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How NPR And The Times of London Ended Up With Identical Quotes

Dario Lopez Mills

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."

The addition follows a query from listener Dean Sanderson of Easton, Conn., in early April regarding identical quotes in stories by Garcia-Navarro and Hider. The stories reported on the economic hardships and layoffs in the Brazilian town of Itaborai in the aftermath of the corruption scandal enveloping Petrobras, Brazil's state oil company.

Hider's story ran on March 31 and Garcia-Navarro's on Morning Edition on April 2.

The stories (including separate web and radio versions for NPR) took different approaches but quoted from three of the same people. (Garcia-Navarro's stories had one separate interview.) Quotes from two of those interviewed were identical.

I spoke to Garcia-Navarro. The two journalists went on the reporting trip together, as journalists often do, for numerous reasons: safety, logistics or access, among them. They shared a translator, and conducted joint interviews. Garcia-Navarro said she wrote her story first, even though it ended up running a few days after Hider's, which she didn't see until after it was published.

Each chose the quotes they used independently, she said. They overlapped, she said, because "those quotes just happened to be the strongest ones."

All that's fine; good quotes are good quotes. But it's also understandable why Sanderson had questions.

Edith Chapin, NPR's senior international editor, said the situation has never come up before and she doesn't believe there was any coordination of the stories. Chapin said: "I told her you need to be vigilant about enterprise stories" (stories that are not breaking news stories), and suggested she and Hider come up with ground rules to avoid future such situations with duplicative quotes, however inadvertent. (Garcia-Navarro said she doesn't see a problem with overlapping quotes — and just as she wouldn't check with a reporter she wasn't related to before publishing, she doesn't feel it would be appropriate to check with her husband.)

Meanwhile, the line is also being added to Garcia-Navarro's biography, so readers are aware that there is a relationship.

Hopefully, however, the situation was just an anomaly and won't arise again.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elizabeth Jensen was appointed as NPR's 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 Public Editor receives tens of thousands of listener inquiries annually and responds to significant queries, comments and criticisms.
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