Last week, NPR announced major changes to its Ethics Handbook which effectively marked the end of the radio network’s old “he said, she said” standard of objectivity. Here’s a taste of the new language:
At all times, we report for our readers and listeners, not our sources. So our primary consideration when presenting the news is that we are fair to the truth. If our sources try to mislead us or put a false spin on the information they give us, we tell our audience. If the balance of evidence in a matter of controversy weighs heavily on one side, we acknowledge it in our reports. We strive to give our audience confidence that all sides have been considered and represented fairly.
This is a fairly radical departure from NPR’s old model of allowing a right-wing flack and a left-wing flack to lie their butts off and forcing listeners to assume the truth is somewhere in the middle. Needless to say, Pressthink blogger and media critic Jay Rosen, who had been badgering NPR for this type of shift for years, is pleased.
The “big idea” behind NPR, the reason we should care, is not protecting professional reputation, or newsroom credibility. Way too thin! The creation of an informed public that is capable of dealing with its many challenges: that’s what NPR is about. Bravo.
Rosen cautions against assuming NPR will actually live up to its new code. But at least, he writes, “we have stronger grounds on which to criticize NPR.”