(More) Controversy at NPR

Friday, October 28, 2011


Once again the intersection of NPR and politics has created a controversy. When Lisa Simeone, host of World of Opera was revealed to be acting as a spokesperson for an Occupy Wall Street inspired group in Washington D.C. - NPR decided to distance itself from the show by ending distribution. (The show will continue to be distributed by a local affiliate.) Bob spoke with Joyce Slocum, interim President and CEO of NPR about how and why that decision was made. 

The Beatles - "I'm Only Sleeping (Rehearsal)"

Comments [50]

Philip Prindeville from Portland, OR

I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop and find out that Neal Conan is taking a leave of absence to work on Ron Paul's campaign.

Ha, ha. Yeah, like that would ever happen.

It's not objectionable that NPR personnel have political views: they can hardly avoid it.

What's offensive is how homogenous they are.

Nov. 08 2011 12:22 PM
eddie ciletti

my last two paragraphs should have read...

The combined events in the previous paragraph left me wondering when NPR could even claim being centrist, apolitical or balanced. Because people that work for your organization are so close to the people who are guilty by proximity - how can we believe in NPR when the people who are supposed to be objective are married to lobbyists. It's no wonder there are not more 'follow the money' stories.

So, the nicest I can be is to ask NPR the same thing I ask of the president, to have some chutzpah! NPR would be better off taking the heat for actually doing something that will help the country, rather than cowering to conservatives...

Nov. 06 2011 05:27 PM
eddie ciletti from 55118

After listening to today's program I am further disappointed in the approach NPR and its affiliates are taking. All your commentators emphasize the same 'mantra,' that NPR is neutral and while my conservative friends feel that NPR is left of center I know it to be right of center.

All of the past years firings and 'distance-ings' prove mostly that NPR is spineless - just as our president has been (and I voted for him) - as if appeasing the right might somehow allow the organization to continue with less conservative scrutiny.

Not only will you never sway the right (despite a picture of Rick Perry on the splash page) the price you pay for this apolitical stance is mediocrity, a lack of depth in reporting and the shaken confidence from those of us who are genuinely centrist - even if, to the right, we are considered left leaning.

Let me provide an example...

Not long before Michelle Norris had to distance herself from her ATC role - because her husband is a form XL pipeline lobbyist and now part of president Obama's 2012 campaign - her partner, Melissa Block, was interviewing an OWS activist. Her tone was condescending - so much so that I wrote to complain of it being the typical media drivel about theOWS message not being focused. In reality, the OWS message is all-embracing - what the democrats WISH they were (and you tolerate their lack of focus) in terms of the general evils that have gotten our country AND THE WORLD in this financial pickle.

So, the nicest I can be is to ask NPR the same thing I ask of the president, to have some chutzpah!

The combined events in the previous paragraph left me wondering when NPR could even claim being centrist, apolitical or balanced. Because people that work for your organization are so close to the people who are

Nov. 06 2011 05:20 PM
Jerry Smetzer

I don't understand the basis for NPR terminating Lisa Simeone. The news I hear says the "Occupy..." movement has minimal ideological focus, and zero organizational structure. So how can that movement have a point-of-view that requires a spokesman, let alone a mechanism for hiring, or appointing one. The whole thing strikes as NPR manipulating the news by scaring those involved with difficult stories with termination, including NPR's own employees.

Nov. 06 2011 02:38 PM
Marc in Paris from Paris

Slocum wants to have it both ways: It's no big deal that NPR is no longer distributing the show because it's still available to public radio stations. And the show has no longer even been produced by NPR for over a year. So how then does any NPR employee policy hold sway? (That's also for the commenters here who say that Simeone was at fault for violating NPR policy: if she's not employed by NPR, she is not bound by their policy.)

Nov. 05 2011 11:39 AM
Philip Greene from Ohio

I apologize for the typos in my comment. I did actually run it through a spel lchecker, but my cut and paste of the final product evidently did not take.

I do, in fact, know how to spell.

Nov. 05 2011 08:39 AM
Philip Greene from Ohio

You and Garfield must be terrified for your jobs. Or maybe you're just missing the point of unbiased journalism.

