Why won’t NPR’s ombud speak to Salon’s Glenn Greenwald?

alicia shepard nprSalon blogger Glenn Greenwald has rarely been one to avoid responding directly to his right wing critics. He’s been on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show on multiple occasions and has even appeared on Michael Savage’s show. As an opinionated pundit, he believes that people like him should be willing to face off with others in public forums that are not always friendly to their views, and he finds those that avoid doing so “cowardly and irresponsible.”

So when National Public Radio’s ombud, Alicia Shepard, refused to come on his Salon radio show to address his criticisms, he decided to write about it. Shepard wrote a column in June defending NPR’s tendency to refrain from referring to enhanced interrogation techniques as “torture,” and Greenwald followed it with a paragraph-by-paragraph rebuttal the day after. Shortly after his response was posted, he asked a Salon intern to reach out to Shepard to see if she would speak to him for his online radio show. According to Greenwald, an NPR spokesperson said that the ombud was out for the week and would get back to him Monday. Salon’s intern said that when she spoke to Shepard on Monday she refused to go on the show because she didn’t “want to get into a shouting match.” (I reached out to NPR for comment this morning. A representative responded that he would try to get someone to speak to me on the record. I’ll update this post if I receive a response)

“I think Shepard has an obligation to engage NPR listeners when it comes to controverisial issues surrounding NPR,” Greenwald told me in a phone interview this morning. “Even that original column that she wrote was due in part to the fact that I had written about NPR’s practice of not calling interrogation techniques torture, and that’s what caused her to get so many emails in the first place and respond. So I felt like it was clear that my blog was sort of the centerplace where a lot of NPR listeners were voicing these complaints, so it was a natural place for her to go in order to have this discussion to address these issues interactively rather than the one way monologue.”

But doesn’t a person have the right to refuse an interview? After all, some have refused to go on shows like the O’Reilly Factor because they felt like they wouldn’t be given a fair platform to present their views, and many that have gone on such shows have come out regretting it. Greenwald seemed to agree that there are certain circumstances in which it would be practical to turn down an interview request, but he said that when you opine on controversial topics you should make a reasonable effort to respond and engage with your critics or those you criticize.

“That doesn’t mean you have to go and confront every single person,” he said. “If you’re inundated with requests I think it’s fair to pick and choose based on audience size and other factors, but it was pretty clear that I was the primary critic in this regard. I played a large role in spawning the controversy in the first place. I think it was pretty cowardly and irresponsible for her not to being willing to address it.”

Greenwald said that he has conducted over 100 radio interviews for Salon Radio, and not one has degenerated into a “shouting match,” so he finds that excuse without merit. I suggested that perhaps Shepard felt that she had addressed the criticisms against NPR and readdressing them in an interview would seem redundant.

“I thought that her column left a lot of questions unresolved and unanswered,” he replied. “You can write a column addressing critics and be pretty thorough and address all the arguments, where you won’t satisfy your critics but at least you would have answered them, whereas I felt like her defense of NPR’s policy left open more questions than it answered. So I thought that it made sense to try to explore those questions with her.”

Greenwald said he still hopes to have Shepard on the show, and there has been at least some conversation via email with an NPR representative about that possibility.

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  1. elaygee Says:

    Regardless of the name of the media personality, they have no obligation to go on any other media outlet and “perform” for them. they get paid to be on a media outlet and that’s their responsibility, period. Improving or providing filler for someone else’s show is not a requirement nor a reasonable demand.
    If the media personality in question has a ratings problem, they would likely pick and choose which other media outlets to “perform” on to increase their ratings and perhaps capture some more audience. Appearing on shows with listeners most likely not to be your listeners is not logical. There is no ethic code for media “performers”

  2. Crackbaby Says:

    No Surprise here. That National (re)Public(an) Radio is run by a bunch of spineless, boring, conflict-averse, low self-esteem, weenies isn’t news.

    What is surprising is the fact that we finally have journalists who are willing to breach the pseudo-intellectual fortress that is NPR to expose it’s banality and obsequious toady-ism to the powers that be.

    This latest incident reveals an inner rot in this increasingly irrelevant nuze source.


    “I think, therefore I’m not sure.”
    Ray 1982

  3. bevo Says:

    Perhaps Greenwald can ask Shepard why NPR does not refer to Arabs who launch missiles into a sovereign country, kill civilians, and demand that the sovereign country should be wiped off the map as terrorists? Savages would also be a good descriptor of these Arabs. Yet, NPR refuses to call a duck, a duck.

  4. Tim O Says:

    I agree that Shepard should talk with Greenwald, but if he hopes to have her on, I would refrain from using the word “cowardly”. It’s not really a word I would use to invite someone to a reasoned debate.

    I did hear Shepard on “Talk of the Nation” yesterday and her explanations were inadequate to be kind.

