NPR has overhauled its ethics rules and will now let its reporters march in BLM protests and pride parades. Some commenters say the move blurs the line between journalism and activism. Others say NPR’s already way past that line.
National Public Radio updated its two-decade-old ethics policy earlier this month, with the liberal outlet explaining the change on Thursday. While reporters were once forbidden from taking part in “marches, rallies and public events,” that blanket ban has been lifted.
Now, NPR reporters can “express support for democratic, civic values…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.”
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Campaigning for specific politicians and policies is still off the table, as is donating money to political causes. However, the list of permitted activities is broad and vague. In an article explaining the new policy, NPR’s Kelly McBride stated that marching in a Black Lives Matter protest would probably be allowed, as would taking part in an LGBT pride parade.
“But in practice, NPR journalists will have to discuss specific decisions with their bosses, who in turn will have to ask a lot of questions,” McBride wrote.
Democratic politicians, and some Republicans, regularly stump at pride parades, and the slogans and icons of BLM are utilized by Democratic lawmakers and the Biden administration itself. While some see these movements as advocating for “the freedom and dignity of human beings,” many see them as overtly political.
Commenters online didn’t trust NPR management to enforce the policy fairly, given the persistent accusations of heavy liberal bias leveled at the taxpayer-funded outlet.
Can’t wait to see how the studiously non-partisan and steadfastly non-ideological NPR interprets which protests count as “advocating for the freedom and dignity of human beings” and which ones don’t. https://t.co/Qr2pM6bKBI
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 29, 2021
NPR: Blurring the line to advocacy with a nice, vague definition that could be applied to virtually any cause. Adding even more to the erosion of trust in the media. https://t.co/e5cf5Ua8P1
— Tad Vezner (@SPnoir) July 29, 2021
And given the fact that anti-abortion activists view themselves as sticking up for the “dignity of human beings,” one commenter wondered if bosses at the network, which is overwhelmingly pro-choice, would sign off on a reporter taking part in a pro-life demonstration.
Others saw the change as redundant, for the same reasons.
Journalism is just activism. It has been for awhile but I’m glad they are all just openly stating it now. https://t.co/VufLrm7b7Y
— You Should Have Voted For Jo (@colorblindk1d) July 29, 2021
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