As a professional journalist for nearly 15 years, covering quite a few controversial subjects, I never once suffered a single accusaiton of bias on my part. In fact, I was often complimented on presenting even, neutral coverage. I did so by providing room for all voices and all issues pertaining to the matter and -- more importantly (and something that has been completely forgotten in today's "journalism" -- sticking strictly to the facts; never inserting myself into the story. Today -- as this and many other news broadcasts do -- Brooke Galdstone set herself up as a source and an authority by injecting her own opinions into the questions and developing the story along the lines she wanted it to take -- not a natural evolution of information as a result of exmaining the actual facts of the matter. In fact, it was so apparaent that Gladstone was acting as an apologizt for NPR that it caused me to wonder jut how much pressure is put on a so-called media watch program to support their boss's position?

Is this unbaised journalism? Is this the challenging sort of news that gets the facts before the public so they can decide for themselves? Or is it a protection of one's job and livelihood?

Anyone who gores back to read the transcripts can't miss the fact that, at every opportunity, Gladstone leapt to the defense of NPR and never once ask a question that wasn't prefaced by an opinion trhat suported the decision.

While I was a journalist, I adhered to the very strictest of ethics codes and I believe I never once violated them. But my time was my time and what I did during that time was my business, not my employers. Today -- not just in news, but in all professions -- employers feel they have the right to dictate the actions and conduct of their employees and, as far as I'm concerned, if I'm not being paid during that time, I'm not obligated to my employer.

I think that is the real story here that is being swept aside in favor of Gladstone and Garfield not offending their lord and master. What right does an employer have to tell me what I can do on my time? Since they are the ones who control what goes on the air, shouldn't they, like the journalists they hire and fire, adhere to the very same ethics rules? Yet, if we examine their private lives, I think we'll find just as many violations of the standards they've set up.

OTMN used to be one of my favorite programs, but with the so many programs that have been obviously (in my opinion) an apology for NPR without every once challenging it, I now have to question just how much of a watchdog OTM is and if it has, instead, become a lapdog.

Nov. 05 2011 08:30 AM

Jeanne - The reason that Joyce Slocum was seemingly comfortable with the assertion that "No one will even notice" is precisely because Lisa Simeone is NOT being removed from World of Opera. You have the scenario 100% wrong, when you suggest that Lisa Simeone was being removed from that program, or else when you presume that that is what Joyce Slocum was referring to.

On the other hand, Lisa Simeone was apparently removed from "Soundprint," although I don't think that Joyce Slocum was referring to that decision, and assuredly all of the jokes about politicizing opera are not applicable to the Soundprint decision.

As appears on the Soundrpint website home page:
"Soundprint and Lisa Simeone have ended their work together after fifteen years. Soundprint is a journalistic program and Lisa's leadership role as a member of the steering committee and a spokesperson for the October 2011 protest activities, associated with the Occupy DC movement, conflicts with her role as the host of a documentary series."

So, Jeanne, your presumptions about the Lisa Simeone are probably as wrong as your obliquely-stated allegation that deep-pocketed interests were what motivated the actions in the case of Lisa Simeone.

Nov. 03 2011 10:14 AM
Jeanne from Manhattan

In hearing Ms. Slocum's interview, the one comment that leapt out most disturbingly was her saying "... and no one will even notice ..." [the removal of Lisa Simeone]. Isn't this how police states operate? Betting that as long as most of the population remains comfy and well-fed, the authorities can do as they please? The hair stood up on the back of my neck when I heard this. I got a solicitation phone call last night from WNYC. I told them I have decided to withdraw my support. Their hands are already in deeper pockets than mine.

Nov. 02 2011 05:10 PM


World of Opera is still on the NPR website:


Nov. 01 2011 12:52 PM

Aside from other issues, Joyce Slocum fails to acknowledge that there are listeners (like me) who listen to NPR wholly online or via podcasts. Though affiliate stations will still carry it, if the program is removed from the NPR website, I have no way of listening to it.

Nov. 01 2011 10:55 AM

Catilin Curran was fired as a freelance web producer for The Takeaway. Her offense was having participated in an Occupy Wall Street event in which she was photographed holding up a sign that was a printed quote from commentator Conor Freidersdorf of The Atlantic.

