The conservative filmmaker who took down an NPR executive this week with his hidden camera has released another installment. This one, however, doesn't have a "gotcha" moment. Quite the opposite, actually. A previous video showed NPR's now-former fundraiser criticizing tea party members and suggesting the public radio network could do without government funds.
This video, however, may actually confirm NPR's editorial firewall.
In today's release, Betsy Liley, NPR's senior director of institutional giving, explains to a representative of the group, that it's possible to make a donation and have it credited on air "anonymously," but that the organization does that fairly often.
It's not clear whether the phone conversation took place before or after the luncheon.
Liley, however, makes pretty clear that a donation from the Muslim group doesn't buy any direction of news coverage. "That's a news decision," she says. "A lot of people have an interest in specific areas, including institutions, so they give us support in that area, but we can only accept it to the point that it matches our news judgment."
She goes on to relay that NPR might accept money from institutions with an interest in a topic, but those institutions are not allowed to decide any aspect of news coverage. "This would not go to anyone in the news division. No one in news would have access to this document," she said. "There is a firewall between news and development, and there's a similar firewall between development and news.
She also explains that when liberal financier George Soros donated millions to NPR, "we didn't tell anyone in news because... because we're news, we can't tell the rest of our organization what we're doing."
That, if you're keeping score, is one for ethics and editorial firewalls.
Liley also asks for the group's IRS 990 form, which would reveal the management, and funding of the organization, making clear that the network clearly intended to check out the organization before accepting any donation. NPR did not accept the phony group's offer.
The caller tried to figure out ways to "avoid paperwork," seeming to suggest the donation should be hidden, but Liley appeared to rebuff the notion, citing the requirements from NPR's legal counsel, Joyce Slocum, who has since taken on the role of CEO interim president after NPR boss Vivian Schiller was fired. Liley indicated that any donation would not be subject to a government audit, although it's not clear whether NPR is required to submit donor lists to the government for inspection.
Meanwhile, hosts and reporters at NPR today released an open letter to the public regarding the earlier videotaped comments of the deposed Ron Schiller, NPR's VP of fundraising:
Dear Listeners and Supporters,
We, and our colleagues at NPR News, strive every day to bring you the highest quality news programs possible. So, like you, we were appalled by the offensive comments made recently by NPR's now former Senior Vice President for Development. His words violated the basic principles by which we live and work: accuracy and open-mindedness, fairness and respect.
Those comments have done real damage to NPR. But we're confident that the culture of professionalism we have built, and the journalistic values we have upheld for the past four decades, will prevail. We are determined to continue bringing you the daily journalism that you've come to expect and rely upon: fair, fact-based, in-depth reporting from at home and around the world.
With your support we have no doubt NPR will come out of this difficult period stronger than ever.
NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard will be Gary Eichten's guest on MPR's Midday on Friday at 11 a.m. (CT).
Update 5:11 p.m. - NPR has issued this statement:
"The statement made by Betsy Liley in the audiotapes released today regarding the possibility of making an anonymous gift that would remain invisible to tax authorities is factually inaccurate and not reflective of NPR's gift practices.
"All donations -- anonymous and named -- are fully reported to the IRS. NPR complies with all financial, tax and disclosure regulations.
"Through unequivocal words and actions, NPR has renounced and condemned the secretly recorded statements of Ron Schiller and Betsy Liley. Mr. Schiller is no longer with NPR and Ms. Liley has been placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation of the matter.
"No stronger statement of disavowal and disapproval is possible. NPR will not be deterred from its news mission and will ultimately be judged by the millions and millions of listeners and readers who have come to rely on us every day."
"This video, however, may actually confirm NPR's editorial firewall."
Well, maybe not.
Sure, everyone agrees that money won't buy you spin - directly, but if someone gave $5 million to NPR to "enhance coverage for Palestinian issues", you can bet there would be more coverage of "Palestinian Issues".
Is that buying spin?
Sure it is.
Is that necessarily bad? Well.... maybe and maybe not.
GregS, are you just on here to naysay every single article that is posted? Because based on your recent posts, that seems to be the case.
Find a better hobby.
//Sure, everyone agrees that money won't buy you spin - directly, but if someone gave $5 million to NPR to "enhance coverage for Palestinian issues", you can bet there would be more coverage of "Palestinian Issues".
