Eugene David
...The One-Minute Pundit

Saturday, June 25, 2011

As America's luxury news suites are three-inches deep in champagne, let us remember their codes of ethics -- in this case, NPNTR's:

III. Statement of principles

Our coverage must be fair, unbiased, accurate, complete and honest. At NPR we are expected to conduct ourselves in a manner that leaves no question about our independence and fairness. We must treat the people we cover and our audience with respect.

"Fair" means that we present all important views on a subject. This range of views may be encompassed in a single story on a controversial topic, or it may play out over a body of coverage or series of commentaries. But at all times the commitment to presenting all important views must be conscious and affirmative, and it must be timely if it is being accomplished over the course of more than one story. We also assure that every possible effort is made to reach an individual (or a spokesperson for an entity) that is the subject of criticism, unfavorable allegations or other negative assertions in a story in order to allow them to respond to those assertions.

"Unbiased" means that we separate our personal opinions - such as an individual's religious beliefs or political ideology - from the subjects we are covering. We do not approach any coverage with overt or hidden agendas.

"Accurate" means that each day we make rigorous efforts at all levels of the newsgathering and programming process to ensure our facts are not only accurate but also presented in the correct context. We make every possible effort to ensure assertions of fact in commentaries, including facts implied as the basis for an opinion, are correct. We attempt to verify what our sources and the officials we interview tell us when the material involved is argumentative or open to different interpretations. We are skeptical of all facts gathered and report them only when we are reasonably satisfied of their accuracy. We guard against errors of omission that cause a story to misinform our listeners by failing to be complete. We make sure that our language accurately describes the facts and does not imply a fact we have not confirmed, and quotations are both accurate and placed properly in context.

"Honest" means we do not deceive the people or institutions we cover about our identity or intentions, and we do not deceive our listeners. We do not deceive our listeners by presenting the work of others as our own (plagiarism), by cutting interviews in ways that distort their meaning, or by manipulating audio in a way that distorts its meaning, how it was obtained or when it was obtained. The same applies to text and photographs or other visual material used on NPR Online. Honesty also means owning up publicly and quickly to mistakes we make on air or online.

"Respect" means treating the people we cover and our audience with respect by approaching subjects in an open-minded, sensitive and civil way and by recognizing the diversity of the country and world on which we report, and the diversity of interests, attitudes and experiences of our audience.

Or The Paper of Re-CORD's, which will seem especially mirthful on a day like this:

15. The Times treats its readers as fairly and openly as possible. In print and online, we tell our readers the complete, unvarnished truth as best we can learn it. It is our policy to correct our errors, large and small, as soon as we become aware of them.

16. We treat our readers no less fairly in private than in public. Anyone who deals with readers is expected to honor that principle, knowing that ultimately the readers are our employers. Civility applies whether an exchange takes place in person, by telephone, by letter or online. Simple courtesy suggests that we not alienate our readers by ignoring their letters and e-mails that warrant reply.

Always remember that ethics codes are nothing but self-serving whitewashes for bad behavior. Witness Congress. And especially in their "implementation" always remember the words Mary McCarthy applied to Lillian Hellman apply to them: their every word is a lie, including "and" and "the".

We thunder over this because news hacks live for the days they can pull one over on their inferiors -- just as they did appointing our current "president"; and they are hardly disinterested bystanders here, rendering their PR even more florid. Thankfully the "news" biz' recent history shows that in practical terms its enemies have gained a huge measure of revenge, and they must not stop seeking it. (We would note too that Yahoo!, America's most densely CW news source and Huff 'n' Puff's archrival in the panem et circenses trade, has put the budget atop its list of top stories on its home page [though not the ones with the visuals and not on the News page], meaning perhaps some algorithm somewhere recognizes the hacks can go too far.)

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