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This space includes commentary from the NPR Ombudsman, Elizabeth Jensen, the public's representative to NPR who serves as an independent source regarding NPR's programming.

Faces Of NPR: Daniel Zwerdling

Aug 18, 2017

The Basics

Name: Daniel Zwerdling

Twitter Handle: @dzwerdling

Job Title: Correspondent, Investigations Unit

Where You're From: Silver Spring, Maryland

An Inside Look

You're a Correspondent in the Investigations Unit at NPR. What does that mean?

On June 18, NPR published an online-only review of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America, a newly published nonfiction book by Duke University historian Nancy MacLean. NPR's reviewer praised the book for revealing a "clear and present danger" to the future of the country (the review is prominently excerpted on the book's Amazon page); reviewers at other publications did, as well.

Two days before my first trip to Afghanistan, in 2007, I was terrified, speaking no Dari and having never interviewed anyone in a war zone. On impulse, I grabbed my little red travel accordion, mumbling something about using the "universal language of music" to connect with people whose world seemed wholly different from my own.

Faces Of NPR: Tamara Keith

Aug 8, 2017

Faces Of NPR is a weekly feature that showcases the people behind NPR, from the voices you hear every day on the radio to the ones who work outside of the recording studio. You'll find out about what they do and what they're inspired by on the daily. This week's post features NPR's White House Correspondent and co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast, Tamara Keith.

The Basics:

Name: Tamara Keith

Twitter Handle: @tamarakeithNPR

The Ombudsman's mailbox last week included complaints about NPR's decision to use some foul language, and the choice of a particular interview subject. Here are some newsroom responses.

Why Some Foul Words, But Not Others?

My job — for years now — has been NPR national political correspondent. I spend lots of time on the road. Chasing candidates, certainly, but also sitting down to have conversations — some long, some short — with voters.

Last week, a milestone.

While in Wyoming, on a visit with our colleagues at Wyoming Public Media, I checked off number 50 on the list of states I've been to. Fifty. I've actually spent time in all of them now. Not just changing planes at the airport.

Faces Of NPR: Yuki Noguchi

Jul 28, 2017

Faces Of NPR is a weekly feature that showcases the people behind NPR, from the voices you hear every day on the radio to the ones who work outside of the recording studio. You'll find out about what they do and what they're inspired by on the daily. This week's post features NPR's Business Correspondent, Yuki Noguchi.

The Basics:

Name: Yuki Noguchi

Twitter Handle: @yukinoguchi

Why I Give: Marcy Syms

Jul 25, 2017

When it comes to the Sy Syms Foundation and public radio, there are many points of harmony. The Foundation has partnered with NPR and WNYC for decades, supporting initiatives around education, communication, access to information, science and the arts.

NPR is changing the way it labels opinion content online next week. Readers of npr.org will be well served by this move, which will more clearly distinguish news content from pieces that express personal opinions or take sides on an issue.

Starting July 25, online content that is currently labeled as "Commentary" — including pieces on the 13.7: Cosmos & Culture blog and the NPR Ombudsman column — will instead be called "Opinion," highlighted in bright blue. Book, movie and television reviews will also get a new blue "Review" label.

Kids Review Wow in the World

Jul 19, 2017

In May NPR launched Wow in the World, a new podcast for kids ages 5-12 that illuminates the wonders of science, technology, discovery and inventions. Through comedy and conversation, hosts Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas guide curious kids and their grown-ups away from their screens, inside their brains, out into space, and deep into the coolest new stories in science and technology.

On Here and Now Wednesday, sharp listeners caught NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik flatly stating that Donald Trump Jr. "knowingly lied" in July 2016 when asked about contact between his father's presidential campaign and Russian figures.

If the number of media mentions is an indicator, the National Dairy Council and affiliated organization the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy seemed to hit the equivalent of a marketing home run with a recent survey purporting to show that 7 percent of Americans believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows.

Good for them. I just don't think NPR should have played along.

Weekend Listens: Award Winning Stories from NPR

Jun 23, 2017

Looking for some recommendations for weekend listening? Check out these award winning stories from NPR. The 2017 Edward R. Murrow Awards were announced this week and NPR won several for feature reporting, excellence in innovation and continuing coverage.

Colorado Public Radio recently brought together a panel of news professionals in Denver to talk about journalism ethics. While a number of topics were touched upon, the allotted 90 minutes was hardly enough time to explore the many questions about how NPR and CPR journalists approach their work.

Last week, when former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, he said at one point: "I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter."

That memo was a nonclassified set of notes he wrote detailing a meeting he had with President Trump.

NPR, like most other major news organizations, referred to what Comey did — asking a friend to share the memo with a reporter — as "leaking."

"Undocumented." "Obamacare." "Pro-life."

According to NPR's style guide, these words are to be avoided — or used sparingly — by NPR reporters and hosts when discussing the issues in which they are likely to come up (immigration, health care, abortion rights). But sharp listeners and readers note that all have been used in recent weeks, either on-air or online (by staff, not just by people being interviewed).

We are here this morning to remember those we've lost, to honor their commitment and to rededicate ourselves to the principals they believed in and died for.

An April 27 Morning Edition report by Geoff Brumfiel, an NPR science editor, ran just a scant 2 ½ minutes, but it prompted an outsized outpouring of emails.

Editor's Note: Last week, Elizabeth was honored to give the 2017 George Chaplin Fellowship in Distinguished Journalism address at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her prepared remarks are below and may differ slightly from delivery. Mahalo to the East-West Center and event co-sponsor Hawaii Public Radio for hosting.

Thank you to the East-West Center, for this warm welcome.

The New York Times Magazine wrote last year: "In a culture in which we are all talking about ourselves more than ever, Gross is not only listening intently; she's asking just the right questions." We couldn't agree more. Neither can the nearly 650 NPR Member stations carrying the show and the 6.2 million people a week that tune in.*

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