In your rejection of a clear reality, you're making up what you think reality is and then requiring us to prove your reality incorrect.
What is it you expect us to do with that sort reasoning and dialogue?
"You're lying because I just know you must be!" doesn't really travel a pathway to any sort of intelligent discussion.
Bob, did this poor lady lose her job too? I don't hear her saying anything in the least shady. She is beginning the due diligence process, incredibly tactfully. I think they should give her a raise. She's awesome.
I'd be happy if NPR was solely funded with a dedicated tax, ala the BBC, but the firewall between news and development does seem to work well enough.
Bob, did she lose her job too? She's doing due diligence, in an incredibly tactful way. They should give her a raise. Awesome work.
She's on administrative leave b/c she was at the luncheon.
// "enhance coverage for Palestinian issues", you can bet there would be more coverage of "Palestinian Issues
What you're talking about is "grant driven" coverage. The question is so what? NPR is one of the few news organizations left that actually sees its future as doing MORE news, which requires more reporters and more money.
We've got a grant around here, I believe, to cover issues surrounding hunger and how to solve the problem. Does that bother you? Why? Are you in favor of hunger?
So what does that look like? It's looks like my colleague working a few cubicles down from me who doesn't have to go cover some news conference by some politician talking about puppydogs because she can now work all the time on hunger stories.
What hunger stories? The one she comes up with through her hard work of having the luxury and time to explore the issue.
We're fortunate at MPR that we usually find the money to cover the things that need to be covered. But we haven't the money to cover all the things that we want to cover. And we may never get to that point.
But if "more coverage" is a bad thing, I'm all for bad things.
I'm guessing Gregs isn't used to news that isn't designed to instill fear, uncertainty, and doubt in its viewers.
A healthy, cynical view of the media is valuable - indeed, crucial in this day and age. But separating one source that has a bias vs. one that outright lies shouldn't be all that hard...should it?
When I watch the Sunday talk shows and see nothing but very expensive ads for defense contractors and big pharma, I wonder if the moderators of those shows will slant their questions and commentary towards those industries. So I listen more carefully. But I don't just assume the news is slanted and stop listening altogether.
Audiences should be aware of where funding comes from and listen or read with healthy skepticism...not paranoia.
As far as public radio goes, I actually feel better about these things because I know some of their funding comes from me! Both through taxes and donations. This makes them more accountable to the community than NBC, FOX or the StarTribune ever is.
I don't really know what we've learned this week that's new.
I'm not surprised some NPR execs are clueless about middle America and religious Americans. I'm not surprised to hear the firewall is still in place. I'm not surprised that NPR hosts are angry at their bosses. I'm not surprised that the news I hear still sounds fair and deep. And if it stops being that way, I'll have earned the right to call them on it.
"What is it you expect us to do with that sort reasoning and dialogue? - Bob Collins"
Bob, do you listen to NPR? I do and I hear those "funding provided by **** foundation for **** coverage" on NPR every day. Don't you hear them?
Can you honestly tell me that NPR doesn't cover the areas they are paid to cover more than they usually would?
Getting more of the coverage you want is paying for spin, Bob.
Here is an example. It is not NPR, but it is an NPR affiliate.
"A year-long partnership that funneled state public relations money into environmental reporting on Philadelphia's WHYY-FM ended bitterly in October after breaches of journalistic ethics were exposed in the Columbia Journalism Review.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection fully funded a reporting partnership between WHYY-FM and GreenWorks, a prolific nonprofit producer of positive reports about environmental protection."
My point was simple.... Money affects the type and tone of reporting.
The following are examples of specific funding for specific news topics rather than general sponsorship .
- Focus on Science is made possible by a grant from the Monsanto Fund...
- Health Desk is made possible by a grant from the Scattergood Foundation..
- WNPR's Democracy Project, Made possible by a grant from: Newman's...
- Northeast environmental coverage is part of NPR's Local News Initiative and is made possible, in part, by a grant from United Technologies...
- Environmental Studies Council, Inc. and funded by a grant from the Mars
- The environmental effects of the contaminants on Gulf of Mexico ecosystems, and the ... OCEAN-OIL is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation
Could the reason Ron Schiller spoke with O'Keefe was the hope that NPR would soon air "Coverage of the Middle Eastern affairs brought to you by...."
//Can you honestly tell me that NPR doesn't cover the areas they are paid to cover more than they usually would?
Let me see if I can rephrase your question: "Can you honestly tell me that NPR wouldn't increase the coverage of an issue the news department determines to be a legitimate area worthy of more inspection if it had the money and resources to do so?"
No, I cannot honestly say that.
Now, if what you're asserting here is that an underwriter of an initiative at MPR, for example, is buying a specific perspective on a specific issue , I would say "prove it."
And by proving it, I don't mean, "because they just HAVE to be."
If what you're saying is hunger is an issue that needs more reporting resources devoted to it, then we really don't have anything else to talk about, because you'd be wrong. And I don't believe you feel that way.
"We've got a grant around here, I believe, to cover issues surrounding hunger and how to solve the problem. Does that bother you? Why? Are you in favor of hunger? - Bob Collins"
No Bob, I am not in favor or hunger but neither am I in favor of agenda based reporting. It skews the news and our perception of the world.
There is nothing wrong with covering hunger from time to time but there is plenty wrong with beating the drum.
//Money affects the type and tone of reporting.
It's important to point out that that's what you think. It's not what you know. If it's what you know, then you should provide the evidence that the firewall described above does not actually exist and the people who signed a letter to you and other listeners are lying..
I want to see some specific examples at NPR or MPR (I don't give a hoot about WNPR, I think that's a station in Connecticut) where it's clear that the underwriter has dictated either the tone or substance of the reporting.
But what you're doing is merely providing innuendo that by accepting a contribution, a specific slant on a story would follow. That's a serious allegation against people who are presently attempting to communicate with you in good faith.
Ron Schiller met with this group because the group allegedly had $5 million to support NPR's news efforts. As the tape above showed, the editorial firewall was explicitly defined to the group.
At a time in which you and others are calling for an end of public funding for public media news organizations, now you're calling for an end to private funding too.,
And now you've taken the Schiller ethical problem to a new level. No one disagrees that Schiller's comments were utterly repulsive. But now you seem to be suggesting that NPR's head of development shouldn't even be meeting with potential donors.
If people have money to give to public broadcasting, what is wrong with listening to what they have to say?
Similar to me right now, for example, listening to what you have to say. What's wrong with that?
//I in favor of agenda based reporting. It skews the news and our perception of the world.
On that we agree.
//There is nothing wrong with covering hunger from time to time but there is plenty wrong with beating the drum.
Ah, OK, now we have the problem finally stated. The problem is you want to know about a significant issue facing America. You just don't want to know too much.
That's where your "off" button comes in. That's how you get to make a choice for you. Someone else may want more information, they get to choose too.
By the way, how much have you heard of MPR's hunger reporting? Which stories repeated themselves? Was it the one about how hospitals are providing food to patients in need? Was it the one that explained who the hungry are in Minnesota in the first place? The backpacks programs that are springing up to help hungry kids? The efforts to get hungry seniors who qualify for food programs but don't know about them to be more informed?
No peeking. Do it from memory.
You do realize that grants are often sought, and not given, right?
As in, an organization pinpoints an area of coverage that it feels is important and it wants to do, and then seeks an organization with money to give in order for that organization to have the capacity and resources to carry out that coverage.
They then have their grant writer draft a proposal outlining the project and hope that the two organizations see eye to eye and that the funding group wants its name attached to the coverage the news organization already wants to do.
It's be easier to take you seriously if you didn't speak in absolutes devoid of actual evidence, instead of just trying to bend the conversation toward your version of reality.
As Bob said: "It's important to point out that that's what you think. It's not what you know."
Ah, yes, I'd much rather get my news coverage of, say, labor issues from a conglomerate network beholden to, oh, I don't know, advertising dollars from a big multinational corporation with no vested interest -- say, an unconcerned party like Wal-Mart!
And of course, there's such an OBVIOUS firewall between Rupert, the media mega-mogul, and his "fair and balanced" newsies. (After all, you'll recall that when he was questioned about providing the public platform for Glenn Beck's "Obama's a racist" hate speech, Responsible Rupert delivered this sharp disavowal that so strikingly mirrors this week's swift response from NPR. Said Mr. Murdoch of Mr. Beck: "If you actually assess what he was talking about, he was right." Isn't it UNCANNY that NPR said almost exactly the same thing about Mr. Schiller's remarks???)
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