  5. Shaun Says:

    Sounds to me like some blowhard got snubbed, and is butt hurt about it.

  6. Rex Ozone Says:

    NPR’s reticence to fall out of line with the Bush Administration’s double speak should come as no surprise. It was blatantly co-opted through the machinations of the stooge Tomlinson and others that kidnapped whatever legitimacy that National Public Radio (and it’s listeners) enjoyed. NPR and PBS are but the shadow of FoX and cnn, I mean really…Juan Williams? I think MacNeil, Lehrer must be rolling in their grave, dead or not. Public media has no courage and is more than ever towing the corporate line. Nefarious is that which feigns authority free of bias.

  7. cvc76 Says:

    I used to be a big NPR fan- but it has become so conservative and biased in the past few years, I discontinued my pledge and now rarely listen. I never listen for news, but do enjoy Car Talk, Wait Wait- etc. when I am running errands in my car.

  8. Jeff Mitchell, Ph.D. Says:

    By declining to use the word “torture” I understand NPR to be making the ethically correct and worthwhile effort to keep all sides in the discussion. Winning the argument is the goal of players like yourself (and I agree with you). But it is not the role of journalists, who should not be players.

    If you think you can discard the Big-L Liberal values of rationality and open discussion and still win the war against torture, you are mistaken.

  9. Kevin Says:

    Greenwald is right!
    NPR is full of Bush loyalists who
    won’t change their ugly tunes-
    How can a ‘professional’ run from a discussion that is inherently wrong
    and why continue to perpetuate such a terrible argument?
    NPR with staff like Liasson, Shepard and others are becoming irrelevant, un-inclusive and un-american with their rhetoric and that’s why I don’t tune in-

  10. Ron Says:

    Let me correct this sentence for you: “Shepard wrote a column in June defending NPR’s tendency to refrain from referring to enhanced interrogation techniques as “torture,” and Greenwald followed it with a paragraph-by-paragraph rebuttal the day after.”

    Should be: Shepard wrote a column in June defending NPR’s tendency to refer to torture as “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and Greenwald followed it with a paragraph-by-paragraph rebuttal the day after.

    That was sort of Greenwald’s point I think and a good one at that.

  11. SandyMac Says:

    It is for reasons like this, after 20+ years of being a faithful listener to many of NPR’s shows that my husband and I no longer tune in at all. Scott Simon’s show was the first to go then Morning Edition and finally Weekend Edition, Sunday.

  12. neil kaufman Says:

    It appears at long last the real sides of the struggle are becoming apparent, the Royalists and the Patriots. I use these terms in honor of the signers of the Declaration of Independence who, unknown to many made great sacrifices to their personal lives for that act of support. I think it is time to start calling the struggle what it is. Us against the vampires. Happy fourth.

  13. Roy Pearson Says:

    Glenn is one of the best minds around when not influenced unduly by other doctrinaire lefties.

    Alicia is probably afraid that Glenn is carrying one of the Firedoglake, a pseudo intellectual liberal site, gremlins around with him. It is sad that Glenn got sidetracked with them.

  14. John Watson Says:

    Why assist a delusional, demented, discredited left-wing democrat advocate like Greenwald with his horrible, low rated, irrelevant, agenda driven radio program?

    If Greenwald is worried about partisans not subjecting themselves to questions then why isn’t he stalking the disgraced and discredited Keith Olberman?

  15. Jim Schroeder Says:

    Alicia is like most other right wing zealots. They spew forth words as if they are truth, but cannot withstand logical discussion that counters their validity. Just one more person to not listen to, and these people have destroyed the Republican party.Shouting match? It is only the out of control right wing fanatic women that do this. These women hurt the very cause that women have fought for over the years. She destroys anyone taking a woman serious when they act as Alicia does.

  16. Todd Says:

    Alicia Shepard is the NPR ombudsman. Her functional role is to publicly address to reasonable criticism regarding the coverage of NPR in public forums, regardless of whether or not they become shouting matchs, which, I agree with Glenn, is a disingenuous argurment in this case. The inability of her and other ombudsman in positions at major media outlets to understand this role is the reason why there is such a major disconnect between the outlets and the readership they claim to serve. Quite simply, her refusal to talk to Glenn merely proves his point, because it appears as if she can’t defend it so she doesn’t want to bother to try.

  17. vergel bradford Says:

    What aspects in the denotation of the word no as a response from a pursued interviewee to a media interviewer requesting an interview so eludes the pursuer? Is there a legal obligation for media interviewers to reject refusals from prospective interviewees, one that obliges prospective interviewees to comply? Is there media entitlement the interviewer legally possesses that compels compliance from prospective interviewees? I do not honestly understand this kind of persistence.

