Do errors in NPR piece merit an 80-page report?


NPR Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos' massive report on an investigative series NPR broadcast in 2011 "sets up an unfair challenge to NPR," Poynter's Kelly McBride tells NPR's David Folkenflik.

"Because, if he wants to do a column about why they chose this story instead of that story, then he should do that column. But he essentially does both in this very long report."

NPR's top news management "recused themselves from the preparation of this article about the dispute between the network and the ombudsman over the investigative series," Folkenflik writes. The reporters and editors behind the series "declined to respond on the record to most of the points" in Schumacher-Matos' report, he wrote. "NPR stands by the stories," Kinsey Wilson (who is on Poynter's board of trustees) and Margaret Low Smith wrote in an editors' note.

"It's very possible, in an investigative story, to get certain facts wrong but still have the overall truth be quite accurate," McBride tells Folkenflik. "And I'm not saying that's an excuse because when that happens it's incredibly unfortunate and even irresponsible on the part of journalists."

McBride contrasted the ombudsman's six-chapter critique, logging in excess of 30,000 words with the treatment given to Jayson Blair, one of journalism's most notorious fabricators. She says Schumacher-Matos' six-chapter report "was pretty significant" in comparison.

"That, I think, is more than everything that The New York Times wrote about Jayson Blair," McBride says. "And if you look at what Jayson Blair did, that was obviously much more egregious."

Smith "says the network took a hard look at its stories and simply reached a different conclusion than Schumacher-Matos did," Folkenflik's report says.

I wrote yesterday that I thought NPR should have engaged fully with Schumacher-Matos' report. Here's some other reaction from Twitter:

I included a storify. Here's embed code in case it's dropped out:

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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