Freidersdorf has subsequently defended Curran and criticized her termination. He wrote:
"That ought to be the pitch that newspapers and public radio stations make to their audience. It might go something like this: 'Yes, the field of journalism attracts more liberals than conservatives, more Occupy Wall Street participants than Tea Party ralliers, more urban dwellers than rural Americans, more college graduates than people without degrees, more Democrats than Republicans, more English majors than math majors, more secular people than religious people -- and although we value diversity of thought, experience and world view on our staff, the core of our value proposition is that we're accurate in our reporting, fair-minded in setting forth arguments and perspectives even when we don't agree with them, transparent about who we are, attune to our biases and constantly trying to account for them, and insistent that we be judged by our output, not our political or religious or ideological identity, or what we do on weekends. Judge us by our work, and if you challenge it in good faith we'll engage you.'
Who is even fooled at this point?
The American public understands who makes up the press corps, or more likely, has an exaggerated idea of how liberal it is precisely because the lack of transparency and pose of viewlessness seems conspiratorial. Is any reader of this article shocked or even mildly surprised that a Brooklyn-based freelance Web journalist working part time at a New York City public radio station held up a cardboard sign during an Occupy Wall Street protest? If that totally banal and predictable event is the thing that gets you upset as a journalistic manager, if you think that it is the threat to your program's credibility, you misunderstand the present media landscape."
I really don't think that the notion of how liberal the public radio press corps is, is at all "exaggerated." No, we are completely unsurprised by the personal political views of people like Lisa Simeone or Caitlin Curran.

And I do judge public radio by the content of its product, which bears all of the hallmarks of the people who produce it.

No one has taken up the challenge to name a conservative host, producer or program in public radio. NPR does seem to be obsessed with racial and gender diverstiy, but tone-deaf on ideological diversity.

Nov. 01 2011 10:53 AM

It seems that a fair number of On the Media listeners are accusing "corporate sponsors/underwriters of exerting pressure on NPR to disassociate itself from Lisa Simeone.

I gather that there are similar feelings with respect to the termination of Caitlin Curran, fired as a freelance web producer for "The Takeaway," which happens to be produced in part by WNYC, which holds the copyright to this very webpage and which plays a similar role in the production of On the Media.

"The Takeaway" has so far ignored its own media controversy with Caitlin Curran. Will "On the Media" ignore that controversy as well?

I presume that Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone, working within WNYC offices and studios, could shed some light on Caitlin Curran. If indeed corporate sponsors and underwriters pressured The Takeaway into terminating Caitllin Curran, that would be one hell of a story. On the other hand, if corporate sponsors had no role whatsoever in the termination decision, that ought to be reported to those On the Media listeners who wrongly suspect corporate interests as having somehow manipulated the matter.

It seems to be the sort of thing in which only an honest, intrepid reporter with experience in covering the media and who is knowledgable about public radio, with access to the administrators of WNYC, could possibly cover. Bob? Brooke? Do either of you know anybody like that?

Nov. 01 2011 10:37 AM
John Arthos from Columbus, Ohio

Bob, didn't you miss the most relevant question? It's a music show, for god's sake. How does her political involvement affect her musical taste?

Nov. 01 2011 09:51 AM
scott augustine


Nov. 01 2011 06:15 AM

"I am unanimous in that." - Mrs. Slocombe

Oct. 31 2011 12:08 PM
Brian from Flushing, Michigan

This story seems quaint to me.

At at time you devote an entire segment to this minor issue at NPR, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas failed (for FIVE years) to report his wife's $686,589 in income from a conservative think tank on financial disclosure forms for at least five years.

Thomas has somewhat of a conflict just being a justice, concerning the very right-wing and very prominent political activities of his wife, Ginni. But that conflict is particularly a problem since the Supreme Court will almost undoubtedly be hearing a case against the Affordable Care Act, the law that his wife has been paid handsomely to fight.

If you wonder why the Occupy Wall Street movement exists, it's that the media is not on task with stories about Thomas, WMD prior to the Iraw war and so on. The media has failed as much as the government is influenced by big money.

The most powerful judges in the land get away with unethical behavior (lying on 5 years of documents) and he won't likely recuse himself from the upcoming case.

Your show is just the place to begin the drum beat on such unethical behavior as an example to illustrate just one little part of what #OWS is fighting for - a government that is accountable to the people.

Your show is just the place to investigate why there ISN'T continuing coverage of the Thomas story. Harder to report on a failure to cover a story … but I'm sure you're up to the task.