  18. woundedduck Says:

    NPR should get out of the news business and stick to cooking and car repair shows. During ’00 and ’04, they gave the Bush campaigns a free pass to spread whatever vitriol they wanted, all without a decent follow up. Click and Clack deserve my money, Neal Conan owes me a check.

  19. Curtis Says:

    Enhanced Interrogation Techniques is a bs euphemism for Torture, and it’s a war crime. That’s not up for debate.

    Even further, these EITs were being conducted in the midst of a huge con. Iraq was a horrible CON, Saddaam had no WMD, there were no connections to Al Qaeda. AQI is Shiite, Sadaam was a Sunni.. they wouldn’t work together. AQI is a theocratic fringe group, Sadaam was a secular leader of a powerful nation. If anything they were enemies.

    I’m not even sure about the Afghanistan war, the highjackers were all Saudis.

    Torture takes on a new meaning when you consider we’re occupying countries we shouldn’t be.

    NPR is a joke, and I won’t support them until they change their rightwing slant.

  20. sylvia Says:

    NPR is so conservative with a veneer of progressivism. I am mystified by (supposed) progressive people who still bother with it. Car talk is the only thing worthwhile on NPR. Terry Gross, a very popular host, almost sneers at progressive messages. Her tone is so condescending and doubting whenever anyone expresses something incisive and progressive.

  21. Jeff Mitchell, Ph.D. Says:

    NPR’s refusal to use the word “torture” places a higher value on rational discussion, in which all points of view are invited and kept in the conversation. NPR seems to believe that in the long run protecting this conversation leads to the best choices. I agree. It is wrong to believe that pushing members of the American community out of the discussion (they would leave if the word “torture” was used) provides protection from torture, or other abuses of government power. If you succeed in making NPR a partisan player instead of a journalistic umpire, we will all lose the game.

  22. sylvia Says:

    Additionally, the cheerful voices rattling off newslike: “it’s been 40 years since the western oil companies are back in Iraq.”
    Gee, I wonder how? I wonder why? They never go into it. Complicit losers.

  23. Dale Says:

    As an NPR listener, I don’t want my ombudsman going on the road or on outside media to either attack or defend NPR policy. She is not a company spokesperson, and she is not a company critic–try the PR department for the former, and outside the organization for the latter. The role of the ombudsman is to advocate for listeners within the organization. She makes sure that listeners’ views are heard within the various programs and departments of NPR, and brings the responses of those programs and departments back to the public and evaluates them.

  24. NattyB Says:

    @ JM Ph.D,

    It’s fairly clear that you haven’t read any of Glenn’s post, because you seem unfamiliar with the substantive merits of his argument.

    If you had read, what Glenn had wrote, then you wouldn’t be making the arguments you are making because he clearly refutes them. NPR as well as other US News Organizations, routinely refer to “torture” as “torture” when committed by other countries or foreign groups.

    What they refer to as “enhanced interrogation techniques,” they routinely refer to as torture when committed by non-US parties.

  25. NattyB Says:

    @ JM Ph.D,

    It’s fairly clear that you haven’t read any of Glenn’s post, because you seem unfamiliar with the substantive merits of his argument.

    If you had read, what Glenn had wrote, then you wouldn’t be making the arguments you are making because he clearly refutes them. NPR as well as other US News Organizations, routinely refer to “torture” as “torture” when committed by other countries or foreign groups.

    What they refer to as “enhanced interrogation techniques,” they routinely refer to as torture when committed by non-US parties.

    A “journalistic umpire” would call torture, torture, and not adopt the sanitizing preferred terms of the government.

    This wouldn’t make NPR a partisan player, this would make them more objective journalists.

    But, I disagree with your main point. In essense, you’re saying, if NPR called a spade a spade, by calling torture, torture, then they’d lose access to important political guests and other pundits. I think that is wrong. Anyone who looks closely at this issue knows that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” AS APPLIED, are torture. Under US law, the Webster Dictionary, international law, US Case law, and common sense.

    The idea that those who don’t like the word torture, will no longer “be part of the conversation” is simply fallacious.

    And just read Glenn.

  26. Lex Says:

    [[By declining to use the word “torture” I understand NPR to be making the ethically correct and worthwhile effort to keep all sides in the discussion.]]

    Uh, no. U.S. statutes, Geneva and the UN Convention Against Torture actually make pretty clear what’s not allowed, and the public record has made equally clear that the conduct of the Bush administration crossed the line (and the Obama administration appears in some instances to be continuing to do so).

    I think most people understand torture as intentional and illegal physical mistreatment of those of whom one has custody, and whether torture has happened and whether our government is responsible are not open, debatable questions. They’re settled matters of fact. Journalists have a duty to report accordingly, not play Orwellian word games.

  27. Wes Says:

    How does telling the truth make NPR a partisan player? And if telling the truth places NPR on the liberal side of the debate, then that is a problem that the other side needs to deal with. If the truth scares them away from the conversation, then they need to ask themselves how they can support torture.

