NPR Ombudsman Dissects Native Foster Care Series

The Ombudsman for NPR, Edward Schumacher-Matos, has finally released a SIX part response to the Native Foster Care Series that aired on NPR in October of 2011.  Below are a few links:

So far, I have only been able to fully read Part 1 of the Ombudsman’s reports.  Due to other constraints on my time, I am not sure how long it will be before I am able to more fully digest the entire six-part series and write more.  Below are a few quotes from Part 1:

  • “My finding is that the series was deeply flawed and should not have been aired as it was.The series committed five sins that violate NPR’s code of standards and ethics. They were:
    1. No proof for its main allegations of wrongdoing;

    2. Unfair tone in communicating these unproven allegations;
    3. Factual errors, shaky anecdotes and misleading use of data by quietly switching what was being measured;
    4. Incomplete reporting and lack of critical context;
    5. No response from the state on many key points.”
  • “[T]his first series falls so far short in proving its allegations and implications of widespread state abuse that the series, as presented, is itself an injustice.” 
  • “But the infractions in this series are so frequent and so serious that they are a case study in how not to do radio ‘storytelling.’”

Meanwhile, NPR Editors Kinsey Wilson and Margaret Low Smith have issued a brief response the Ombudsman’s reports.  In short, the Editors’ response acknowledges that they got some things wrong, but essentially stands behind the story.  They chose not to respond point-by-point to the Ombudsman’s critiques.  This response by the editors can be summed up in one word – pathetic.  I will be interested to see if NPR gives anywhere near the on-air time to the obvious flaws in these stories as it gave to the stories themselves.