NPR Continues Stonewalling on Deeply Flawed Series; Won’t Correct Admitted Mistakes
Previously, Newsbusters described how NPR News refused to answer in writing NPR’s own ombudsman’s devastating critique of a series by correspondent Laura Sullivan in which she made sensational claims of South Dakota state government greed at the expense of American Indian families. In their brief non-response response, NPR admitted that there were a few mistakes, but spent as much space attacking their own ombudsman (including ironically inflating the number of months he spent on the investigation). As reported in the public radio trade publication Current, NPR continues to stonewall on the issue.
NPR news executives not only refuse to discuss the matter with outsiders, but they won’t even do so with their own. While the NPR ombudsman agreed to talk to NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik, NPR news executives would not. They also would not speak to Bob Garfield, host of the NPR-distributed weekly media program On the Media out of WNYC in New York.
NPR refuses to take any action on the ombudsman’s findings beyond their brief statement standing by the series. They said they won’t discuss the matter on-air or even on their own website. The sole on-air mention was by Folkenflik, who reported on the dispute between NPR news management and NPR’s independent ombudsman. Veteran NPR host and former news director Robert Siegel introduced Folkenflik’s piece by first praising Sullivan's series for winning “national awards” and helping to “inspire federal and state reviews.” As to problems in the series, Siegel mentioned none, saying simply that the ombudsman found it “fundamentally flawed.” He also didn’t mention that the ombudsman concluded that the series shouldn’t have been aired.
NPR hosts like Siegel and NPR news executives live in an insular state of denial about their faults. Even New York City-based On the Media host Bob Garfield (not an NPR employee), who has a history of dismissing criticism of NPR and of mocking critics, strongly criticized NPR:
BOB GARFIELD: “For that reason, [NPR News] concluded there is little to be gained from a point-by-point response to his claims.”
Wrong answer. When a national news organization invites listeners to believe a government is kidnapping children and the audience’s representative cites eye-popping specifics, “agree to disagree” is an evasion of responsibility. In the face of the Ombudsman's allegations, nothing less than point-by-point response will do.
Bizarrely, NPR News admits to some mistakes in the series, but refuses to correct them on-air or even online!