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Friday, October 21, 2011

Upd10/23 a: NPR drops "WofO" - Lisa Simeone - OccupyDC / NPR Controversy - The Conservatives Win I Fear

As background for the Lisa Simeone/NPR/OccupyDC story we need to know the timeline of what happened and when regarding whether Lisa Simeone was fired or not (it appears the latter).  I started following this story on 10/19 but did not blog until 10/21.  Now on 10/23 if you want to read this blog entry it has become rather long and jumbled - I have done a little rearranging but mainly have been adding content.  So skip it and read the "FAIR" reporting but I have moved my concerns to follow the 10/21 characterization of what was really factual from the NPR memo.

(added 10/22) The "cleanest" reporting I have seen is on FAIR: NPR, Lisa Simeone and Biased Opera Reporting 10/20/2011 by Peter Hart

(10/21) my rewrite ... World of Opera host Lisa Simeone’s participation in an Occupy DC group has been questioned. World of Opera is produced by WDAV, a ...station based in Davidson, North Carolina. The program is distributed by NPR. Lisa is not an employee of WDAV or NPR; she is a freelancer with the station.
The problem with my blog postings is that I expect you to follow the links and do the thinking - I will make an exception this time and summarize my remaining questions and "hidden" conclusions.
  • If people stop supporting NPR/PBS politically the "conservatives" have won again.
  • The NYTimes says NPR gets a small amount of government money ... but not how small.  Deriving a number is difficult but minimally you can claim 2% ... in 2010 they had revenues of $180 million - 50% from local stations for programming and distribution fees.  The NYTimes, for comparison,  (extrapolating from seems to have operating costs of $2 billion a year.
  • Ironically NPR was one of the first sources to report on ALEC about the influence of large corporations on legislation (especially state legislators).
  • In my recent memory (>2005?) I recall controversy with "Public Broadcasting"  Bill Moyers Responds to CPB’s Tomlinson Charges of Liberal Bias: "We Were Getting it Right, But Not Right Wing" from DemocracyNow past shows May 16 2005 which drives my premise that NPR/PBS is an ideological target of the"right".
  • To borrow a phrase from UW-Madison history I am "sifting and winnowing" and at present not willing to draw conclusions about the current incident involving Lisa Simeone. (10/21) Based on the latest communication from David Swanson I am willing to conclude that NPR has some difficult ethical decisions/conflicts of interest of their own to deal with.  They should always give the benefit of the doubt to the individual and allow them the fullest possible freedom of expression.[B. Gates 10/21 addition]
(10/22)The communication I have is via email (via Swanson) and repeats some previous material so I provide a link where I think it will eventually end up  The new fact is that NPR has dropped "World of Opera".  I guess that is one way to deal with "their problem".  Swanson points out in his last paragraph ...
 Clearly Soundprint deserves its full share of condemnation in all of this, and WDAV merits strong support.  WDAV will be distributing "World of Opera" on its own and should have our backing.  But NPR has lowered itself to the bottom rung of our communications system.  Mara Liaason can opinionate on Fox News while providing an objective god's-eye view on NPR.  Scott Simon can publish opinion columns in corporate newspapers while reporting the facts.  Cokie Roberts can take corporate speaking fees that could cover most people's mortgages without being perceived as in any way tarnished. But Lisa Simeone cannot introduce operas while having taken the unforgivable step of supporting a nonviolent movement on behalf of the lower 99% of us.
I assume what Swanson says about Liaason, Simon and Roberts can be substantiated.  Even without that it seems like a rather backhanded way for NPR to deal with their own issues of ethics and conflicts of interest and the types and kind of activities that they allow their "different" personalities to engage in. How is this consistent for other independent suppliers of "programming" and what their hosts, producers, etc. may be doing on the side.

The Daily Caller 10/19 ~ 12 Noon

Baltimore Sun: NPR looking into show host Lisa Simeone's role with Occupy Washington group 10/19 ~ 10pm

...The issue of someone associated with NPR, which has long asserted its non-partisan approach to broadcasting, serving as a spokesperson for such an overtly partisan effort was raised this week at The Daily Caller, a conservative website.

..."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.," Matthew Boyle wrote in a piece posted Wednesday afternoon.
A wrap up of the timeline by someone close to many of the details ...

