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Recent mail to the Ombudsman's inbox has overwhelmingly been about NPR's recent political coverage, but every once in a while, we get a familiar, nonpolitical question. We've answered a few of the most common questions here.

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Four years ago, my predecessor, Edward Schumacher-Matos, wrote about listener unhappiness concerning NPR's conversations with ordinary voters, or what is known in journalism as "person on the street" interviews or vox pops. Similar criticisms have been rolling in to the Ombudsman mailbox in recent weeks.

My office has spent many recent hours responding to readers and listeners who believe NPR has not covered, or covered enough, the ongoing release of hacked emails allegedly taken from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta. In fact, NPR has covered the content of the emails fairly extensively (and that coverage has brought its own complaints from listeners and readers who believe the email revelations are relatively unimportant compared to other issues bubbling up in the presidential race, or policy discussions).

NPR Sees Large Ratings Increase

Oct 19, 2016

Tuesday October 18; Washington D.C. - Across the board, NPR's multiplatform journalism has seen a tremendous audience growth. NPR's radio broadcasts, podcasts, and digital reporting have all reached new heights in 2016.

"NPR's increased ratings and digital engagement can be attributed to first rate journalism, riveting storytelling, revamped newsmagazines, live reporting, and better user platforms," said Jarl Mohn, president and CEO of NPR. "And that means we are all doing a far better job of our public service mission, community engagement and local impact.

How would you describe, in brief, the conversation Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump had in 2005 with then-Access Hollywood co-host Billy Bush, a recording of which was leaked to the Washington Post last Friday?

Oklahoma Engaged: A Preview Of Capitol Hill

Oct 12, 2016
Josh Robinson / Oklahoma Engaged

For weeks now, KGOU and KOSU have been unveiling stories on voter participation and the Oklahoma ballot in advance of the November 8 election.

The collaborative project, Oklahoma Engaged, examines and explains ballot measures and key political races with an emphasis on voter apathy, changing demographics and other factors impacting voter turnout.

Reporting, analysis and commentary — those are the three predominant types of content NPR's newsroom offers listeners and readers. Reporting and analysis make up most of what the newsroom puts out. However, it is the very small category of commentary (and political commentary, specifically, since that makes up the majority of NPR commentary at the moment) that is driving an outsized number of complaints to the Ombudsman office this election season.

Scientific American reported last week on the disturbing practice known as a "close-hold embargo," where reporters are given advance access to an upcoming news-making announcement on the condition that they not seek outside perspective until the embargo is lifted.

"When is the deadline to register to vote in the general election?"

"What races will be on my ballot?"

"Can I vote early, or by mail?"

These are the kinds of questions answered by the 2016 Oklahoma Voter Guide, published by a partnership of news media, including KGOU, and nonprofit organizations. The guide is a non-partisan resource to help Oklahoma voters know who and what will be on the ballot Nov. 8. The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma and the Kirkpatrick Foundation spearheaded the effort.

NPR listeners and readers have said they want fact-checking during this political campaign season and NPR responded with what I found to be a very impressive new offering Monday night: a close to real-time annotation of a transcript of the first televised debate between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

My office is tracking NPR's candidate coverage, online and on its morning and evening newsmagazines, in response to requests from listeners. From Sept. 11 through Sept. 24, there were 42 stories focused primarily on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, compared with 34 stories focused mostly on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson was the main focus of one story during that period.

Scott Detrow had a terrific story today about Donald Trump's appearance at a Black church. The pastor called Trump on the carpet for attacking Hillary Clinton when he had promised not to be partisan. Trump later attacked the pastor and misstated key facts about what actually happened.

My office is tracking NPR's candidates coverage, online and on its newsmagazines, in response to requests from listeners. For the two weeks from Aug. 28 through Sept. 10, NPR's disproportionate focus on Republican candidate Donald Trump continued.

During the period, 41 stories focused largely on Trump, 15 focused largely on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, three focused on Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and one each focused on the Green Party's Jill Stein and independent conservative candidate Evan McMullin.

Mornings on NPR will sound a little different, thanks to a cascade of host changes triggered by Renee Montagne's departure as Morning Edition co-host.

Rachel Martin, currently host of Weekend Edition Sunday, will be joining David Greene and Steve Inskeep as co-host on weekday mornings.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro, NPR's South America correspondent, will be picking up the mantle at Weekend Edition Sunday.

Many listeners (and political commentators, too) have expressed concerns about Monday's political commentary on Morning Edition, in which Cokie Roberts said, with no specific attribution, that whispering "Democrats" are discussing the possibility of having Democratic party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton "step aside and finding another candidate."

Each week brings a steady stream of emails requesting that NPR devote more coverage to third party presidential candidates Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee, and Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee.

For the week of Aug. 21-27, NPR ran 19 stories about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, 10 that focused primarily on his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, and another 17 that dealt more or less equally with both, or other campaign issues not candidate-focused.

For the three-week period from Aug. 7 through Aug. 27, the tally stands at 79 stories primarily focused on Trump, 46 on Clinton, three on other candidates and 55 stories that covered more than one candidate or general campaign issues.

More than 3,400 comments were posted on my previous column, which looked at some of the reasons behind NPR's decision to shut down commenting on stories posted at NPR.org. Those comments are in addition to emails to the Ombudsman office, tweets, comments left on NPR's Facebook page and all other modes of reaction.

NPR is making an announcement today that is sure to upset a loyal core of its audience, those who comment online at NPR.org (including those who comment on this blog). As of Aug. 23, online comments, a feature of the site since 2008, will be disabled.

KGOU's on-air sign
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

KGOU is celebrating National Radio Day, and we'd love to see you and the rest of our audience during our studio open house.

We'll be here from noon to 3 p.m. with studio tours, giveaways, interactive presentations by the news staff, and a live performance by The Royal Jelly.

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