A few months back, I asked a favor of my friend and NPR colleague Zabihullah Tamanna. We'd just spent a busy day going from interview to interview in Kabul. I had some urgent writing to do. Would he mind going out onto the streets and taking some photographs?
For those who live and work in conflict zones and war zones, it's easy to become somewhat numb. Violence and danger can corrode your sense of humanity. But the pictures that Zabihullah took that day were the work of a journalist whose compassion was entirely intact.
When NPR photographer David Gilkey was killed by Taliban fire in a roadside ambush Sunday, he was doing what he always did — chasing an important story in a dangerous place. He did this from Afghanistan to Iraq to Liberia and many other places along the way.
Sometimes journalists face a conflict of interest in their reporting. Other times it is the perception of a conflict, which can be just as problematic. NPR has a perceived conflict — and, because its disclosure processes broke down, in some ways a real conflict — in the case of one grant it received to fund coverage of a hot-button topic. The fiscal year 2015 grant, from the Ploughshares Fund, supported "national security reporting that emphasizes the themes of U.S. nuclear weapons policy and budgets, Iran's nuclear program, international nuclear security topics and U.S.
NPR's use of the word "violence" and claims of thrown chairs in recent stories about Saturday's Nevada Democratic Party state convention have come under criticism by supporters of candidate Bernie Sanders.
Listener Ya'akov Sloman, of Mishawaka, Ind., writes:
"In the aftermath of the convention a single report of 'throwing chairs and rushing the stage' by an openly partisan 'journalist' became the story for every major news outlet. In particular, the dramatic image of 'throwing chairs' seemed to strike reporters as great stuff; so it was repeated.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2 — far-reaching legislation that limits civil rights protections for LGBT people and requires people to use multiple occupancy public restrooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate — on March 23.
Those who follow NPR on Facebook will likely have noticed a marked increase in the number of "Facebook Live" livestream videos from NPR on the platform. They started out as experiments from the newsroom on primary election and caucus nights. Now, NPR is feeding a daily midday news update, dubbed "Cereal," among other live feeds from the politics team, NPR Music and more. (The videos, which are being referred to as "NPR Live" to reflect that NPR is producing them, are also archived on the platform.)
Every semester, NPR's interns are encouraged to learn about journalism in and around the headquarters office in Washington, D.C. So we thought: What better way to learn than by interviewing some of the network's most seasoned voices?
I'll preface this column by disclosing a conflict: I would happily listen to Mark Rylance talk about pretty much anything for pretty much any length of time (did you see him on Broadway in Jerusalem?). So I thoroughly enjoyed Renee Montagne's interview with Rylance and his fellow thespian Derek Jacobi on Monday's Morning Edition.
A live interview on Wednesday's Morning Edition with Carl Paladino, an honorary co-chairman of Donald Trump's New York campaign, left some listeners feeling as though they had tuned in to talk radio and not NPR.
In a recent column I suggested that NPR's election coverage would benefit from occasionally stepping back from the day in, day out, "horse race" of the campaign trail, with its focus on who is up or down in the polls and in fundraising, and the latest gaffe or candidate spat. Many listeners in their letters to me say they want much more of a focus on where candidates stand on the issues, and on fact checking.
Should NPR have published a review of a controversial book? And are the details in a new NPR podcast so detailed as to be irresponsible? Those were among the non-politics issues raised by listeners and readers in the last couple of weeks. Here are a few of the letters we have received and responses from the newsroom.
Morning Edition listeners heard an awkward exchange this morning between regular Monday commentator Cokie Roberts and David Greene, one of the hosts. As part of Roberts' usual commentary, the two discussed Roberts' role at NPR. The short version of that part of the conversation? She is a commentator, not a reporter or a senior news analyst under contract (her previous title). She has not been a full-time staff member at NPR since 1992.
Election related concerns continue to roll in to the Ombudsman's office, as is to be expected in any election year, and even more so when the rhetoric and anxieties are as heightened as they are in this cycle. Many of them are being forwarded to the newsroom, but one interesting issue arose that seemed particularly worthy of a public airing.
Craig Windham, a voice familiar to many NPR listeners, died unexpectedly last night of a pulmonary embolism. He was 66.
Windham was an award-winning journalist who covered presidential campaigns, hurricanes, earthquakes and the first Persian Gulf War. More recently, he focused on anchoring and reporting for NPR's Newscasts. In less than 40 seconds, Windham could explain the intricacies of a complicated bill or capture the glory of a space shuttle flying over the nation's capital.