Oct. 31 2011 12:09 AM
Gregory Slater from East Palo Alto

Man, Garfield was treading carefully - gotta keep that job. They might come for him next. Otherwise he would have brought up Simon's shameless advocacy for the unlawful attack on Iraq that killed a hundred thousand human beings and destroyed a country - all without a shred of legitimate justification. He would have brought up all the other NPR 'journalists' that have traded their credentials for a little gold from Fox, etc. It's amazing, but NPR has finally gotten me on the side of the repubs in supporting the elimination of all government funding for them. They can easily make it up in funding from Goldman Sachs et al. I mean, if they can claim they are unbiased with all the corporate money they're getting now, what's a few more percent? They'll still be totally unbiased, right?.... riiiiight

Oct. 30 2011 11:06 PM
Richard Schiffman from New York

Yes absolutely Charles, we are agreed. No more federal or corporate money for NPR. Who knows, they might even develop a little backbone and real independence if they had to depend on the 99 percent for their funding!

Oct. 30 2011 07:57 PM


You could start a new network for 'progressive' political newstalk programming. And it could be as 'progressive' as you want to make it. Some public radio programs could naturally slide into time slots on that purely-progressive radio network, with little or no changes in their content.

You could call it "Air America," and get help in operating it from somebody like Al Franken. And you could make time for a program like Democracy Now!, that would be as at home on "Air America" as it was on public radio.

You could be a pioneer in doing all of that, if it hadn't already been done.

Oct. 30 2011 07:30 PM

Richard; are you suggesting that public radio should be entirely de-funded by state and federal governments, which might try to pressure public radio programming into some version of conformity?

You wrote: "Public radio gets state funding and corporate underwriting that places a very high burden on conformity to their economic and political interests. That's the crux of the problem right there."

If that's the problem, then maybe we should get government out of the business of funding NPR and public radio in general, eh? And don't let any "corporations" fund any political discussions. Don't allow government, or corporations, to pressure any discussions hosted on public radio, via funding. Let's just do away with all of that funding.

We may have found common ground, Richard! Although "De-funding NPR" is not exactly my favorite cause. My vision of NPR would involve as much governmental funding as was required, but it would involve a whole lot less newstalk. I'm among that group of conservatives who don't want NPR to silence Lisa Simeone for her private political views; I just want the network to focus on what it is that Lisa Simeone really does well (opera and classical music and et cetera) and less of what NPR is hopelessly biased on, and that that is political newstalk.

Oct. 30 2011 07:25 PM
Biff Not Zeem from Washington state

As I was listening to the interview with Joyce Slocum, the word that kept popping into my head is "weasel'. She would change the subject when answering questions without giving any indication that she didn't intend to answer the question asked.

Then I did some research and discovered that she has previously served as legal counsel for NPR. That would give her experience answering a question without really answering the question.

The Republicans have succeeded in destroying NPR. Time for the good programs to find a new distribution channel.

Oct. 30 2011 07:19 PM
Richard Schiffman from New York

Charles, the question of whether NPR has a "liberal bias," as the Fox News types claim,. or is "a corporate tool," all depends on where you draw the line. We clearly draw the line in very different places. You write, "the problem is that public radio gets state support that places a very high burden of fairness and balance on it." Not true! Public radio gets state funding and corporate underwriting that places a very high burden on conformity to their economic and political interests. That's the crux of the problem right there.

Oct. 30 2011 06:07 PM

Richard, I understand very well that many public radio listeners can get a particular angle on the news from Amy Goodman and the staff of "Democaracy Now!"

I suppose that we should stipulate that Democracy Now! is not a production of NPR News. And indeed, there must be some pretty large Chinese walls between Democracy Now! and NPR, since Amy Goodman is every bit as guilty as Caitlin Cullen and Lisa Simeone of being part of an activist protest. (Amy Goodman was arrested at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis while participating in a protest. She claims, I think, that she was 'covering' the protest as a journalist. Whatever.)

So if you can get one side of the story from Amy Goodman, where on public radio does one get the other side? If you are suggesting that "Scott Simon, Mara Liasson and Cokie Roberts" represent conservative Republican thinking and opinions, I have my own newsflash for you: It isn't so.

There is no conservative analogue to Democracy Now! on public radio. There's never been a "conservatives' Dan Schorr" on NPR, and there are no conservatives that I am aware of, that would balance the many producers and staff who drift in and out between public radio (in its many guises of NPR, PRI, APM, WNYC, WHYY, WGBH, Pacifica, etc.) and the left-promoting media world of Slate.com, Salon.com, The Nation, The New Yorker and the New York Times.

