Zinesters, this is a music example, but note that zines are never talked about on NPR either.
Dear Musea Reader,
For many months I've asked NPR Ombudsman, Alicia C. Shepard, to investigate the conflicts of interest of NPR when it comes to coverage of music, books, and more. My most recent letter to her is stirring up quite a controversy. She has investigated my claims and posted a response on 4/19/10 in her weekly column . The column shows a page from NPR's music website. Right next to a video of a Dylan "concert" at NPR, is a paid spot promoting Dylan’s new album, Women + Country, a clear cut conflict of interest.
First I'll reprint my letter that started all this, then the url to her report on how NPR replied to those concerns, then my response to her report.
My letter to NPR Ombudsman
MS Shephard, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125... This page has a tiny desk concert by Jakob Dylan. This page also has an ad for Jakob Dylan's new album. Revenue sharing, means NPR will promote his album and get money back from sales through their promotion. No tough reviews on Jakob to upset sales. No coverage of any musician against revenue sharing. No response to any of this from NPR Your job is to represent listeners concerns. Time to deal with this. This is a clear cut straightforward major problem of conflict of interest. ------------------------------------------ Here's NPR Ombudsman article from this letter. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126...
The article is soft and the Ombudsman does more to excuse NPR's behavior than to correct it. ------------------------------------------- Here are some follow up comments and questions from me.
The people quoted on this story are doing a great disservice to NPR. Instead of resolving the problem they are trying to excuse it. This makes all NPR look like they too excuse corporate influence in their departments as company policy. The spokesmen in the article are suggesting that this was an odd occurrence. I've documented it happening before. They suggest that they are too big to know this is going on. I've been telling them for about a year. They suggest that there is no coordination between sponsorship placement and reviews - yet no musician that openly opposes ads or revenue sharing has ever appeared on NPR, in it's reviews, or on its website. They suggest that with some artists they'll check to see if there is a conflict of interest, with others they won't bother. They say that when they have a concern about this with a major star like Springsteen, they will try to stop it. Note, no matter their policy they did NOT stop it in this case, and no one at NPR seemed to mind when this occured. That suggests they can't or won't stop it. One quote in the piece, suggested a remedy, but another shot that down because of it's high cost. So they can't afford to stop conflicts of interest? They can't afford NOT to. NPR's integrity in all departments is on the line. And this makes it look bad. They sum up with this quote "But Grundmann also seems correct that preventing any conflicts on NPR Music would be all but impossible..." Does that mean you are too big to not fail? No one is asking for an end to every conceivable conflict. But we are asking for an end to this practice; then we are asking for fair reviews for all musicians not just corporate ones, and finally more transparency than this mess. This article makes NPR look really bad, and it doesn't help the Ombudsman much either. BTW why is NPR running ads in the first place? Finally I ask this: is the same problem happening in coverage of books and movies? How about news?
Note that Sony Pictures is a major contributor to NPR, according to NPR's donor list. Last year they gave somewhere between $50 thousand to 99 thousand dollars.