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University of Wisconsin–Madison
School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Stop the Press! Partisan misleads public with Schiller tape!

Given my recent blog about nasty partisan-fueled journalism, I am not surprised to learn that the secret taping of NPR’s chief fund raiser, Ron Schiller, was not edited with a close eye to journalism ethics.

Ha!    Of course it wasn’t.

Last week, an edited version of the tape was recorded and released by “citizen journalist” James O’Keefe, who is actually a conservative partisan using journalistic tools to embarrass political opponents.  He later released the unedited version of the tape.

O’Keefe and a colleague pretended to be members of an Islamic organization ready to give NPR $5 million dollars. Controversial comments by Schiller on conservatives and Tea Party members on the edited tape led to him leaving NPR, and eventually to the resignation of NPR CEO Vivian Schiller (no relation to Ron Schiller).

An analysis of the unedited tape by NPR, journalist Al Tompkins and — yes, this is true — an editor from Glenn Beck’s website, The Blaze, found that the edited version was misleading. Among the problems was the fact that the edited version makes it seem that Schiller is laughing after hearing that the phony Islamic group wants to spread Sharia law. In truth, he was laughing at an uncontroversial remark. It doesn’t contain Schiller’s comments that donors can’t influence coverage and it edits out Schiller’s complimentary comments about growing up Republican.

I hope this warns the general public about the growth of these unethical forms of journalism. News organizations need to shine a bright and critical light on all of these so-called journalists.

It is too much to ask, I suppose, but perhaps those people who last week applauded O’Keefe as a courageous, muckraking journalists will re-think their enthusiasm. Remember that the public must be able to trust the messenger, not just the message.

 

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