Posts Tagged ‘Ethics’

On NPR and Ethics

October 22, 2010 2 comments

I’ve been keeping this blog for almost a year now, even after I was hired by NPR and it’s because they have an enlightened social media policy that doesn’t prohibit such things. They ask that we assume personal responsibility for what we say with the understanding that we represent NPR at all times.

This is why I write about culture, occasionally media, sports, and when I delve into politics it is with a broad brush and I go out of my way NOT to divulge my personal political opinions. I do not feel that my 1st amendment rights are being violated.

I have the right to say what I want and the government can’t throw me in prison for it. I do not have a constitutional right to be employed by NPR.

I choose to abide by NPR’s ethics policies that draw a clear line between controversial opinion and objectivity because I understand that in order to maintain our credibility with the public, it is an absolute necessity.

If I and my fellow employees are asked to avoid overt political rallies, I have no issue with that. It is not a matter that I might be recognized by someone. I don’t go on the air at NPR but do run one of its broadcast units. It is a matter of journalistic ethics and I am responsible for upholding those ethics as much as any correspondent or analyst.

We in the Newscast unit and in the news magazine shows work very, very hard each and every day to be as fair as possible and broadcast all points of view. Don’t listen to me. Listen to our content.

There are communities in every nook and cranny of our country, in big cities, suburbs and rural areas that absent the presence of NPR member-stations would have no local radio at all and very little by way of objective journalism. We help provide some of that journalism and that is all NPR seeks to protect.

And that is all I choose to say.

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Labron and ESPN

I seem to be drawn to unseemly spectacles so, yes, I will tune in at 9 pm to watch the Lebron James/ESPN one-hour special on his decision about what city he will choose to go make a zillion dollars with.

Seven years in the NBA and the guy has been to the finals once and never a champion. This looks to me to be the move of a great big ego wrapped in a charity (The Boy’s and Girl’s clubs of America) to escalate the brand of one Lebron James.

And am I being too prissy or traditional or something to be slightly uncomfortable with the relationship here between Lebron and ESPN? I heard this morning on NPR that Lebron has been allowed to choose all but one of the sponsors of the show and also has had a hand in choosing who will interview him following the announcement.

I know this is a sports/entertainment story. But isn’t it also a news story? Aren’t reporters and commentators and hosts at ESPN sort of in the news business?

To be honest, I love ESPN. I love their programming and I like them as a business. They’re cocky and brash and creative and entertaining. If I was in one of their executive suites today as an ESPN employee (and I know more than one of their executives), I’d probably be high-fiving and fist-bumping with the rest of them because it’s a hell of a broadcast coup.

But I don’t work for ESPN and I can see the forest for the trees and the active merging of a media company’s business interests with an athlete’s business interests seems…like uncomfortable new ground.

What happens when an NBA star who has actually won a championship goes on the free agent market- like Kobe Bryant? Will he be able to cut a deal with all the major broadcast networks for a simultaneous announcement not unlike a Presidential news conference? Will ESPN start bidding for the announcement TV rights of other famous free agent athletes?

But even as I watch uncomfortably, I will, nonetheless, still be watching. My guess is that ESPN will welcome my viewership tonight regardless of my ethical sensitivities.