NPR has revised its ethics code to describe which staffers it covers after network ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen raised questions about host Diane Rehm’s attendance at fundraising dinners for the right-to-die movement. Jensen explained the update in a new post:
The changes follow the debate sparked when The Washington Post reported that Diane Rehm, the host of the NPR-distributed The Diane Rehm Show, was taking part in fundraising dinners for Compassion & Choices. That non-profit organization’s activities include lobbying for states to permit medically-assisted death.
At heart the heart of the issue was whether NPR’s stricture preventing journalists from engaging in political advocacy should apply to Rehm, who hosts “The Diane Rehm Show” at WAMU in Washington, D.C., an NPR member station. The new guidelines make clear that the prohibition applies to “those who work for shows, podcasts and programming that are not part of the News division,” Jensen writes. Here’s an excerpt from the new section:
The principles apply to material that comes to NPR from independent producers, member station journalists, outside writers, commentators and visual journalists. Finally, producers of stand-alone programs acquired by NPR and the staffs of those shows should also study and apply the ethical principles and guidance in this handbook.
In a statement to Poynter, WAMU spokesperson Kathleen Allenbaugh said the station will abide by the new ethics policy, which it worked with NPR and Poynter to redefine:
We came to a collective agreement that it is best not to proceed, and Diane has decided she will not be attending future dinners.
We are happy that we could work collaboratively to help clarify NPR’s policy as it applies to NPR’s code of ethics for acquired programs.
We appreciate the guidance NPR has provided. We will continue to consult NPR on these issues, as we have done in the past.