The leading faces of public radio (and "public radio" is a broader definition than "NPR" to be sure) are almost all self-identified liberals and or Democrats: Garrison Keillor, Ira Glass, Terry Gross, Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone, Michelle Norris, Nina Totenberg, [the late] Dan Schorr, [ex-] Juan Williams, Kurt Andersen, Tavis Smiley, The Takeaway with John Hockenberry and Celeste Headlee, Michel Martin.

Richard, you are certainly free to choose Amy Goodman's worldview as the one which you prefer. And I can choose the Editorial Page of the Wall Street Journal as the worldview which I prefer. But the problem is that public radio gets state support that places a very high burden of fairness and balance on it. And while you can find innumerable programs and views on public radio like those of Bob Garfield and Amy Goodman, one simply cannot find a program or a program host on NPR whose worldview is representative of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page, or The National Review, or the Weekly Standard.

The people you cite, Richard, would deny that they are conservative Republicans. They would disown that description. They would claim to be professional journalists whose views could not be fairly aligned with, say the WSJ Editorial Page.

And so, I make the case that the balance is lacking on public radio. And I defy anyone, to point me to the exception that might prove me wrong.

Oct. 30 2011 05:54 PM
Richard Schiffman from New York

Charles, I hear you, but I'm afraid I don't buy your distinctions. Comparing anti-war protesters to Halloween paraders, as Scott Simon did, is clearly advocating for a cause, the cause being war. Calling for the resignation of two congressmen, who dared to go to Iraq on a fact-finding mission, is advocating for a political cause, the cause being war. NPRs policy not to call torture torture, but to refer to it as "enhanced interrogation techniques," is taking a political position, that it is OK to waterboard, etc, etc is taking a political position, the position is that it's OK to torture prisoners. NPR has sold out to the warmongers and corporate types. That's the bottom line. You have to go to Amy Goodman nowadays to get the other side of the story.

Oct. 30 2011 05:06 PM

Richard, I'll try to be more plain. But remember, I am describing NPR's position, not my own...

NPR's general thinking on punditry is that if its "News Analysts" (people like Juan Williams, Cokie Roberts or, until his death, Dan Schorr) are not reporters, but are supposed to be describing ideas and issues behind the headlines. That is what Cokie Roberts does for ABC, and that is what Juan Williams does for Fox.

It gets slightly more ticklish when NPR correspondents, who are supposed to be hard news reporters (people like Mara Liasson and Nina Totenberg) are also doing punditry of their own. But it has been overlooked in the case of left-leaning Nina Totenberg for longer than it has ever been observed with Mara Liasson.

What none of these poeple do, however, is to openly advocate political causes. That is what Lisa Simeone did. Lisa Simeone wasn't doing political analysis for a news/information program. Lisa Simeone was advocating a cause. And as far as that goes, that is a pretty easy distinction to make.

The only hard part about Lisa Simeone's case is that be all accounts, she wasn't an NPR employee as are all of the other names I have now mentioned. But then again, NPR didn't fire Lisa Simeone. A public radio affiliate terminated her from an NPR-distrubuted program, and NPR simply distanced itself from formal distriubtion of World of Opera.

Oct. 30 2011 03:02 PM

And you've done it again, with Caitlin Curran, who freelanced for the abominable The Takeaway.

Slocum's argument that doing political commentary for pay from one of the most vile overtly politically biased orgs such as Liason on Fox is Different and not Non-ethicial, and not advocacy, is the height of lying bs. Not to mention calling Simeone a spokesperson in D.C. is just and out-and-out lie.

You all are despicable in your pandering to the police state and right wing. For this is the very foundational actions of a police state -- any whiff of dissent is punished one way or another.

Oct. 30 2011 02:27 PM
Neil in Brooklyn from Brooklyn

I guess conservatives are concerned that if Lisa is a liberal, she might not side with the villains in the operas (who all tend to be the top 1% of their time - dukes, princes, feared police chiefs, etc.).

Oct. 30 2011 01:19 PM
Richard Schiffman from New York

Charles, I'm not sure that I get your point. It is OK for reporters to take partisan positions on Fox News and elsewhere, but not for an art's host to carry a placard at a demonstration? You can vent your mockery of antiwar protesters on the Wall Street Journal, but get off your pundit pedestal and engage in your first amendment right to protest and you are booted off the air. I don't buy it. Something's wrong in River City!

Oct. 30 2011 12:53 PM
Ethan Young from Brooklyn

It was a puffball interview.

Not directly but indirectly related:

Hope OTM covers it. I stopped relying on NPR years ago. They have a few bright lights in the news dept, but most are thumbsuckers or Fox Lite (Liasson in partic).

