NPR’s “conspiracy theorists”

In an piece on NPR’s weekend edition on Lance Amstrong and doping, a commentator (ESPN’s Howard Bryant) dropped in an ad hominem attack against the NRA, apropos of nothing at all. NPR edited out the attack when it re-aired the piece in later time zones, and then left it out of the archived recording and the transcript. These facts are all confirmed by NPR’s ombudsman.

In his column on the controversy, the ombudsman then goes on to explain why, with NPR’s procedures, it’s perfectly reasonable for this to go down the memory hole with no trace in the permanent record outside the memories of those who heard it. Let’s even stipulate that that makes sense.

Nevertheless, when people are alleging that you have edited a remark out of the transcript, and when you have, in fact, edited that remark out of the transcript, exactly as alleged, you don’t get to malign them as “conspiracy theorists”:

Brown contacted our office suspicious of a conspiracy.”There is no explanation for the post-broadcast edit. Is this instance a representative one, for NPR editing and posting policy(ies)?”

Well, in some ways, yes, as I myself discovered when I went to ask.


I did wonder whether online transcripts and audio files could have some sort of a routine date-time stamp for when they were broadcast by NPR. Stencel told me that NPR’s systems do not have a way to do that now, but that he would look into the idea. It wouldn’t satisfy conspiracy theorists . . . But, it would create an official baseline of sorts.

You’ve just admitted that they are right, and NPR doesn’t keep accurate transcripts. They’re not “conspiracy theorists”, they are “critics”.

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