Logging off now! Thanks for all of these great questions. I might swing by later to answer a few more. To continue the conversation, follow us on Twitter or send us an email.

While I work for NPR, as the Public Editor, I’m independent from the newsroom and don’t set newsroom policy. I don’t speak for the organization — only myself. The Public Editor's office serves as a link between the newsroom and the audience, to make newsroom leaders aware of what listeners and readers think, and to help listeners and readers understand why the newsroom makes the decisions it does. We investigate audience concerns and issues of journalism ethics. Often, we suggest changes. I’ve addressed the challenges brought by NPR’s increasing reliance on live interviews, deconstructed NPR’s language guidance on abortion, analyzed the reporting on the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings and discussed a controversial interview with the "Unite the Right" rally organizer. You can find my weekly column here

Here I am, ready to answer your questions starting at noon Eastern.

Comments: 182 • Responses: 30  • Date: 

Fake_William_Shatner115 karma

Some people are concerned that as NPR and Public Radio in general have been forced to seek sponsors after government funding has been cut, are now influenced by those sponsors. We used to hear in-depth reports about ADM, DuPont and Monsanto -- and now they are donors and we don't hear those reports.

How can NPR be dependent on the kindness of strangers and not warn us about those strangers?

npr60 karma

NPR takes the separation of funding and reporting seriously, in my experience. I wrote about it here. There were some earlier lapses in disclosure that I wrote about (there’s a link in that column), but I have found no example where any funder influenced the reporting (disclosure and influence are separate issues).

There’s a search function at NPR.org (make sure to sort by “newest”) to see what stories NPR has covered on any company.

And NPR lists its corporate sponsors in the annual report each year. I don’t see any of those three companies listed for 2018.

KenJeakins30 karma

Ma'am,

NPR is always quick to post corrections if they make an error. It's the primary reason I trust NPR. What is the process to decide how a correction goes out? Thanks.

Ken Jeakins

Rapid City, SD

npr21 karma

There’s a dedicated link on the Help page to send a correction request. That gets reviewed by the Standards and Practices editor (or a top editor in his absence) and if a correction is warranted it will get posted asap. Here are some columns I’ve written about corrections: March 2018, June 2018, October 2018. I do wish more corrections were made on air, not just online.

o0NOYETI0o27 karma

Many conservative listeners I know have complained that NPR has a liberal bias, while many liberals I know have complained about NPR not pushing back against or even giving a soap box to troubling conservative talking points.

In your experience as the public editor, do you believe NPR

1) Currently has or has shown a bias?

2) Could do a better job of filtering content toward or away from a particular political leaning or perspective?

3) Should focus more on filtering content toward or away from the above?

npr22 karma

I think NPR makes a best-faith effort to hear multiple perspectives on an issue. Not every interview is perfect — live interviews are challenging, especially when there is a time limit (as NPR, for better or worse, has with its interviews). When hosts push back too much they are accused of badgering a guest and when they don’t push back enough they are accused of being soft. And because NPR does not pair interviews, some listeners don’t hear the wide range of perspectives.

One wish I have is for NPR to do more to let listeners know that they can find other perspectives later in the program/the next day/on NPR.org (where all the content is archived).

mamamouse49219 karma

  1. How do you respond to listeners who complain about news fatigue? (For example, "I'm so sick of Trump talk, can you tone it down?")

  2. What do you say to listeners who want instructuons/concrete steps to take action based on sad/concerning news stories? (Example: "I heard your report on the kids in detention. Why do you never tell us how we can help?")

  3. What's the deal with the new trend of a NPR correspondent "listening in" on an interview and responding to/commenting on the content of the interview? Do listeners like it?

npr30 karma

1/News fatigue is a well-documented phenomenon. A newsroom can’t stop covering major stories, but NPR every day now makes an effort to find stories that it calls “joy and uplift” to give listeners a break.

2/My own feeling is that the Internet makes it so easy to find resources like that these days.

