In late October of 2011, NPR reporters Lisa Sullivan and Amy Walters published a three-part series on Native American foster care in South Dakota. The stories were incredibly biased, misleading, and sometimes blatantly and demonstrably factually false. I have written about them extensively in numerous previous posts.
As of yet, no one from NPR has seriously and publicly responded to complaints regarding the series. As I first posted here, the Ombudsman at NPR, Edward Schumacher-Matos, wrote in December of 2011 that “a look back at an investigation of Native American foster care in South Dakota” was “coming soon.” In September of 2012, I posted that the NPR Ombudsman was still investigating the Native Foster Care Series. I had emailed the Ombudsman’s office and received the following response: “Yes, Edward Schumacher-Matos still plans to respond to the complaints filed about the South Dakota Native foster care series. Our office has been conducting an ongoing investigation and working with the governor’s office and the newsroom at NPR.” In that same post, I noted that it had never previously taken the Ombudsman more than four and a half months to respond to a story. On March 24, 2013, Cody Winchester with the Argus Leader reported that the paper has contacted Mr. Schumacher-Matos “multiple times” to try to find out when his report would be released, and that on March 8, 2013 the Ombudsman wrote in an email that “My report is close and will land when it lands.” (I also highly recommend that Argus Leader article for a discussion of some of the factual inaccuracies in the series.) I last emailed the Ombudsman’s office on April 1, 2013, but have not received a reply.
It has now been over 17 months since the Native Foster Care Series aired, without any corrections or statements being made by the Ombudsman or NPR. In the meantime, reporter Laura Sullivan accepted a Peabody Award for the series. At this point, I am not holding out much hope that Mr. Schumacher-Matos will actually do anything. The Ombudsman’s report, if it is ever actually issued, ought to be one of the most well-researched pieces of journalism in history. It is inexcusable to wait 17 months and counting to issue a meaningful response in this situation.