Following our publication of Special Report: NPR’s Linda Gradstein takes cash payments from pro-Israeli groups (19 February 2002), and several follow-up reports, NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin responded to our concerns on 25 February 2002.
In the March 11th issue of the Current, a public broadcasting trade publication ran an in-depth story on the revelations, NPR Mideast correspondent broke ban on speaker fees, by Mike Janssen.
Meanwhile, Gradstein’s unchecked bias continues to surface.
February 25th response from NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin
From: Mr. Jeffrey Dvorkin, Ombudsman, National Public Radio
To: Nigel Parry & Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada
February 25, 2002
Dear Mr. Abunimah and Mr. Perry [sic],
Thank you for your letter. You make some good points which I am happy to acknowledge.
First, forgive the confusion of websites. It was unclear to me where one site left off and the other began. Perhaps it is my technological limitations, but it is unclear to me and to others who have looked at your websites. I’ll clarify that in a future column.
Second, the phrase “Palestinian activist” was not meant to denote ethnicity but only advocacy. My apologies.
Third, I think that all outside speaking engagements by all NPR employees should be vetted and approved by management. I believe that is the normal procedure, but seems not to have been pursued with sufficient rigor in Gradstein’s case. Management must ensure that NPR’s reputation remains beyond reproach in this area, which is the thrust of my column.
As you know as Ombudsman, my role is not managerial, so I will forward your letter to Bruce Drake, VP of News at NPR.
The Electronic Intifada adds: No response to our letter was offered by Bruce Drake.
March 11th article in Current based on EI’s revelations
Current, a biweekly newspaper about public broadcasting, “read by people involved in public TV and public radio—station employees, independent producers, local volunteers and board members, viewers and listeners, state and national policymakers and others”, according to its site, published the story on 11 March 2002.
Read NPR Mideast correspondent broke ban on speaker fees, by Mike Janssen, Current, 11 March 2002.
The following excerpt from the Current article contains several statements from NPR’s Vice President of News Bruce Drake about the revelations:
In declining the honorarium [for the February 19th University of Minnesota event], Gradstein was following the “same conflict-of-interest principle that we apply across the board,” Drake said. “Some things slip through the cracks. But the policy that I have told staff again and again is that the perception of our integrity is important. Not that I’m suggesting that Linda Gradstein or anyone else was going to sell a story for money, but even in the best of worlds we have to err on the side of caution to not get involved.”
Listeners complain to NPR Board
In a Feb. 18 e-mail to Electronic Intifada, according to Abunimah, Drake wrote, “Ms. Gradstein has been told clearly what NPR’s policies are on this matter and that, in the future, she is to adhere strictly to it.”
But Drake said he would not examine Gradstein’s past acceptances of honoraria, as Electronic Intifada wanted. “At this point, to go making a review of the past doesn’t get us anywhere,” Drake said. “It’s been made very clear that this is our policy, and we expect all reporters to respect it going forward.”
Abunimah disagreed. “I think the public has a right to know,” he told Current. “If a politician who is investigating Enron has taken contributions from Enron, we have a right to know how much. And I think it’s simply inadequate that [NPR] says, ‘She won’t do it again,’ and then carries on as usual.”
Gradstein declined to comment for this story.
Readers who go back through the history of this story will note that in a February 12 e-mail Bruce Drake stated that he:
advised Ms. Gradstein of the policy stated on our air the other day, and going forward, told her that I expected her to honor it.”
On February 14 we asked Mr. Drake if this applied to the upcoming University of Minnesota appearance on February 19th. On February 18th, Drake replied:
“Ms. Gradstein has been told clearly what NPR’s policies are on this matter and that, in the future, she is to adhere strictly to it.”
That same day, the Electronic Intifada was able to confirm that Gradstein was not only going ahead with the Hillel and Friends of Israel-sponsored lecture that night, but that there was an honorarium being paid to her.
Bruce Drake’s response to Gradstein’s continued violation of NPR policy after having informed her that she was “expected to honor it”, is patently inadequate. Drake’s repeated references to “going forward” additionally signal that the receipt of unethical payments from Zionist organisations for the best part of a decade are not considered significant influence on reporting.
Read the entire story — Special Report: NPR’s Linda Gradstein takes cash payments from pro-Israeli groups — here. Since these revelations, Gradstein’s well-documented bias has resurfaced with regularity:
8 March 2002 — Gradstein back to her misleading ways, Ali Abunimah
12 March 2002 — Another grossly biased Gradstein report doesn’t mention dozens of Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks, Ali Abunimah
Sadly, it appears that you cannot fairly catch a reporter on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict red-handed in the pro-Israeli cookie jar for the best part of a decade and, at minimum, expect a disclosure of how much and from whom.
And the consequences of this unaccountability are readily apparent to anyone with access to a radio dial.
Anyone who wishes to contact NPR and express their views on this matter should write to Jeffrey Dvorkin, the National Public Radio Ombudsman via firstname.lastname@example.org
Please write an original letter and do not simply copy & paste the information above. As always, be brief, polite, quote accurately, and include your name, address, and telephone number (which most publications require to ensure publication). Please send copies of your letter and any responses or printing of your letter (including the original, if it was edited) to info@electronicIntifada.net.
Related links: EI’s Linda Gradstein cash payments exposé
This special report/action item (#26, 14 MARCH 2002) was prepared by Ali Abunimah and Nigel Parry.