NPR Ombud Dodges ‘Torture’ Reporting Critic

Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald has an update (7/2/09, ad-viewing required) on “several noteworthy developments since I wrote on Tuesday about the refusal of NPR‘s ombudsman, Alicia Shepard, to be interviewed by me about NPR‘s ban on using the word ‘torture’ to describe the Bush administration’s interrogation tactics”:

Given the utter vapidity of her rationale (“there are two sides to the issue. And I’m not sure, why is it so important to call something torture?”), I was momentarily amazed to learn that she actually teaches “Media Ethics” to graduate students at Georgetown University….

NPR‘s “torture” ban and its ombudsman’s incoherent defense of it has now turned into a significant controversy for NPR–and rightfully so. Yesterday, the Huffington Post trumpeted the controversy in a prominent headline all day long, focusing on Shepard’s refusal to be interviewed here. The media reporter Simon Owens wrote a long column on Shepard’s refusal to discuss her rationale with me despite my having been a primary critic of NPR‘s policy. (Indeed, this controversy began several weeks ago when I noted the ample documentation from NPR Check of NPR‘s steadfast refusal to use the word “torture” and the embarrassing contortions it employs to accomplish that.)

Despite Shepard’s avoidance of him, Greenwald notes that she “went on another NPR-affiliated show” for a segment “that included several good questions” and “a very well-compiled, illustrative and cringe-inducing montage of NPR‘s repeatedly going out of its way to avoid calling Bush interrogation tactics ‘torture,’ juxtaposed with an excerpt where NPR explicitly accused Iraqis in Sadr City of ‘using torture’ against detainees.”

Read more on NPR‘s longstanding problematic reporting on U.S. torture–and Alicia Shepard’s inconsistent defense of it–in the FAIR publication Extra! Update: “Tortured Justifications for Bad Journalism” (12/07) by Jim Naureckas & Candice O’Grady.