    “Protecting the conversation” is an irrational argument. Are we going to “protect the conversation” regarding other topics as well, say Holocaust deniers? After all ‘protecting the conversation’ is so much more important than the truth, right? Perhaps, like Cheney and Addington did with torture, we can even redefine the word “Holocaust”, then we don’t have to worry about the pesky truth.

  28. D Zent Says:

    NPR? Don’t know about anyone else, but they have no credibility with me anymore. Once they stopped calling a spade a spade, and started couching things in rhetoric less distressing to the RNC, I quit listening altogether. They are certainly not the public’s radio station anymore.
    Under the Bush administration NPR lost all its juice, and has floundered under paper-thin reportage that clearly reflects corporate interests and not public interest. It is especially embarrassing here in the San Joaquin valley, where you can’t even hear Amy Goodman and Democracy Now on the radio because of all the right-wing bias in the valley (Cheney often comes here for money).
    So it’s now become the blandest of the bland, predictable and shallow, only occasionally tossing an ineffective sop to the grossly under-represented progressive movement; but soon, they will not need it either, thanks to the rise of reliable and competent reporting on the internet. So take my membership, please!

  29. Sheila Says:

    Crackbaby and Wounded Duck and others were spot on about NPR. The staff at NPR are all thirty years into their stints. They are dull as ditchwater and sold out completely when Bush came into the picture. I have kids teens and young twenty- year olds. They would rather clean toilets than listen to droning bores of NPR. To bad , thirty years ago they inspired me. Now they just hang with the Washington powers that be. Albeit, I do love “Wait, W

  30. sherifffruitfly Says:

    (shrug) It’s every American’s right to be as big a coward as they want to be.

  31. Jack Harty Says:

    NPR should respond because the use of the term “enhanced interrogation” is reflective of poor English usage.

    The term is ingenuous. It is more dishonest than Reagan’s use of the term “revenue enhancements” in lieu of the term “taxes”. Enhanced interrogation is Orwellian in nature, intended to call Black White. It is dishonest.

    Interrogation means to question. Enhancing questioning refers to the interrogatories, not beating the hell out of someone. Violence, whether physical or psychological, is not interrogation. It may be a method used to improve the results of interrogation, but it is not interrogation.

    NPR should account for its use of a term which is patiently dishonest and incorrect. The purpose is obvious.

  32. Barry Champlain Says:

    To all the reactionaries on this site, who persist in spreading the meme that to be opposed to the legitimization of torture is somehow a “liberal” position:

    “Torture” is a word, probably as old as the English language;

    “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” is government Newspeak, which is probably a few years old, at best, and like is the product of focus groups.

    Now, tell me: which official usage, between these two appellations, consititutes ideological bias?

  33. DAG Says:

    NPR is not like other outlet and should be held to a different standard.
    1st, member stations operate on educational frequencies reserved by the FCC- essentially a huge public subsidy. Many are also owned by state governments or state-owned universities.
    2nd, they get public money from various publicly funded agencies and foundations and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
    3rd, they ask US for money to support their operations.
    4th, real journalists respond to articulate and sincere criticism- especially an Ombud.

  34. chris Says:

    no one is obligated to go on TV and speak to the public, except those who are representing the public (elected, appointed, hired representatives and officials).

    That being said, NPR should change it’s name. It is no longer national public radio, it is just like all the other dumbed down, watery, homogenized sources out there. Now, complete with car and pharmaceutical commercials, NPR lets the politicians spew their prepared, glossy statements, and NPR interviewers do not have the courage, nor have they done the research to truthfully, intelligently sort it all out.

    NPR now seems lazy, loaded with washington insiders who have an interest in the status quo. Also, NPR seems to be too focused on funding.

    How i long for the days when we REALLY had public radio—- when the on air personaities were brilliant, articulate, did not have polished on air announcing personnas. voice overs done by real people, no expensive, corporate sounding production jingles/editng, NO commercials.

    Quirky, courageous.

    THAT npr is long dead.

  35. chris Says:

    no one is obligated to go on TV and speak to the public, except those who are representing the public (elected, appointed, hired representatives and officials).

    That being said, NPR should change it’s name. It is no longer national public radio, it is just like all the other dumbed down, watery, homogenized sources out there. Now, complete with car and pharmaceutical commercials, NPR lets the politicians spew their prepared, glossy statements, and NPR interviewers do not have the courage, nor have they done the research to truthfully, intelligently sort it all out.

    NPR now seems lazy, loaded with washington insiders who have an interest in the status quo. Also, NPR seems to be too focused on funding.

    How i long for the days when we REALLY had public radio—- when the on air personaities were brilliant, articulate, did not have polished on air announcing personnas. voice overs done by real people, no expensive, corporate sounding production jingles/editng, NO commercials.

    Quirky, courageous.

