Update: NPR Doesn’t Ban ‘Torture’–but Offers Euphemisms to Use in Its Place

Abu Ghraib prisoner

This is an update to “Refusing to Take Sides, NPR Takes Sides With Torture Deniers” (FAIR Blog, 12/12/14). As Romenesko (12/12/14) points out, NPR‘s ethics department has been issuing guidance on the use of the word “torture.” The first memo, issued August 8, cites a message from then-NPR vice president for news Ellen Weiss, written in November 2009: Contrary to some commentaries, NPR did not ban the word “torture.” Rather, we gave our journalists guidance about how to avoid loaded language about interrogation techniques, realizing that no matter what words are chosen, we risk the appearance of taking one side […]


Refusing to Take Sides, NPR Takes Sides With Torture Deniers

Blood trails at Abu Ghraib.

National Public Radio, following the lead of the Washington Post, tries to avoid applying the word “torture” in its own voice when covering US torture.


NPR Journalists Worry About (Some) Money

NPR ombud Alicia Shepard has a piece (5/25/11) about internal discomfort with a recent $1.8 million grant from the George Soros-connected Open Society Foundation. Shepard writes: The money is for a worthy purpose. NPR is using the two-year grant as seed money to start a local-national initiative, known as the Impact on Government project. Eventually, the plan is to have two public radio reporters in every state keeping tabs on state government issues that are woefully under-reported by the media. This is to be a multi-media project for radio, the Web and social media. It’s hard to argue against the […]


NPR’s Critics–and the Critics Who Actually Listen

From a Q&A with NPR ombud Alicia Shepard (CJR, 4/11/11): I also got a call last week from Ralph Nader. He was saying how NPR is really just a corporate toady, and that they don’t have enough progressive voices on, and I hear that quite a bit. I hear that more from people who actually listen to NPR. Funny how that works.


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 […]


NPR Can (but Doesn’t) ‘Take a Lesson’ from Jon Stewart

When NPR ombud Alicia Shepard commented on an NPR blog that “we can all take a lesson from” Jon Stewart because “he holds people in power accountable for what they say”–this being her “definition of a good journalist”–Matthew Murrey, AKA NPR Check blogger Mytwords, couldn’t resist asking “So when will Shepard hold the NPR journalists to such a standard?” Mytwords’ challenge of Shepard “(or anyone for that matter) to show any examples in the last 10 years where NPR‘s main news shows… ‘held people in power accountable’” was met by one reader (3/15/09) who had only heard one instance of […]


NPR, Fox Collude to Hide Fake Lefty

Noting that “news organizations often encourage their journalists to appear on other platforms for promotional purposes,” former TVNewser Brian Stelter reports (New York Times, 2/15/09) that, “when the National Public Radio analyst Juan Williams speaks on the Fox News Channel‘s highest-rated program, the radio network doesn’t want any attention”: Mr. Williams, a longtime political analyst and author, is a paid contributor to both NPR and Fox News. His voice is a prominent one at Fox; he was a panelist for the network’s coverage of election night and Inauguration Day. When he appears on the cable channel, he is regularly described […]