NPR’s Continued Lack of Integrity

Last night NPR called me a “low knowledge” voter.   They might as well have used the word “stupid” or “unintelligent”. The commentators were reviewing Paul Ryan’s speech, and reviewing the many “falsehoods” it contained.  NPR pointed out that he criticized President Obama for inaction on the Bowles/Simpson commission report.  Fox News had interviewed Ryan who said he voted against Bowles Simpson because it didn’t address entitlements.   NPR also pointed out that Ryan criticized the closing of a plant in Janesville, WI and blamed Mr. Obama, even though the plant had closed under President Bush.    Ryan in his interview on Fox acknowledged the closing under Bush, but said candidate Obama had stood in the plant and promised it would be open for 100 years with the help of the government.

NPR’s analysis was so strongly one-sided  that they said the only people Ryan’s speech would appeal to would be “low knowledge voters” – those who didn’t bother to analyze the issues.  One commentator even said that if you wanted to counteract Paul Ryan’s case on Medicare to these voters you would need to simply say he intended to abolish Medicare.  Which,  of course,  is not Ryan’s latest proposal on Medicare.

I have made it a habit to listen to both NPR and Fox News. I get two very different perspectives on issues and then have the opportunity to weigh the information I’ve heard.  I used to teach a class on critical thinking at Belmont University and have written a book on the topic.   I make it a practice to look at both sides of an issue, explore the facts, then run my analysis through my values and make a decision.  My values include fiscal responsibility.  That is the piece NPR is missing.  That any voter could actually be intelligent and vote for Romney/Ryan seems to be beyond their comprehension.

During the Juan Williams debacle in 2010, NPR was accused of not being objective.  They asked for listeners to share with them times they hadn’t presented both sides of a story.  In one segment, a listener joined them and shared his perspective of their biased journalism, and the interviewer couldn’t wrap his brain around the concept that he hadn’t been fair.

Last night NPR not only was blatantly pro-Obama and offensive , they lacked integrity.  If they claim to be objective, they should walk the talk.  Giving both sides of the story would have been the right thing to do.   Take it from a “high knowledge” voter.

What Do Joe Paterno and Juan Williams Have in Common?

Both Joe Paterno and Juan Williams were fired by telephone.  Both had served their organizations and brought name recognition and success to the brands of Penn State and NPR.  Both deserved more respect than they received from their leadership. 

Whether you agree with their being fired, no one who has spent much of their career building the reputation of an organization deserves to be fired by telephone.  Leaders with integrity have the courage to go face to face to the people they’ve decided to release.  It demonstrates dignity and respect – and it keeps those who are still employed from wondering when they’ll be the next to receive “the call”.  Steven Sample, in his great book, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, called it “shooting your own horse”.  A horse owner never asks someone else to put down his horse, and a CEO should never ask someone else to do the firing.   Leadership is about holding people accountable – even when you’ll take heat in doing so.  It’s also about having the ethics and  integrity to make that hard call in person.

Integrity and the NPR ‘gotcha’ video


Two people have lost their jobs over the latest dust up at NPR – the executive in charge of fund development and the CEO.  In an age of cell phone camera videos and increasingly hidden technology, it becomes even more important for a company or organization to have core values that start at the top and are communicated to the entire workforce.  Had NPR sent a clear message about what they stood for and what their core values looked like in action, they probably would not have had a leader  caught in hidden video bashing one group of people to another group. 

 I’ve been blogging for the last two weeks about the importance of knowing what your top core values are.  That’s how you know what to do when the hard calls come.  It’s just as important for companies to have those values defined, communicated, and to hold employees accountable.  Jet Blue had a trainee and trainer lie about damage caused during the training.  The trainer said he was driving, when the trainee actually was.  Jet Blue made it clear that both violated their policy of honesty – and both lost their jobs.  Neither one would have had they simply admitted the mistake. 

 The executive at NPR faced a hard call – chase the money or have respect for all – no matter what.  In the end, we don’t really know what NPR’s core values are.  I don’t think he did either.