Oct. 30 2011 12:28 PM

It may be that NPR ought to enforce tighter restrictions on (outside) punditry. If so, that will trip up Nina Totenberg and others, as well as the cited examples of Scott Simon, Mara Liasson and Cokie Roberts.

And really, that would be a result that conservatives are not much concerned about.

A de-politicized NPR. An NPR that leaves news and commentary to the marketplace of ideas, and the actual marketplace of broadcasting.

One of the massively ironic things in the case of Lisa Simeone is that she got into trouble not for her work in the arts, or even because artists cannot have political views. Rather, she got NPR in trouble, because public radio has in recent years strayed from its original mission as an alternative and arts broadcaster, and instead become a newstalk network. Over the years, NPR has gotten up to its institutional neck in politics and news commentary. If all that public radio did was to broadcast opera, classical music, jazz and the arts, nobody would be too worried the politics of those artists or broadcasters.

But NPR has deliberately gone into the business of politics. And this is the price that must be paid, when a public broadcasting network tries to play the game of political fairness and balance.

Oct. 30 2011 11:35 AM

Richard Schiffman from New York;

You raise some interesting examples, citing political commentary by Scott Simon, Mara Liasson and Cokie Roberts.

But comparing them to Lisa Simeone is misleading. Simeone was not offering mere political commentary. Simeone was engaging in advocacy. It is a role that the NPR Ethics Code addresses. Article VII, Paragraph 2 of the NPR Ethics Code states:
"2. NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers, nor should they sign petitions or otherwise lend their name to such causes, or contribute money to them."

Naturally, you chose examples of semi-vaguely expressed views that to you indicate a rightward tilt. Scott Simon (certainly not a right wing firebrand) authored a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed from his perspective as a mostly pacifist Quaker, indicating his view that even he and his fellow Quakers ought to support a "war on terror" that represented national self-defense against forces that would destroy America if given the chance.

Mara Liasson, in her work as a commentator for Fox News has never been a right-wing ideologue. Indeed one of the things that past NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin found troubling about the Liasson/Williams roles at Fox, was that they were placed in positions opposing true conservatives, and thereby implying that NPR was a liberal anti-conservative bastion. Mara Liasson apologized (needlessly in my own view) for her suggestion that Jim McDermott and David Bonior should resign for having gone to Baghdad and their having made statements opposing U.S. policy during the tense pre-war period.

And for any right-leaning opinion that you'd like to cite from Cokie Roberts, I'll probably be able to give you three left-leaning ones.

Your examplars -- Scott Simon, Mara Liasson and Cokie Roberts (and you could add Nina Totenberg's outside-of-NPR punditry) -- did not participate in rallies or lend their names in the support of political causes, as did Lisa Simeone.

Oct. 30 2011 11:28 AM
Pat from Starksboro, VT

When the on-deck president of NPR says he wants to "depoliticize NPR," he is, by any rule of logic or grammar you want to apply, declaring that it is now "politicized." Great. The new prez thinks NPR is biased (to the left, no doubt). So why bother denying that there is a right-leaning political agenda, Ms Slocum? Her protestations that there is no agenda have already been smashed by her new boss. I would, however, argue that it's hard not to be more "liberal" working in the news arena since, by definition, "liberal" suggests being open to ideas while conservative" denotes a desire to maintain the staus quo. So being open is an essentail tool, or should be, of effective journalism, but is that the same as a liberal political bias? Is good journalism, by definiton, inevitably liberal? Of course, to be truly open would mean, in my opinion, the willingness to hear from all sides and to ask all the hard questions regardless of "sides." If NPR fails to do that, that's the only real issue. When I was a reporter here in Vermont, part of my credo was to give voice to all sides without the sources ever knowing my politics. I would love this discussion on OTM.

Oct. 30 2011 11:12 AM
lesterine from manhattan

many have decided not to support the fund drive this season, due to this incident.

Oct. 30 2011 11:07 AM
nora from vermont

I am grateful to Bob Garfield for his excellent journalism. Thank you for your respectful questioning. I love the way you straightforwardly and brilliantly state your responses to statements, allowing the answers we really need to hear to be elicited.

Oct. 30 2011 10:30 AM

I felt physically ill upon hearing Ms. Slocum's comments. Kudos to illuminating her for what she is. Please pass my on my support to Ms. Simeone.

