The Washington Post decided to dump its ombudsman or reader’s advocate position after Patrick Pexton’s two-year contract ended. The position is “independent,” but all too often, the hiring media outlet gets every benefit of the doubt. Pexton has defended some incredibly shameless hit pieces, including the Rick Perry “Niggerhead”-on-a-rock story and the Mitt Romney “haircut bully” episode of 1965.
Nevertheless, on March 1, NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos decried the Post decision as leading to a greater decline in media credibility. In the midst of this however, he attacked media watchdogs as a class as silly, uninformed nitpickers:
NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos has demonstrated he's not interested in the argument that NPR has a liberal bias. But he has repeatedly addressed listeners who are angry NPR favors Republicans too much, or fails to pounce immediately on leftist PR stunts like Occupy Wall Street.
On Wednesday, his post began: "Arthur Price of New York City asked this provocative question: 'Is it my imagination or is NPR featuring an excessive number of Republican voices when it comes to the so-called 'fiscal cliff'?' I didn't know, but I loved the issue he raised." Their internal count of stories from November 7 to December 6 said yes, Republicans were more quoted:
Possibly in response to NewsBusters readers who passed on our item on the string of Pope Benedict-mocking jokes on NPR's game show "Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me!" NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos tells NewsBusters and other critics: lighten up, or be compared to radical Muslims. Isn't the ombudsman supposed to advocate for the listeners, not denounce them?
"If we keep jokes about the pope off-limits, we create a silencing effect that is far more damaging than the jokes themselves. We threaten to become like the intolerant extremists now most notoriously bedeviling the Muslim world, though other religions suffer from strains of fanaticism as well." Say what?
NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos is just making a cartoon out of himself in trying to be responsive after the Juan Williams firing and the Meet-a-Radical-Muslim-for-Lunch scandal. He went to discuss the idea of liberal bias on NPR with....Ralph Nader. "Nader, a five-time presidential candidate, has been calling me in recent months to hold my feet to the fire, and so I went to meet with him."
Naturally, Nader claims NPR is the home of capitalist pigs: "While the political right has been beating the drum for years that NPR is too liberal, Nader says that is not the true picture at all. He says that it is progressives on the political left, like him, who are being excluded from NPR's airwaves." Obama and Nancy Pelosi? They're in the middle.
Incoming NPR president Gary Knell smugly dismissed NPR critics in an interview with James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times. "If you listen over a period of time you hear voices from all ends of the political spectrum on NPR," Knell argued. "I think a lot of the critics, by what they say, don't even listen to the service." (Dear Mr. Smug: read the NPR section of NewsBusters, with links to your transcripts.)
That's not the only smug echo among the NPR rookies. Another line is that conservatives (or people who agree there's a liberal tilt) aren't the "real listeners," the "core audience" of NPR -- even if they're "core" funders through taxes. That's what new NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos said in an interview on NPR's Talk of the Nation on October 11:
Matthew Boyle of the Daily Caller has a hot scoop about a National Public Radio employee aiding "Occupy" protests in the District of Columbia. "National Public Radio host Lisa Simeone appears to be breaking the taxpayer-subsidized network’s ethics rules by acting as a spokeswoman for Occupy D.C. group 'October 2011,' which is currently 'occupying” Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C.'
Simeone hosts NPR’s nationally distributed “World of Opera” program and “SoundPrint,” a program that airs on DC NPR affiliate WAMU-FM. In a YouTube video uploaded in July, Simeone proclaimed "The time has come to stop these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and all the other places we're now bombing with our drones and other equipment, and to demand that money that's being spent and wasted on slaughter come home here to spent in the U.S. on human needs."
The ombudsman at a media outlet is supposed to be an advocate for the audience, a watchdog to keep the media outlet honest. But several new ombudsmen are following a more comfortable rut: kissing the hand that feeds them, and defending the media outlet from "baseless" public criticism. Patrick Pexton is doing that at The Washington Post, and Edward Schumacher-Matos is doing the same at NPR.
Late Monday, the NPR ombudsman slammed NewsBusters and National Review Online. The pull quote summarized: "I want to learn from the advocacy groups. But not much of their criticism holds up." He even suggested there was "certainly no liberal bias" as NPR flooded the zone of the London phone-hacking story that leftists thought could be Rupert Murdoch’s undoing:
On Tuesday, NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos reached back to a July 26 story on the horrific shootings in Norway. Correspondent Sylvia Poggioli suggested the shooter, Anders Breivik “once belonged to the ultra-right Progress Party.” Schumacher-Matos lamented the “ultra-right” label, and asked Poggioli to explain herself. He called it "ultra-wrong."
It quickly became clear that Poggioli saw "ultra" extremism in the party's opposition to Islam and immigration. The ombudsman posting including just a few paragraphs of what Poggioli wrote in her own defense. But at the bottom of the page, he posted the whole reply, and her affinity for left-wing rags like the Nation and "far right" labels became really obvious: