If there was any doubt National Public Radio (NPR) has a liberal bias their new ethics policy update allowing its reporters to take part in demonstrations and rallies makes it crystal clear.
The ethics policy which was last updated in 2010-2011 expressly states journalists may participate in activities that advocate for “the freedom and dignity of human beings” on both social media and in real life and eliminates a blanket prohibition from participating in “marches, rallies and public events,” as well as vague language that directed NPR journalists to avoid personally advocating for “controversial” or “polarizing” issues, according to NPR public editor Kelly McBride.
NPR ethics policy update: Journalists can now participate in activities that advocate for “freedom and dignity of human beings” on social media and in real life. https://t.co/oLe7PSffJj pic.twitter.com/vcLmRhyHgW
— kellymcb (@kellymcb) July 29, 2021
The new NPR policy reads, “NPR editorial staff may express support for democratic, civic values that are core to NPR’s work, such as, but not limited to: the freedom and dignity of human beings, the rights of a free and independent press, the right to thrive in society without facing discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, disability, or religion.”
This means participating in a Black Lives Matter or a Gay Pride parade is okay as long as the reporter is not covering the event and their editor has approved it.
But there are limits, like supporting a specific piece of legislation or a political candidate which are still not permitted.
If there was a line between journalism and advocacy at NPR, it has now been crossed.
- The opening section lists core values of “honesty, integrity, independence, accuracy, contextual truth, transparency, respect and fairness” and adds a specific reference to the “democratic role as watchdogs.”
- NPR names diversity as a key guiding principle, with a specific obligation to include voices that are routinely left out of the news.
- The policy refines and narrows the list of staff who are expected to comport with the most restrictive elements of the policy. It’s a long list, but it boils down to whether you shape content in any way or hold an executive title. Other job titles, including those who work in research, archives and data, and those who write promotional copy for the programming division, are exempt from restrictions on their public behavior.
- The new standards reinforce the difference between straight reporting and commentary. “NPR journalists with a role in covering the news should stick to reporting and analysis,” the policy reads. “Commentators have more leeway to express opinions and may do so as long as they are respectful and grounded in facts.” A new addition to this section allows anyone who works in news or programming to publish a first-person story when appropriate.
- In the sub-section of the Impartiality chapter on attending marches and rallies, NPR adds another list of universal values including human rights, a free press, anti-discrimination and anti-bigotry.
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