WHERE HAVE YOU GONE PUBLIC RADIO?
In the course of his reporting on National Public Radio [“Good, Gray NPR,” May 23], Scott Sherman contacted me to ask about my perceptions of the network, where I have worked for the past year as one of NPR’s two managing editors. During our interview, Sherman asked me whether it was true that NPR’s vice president of news, Bruce Drake, had blocked any of my journalistic initiatives. I told him–on the record and for use in his article–that, to the contrary, Drake had been 100 percent supportive of my work since I joined the staff and that I considered him a good man and a good journalist. Despite the fact that I provided Sherman with that assessment, he chose to report that NPR sources “anticipate future discord” between Drake and myself.
As a reporter, I believe it’s critically important to rely on evidence and experience provided by on-the-record sources rather than the fears and predictions of anonymous critics. If Sherman chose to emphasize the anonymous critics’ dire predictions, then as a matter of fundamental fairness he had an obligation to share with his readers my belief that Drake is a talented editor and a highly supportive colleague. I hope this letter will undo some of the damage done by Sherman’s unfair description of my relationship with Bruce Drake and the anonymous disparagement of his excellent journalistic skills.
Managing editor, National Public Radio
Scott Sherman takes NPR to task for being too timid to engage in “kick-ass journalism.” As a dismayed listener, I would be glad if the network just stopped kissing ass so assiduously. Since the churlishly abrupt dismissal of longtime host Bob Edwards, NPR’s flagship news program, Morning Edition, seems to have abandoned its critical faculties altogether. Tune in, and if you don’t hear unquestioning acceptance of Republican spin, paeans to the religious right or a simple-minded sermon disguised as commentary, just wait five minutes.
If NPR is to have relevance and remain solvent, listenership is necessary. If in fact 71 percent of the respondents are not liberal, what’s wrong with NPR news the way it is? Here in Montana, I live in a wasteland of media choices. I think the competition among noncommercial distributors is very healthy. Despite NPR’s loss of its original bite, it will take a cataclysmic event for it to sink to parity with the commercial pablum. Most of NPR’s stories are in-depth and interesting.
Here in conservative Oklahoma, I tend to feel like a lonely petunia in an onion patch. Perhaps NPR is less radical than it was, but in my neck of the woods, it’s the only source of balanced news and left-leaning editorial. The words of NPR have to be well positioned and artfully chosen to dent the rural Oklahoman consciousness. Does it do the job? All I know is that I hear bits of fact and anecdote repeated that had to have come from the station I listen to. The venom and spittal of AM talk-radio is, frankly, childish and not worth imitating. Cool reason with a dash of wit are better for the long haul. I’m glad NPR has chosen a subtle rather than a “kick-ass” approach to journalism.