NPR responds to EI’s criticism of White House “publicity stunt”

NPR’s managing editor for digital news Mark Stencel has responded to criticisms made by this blog of the network’s facilitation of a White House instigated event to talk about Obama’s Middle East policy speech that featured just one panelist: Obama’s speechwriter.

During the event, which occurred earlier today before and after Obama’s speech, NPR social media guru Andy Carvin (@acarvin), and Foreign Policy’s Marc Lynch selected questions posed over Twitter and directed them to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes (video above).

Stencel’s comments came in an article by Steve Myers on a publication of the noted journalism school, The Poynter Institute (“Why NPR’s Andy Carvin moderated White House Twitter interview about Obama’s Middle East speech”). Here’s an excerpt of Myers’ article:

After Obama’s speech ended shortly after 1 p.m., they were joined by Ben Rhodes, a White House policy official and speechwriter. Carvin and Lynch switched off asking questions and tweeting the answers. It was a hybrid of a live TV interview, with the three sitting around a table at the State Department — the American flag behind them — and a Twitter chat, with Carvin and Lynch tweeting Rhodes’ answers. Rhodes did not have a computer.

Before the chat even started, a blogger criticized Carvin’s participation, calling it an administration-controlled publicity stunt with no one to oppose the administration’s viewpoint.

Such events, wrote Ali Abunimah, offer “a simulacrum of participation while ensuring that millions of eyeballs are diverted away from independent and dissenting analysis and directed toward a strictly official viewpoint.”




You are absolutely wrong. Millions were diverted away from "Mainstream media" commentary to the questions of ordinary people all over the world. Twitter does away with the intermediary of so-called "journalists" and lets us hear directly from the people most affected. I loved it.


The questions--even the format--might be incredible, but what good are they if the only person answering them is Obama's speechwriter?