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NPR Gets Radio Host Fired for Occupying


By davidswanson - Posted on 19 October 2011

[UPDATES BELOW

in short, NPR claims Soundprint acted on its own to fire Simeone

but NPR was publicly pushing the issue -- see that blog post I linked to

and the Soundprint exec producer referred to NPR's ethics policy when firing Simeone

NPR also pushed WDAV to take action (presumably by firing Simeone, no other actions having been discussed) and WDAV refused, resulting in the announcement by both WDAV and NPR that WDAV would not fire her

Simeone has been fired by Soundprint but not by WDAV]

National Public Radio on Wednesday discovered that a woman named Lisa Simeone who produced hosted a show about opera called "World of Opera" had been participating in a nonviolent occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., organized by October2011.org.  That same day, NPR persuaded a company for which Simeone worked to fire her, cutting her income in half and purging from the so-called public airwaves a voice that had never mentioned politics on NPR.

This frantic email was sent to all NPR staff:

From:NPR Communications
Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 6:12 PM
Subject: From Dana Rehm: Communications Alert

To:       All Staff
Fr:        Dana Davis Rehm
Re:      Communications Alert

We recently learned of World of Opera host Lisa Simeone’s participation in an Occupy DC group. 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.

We're in conversations with WDAV about how they intend to handle this. We of course take this issue very seriously.

As a reminder, all public comment (including social media) on this matter is being managed by NPR Communications.

All media requests should be routed through NPR Communications at 202.513.2300 or mediarelations@npr.org. We will keep you updated as needed. Thanks.

##

Also see NPR's blog post about this here.

About three and a half hours after the above email was sent, Simeone had been fired by a show called Soundprint as punishment for having been "unethical."  Here is her bio on that show's website.  And here she is on NPR's.

Soundprint is a show that does touch on politics and includes political viewpoint in Simeone's ledes, but it is not an NPR program and not distributed by NPR.  It is, however, heard on public radio stations.  Despite the title "NPR World of Opera," that show is produced by a small station called WDAV for which Simeone contracts.  Simeone was not an NPR employee.  WDAV has not expressed any concern over Simeone's "ethics."

Simeone told me: "I find it puzzling that NPR objects to my exercising my rights as an American citizen -- the right to free speech, the right to peaceable assembly -- on my own time in my own life.  I'm not an NPR employee.  I'm a freelancer.  NPR doesn't pay me.  I'm also not a news reporter.  I don't cover politics.  I've never brought a whiff of my political activities into the work I've done for NPR World of Opera.  What is NPR afraid I'll do -- insert a seditious comment into a synopsis of Madame Butterfly?

"This sudden concern with my political activities is also surprising in light of the fact that Mara Liaason reports on politics for NPR yet appears as a commentator on FoxTV, Scott Simon hosts an NPR news show yet writes political op-eds for national newspapers, Cokie Roberts reports on politics for NPR yet accepts large speaking fees from businesses.  Does NPR also send out 'Communications Alerts' about their activities?"

Let's be clear about Simeone's political activities.  We have three quarters of the country wanting billionaires taxed, two-thirds wanting wars ended, large majorities wanting funding moved from the military to green energy and education and jobs.  Simeone has been taking part in a nonviolent encampment designed to facilitate the petitioning of our government for a redress of grievances, a right guaranteed by the First Amendment.  That's all.  She has been participating.  Nothing more. There is nothing more specific to the allegation, nothing in particular that she has allegedly done other than participate in a nonviolent mass mobilization on behalf of majority opinion.

It may be difficult for NPR bigwigs to understand why we don't all just rent $400 per night hotel rooms instead of littering a public square with tents.  But NPR's highly paid political agitators on behalf of the 1% are part of the problem.  They are what we are protesting.  And that is presumably what makes our speech and assembly "unethical." 

Or perhaps the breach of ethics is to be found in behaving as a decent citizen while simultaneously possessing some connection to the most insidious corporate loudspeaker in the country, one labeled "public" but belonging to the 1%.

The most important point to stress here, I think, is that all requests should be routed through NPR Communications at 202-513-2300 or mediarelations@npr.org

 

UPDATE: NPR claims not to have caused the Soundprint firing (and to only be pushing for action against Lisa by WDAV):

David,

Your post this morning was wholly inaccurate. We’d ask you to please make corrections immediately.

To set the record straight, here are the facts:

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. As we indicated last night, 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.

You may find more at our blog, www.npr.org/thisisnpr

When will you correct your post to remove NPR from the equation?Please let me know if you have questions.  

Thank you,

Anna

 | Anna Christopher Bross | Director, Media Relations | achristopher@npr.org | 202.513.2304 | 202.680.3848 | @NPRanna

 

UPDATE 2: WDAV has stood strong in the face of NPR pressure and will not fire Simeone. NPR has confirmed this

Classical public radio station WDAV says Lisa Simeone will continue to host World of Opera.

Please contact WDAV for further details: http://www.wdav.org/default.htm

Simeone thus far remains fired from Soundprint.

UPDATE 3: The Executive Producer of Soundprint, when firing Simeone, told her on the phone that she had violated NPR's code of ethics.  She [the executive producer of Soundprint] brought NPR into it.

UPDATE 4: Public supports Simeone on WDAV website: Read the comments below the post.

