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About NPR, Soundprint, WDAV, and Lisa Simeone


By davidswanson - Posted on 21 October 2011

Lisa Simeone learned about her "ethical" lapse from NPR's public blog post, or rather from reporters calling her about it. 

Lisa was soon thereafter fired by Soundprint, which cited NPR's "ethics" rules and according to Lisa would have been strongly influenced by NPR's post and email if they saw them (she doesn't know if they did).

There is no evidence whatsoever that NPR contacted Soundprint.

NPR's email and blog post said "We're in conversations with WDAV about how they intend to handle this. We of course take this issue very seriously." (The issue of participating in a democratic society and not backing a corporate agenda like bigshot NPR hosts who opinionate on Fox, in op-eds, and at big business speaking events for big bucks.)

Lisa was told to be on a phone call with NPR and WDAV yesterday morning, but NPR and WDAV canceled the call without telling her, as she waited by the phone.

NPR's Anna Christopher Bross tells me that NPR spoke with WDAV about how to handle Simeone.  She says they went through many possible scenarios, and that NPR has been completely transparent.  I asked her what any of the scenarios were, and she refused to say.  I asked if one of them was the only one anyone has discussed, namely firing Simeone, and she wouldn't say.  But the announcement by WDAV was "Ms. Simeone remains the host of World of Opera."  The decision was not to fire her.

Clearly the worst actor here is Soundprint.

We do not know exactly what NPR has done, and I should not have claimed that I did.  I know Lisa's suspicions and I know my own.  But we do know that NPR has a blatant double standard and views participation in representative government as a serious ethical lapse by certain people, although not others.

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Actually, we DO know exactly what NPR has done, in Rehm's own words: "We're in conversations with WDAV about how they intend to handle this. We of course take this issue very seriously." Their words clearly imply that they were "very seriously" upset about Lisa's involvement in the Occupy protest, and in that spirit, they contacted WDAV to discuss options for "handling" the situation. Bross said NPR has been completely transparent yet is completely opaque about options NPR discussed with WDAV, including the option of firing her. Transparent to whom, their co-conspirators? NPR told her she would be included in a conference call with WDAV, then they stood her up. And we know that the "Soundprint" executive who fired Lisa cited the NPR ethics code in explaining his actions. You'd have to be brain damaged to believe NPR is dealing with Lisa or the public in good faith here. NPR’s hands are dirty, and they know it.

Borrowing heavily from your words, I sent the following email to mediarelations@npr.org:

About “Lisa Simeone’s participation in an Occupy DC group” you wrote, “We’re in conversations with WDAV about how they intend to handle this. We of course take this issue very seriously.”And three hours later, Soundprint fired her for being “unethical.” You mentioned nothing more than her “participation,” and convinced Soundprint to
fire her because her “participation” was unethical.

But what is ethical?

Simeone was exercising the rights guaranteed to all Americans under the United States Constitution: the right to free speech, the right to peaceable assembly, and the right to petition our government for a redress of grievances, guaranteed by the First Amendment. Those grievances expressed by the Occupy movement are shared by large
majorities of Americans: three quarters of us want billionaires taxed more, two-thirds of us want the Iraq and Afghanistan wars ended, and large majorities wanting funding moved from the military to green energy and education and jobs. Her participation in this nonviolent demonstration was more than ethical—it was honorable and courageous and patriotic.

I have supported NPR and PBS for decades, and my membership contribution is automatically renewed each year. But I will not contribute to an organization that punishes anyone for peacefully and ethically exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights for causes most Americans believe in. It is your actions that are plainly unethical, and frankly, disgusting. You need to “unconvince” Soundprint to rehire Simeone by the end of October, or my
contributions will cease. I have a considerable network online and I will enthusiastically petition everyone I can possibly contact to do the same.

Their canned response:

Dear John,

We recently learned World of Opera host Lisa Simeone is serving as a spokesperson and activist with Occupy DC. World of Opera is produced by WDAV, a music and arts station based in Davidson, North Carolina. The program is distributed by NPR. Lisa is not an employee of WDAV or NPR; she is a freelancer with the station.

 There have been some inaccuracies in the reporting on this story that we’d like to correct.

It has been reported that NPR had a role in the decision made by the management of the public radio program Soundprint to end its relationship with Lisa Simeone as the program’s host. This is not true. Soundprint is an independent public radio program that is not produced by NPR. NPR had no contact with the management of the program prior to their decision. We learned about it after the fact, through media reports.

Other than Lisa’s role as host, Soundprint and WDAV’s World of Opera are completely unrelated. We are in conversation with WDAV about this matter. We fully respect that the management of WDAV is solely responsible for the decision making around Lisa’s participation in Occupy DC and her freelance role with WDAV’s program. 

Sincerely,

Dana Davis Rehm
Senior Vice President
Marketing, Communications, and External Relations

See's lucky this is 21st century America and not late 18th century France.

I've read some articles about this tipic, please allow me to share it here. The line between personal actions and professional links could be a very unclear one. For writers, it could be an especially hard line to draw. The Occupy Wall Street movement in D.C. has a new spokesperson - Lisa Simeone. Simeone, however, is also hired as an independent journalist. Source for this article: NPR host Lisa Simeone facing questions about political activism.

I knew about NPR and WDAV a little.Thanks for giving me some more information about it here.Also thanks again for telling us about Lisa Simeone.I will continue to read your blog.

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