3/Here’s a column about that! It was an effort to make sure that no misinformation goes out in a live interview and add context. Listeners are divided, but I hear more pro than con.

gkantor14 karma

Why do you think so many news organizations have eliminated their public editor positions? It strikes me as rather hypocritical that the media (rightfully!) claims its position as a 'watchdog,' but fails to employ a watchdog for their own work.

I'm sure economics are a primary factor here, but I'm wondering if there's something else – clearly, NPR views you as valuable but other companies, presumably with larger budgets, think otherwise about the public editor role.

npr18 karma

The rationale they’ve given is that social media acts as a “watchdog” these days. Which is true, and works well when, say, there’s a quick correction needed. But there’s so much noise there. A public editor can sift through that noise, and also try to get answers from the newsroom, to bring transparency to the journalism. I wish more news organizations would reinstate the role.

HighCountryAdventure12 karma

As a journalist of 30+ years, I am truly appalled at what our profession as devolved to, aka CNN Jim Acosta type idiots. How do we regain the public's trust and rise above our current public opinion rating somewhere between used car salesmen and ambulance chasers?

npr7 karma

I'm a big fan of transparency as a way to regain trust (but then, that's what I'm paid to do).

KrisKred11 karma

In addition to NPR, what news sources do you trust the most?

npr5 karma

So many! Lots of NPR Member stations do fantastic reporting of their own. Then the ones you’d expect: NYT, WaPo, WSJ (where I once worked), ProPublica…I could go on.

WheeeeeThePeople9 karma

NPR's Scott Simon often uses his anchor chair to sermonize against Trump or his policy. I have no problem with him stating his opinion. My question is which on-air, NPR talent provides an opposing view to Simon's mostly liberal opinions and views ? You know, balance.

npr4 karma

I haven't heard those -- feel free to email us with specific commentaries that have concerned you.

WitsBlitz8 karma

I really appreciate reading your perspectives on NPR's reporting and practices. It's one of the reasons I value NPR as a key source of my news. As you point out few other organizations have a role like yours; why do you think that is? What would you say to an organization (in the media or another industry) that is considering creating such a role?

npr11 karma

One thing I really appreciate about NPR is that the newsroom staff here are (for the most part) open to what is admittedly an uncomfortable process. No one likes to have their work criticized publicly. A news organization that is going to have a public editor needs to embrace the process (it's all about quality journalism, in the end, even if it feels as though we are on different sides, sometimes).

BenXJackson6 karma

Do you have any concern about reporters' reliance on twitter for quotes and sources? Twitter users are a small swath of the population, but NPR reporters and others seem to ask for sources and reprint twitter quotes a lot. Are we facing a "Dewey Defeats Truman" distortion of reality?

npr2 karma

Yes, I think over-reliance can distort the debate. As you say, only a relatively small percentage of folks are on Twitter. And it's easy to get caught in a silo of your own making just by who you follow.

reid84706 karma

When NPR reports on the fundraising hauls of political candidates, I rarely hear (or read) any mention of where the money is coming from. It'd be nice to know what sort of fundraising strategies each candidate is focusing on, what his or her donors look like demographically (or merely by % of large-money and small-money contributions), etc. Currently I feel like the only place I can reliably learn about these factors is on OpenSecrets.org, yet these factors seem like very informative parts of both keeping up with the news of political campaigns and assessing them as a voter.

Has NPR looked into making these additional factors a regular part of campaign fundraising reporting? I understand that NPR broadcasts are limited on time and have to be very concise as a result, but I hope I'm not alone in thinking that it's important for listeners to gain an understanding of the nuances of campaign fundraising, especially when it's a written article where time/length isn't as much of a limiting factor. This is particularly important when calls for campaign finance reform are growing louder and louder.