  36. Peter Says:

    I hadn’t realized how much NPR had sold out until I heard the show about a military psychologist proudly taking credit for torturing detainees. He said that all military psychologists should be applauded for using torture (Newspeak: enhanced interrogation), and that instead of being held to the “do no harm” standard, he rationalized it as “doing the greatest good for all” principle.

    That show prompted a flood of criticism from members including many professional psychologists who said that the military psychs should be prosecuted.

    It may not be that the staff have sold out as much as the sponsor have bought them out. I wrote to the Ombud and got a very tepid reply. I always considered NPR an organization of high integrity and social conscious, but for them to put on a show rationalizing torture as ok, ignoring the fact that it is a violation of the Constitution, was stunning. I guess they no longer feel that Exec Branch violations of the Constitution are worth reporting.

  37. Capt Kirk Says:

    The core dishonest was best illustrated yesterday when Neal Conan tried to explain his personal favorite of the NPR tortured phrases, “techniques which some regard as torture.” Neal opined, “what else can I say?” As if there has never really been an accepted definition of the word torture. He chooses the word “some”, which gives the impression of someone far away, somewhere, out there.

    Ms. Shepard and Mr. Conan’s argument only holds water for me if I consider that they have never heard of the Geneva Conventions, nor the Declaration Against Torture signed by President Reagan.

    This is the slippery slope over which Bush and Cheney shoved America.

  38. Steambadger Says:

    “By declining to use the word ‘torture’ I understand NPR to be making the ethically correct and worthwhile effort to keep all sides in the discussion.”

    Should NPR also avoid using the word “murder” when discussing Accelerated Life Removal, in order to keep all sides in the discussion?

    Many of the interrogation techniques used by the Bush administration have been defined as torture for many years, under both US and international law. Your positions is vacuous and insupportable.

  39. Bill Noble Says:

    Much of the discussion here misses the major point. What the US engaged in on a large scale WAS torture. That’s simple fact, as meticulously defined in more than a half century of carefully crafted international agreements to which the US was signatory. So journalists avoiding the word are doing so for political reasons, not journalistic ones, no matter how you cut it. That’s made even more clear by looking at reportage and discussion outside the United States: the word, quite universally, is torture.

  40. Rufus T. Firefly Says:

    Hmmmm. Torture?

    Torture for me would simply be the threat that someone would pull my finger nails out.

    NPR? Dances around offending? Honest use of words?

    Disappointing? Yes.

  41. nikto Says:

    Sounds like Ms. Ombudsman is just scaredy-cat of getting in a debate with someone really smart who probes for Truth.

    And she should be.

  42. kayt Says:

    There is no “debate ” about waterboarding. It is legally torture. Has been since ww11. Has been described as torture since the inquisition. We have tried and convicted enemy soldiers for using torture ( waterboarding). Ms shepard never mentions this.
    I too listened to her on Talk of the Nation, but had to turn it off because of her totally inadequate defense.

  43. HardLeft Says:

    Glen Greenwald ? the guy is a giant,none like him in the media.This Greenwald is purely a logic guy,if your stance makes no sense or is contradictory he calls you on it.Witness is smackdown of keith Olberman who is basically a partisan.For all of Olberman’s ranting of steroids & Barry Bonds.Have you seen Olberman rant when the white jock Roger Clemens use of steroids became public.Once more Greenwald is a Giant, this is the guy who should be hosting Meet The Press.What a Mensch he is.

  44. PhiipTuret Says:

    No, I think this an asymmetrical story. Greenwald waqs willing to appear on the Savage and Hewitt shows but Shepard won’t appear on his? What’s (or where’s) the beef? Does Greenwald’s masochism entitle him to be rewarded with a slugfest with NPR?

  45. Matt Says:

    She was interviewed for “On the Media”, just go listen to that. She made her case and basically got pummeled, and it’s obvious that she doesn’t have more to say than she did.

    This is not a worthwhile story. She has no obligation to conduct an interview. She’s wrong in most people’s opinion, and leave the coverage at that and focus on the administration that promoted torture.

  46. Steambadger Says:

    When you say “she has no obligation to conduct an interview”, what do you mean, exactly? Certainly she has no legal obligation, and nobody’s suggesting she does. That’s not the same thing as calling her craven for not debating he stance.

    And it’s hard to put the focus anywhere if the media won’t cover the issue honestly.

  47. Cornflower Says:

    NPR’s approach to this issue is the same as it’s approach to every issue – we did this and we don’t have to really engage anyone in any real debate about our reports – we’re on the radio and you aren’t! I’ve complained and the response was – we did not and you are wrong! Everything is a meaningless non sequitur. They are completely irrelevant – they fill the airways with blather, most of it with a conservative bias and as soon as a show seems to be getting real, e.g. To the Point, which had real experts who provided real information, it somehow gets dumbed down again and the time is filled with the bullying blah, blah, blah of spin meisters like Bill Kristol. Useless – and a tragic loss.