 

Tags

Thanks for sharing this information.  I have sent an email to contacts at my local Minnesota Public Radio in the hopes they will cover the story. In it, I express concern about the lack of independence at local stations and asked whether or not this same thing could happen to my local station.
 


It might bring more pressure on NPR if local stations are able to cover the story and ask tough questions that are introspective to how Public Radio is run, what influence NPR has on local stations, etc.


Hope this helps :)

Put this news in perspective.  Having an ethics code that prevents Journalists from engaging in politics isn't a bad thing.

So I'm saying maybe Ms. Simone was not fired for being in OWS (ODC), but for running headlong across the ethics code, which prevents Journalists from being in politics.

 

from http://www.thegrenadarevolutiononline.com/code.html

I will not... "demonstrations, political office, social movements, community affairs, or politics"

No?

Such as a "freelancer who primarily does arts coverage."  And there's this:   "There may be instances in which the type of programming may not demand the application of a particular principle in this code."

 

I would say Miss Simeone fits comfortably under these.

 

Besides, if they've determined it's okay for Cokie Roberts to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees to address corporate meetings and fundraisers, despite the clear injunction that "NPR journalists may not engage in public relations work," this should be seen as no offense at all.

Nicely done, you've managed to take a quote out of context here

"There may be instances in which the type of programming may not demand the application of a particular principle in this code. In such case, the program producer should confer with the person at NPR who is responsible for managing the program acquisition and determine that NPR agrees that the principle need not be applied. Otherwise, producers of acquired standalone programming should take seriously the requirements of this code."

So even if Miss Simeone fits under this did she go to the person in her company (presumably her boss) and determine that the principle need not be applied to her? 

And of course down below I point out that your entire argument for NPR and SoundPrint being related is absolutely incorrect, so again your entire argument regarding Cokie Roberts et. al. is without base, merit or even rational thought, since it doesn't matter what NPR has done.

This story is 100% untrue. 

 

"Soundprint is produced by the the SoundPrint Media Group. In association with WAMU and American University." (quote from their production statement at the end of the show) while WAMU is an NPR AFFILIATE who pays NPR for the right to play its broadcasts it is not owned or operated by NPR, nor is SoundPrint Media Group, or American University.

She was not fired from World of Opera, and NPR has no connection to SoundPrint:

 http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/10/20/141560182/protest-role-does-not-cost-public-radio-host-her-job-on-opera-program

"The decision about her role on World of Opera came after Simeone was let go as host of Soundprint — a topical documentary program that is independently produced for public radio stations. NPR plays no role in Soundprint's production or distribution."

Unfortunately people all over the internet are passing your little piece of yellow journalism around and believe there's validity to it. I guess that's the downside to the age of information, false information flies as far or further than the truth.

Soundprint cited NPR's ethics guidelines for firing Simeone, they depend heavily on NPR's distribution of their show, and the firing occurred only a few hours after NPR's own blog post calling Simeone's actions into question. 

 

Oh no, no connection here. 

 

Besides, if public radio can allow corporate shill Cokie Roberts and Fox News moll Mara Liasson to continue their journalistic activities, they have forfeited their right to call anyone's "journalistic ethics" into question ever.

Company A (not related to NPR in anyway) decides they like NPR's code of ethics (as do I) and holds their employees to it, this does not make NPR responsible for their interpretation or implementation of this code. No matter how many times it is claimed otherwise it does not make it true. I suspect you are well aware of this, but I'll say it anyway codes of conduct are often used by multiple companies within the same type of company. 

In addition NPR does not distribute the show, as you are well aware since it specifically says that in this article. However, some of it's affiliates (companies who pay NPR for the right to stream their content) pay SoundPrint Media Group to stream their show. This is the radio equivalent of paying two different companies for internet access (a good business practice for most small business I might add). We continue to have a lack of association, a total and complete lack of evidence for any direct association, other than the untrue claim that if A uses the rules of B, B is responsible for A's actions. 

As you have failed to draw any legitimate connections between NPR and "SoundPrint Media Group. In association with WAMU and American University." your argument not only holds no water it is at best a lie and at worst libel. Given that you have not created this association your entire final paragraph is an argument from fallacy and a poorly thought out red herring. 

the code of ethics SAYS (thank you for the link):

I shall not be involved in any partisan association or activity such as politics, demonstrations, secondary employment, governmental office, community affairs, a conflicting financial interest, or social causes, which could be perceived to be a conflict or interest or is in fact a conflict of interest. I will not use any information I gain before its general publication for my financial profit. These activities would compromise or seem to compromise my ability to fairly report a story.

 

It does not say, I forgo my right to participate in government. It does not say, I will no longer vote.

 

It does mean that she can no longer report on this or related stories.

 

So the question is, how has her participation created a conflict of interest, or perception of conflict of interest/

The line between individual activities and expert connections can be a very fuzzy one. For journalists, it can be a particularly tough line to draw, just like what happened to Lisa Simeone. Recently, NPR host Lisa Simeone faced questions about political activism. We are aware that she is a freelance content provider for a pair of radio shows that are broadcast by NPR. Simeone has, for a long time, blended her passion for grassroots political activism with her talent on the radio, without anyone remonstrating. However, her involvement in the Occupy movement seems to have deemed by NPR to be a bridge too far. Now, do you think Lisa has crossed that line by acting as a representative for the Occupy D.C. activity?

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