Oct. 30 2011 10:21 AM
Robert from NYC

But you're not doing the right thing, you simply are NOT doing the right thing. The right thing would be to state a disclaimer from the politics of Lisa Simeone NOT to dump her. You're wrong, WRONG, m'am.

Oct. 30 2011 10:13 AM
Dave from Vermont

Slocum clearly represents the viewpoint of America's corporate conservative elite. She sounds like a self-satisfied, prim schoolmarm. Someone else used the term "smarmy" in their comment You got that right.

Oct. 30 2011 10:13 AM
Robert from NYC

I encourage supporters of NPR to reconsider supporting a station that uses censorship. That's what it is plain and simple. I stopped giving years ago as NPR moved toward the center-right and seems to be shmoozing further right poco a poco!

Oct. 30 2011 10:11 AM
Richard Schiffman from New York

In 2001 NPR host Scott Simon published a piece in the Wall Street Journal supporting American military interventions in the Middle East and likening antiwar protesters to “a Halloween parade.” NPR reporter Mara Liasson doubles as a commentator for Fox television where she lambasted congressmen on a fact-finding mission in Iraq before the U.S. invasion and called on them to resign. NPR’s Cokie Roberts regularly espouses her center-right opinions in handsomely paid corporate speeches on everything from healthcare reform to the minimum wage. What rule has Simeone violated that these NPR journalists have not?

Oct. 30 2011 06:38 AM

Wow, Slocum is an embarassment.

Oct. 30 2011 03:17 AM
Leroy from Racine, WI

It's nice to see that the right-wing troll machine hasn't lost any of its steam. Thanks for visiting and reminding us of how utterly leftist NPR is, despite the fact that the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations (as well as those in Madison, WI earlier in the year) were weeks old before they were covered, while gun-tottin' tea-baggers got coverage as if they had a message distinct from the Republicon party. Simione was not an employee nor, as the NPR ethics code states, a journalist. NPR suckles at the corporate teat and will gladly throw under the bus anyone who endangers the same mother's milk that has co-opted the two major political parties.

Oct. 30 2011 12:58 AM
Mark Richard from Columbus, OH

To Charles, good points. The score at 'Slate' in 2008 was in fact Obama 53, McCain zero. Our political news is brought to us almost exclusively by followers of the Democratic Party, and that often leads to poor journalism - popular conservative movements are ignored until they are in the media's face, while liberal movements are overplayed.

Some journalists acknowledge the predominance of pro-Democratic opinion among urban journalists, but get huffy at the charge itself - they challenge accusers to show that the bias affects the story. This misses the point that the urban-Democratic orientation isn't conscious - it's reflexive, in what is selected as 'news', and how it is framed. So the John Edwards scandal was not 'news', but the WaPo is all over a trivial story that Marco Rubio's family came to the US in 1956, not when Castro took over. (They stayed in the US, however, explicitly as a result of the Castro takeover, making them exiles.)
Other defenders of the left-leaning bias, like Brooke Gladstone, simply believe that reality and leftist politics are the same thing, much as old Marxists and religious fundamentalists stick to their own theories of history and politics, and therefore regard challenges to the theory (a habit of the urban bourgeoisie, to intellectualize their emotional and self-interested preferences) as 'not news'.

Oct. 29 2011 08:38 PM
David from Brooklyn, NY

Ms. Slocum is very cleaver. She has turned this incident into a branding exercise and by doing so she asks, "What is the big deal?". I suppose the "Big Deal" is that NPR receives some public money which exorcises the Right. Well, what about all those tax breaks the Right use to fund their think tanks and research (ha) institutes? Isn't that taxpayer money too?

Oct. 29 2011 05:59 PM
Andy from California

Thanks for another great show, Bob. Enjoyable and thought-provoking, as always.

However, I have to say that I completely understand Ms. Slocum's position. OK, so some listeners believed her to be smarmy and a little too spin-doctory. It appears that if NPR has an ethics code in place that prohibits its employees from political activism, then I'm not sure the response was out of line. To be clear, your piece made it seem like Lisa Simeone was doing somewhat more than attending a rally and holding a sign.

Perhaps I am coming from the perspective of a federal employee (of the last 10+ years or so), but there are certain ethical codes in place (regarding partisan activism, etc.) to which I am expected to adhere. If I break them, I fully expect to face some sort of consequences. If I can't live with myself for not breaking them, I can look for employment in the private sector. It seems that Ms. Simeone had a similar choice, and shouldn't have been all that surprised when there were some repercussions.