  48. chung lee Says:

    NPR and its affiliates all thoroughly infiltrated by neo-cons and neo-liberals. they promote each other as experts and geniuses, completely ignoring the public’s needs or opinion. for their racist fearmongering coverage of anything north korean, their source of information is bolton and his ilk, but never a KOREAN especially a liberal one, never mind a progressive one. they never impressed me, anyway.

  49. Caliwoman Says:

    Milktoast music, milktoast reporting.

  50. Erik Says:

    There is a big problem with NPR’s argument. If you give equal weight to any argument that powerful people make, no matter how false or absurd it is, then you allow power to totally own the media. At that point the media is just an appendage of the government. Those in power make short work of framing the argument in favor of whatever policy they decide. How else did we as a society agree to sanction torture? Without media complicity in spreading government propaganda people would never give the thumbs up to a torture regime. It just sounds insane on its face.

  51. Uberlefty Says:

    The decline of public broadcasting has been happening for decades. It started when PBS stations stopped nightly local news broadcasts and started buying national shows like “The News Hour” in their place. Most PBS stations are nothing more than local affiliates for the national monster. I worked with KQED in SF and watched them purchase millions of dollars of obsolete studio gear from a local NBC affiliate whos GM sat on the KQED board. The irony is that there is no live studio broadcast from KQED with the exception of uplink for national shows like “The News Hour”. Most local PBS boards are controlled by people who work in management for commercial broadcasters. It is nothing but a product that is crafted to have mass appeal with a patina of populism. Whats really unfortunate is that it takes pressure off of local and network broadcasters to actually produce a viable product.

  52. GTOOF Says:

    So she won’t go on his show. So what! This is the type of whine you hear from Bill O’Reilly, who also obviously is trying to gin up guest for public friction. It’s stupid and comes off as juvenile whining!

  53. Anthony Look Says:

    From the onset of the Bush era, NPR was infiltrated by hacks of the GOP. They are not only unprofessional, biased and selectively responsive to justified inquiries; but, they also facilitated the failures and lies of the Bush Administration. They should be summarily purged, fired as expediciously as possible. NPR should regain its once herald status; as long as these venomous distorters, deniers and out right liars are within their organization it will remain tainted.

  54. cheryl wolff Says:

    I would truly enjoy a debate,no more shouting, no more sound bites, no more scripted pol talk but what is really missing is honest debate,npr should be able to handle that and actually welcome a discussion. I’m sick of commercials ,whatever side you are on a healthy debate should pose no fear.

  55. Stan Wright Says:

    Greenwald’s isn’t a reasonable position, because combat by duelling soundbite isn’t ‘debate’.

    Or if it is, it’s an exceedingly limited mode of debate. There are a LOT of other, and better, ways to defend a an idea, and there’s no shame in sticking with the modes you’re good at.

  56. John Denton Says:

    NPR has large right wing sponsors. Right wingers like torture. NPR doesn’t want to offend them.

    I attempted to have a discussion of the oil spill in Ecuador, by Chevon, who is an NPR major funder, on a Portland NPR call in show. They refused.

  57. Roy Fuchs Says:

    How about “alleged torture?”

  58. beserious Says:

    seriously, anybody considering NPR a valid truth outlet is insane. what?
    their sepulchral white people voices are supposed to immediately suggest insight? NPR is a repository of smug trust fund received wisdom, just a collective of cranky, Freemason country club rebels, you need to get the idea…

  59. Miriam Spongberg Says:

    1. How do I contact NPR?

    2. I no longer listen myself but I have many, many friends who do. What are the alternatives? I will be sending this blog on to some of them & I would like to keep posted on the “conversation.”


  60. Charles Holloway Says:

    How can there be an honest debate on torture when one side refuses recognize universally accepted terms and definitions. NPR is stifling an honest discussion on this issue.

  61. T Wilson Says:

    I will never doante another cent to Public Radio. Is this what the Ombud wanted the outcome to be? They interupt programming at least 2 times a year while they beg and grovel for donations. YIKES!

  62. Newman9 Says:

    Alicia Shepard is just another Bush era spin master. NPR is so dependent on corporate connections, they can barely be distinguished from commercial media.

    NPR has no problem labeling other activities such as “an act of terror” or “massacre” and they use those terms selectively. For example, nearly any number of Israelis killed can be considered a “massacre” by NPR but Palestinians are “bombarded,” not “massacred.”

  63. Paul Says:

    Why you need to torture Ms. Shepard with your questions, when most people understand that the NPR is National and Public and the majority of the Public of our Nation supports enhanced interrogations regardless the other word you will use to describe them.

