NPR editors: Chuy broadcast did not meet our standards
An episode of the NPR-distributed program "Latino USA" that focused on the campaign of Chicago mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia did not meet standards of fairness and completeness, the public radio network's editors said Friday.
The editors raised a number of concerns about the hourlong program, which aired four days before the runoff election between Garcia and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. They noted that unflattering charges made against Emanuel by his critics stood unchallenged in the episode while nearly no criticism was leveled at Garcia.
Earlier Friday, NPR ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen addressed the concerns raised by listeners and NPR executives, which stemmed from the program's decision to run the episode just before the election, focus heavily on Garcia's side of the campaign and include unanswered criticisms of Emanuel's camp:
The Latino USA production team clearly felt it was important to get the other side. Based on notes they showed me, they made a strong attempt to get more from Emanuel's campaign, and were largely rebuffed (although it was the Emanuel campaign that steered them to interviews with Luis Gutierrez and Susana Mendoza, two prominent Chicago Latinos who supported Emanuel and not Garcia.)
Jensen quoted Ben Calhoun, the director of programming and content at WBEZ, which decided not to air the episode because it was "based so deeply in the perspective of one candidate and campaign." Because the station did not broadcast the episode, the show probably didn't influence the outcome of the election, Jensen writes.
NPR has asked the producers of "Latino USA" to "remove NPR's name and branding from all digital versions of this episode" and are discussing the principles of the network's Ethics Handbook with the program's staff.
"Latino USA" responded to NPR's editors in with a statement saying the program regrets "any appearance of imbalance or lack of fairness" caused by the episode:
We should have made clear in the program that we had reached out to the Emanuel campaign numerous times without response. We also are reviewing other ways in which the program might have been better executed.
We intend to redouble our efforts to bring to our listeners overlooked stories while conforming at all times to the highest journalistic standards.
Correction: A previous version of this post referred to Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel as an "opposing candidate."