About NPR, Soundprint, WDAV, and Lisa Simeone

By David Swanson

Lisa Simeone learned about her "ethical" lapse from NPR's public blog post, or rather from reporters calling her about it. 
Lisa was soon thereafter fired by Soundprint, which cited NPR's "ethics" rules and according to Lisa would have been strongly influenced by NPR's post and email [Wednesday, October 19, 2011 6:12 PM] if they saw them (she doesn't know if they did).
There is no evidence whatsoever that NPR contacted Soundprint.
NPR's email and blog post said "We're in conversations with WDAV about how they intend to handle this. We of course take this issue very seriously." (The issue of participating in a democratic society and not backing a corporate agenda like bigshot NPR hosts who opinionate on Fox, in op-eds, and at big business speaking events for big bucks.)
Lisa was told to be on a phone call with NPR and WDAV yesterday morning, but NPR and WDAV canceled the call without telling her, as she waited by the phone.
NPR's Anna Christopher Bross tells me that NPR spoke with WDAV about how to handle Simeone.  She says they went through many possible scenarios, and that NPR has been completely transparent.  I asked her what any of the scenarios were, and she refused to say.  I asked if one of them was the only one anyone has discussed, namely firing Simeone, and she wouldn't say.  But the announcement by WDAV was "Ms. Simeone remains the host of World of Opera."  The decision was not to fire her.
Clearly the worst actor here is Soundprint. 

We do not know exactly what NPR has done, and I should not have claimed that I did.  I know Lisa's suspicions and I know my own.  But we do know that NPR has a blatant double standard and views participation in representative government as a serious ethical lapse by certain people, although not others.

As part of the Timeline -

In her own words Lisa Simeone explains why she is going to October2011 in DC ... the upload date is July 28th 2011.

Where does NPR get its money ... Wikipedia
In 2010, NPR revenues totaled $180 million, with the bulk of revenues coming from programming fees, grants from foundations or business entities, contributions and sponsorships.[14] According to the 2009 financial statement, about 50% of NPR revenues come from the fees it charges member stations for programming and distribution charges.[14] Typically, NPR member stations receive funds through on-air pledge drives, corporate underwriting, state and local governments, educational institutions, and the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). In 2009, member stations derived 6% of their revenue from federal, state and local government funding, 10% of their revenue from CPB grants, and 14% of their revenue from universities.[14][15] While NPR does not receive any direct federal funding, it does receive a small number of competitive grants from CPB and federal agencies like the Department of Education and the Department of Commerce. This funding amounts to approximately 2% of NPR’s overall revenues.[14]
During the 1970s and early 1980s, the majority of NPR funding came from the federal government. Steps were taken during the 1980s to completely wean NPR from government support, but the 1983 funding crisis forced the network to make immediate changes. Now more money to fund the NPR network is raised from listeners, charitable foundations and corporations instead.[citation needed] According to CPB, in 2009 11.3% of the aggregate revenues of all public radio broadcasting stations were funded from federal sources, principally through CPB.[16]

Excerpts from my blog 3/27/2011 ...

WI - Reprise from 3/17 - NPR an Ideological Target! Why? - ALEC - Cronon

... Going back to 3/17:  Sometime later, again in following the news, the issue of public funding for NPR / PBS and "gotcha videos" became a hot topic.   I recalled that there had been some "news" about ALEC from NPR or PBS or both -  it seemed to me it was "video" but in my searching I stopped searching when I found the NPR (quite politely labeled) audio story below.

Shaping State Laws With Little Scrutiny by Laura Sullivan

... First, perhaps the rest of us think too short term or tactically and when we organize to support "collective bargaining" or some other cause we need to be more like a conservative.  

Second, we  need "journalists" to be vigilant and thoughtful and perhaps a little more strident about asking tough questions and not just "neutral" reporting of sound bites and platitudes.

In 3/27 from 3/17 Blog:

L - NPR an Ideological Target! Why? from New York Times 3/14 ... my title

The NYT title ... Gains for NPR Are Clouded 

And while NPR receives a small [how small??] portion of its operating budget through government money, millions of people also think that its journalism is worthy enough to pay for through contributions, a trick that the rest of news media have had trouble figuring out, to say the least.
Trouble is, NPR has often been better at breaking news than running a news outlet. The current problems started five months ago when Juan Williams, a longtime NPR commentator, was hastily fired for remarks he made about Muslims making him fearful in airports. Then in January, Ellen Weiss, senior vice president for news, resigned after a report to the board found her management of the affair wanting.

3/17/2011 ...and another kind of reason
Shaping State Laws With Little Scrutiny by Laura Sullivan

... as I recall some state legislators were "given" scholarships to attend ... it would be interesting to trace legislation back to Wisconsin and our Legislative Reference Bureau where it would be redrafted for introduction ... any students need a project? 

Complete from 3/17 blog ...

Elements Of NPR Gotcha Video Taken Out Of Context by David Folkenflik

Elements Of NPR Gotcha Video Taken Out Of Context by David Folkenflik

Worth a listen ...teaches the problem with quick judgments!   From Morning Edition 3/14/2011.

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