  64. Nancy Says:

    When I wrote her repeatedly about their Pro-pharma stance on almost every show they broadcast, I never received any response. And NPR wonders why they have trouble maintaining members. The lost this one.

  65. GM Says:


    I suggest you read the comments on Greenwald;’s blog where you will find that the majority have an intimate familiarity with NPR, which is why it piqued their interest to begin with.
    Nice try though.

  66. Jon Says:

    Wow. I came on here after listening to Alicia on NPR the other day. I had a laundry list of arguments to take down her weak attempt at journalistic integrity but as soon as I saw what people were writing on here I realized just how in trouble this country is. Instead of coming up with intellectual arguments to further the debate people instead choose to yell and scream without making any real points. People go off on saying that NPR has been infiltrated by Bush loyalists. That is nonsense and if you actually listened to them on a regular basis you would easily see the great work they do especially compared to the majority of BS out there and yes that includes CNN and MSNBC. Yes the have on idiots but that is truth, it is up to us to know the facts enough to call people on their bs. Just having David Brooks on a regular basis is proof enough that they would prefer a well reasoned but often misguided conservative who consistently slams the far right then nutjobs and hardcore partisans. I am honestly overwhelmed by the weak arguments and childish debate within these comments.

  67. Kenneth Swinnerton Says:

    The sad part of
    this seems to be that she is
    following the lead of the MSM,and unfortunatly our new president and our supposidly
    progressive senate and house which has
    refused to have
    legit debates on this subject
    It is obvious to most of us that the Bush
    criminals should be held
    accountable for
    all of their
    crimes.It is just as obvious
    that there will
    be no debates on any of these
    subjects when so many block
    the facts.

  68. local yokel Says:

    I am amazed that there are places in this country where people think NPR is conservative. Where I live in SC, the absolute reddest of the red Republican states in the US, annoying fundie Christian radio stations have gotten stations just a few clicks on the radio dial away from the NPR station and try hard to drown out NPR’s “evil” signal. NPR news is considered godless, very leftist, and totally controled by Dems and liberal professionals. I guess it all depends on where you are. Thanks for enlightening me.

  69. Leslie Brooks Says:

    I can’t listen to NPR anymore, because it’s so biased, so uninformative, so rounded at the corners, so dumbed down. Amazing the depths they sink to, to support the unsupportable conservative agenda!

  70. Barbara Says:

    I heard the last 5-10 mins of the discussion on NPR with Neal Conan and Alicia Shepard. I was amazed at how shallow the discussion remained. Both Conan and Shepard just seemed to be justifying the NPR position without really considering alternate views. I think for this reason alone, Ms. Shepard should go on a show with an opposing view and try to defend NPR’s position, and not just hide behind her statement (as she did on the Conan show) that “this is NPR’s policy, I’m just carrying it out.” Hello? She’s the Ombudsman! Who’s supposed to help set policy, right? If not her, then whom? It’s a public entity, the PUBLIC deserves some accountability from someone. (That was also the defense of the Nuremberg defendants; not a good place to be. Also, she seemed a little too enthused about discussing child abuse and actual techniques of such. Her whole demeanor left a bad taste in my mouth.)

    Overall, this policy is pretty bad. They need to think of a better phrase than “enhanced interrogation techniques.” As someone said, this has nothing to do with “interrogation,” it has to do with physical/mental pressure. I also think this is sad and ironic, coming at the same time we’re criticizing Iran for carrying out the same horrors on their own population.

  71. Michael Says:

    What does “reached out to” mean?

    Isn’t that from some stupid cop show decades ago that lazy, young writers picked up on?

    Don’t you mean “contacted,” or “spoke to?”

  72. Beth Hunter Says:

    Thank you for bringing this topic up. I have heard this euphemism being spoken on NPR, and was dumbfounded at the time. Then, yesterday, I heard Shepard’s feeble attempt to explain away the purpose for it. I am allergic to illogic, and was countering, in my mind, every excuse that Shepard was making for not calling torture torture. I haven’t even yet read Glenn Greenwald’s response, but I will. As she babbled on, Shepard kept infusing “journalistic integrity” and “obligation to honor both sides of the issue” as if there WERE two sides. There are not. This single airing of Shepard’s Orwellian and right-wing robot-speak made me decide, right then and there, never to give NPR another dime, nor listen to it again. Issues aired on Air America always make logical sense to me, and no one on Air America ever backs away from a counter-argument. You can spot the GOP’s sycophants, enablers and operatives (Shepard belongs in the last category) when they make an argument in they choose a forum in which no one is on air with them to provide a credible debate or counter-argument. This is precisely what happened here. Solution? Drain NPR of its listenership by not listening yourself and telling others not to.

  73. garrett Says:

    the cia,like national geographic, has long ago infiltrated the ranks of npr.

