Monday, August 12, 2013

Confession Is Good for the Soul - Not to Mention Credibility

Over the years I’ve been blogging, I’ve cited a number of stories from National Public Radio (NPR). I have said here and elsewhere that if I say I’ve heard something on the news, it’s most likely that I’ve heard it on NPR. Now, I’ve been listening to NPR since folks in the Reagan Administration called it “Radio Managua,” because it questioned (among other things) the value of U.S. support for anti-Sandinista paramilitary forces - the support that ended up in the embarrassing Iran-Contraaffair. And I know there are those who question the quality and/or the editorial perspective of NPR.

I still find NPR credible, and one of the reasons is visible in this report that I heard today. It is a report on a report. More specifically, it reports about a series of investigative reports, and how the NPR Ombudsman came to question the quality of the investigation and of the reporting. In the end, the report today noted that the Ombudsman raised his questions in an extensive report, and the NPR leadership agreed on the one hand that the investigation could have been done better and reported better, while also feeling that the conclusions of the investigation were still valid.

Now, I’m sure there will be those who cry, “See how perfidious!” and proclaim that NPR is corrupt. I, on the other hand, am reassured. I respect an organization that not only reviews its own work but publically exposes the results. This shows a commitment to integrity and honesty, and a willingness to accept public embarrassment to demonstrate good faith. This is not just a correction, buried on the radio equivalent of page 3. It is self-examination, carried out for all the world to see.

Any news organization will have mistakes happen. They are, after all, human institutions. I look forward to seeing just how committed other news organizations are to acknowledging not only that “mistakes were made,” but also letting the rest of us really see just how.

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