Thanks for everything you do -- NPR is amazing because of people like you.

npr11 karma

Actually, NPR has a really cool tool that attempts to break down at least some of that. Online, not on air, though. See what you think.

zucchiniweenie6 karma

I understand NPR has an issue with its reliance on temps. (see: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/at-npr-an-army-of-temps-resents-a-workplace-full-of-anxiety-and-insecurity/2018/12/07/32e49632-f35b-11e8-80d0-f7e1948d55f4_story.html)

I know you wrote a follow-up column to this piece. Do you feel management has actually addressed the issues you and others have raised?

npr8 karma

There have been a number of internal steps taken on this issue recently. I haven't looked into how folks are feeling about it.

lastaccountgotlocked5 karma

Do you think the public have an adequate understanding of how journalism ‘works’ - the costs, the technological challenges, etc - or know about journalistic best practices - right to reply etc? Do you think the public of expects too much of journalists?

npr10 karma

No. From the questions we get, I think it's clear that many in the public don't understand the basics of our profession. Lots of efforts are underway to change that, projects like Trusting News are encouraging newsrooms to adopt best practices such as differentiating between straight reporting and opinion, making corrections links more prominent. There's lots of good work being done and lots more media literacy work to do.

cjn135 karma

What do you believe is/was NPR's most trying time recently (if at all), either regarding depth of reporting or journalistic integrity and how was this problem addressed (if the problem even happened at all)?

Avid listener to the NPR radio and podcasts. Keep up the fantastic work

npr9 karma

I’d answer that a different way.

Some of the most challenging audience concerns I’ve tried to address in my tenure are related to misinformation in live interviews and an interview with the Unite the Right founder.

Chtorrr5 karma

What would you most like to tell us that no one ever asks about?

justscottaustin10 karma

Wait! Wait! Don't tell me!

npr11 karma

It's Been A Minute, but Bullseye with that answer! #reddithumor

Iabiel5 karma

This is unrelated to NPRs reporting a news ethics but I hope you will still indulge me, how did you get interested in journalism in the first place?

npr5 karma

All The President's Men (I was an impressionable high-schooler.)

MeatySoup4 karma

Do you think government funding gives you any advantages?

npr8 karma

Outside my purview, sorry. My role is to address audience questions about the journalism, so I stay out of funding questions (unless they touch on the newsroom, which they shouldn't, if all is going as it should).

Grayox4 karma

Do you get to watch the Tiny Desk concerts?

npr8 karma

Yes! I travel a lot so I miss too many of them, but the last one I saw was Lizzo. (I also play the flute!)

npr4 karma

Logging off now! Thanks for all of these great questions. I might swing by later to answer a few more. To continue the conversation, follow us on Twitter or send us an email!

Nick_Keppler4123 karma

Thanks for doing this! In 2012, Ira Glass challenged WNYC's On the Media to "prove" NPR did or did not have a liberal bias. Brooke Gladstone ultimately decided that the terms "liberal" and "bias" were too subjective and convoluted to come up with a conclusion. ("I come out of it with a sense that this is a mountain that we will never reach the top of. ") Did you hear it? What did you think of it? Anything you would add?

https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/235598-conclusions-nprs-liberal-bias

npr1 karma

I remember hearing it at the time but can't recall the details. I'll go back and listen. Thanks!

original_greaser_bob3 karma

which more of the more popular NPR personalities could you take in a one-on-one fair fight and who would you not be able to take in a one-on-one fair fight?

npr9 karma

Nina Totenberg is formidable.

westmontster3 karma

I have a more general question: in your view what steps can we as a nation take to restore the balanced reporting requirements that were repealed during the Reagan years?

npr8 karma

That train has left the station, I think. News consumers, however, can make an effort to seek out news organizations that emphasize fact-based reporting.

lastaccountgotlocked3 karma

Do you think the public have an adequate understanding of how journalism ‘works’ - the costs, the technological challenges, etc - or know about journalistic best practices - right to reply etc? Do you think the public of expects too much of journalists?

npr2 karma

No. From the questions we get, I think it's clear that many in the public don't understand the basics of our profession. Lots of efforts are underway to change that, projects like Trusting News are encouraging newsrooms to adopt best practices such as differentiating between straight reporting and opinion, making corrections links more prominent. There's lots of good work being done and lots more media literacy work to do.

sh1nes2 karma

[deleted]

npr9 karma

Annoying at times, isn't it? There's a reason, though, and that's the internal clock that governs the switch from national to the local member stations. Here's an explanation.