  74. Daniel Estep Says:

    I quit NPR non-news about 8 years ago when they started rah-rahing the Iraq war. I sent an e-mail re: Jim Lehrer in which I pointed out the obvious:having one guy say yes and one guy say no was not a news cast. The ‘better’ yes or no won or it usually equaled “0″. Unbelievably I heard Lehrer and Charlie Rose congratulating themselves on their ‘principled” news shows.. implying they ‘stick to the truth”. Hypocrisy. Calling torture “enhanced interragation” is one more fine example of collusion with the military-industrial-Congressional-Media Complex. It takes no discretion to keep sucking up…the material benefits for those who do are still great. The beginning losses (no TV media news) to our society just came home with the economic meltdown which the media just could not see coming…because its in the same family as the perpetrators. Try BBC and stick with the blogs

  75. PlayTOE Says:

    She does not have any obligation to go on HIS show to discuss the issue.

    But she does have the obligation to go on SOME show to explain the issues involved. (and Greenwald should be willing to advert the event, or attend if invited)

    So far, she has simply made a bald statement that most people fail to agree with.

    Torture, is torture, and re-naming it fails to change things.

  76. wial Says:

    To those who say NPR is trying to keep both sides in the discussion: There is no discussion, just as there is no discussion regarding global climate change in any sane quarter. Powerful members of a US administration committed the unambiguous war crime of torture, and should be arrested, jailed, tried, convicted and imprisoned for life. To act as if the situation is otherwise and still subject for civil discourse rather than criminal proceedings is to be profoundly un-American and opposed to all that is good in modern civilization, let alone the very foundations of common morality. Greenwald is right to be filled with disgust at NPR’s woefully inadequate response to this crisis in our society.

  77. Rich Fisher Says:

    What one must remember is, NPR’s ombudsman, like any ombudsman, is middle-man between news consumers and the news staff. They do not set policies in the newsroom. A better suggestion for Greenwald’s discussion, would be NPR’s Vice President for News Ellen Weiss. She is the ultimate decision maker for NPR News.

  78. medai browski Says:

    Greenwald picks fight with [YOUR NAME HERE].

    This might be interesting if it were, say, Levar Burton.

  79. skinnycat Says:

    I agree with every criticism of NPR. Calling torture enhanced integration is just unforgivable bafflegook and newspeak. A republican congress & president turned NPR and PBS into commercial stations.
    Imagine NPR with a Glen Greenwald, Thom Hartman or Amy Goodman as head honcho. If that can’t happen with a democratic congress and president what is the point in having a democratic president and congress?
    The people at NPR and PBS can’t do good radio and tv if they are threatened by every tinhorn politician who lies his way into office. If you remember the wasteland and whitenoise before PBS and NPR, you know that public TV and Radio need a source of funding that is not subject to the whims of a temporary majority in congress or the caprice of those “mock monarchs” that inhabit the white house.

  80. Peter Says:

    Maybe Alicia refuses to appear because she has no good excuses for not using the word torture. AS for the “representing all sides” argument, I don’t see them doing any shows for people who feel that it SHOULD be labeled torture.

    Better yet, why not do a show on the procedure; from Congress, to indict an ex-President and VP for violating the US Constitution. What a timely topic for the 4th of July.

  81. james Dore Says:

    The Nazis killed jews.

    Wait wait, we need to keep the discussion open, they detained the jews indefinitely.

    There is absolutely no hope for this country.

    We are no better than 1930 germany, going along with the powerful to do horrible things to protect corporate profits.;

    How are we better than anyone else when we torture and kill people without a trial?

    ANd then our media , sorry, I have to go puke.

  82. JohnUllmann Says:

    “Torture” raises the stakes of cogent
    argumentation either for or against. Most people would opine that torture is wrong, but they will be far less negative about using EIT to extract information regarding an imminent threat.

    But such linguistic hocum has been rendered moot
    - since innocents have been murdered in our custody,
    - since the highest executive in our country approved it, and
    - since lawyers who Bush used at the DoJ were forced to provide tacit legal defense for its use.

    Shepard is merely the latest and not-to-bright tool in a very effective campaign by President Obama to restrain critics of Bush who would like to see him and Cheney prosecuted for torture, and their lawyers disbarred.

    This ‘controversy’ is just reflective of President Obama’s intransigence on this issue. Part of the Mighty Wurlitzer.

  83. figures Says:

    She won’t do an interview with Greenwald because he will destroy her and she knows it. Trying to defend NPRs indefensible policy in the face of someone as astute, intelligent, and persistent as Greenwald could be nothing but a disaster for NPR.

  84. Pierre Says:

    Greenwald makes money using the word “toture” in his films and his columns. That’s his stance.I agree with him on the point, but if NPR cedes editorial control to him, it’s weird, and leaves them in a vulnerable position if the Republicans ever get ahold of congress again.
    The GOP already has it in their heads that the media is conspiratorial; why give them another reason?

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