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Elizabeth Jensen

Elizabeth Jensen was appointed to a three-year term as NPR's Ombudsman/Public Editor in January 2015. In this role, she serves as the public's representative to NPR, responsible for bringing transparency to matters of journalism and journalism ethics. The Ombudsman/Public Editor receives tens of thousands of listener inquiries annually and responds to significant queries, comments and criticisms.

Jensen has spent decades taking an objective look at the media industry. As a contributor to The New York Times, she covered the public broadcasting beat – PBS, NPR, local stations and programming – as well as children's media, documentaries, non-profit journalism start-ups and cable programming. She also wrote for the Columbia Journalism Review and was a regular contributor to Current, the public broadcasting trade publication, where, among other topics, she wrote about sustainability strategies for public television stations.

Over her three decades in journalism, Jensen has reported on journalistic decision-making, mergers and acquisitions, content, institutional transformations, the intersection of media and politics, advertising and more, for a variety of national news organizations. She reported on the media for The Los Angeles Times, where she broke the story of Sinclair Broadcast Group's partisan 2004 campaign activities, and was honored with an internal award for a story of the last official American Vietnam War casualty. Previously she was a senior writer for the national media watchdog consumer magazine Brill's Content, spent six years at The Wall Street Journal, where she was part of a team of reporters honored with a Sigma Delta Chi public service award for tobacco industry coverage, and spent several years with the New York Daily News.

In 2005, Jensen was the recipient of a Kiplinger Fellowship in Public Affairs Journalism at The Ohio State University, focusing her research on media politicization. She earned her M.A. in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, spending her second year at Geneva's L'Institut universitaire de hautes études internationales, and received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

When not covering media, Jensen, who teaches food journalism at New York University, has occasionally reported on the food world, including investigating vegetarian marshmallow fraud for a CNBC newsmagazine report.

This post has been updated below.

NPR hosts, correspondents, producers and contributors write an awful lot of books, many of them eagerly anticipated by listeners who turn them into bestsellers. But I believe NPR should not routinely help their cause by featuring the books on air and online. NPR's new top news executive concurs, in part, particularly when it comes to show hosts discussing their own outside projects on their own shows.

Weekend Edition Sunday aired a feature piece last week about the experience of Little Rock, Ark., cartographer Andrea Zekis as she transitioned from male to female. It focused on her experience at her workplace, the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, and was told largely through the voices of Zekis and her coworkers as they recalled events from several years ago.

Listeners had lots of questions (and of course, opinions) in recent days. Here are some answers.

A Morning Edition report on Monday with the headline "Congress May Be Forced To Intervene Again On Mammogram Recommendations" drew some sharp rebukes, many of them from physicians who expressed deep concern over missing context.

As environmental activists seek increasingly to equate fossil fuel companies with demonized tobacco, and as the movement pushing pension funds and endowments to divest themselves of fossil fuel stocks gains momentum, NPR finds itself under renewed attack for its acceptance of corporate underwriting money from America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), the trade and lobbying group for natural gas producers.

A line will be added to the NPR.org biography of South America correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro. It will read: "Lourdes is married to The Times of London journalist James Hider. They have a daughter and they sometimes travel together for work and always for play."

Updated at 2:45 p.m. ET.

NPR has asked Latino USA to remove all NPR branding from last weekend's episode of the show, saying it "does not meet NPR's editorial standards." A tough penalty, to be sure, but in this case it's warranted; the show's execution simply did not meet the goals the producers had intended. NPR's statement follows, along with a response from Latino USA.

A note from NPR's editors:

One follow-up and some concerns about language to end this week.

First, the follow-up.

NPR has updated its code of ethics.

On Wednesday, Morning Edition ran a story about advocates in Kentucky adopting a county-by-county strategy to pass right-to-work legislation, after statewide efforts to pass such legislation failed for several years running. The story was by Lisa Autry, an award-winning reporter at member station WKU Public Radio, in Bowling Green, Ky., who occasionally contributes to NPR's newsmagazines.

Last week, All Things Considered aired a piece by NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reporting on investigations into the work of so-called "climate skeptics" — scientists who doubt that climate change is a serious problem or that humans are causing it. The piece raised the broader issue of whether advocates on both sides of the climate change debate are trying to undermine scientists with whom they disagree.

Back in 2012, the Ombudsman's web page posted a document titled NPR Underwriting Credit Guidelines. It was the first document that came up in a Google search on the topic of the policies, adopted by NPR's board of directors, that govern how NPR gives on-air recognition to its underwriters, including commercial entities and non-profit organizations that want to draw attention to their goods, services and viewpoints.

After the end of March, Diane Rehm, the host of the NPR-distributed The Diane Rehm Show, will no longer participate in fundraising dinners for Compassion & Choices, a non-profit organization that, among other activities, lobbies for changes to state laws to permit medically assisted death.

The decision came out of a conversation last week between Rehm and executives of NPR and WAMU-FM, the Washington, D.C., public radio station that produces Rehm's show.

A case of unfortunate timing this past weekend had some listeners seeing a plot where none existed.

Deadline Poetry

Feb 27, 2015

For late Friday, a couple items from the mailbag. I'm not going to weigh in except to say that in my first month here I've found NPR's journalists to be very open to discussing questions about their work. I find it's often helpful to see how journalistic decisions are made; you can judge for yourselves.

A story in the Washington Post, posted online on Feb. 14 and on the Feb. 15 front page, detailed how Diane Rehm "is becoming one of the country's most prominent figures in the right-to-die debate." Rehm is the longtime, well-respected host of the midday talk and call-in program, The Diane Rehm Show, which originates at Washington, D.C. station WAMU-FM.

Reader Richard Sloatberg of San Diego, Calif. wrote to ask why Ann Powers, a NPR Music correspondent, was "allowed to plug her husband's book," without a note explaining their relationship, on NPR's music news blog, The Record. Sloatberg was referring to this Feb.

After considerable discussion, we have decided to end the practice of posting an Open Forum each month. They were started at a time when my predecessor wasn't posting often, while he was working on a lengthy project. My intention is to get back to having more frequent posts, which will offer more opportunities for more focused commenting.

We'd like to move the broader discussions of NPR's journalism, ethics and standards to social media. We hope this will make it easier to hold conversations focused on single topics, rather than the jumble of issues that come up in each forum.

I'm a little over two weeks into my tenure as NPR's ombudsman. That's about 200 emails to the ombudsman, a couple dozen tweets from listeners and one anonymous letter that complained in part about PBS (a separate organization.) For those of you who have sent words of welcome, thank you.

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