Should journalists become activists as well as advocates? Paul Krugman drew a line between the two in his explanation for his absence from the Occupy Wall Street protests, which drew some hoots of derision, but which might look a little more reasonable after NPR fired a host for becoming an Occupy DC spokesperson:
After violating National Public Radio’s ethics code by acting as a spokeswoman for Occupy DC protesters, Lisa Simeone was fired Wednesday evening from one of the two public radio programs she hosts, the Associated Press reports.
Simeone was fired from “SoundPrint,” an internationally syndicated program appearing on NPR affiliate WAMU in Washington, D.C. The official who fired Simeone reportedly did so over the phone and read NPR’s ethics code to her during the call.
WAMU describes “SoundPrint” as “the aural equivalent of photojournalism” and says the Simeone-hosted program explores “news, history, and culture.”
The firing comes after The Daily Caller and others reported that Simeone violated NPR’s ethics policy by acting as a spokeswoman for the Occupy DC group “October 2011,” the organization currently “occupying” Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C.
That may not be the end of it for Simeone, either. She hosts a show about opera on North Carolina’s WDAV which is also distributed by NPR. The future of that show looks pretty sour as NPR has also announced that they are in “conversations” with WDAC on “how to handle this.”
Roll Call first broke this story on Tuesday after challenging Simeone on the ethics policy at NPR. Simeone responded that the ethics policy didn’t apply to her as a “freelancer,” to which Neda Semnani expressed considerable skepticism:
One major commandment of journalism: If thou art a hack, thou mustn’t flack. …
“A journalist is always attached to journalism,” WAMU News Director Jim Asendio said. He also told HOH that WAMU uses the same code of ethics as NPR.
“Just substitute WAMU for NPR,” he said. (Since she kinda works for both, we just added.)
I think NPR did the right thing here about “SoundPrint,” which is clearly a news-oriented show where questions about bias would undermine its credibility. I’m not really sure the same applies to “World of Opera,” however, which should have little to do with modern politics. If the opera show has been successful, there doesn’t seem to be a need to dump Simeone — unless NPR is unhappy about a lack of communication and other assorted issues of having this tossed in their face by Roll Call, The Daily Caller, and a series of conservative blogs. That would certainly be understandable, under the circumstances.
There is one certain outcome from this fracas: Simeone really is a free-lancer now.