LAMEstream media "gotcha" tactics-- quoting what someone said and asking them if that's really what they meant.

Sep. 18 2010 08:00 AM
Robert from New York City

I wish that Bob had posed the following hypothetical to Mr. Connor: Imagine that 9/11 had received the same amount of coverage on 9/11 as it actually did, but instead of the end of Ramadan there was an article about a lobster festival or a major celebration at a local institution such as the Bath Iron Works or L.L. Bean. Would there have been as many complaints that 9/11 coverage was shortchanged?

I would have loved to hear Mr. Connor answer THAT question. Personally I suspect that reader complaints would have been far fewer, and possibly even non-existent.

Bob, you were onto something, but your questioning didn't reflect that.

Sep. 18 2010 07:57 AM
greg maupai from Green Pond, NJ

I found your reporters interview of richard connor to be offensive. It was argumentative and akin to the journalistic rabble rousing so prevalent on the cable tv talking head shows, i try to avoid by listening to quality radio shows instead.

Sep. 18 2010 07:40 AM

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