That being said, I am way left-leaning and entirely sympathetic to Ms. Simeone's position. I just think that NPR was, to a reasonable extent, justified in doing what it did.

Oct. 29 2011 11:22 AM


...It's absolutely pandering... to the absurd, petty Right.

NPR has never been the same ever since Kenneth Thomlinson and the Right were allowed to usurp leadership roles at NPR AND the CPB, making NPR one more media outlet which constantly compromises truth and inconvenient facts, holding back from what needs to be said to the American people about their government, their political representatives, and the political groups which exert influence on both the aforementioned.

Oct. 29 2011 10:20 AM
chuck thompson from Anchorage

I guess the neocons' nefarious plan to discredit NPR -- one incident at a time -- is working... to the point where NPR quakes in its journalistic boots every time the slightest hint of "left-of-center" enters the personnel orbit.

They're still smarting from the Juan Williams smackdown (even though I was long-past ready for Juan to take a hike... and losing Mariah Liasson wouldn't bother me any, either... hey, let's just call it the "Fox effect") and then they took Republican threats to cut funding WAY too seriously, to the point that we now only-half-jokingly refer to it as National Re-Public-an Radio.

Oct. 29 2011 01:42 AM

By the way, Bob, I really like Lisa Simeone as a music host. She's terrific. Her politics bother me a bit, but I think I could look past it with some effort.

Anyway, you know very well why NPR is under a microscope for its politics. When you feign confusion over "whatever it is that conservative critics seem to be irritatated about," you really can't be serious. It is because Daniel Schorr was a "News Analyst" for years. It is because public radio features a number of shows like Democracy Now! with no conservative corollary. It is because public program hosts, reporters and staffers -- from Lisa Simeone to Nina Totenberg to Michelle Norris to Caitlin Curran to Amy Goodman to Ron Schiller to Vivian Schiller to Andrei Codrescu to Terry Gross -- all seem to get into trouble for their more or less open antipathy to conservatives and Republicans. Always; uniformly left-leaning activism on the part of public radio people is what leads to controversy.

And, Bob, I might add; while I fully understand that you are not an NPR employee, I would certainly identify you as one of the left-leaning voices of public radio. Nevermind that you aren't an employee of NPR. Neither is Ira Glass, Garrison Keillor of Terry Gross. But I'd bet anything you'd care to, that the four of you share similar (liberal Democrat) viewpoints and political orientations. And that the four of you are all quite typical of all of public radio, both inside and outside of NPR.

Slate.com has a long tradition, initiated by founding editor Michael Kinsley, of polling all of its staff during Presidential years, and publishing the results. The results are not at all surprising. They are revealing, insofar as Slate.com has served as a kind of sister publication to NPR's Talk of the Nation, and I presume that the two staffs are pretty much interchangeable. And the Slate.com polling has showed them to vote 80%-90% Democratic, with a few left-of-left independents mixed in. I persume that those figures decsribe the staff at WNYC, PRI and NPR.

If anyone can prove me wrong in any of this, be my guest. I'll be interested.

Oct. 29 2011 01:21 AM

I'm looking forward to the first-ever scandal in which a public radio employee is found to have been involved in an activist role in conservative politics.

(Juan Williams doesn't count of course. Juan Williams is not a conservative, nor has he been an activist in any sense, nor was he fired for conservative activism.)

And now we have yet another example; WNYC (know where that is, Bob?) has apparently terminated Caitlin Curran who was a web producer at The Takeaway. For attending an OWS rally with a "message" sign that she apparently created, and was photographed with the sign in the hope that... well I'm not even sure what journalistic goal was being advanced by the stunt.

Bob... come on. Are you freaking kidding us? When you come up with a single "NPR conservative," let us know. Until then, I'll be watching Nina Totenberg in her role as a pundit on Inside Washington.

Oct. 29 2011 12:48 AM
Brian from Vienna

I like to think of myself as a reasonable guy, a guy who can stand back and appreciate a person's position dispassionately. However, Ms. Slocum's smarmy attitude and refusal to acknowledge the obvious made me want to retch. Kudos to Bob for stating his opinion once and not hiding behind 'some people say'. It sounds like the next president won't be much better.

I really enjoy and would like to support the work you do. I am afraid, though, that part of any donation I make will go to NPR. Is there any way to avoid this, besides not donating?

Oct. 28 2011 06:09 PM

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