Progress at NPR

Jay Rosen’s constant push on pressthink seems to be yeilding some results.

NPR has released a new handbook of their journalistic standards.

Rosen especially notes two changes:

In all our stories, especially matters of controversy, we strive to consider the strongest arguments we can find on all sides, seeking to deliver both nuance and clarity. Our goal is not to please those whom we report on or to produce stories that create the appearance of balance, but to seek the truth.


At all times, we report for our readers and listeners, not our sources. So our primary consideration when presenting the news is that we are fair to the truth. If our sources try to mislead us or put a false spin on the information they give us, we tell our audience. If the balance of evidence in a matter of controversy weighs heavily on one side, we acknowledge it in our reports. We strive to give our audience confidence that all sides have been considered and represented fairly.

Some of Rosen’s words in his role as an interviewer are relevant to our own predicament:

My reading of the old code, as compared to the new handbook, is that the document that dates from 2003 is kind of defensive: it’s about preserving something it calls “credibility.” It then details all the ways credibility can be lost, and warns against them. The new document, it seems to me, tries to be more affirmative. Rather than assuming credibility and defending against its loss, the 2012 handbook is really about the production of trust and what it takes to be trust-worthy…

Under constant attack, we tend to be defensive. For instance, there’s no defending false identity and document theft as such, not even the fact that our opponents have been doing similar things and have no trouble being totally hypocritical about it. But the issue is not about who did what. The issue is about what the salient facts are. In the climate world and related issues, hiding the salient facts is legal but amazingly unethical. Our job is not to defend ourselves or attack our opponents. It’s not to convince people of one action or theory or another. It’s to expose the truth.

h/t “afeman”


  1. Of course, I'll believe it when I see it, but acknowledging the problem is the first step.

    Michael, have you had any contact with Rosen? He seems to nail your point from a different and more general angle. It would be intersting to hear what kind of feedback he gets from the profession, and what he would think of the examples (Kloor, Appel, etc.) and counterexamples (Borenstein, Kolbert).

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