ChiWalla2 karma

It seems that editors, especially on international news from developing countries, who are the 'gatekeepers', should have experience as reporters working in Asia, Africa and LatAm. However, many of them have never been to these continents at all and have limited reporting/writing experience in general. Isn't is problematic that an editor who has no real knowledge about the developing world is making the call about complex developing countries from a desk in DC? They also don't understand the limitations and challenges of reporting from developing countries and this lack of understanding can really burden the reporter. Why not hire editors who have that experience?

npr6 karma

Is your concern about NPR specifically? I haven’t found that at NPR (and NPR’s international editor has reported widely from across the world).

Empigee1 karma

With continually evolving standards about what is acceptable in public discourse, particularly involving race and gender, does NPR ever have trouble keeping up?

npr5 karma

I think many in the the newsroom make a good-faith effort to keep up. Here's a column that looked at some of those evolving standards.

Spleenfarmer1 karma

Why aren't there more full-time Public Editors?

npr4 karma

The rationale they’ve given is that social media acts as a “watchdog” these days. Which is true, and works well when, say, there’s a quick correction needed. But there’s so much noise there. A public editor can sift through that noise, and also try to get answers from the newsroom, to bring transparency to the journalism. I wish more news organizations would reinstate the role.

FacelessMan801 karma

My wife was a Mass Comm & Electronic Media major in college and has been local a freelance writer for several years in addition to her full-time job as an executive assistant (not in editing or publishing). She is now interested in getting an Editing certificate through the University of Chicago. She LOVES reading and wants to get into book editing. I am 100% behind her and support her decision and think she'll do excellent in this field. She's in her mid-30s so there's a lot of time for growth.

Do you have any advice I can pass on to her for getting into editing and being successful after the certificate program? Anything that you suggest she might do now to get started?

npr2 karma

Book editing is such a different field; I have no insights there.

sickburnersalve1 karma

Does your job entail dealing with people, who prefer a specific spin, badgering your department because they want different aspects of stories highlighted?

You mentioned the "social media watchdog " concept that other organizations used to fulfill the job in other publications, but that sounds like an open door for some horrible comments. Do you have to deal with that directly?

npr8 karma

Yes and yes. Many of those who reach out to us are quite civil, but many aren’t. It’s a reflection of the state of debate these days, is my guess. My feeling is that as long as the language isn’t abusive we do try to answer even the less civil ones or at least understand what their concern is. But nice emails are always appreciated. As for spin, we spend a lot of time sending people links to stories they may have missed. Only the most dedicated listeners hear it all.

Lord_Mormont-1 karma

I stopped listening to NPR because you spend too much time "countering your bias." When Bush was in office, a majority of your interviews were with GOP officials, cuz, well they were in charge. OK, Ari Fleischer made me want to kill myself but I stuck with it. Then Obama came into office and I expected a similar flood of Democratic interviews. While there were some, there were a lot of "From the other side" interviews, so once again I had to listen to Cocaine Mitch or Paul Ryan or Kevin McCarthy. Now I rarely tune in, and I have heard a little more balance it seems, but there is still a rightward tilt "for balance."

Do you, or does anyone, keep any aggregate numbers on airtime for one side v. the other? Cuz I really hope my numbers are wrong. But if the hope is that by having more Republicans on you'll prove to the GOP and the conservatives at large that you're not a Democratic mouthpiece, forget it. They will never think, "Well, NPR just had on Alex Jones, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway. I think I can start supporting them."

BTW have a little pride. I don't think you should ever have a guest on who thinks you should be defunded and/or shut down. Why would you welcome someone like that on the air? They obviously don't believe in your mission; don't give them a platform.

npr6 karma

We did a count last year in response to listener concerns. It varied month to month by the news, but even I was surprised at how evenly the numbers came out over the course of six months. You can read more here.