Friday Feedback for August 26, 2016

Aug 26, 2016

Is [Cokie Roberts] not a journalist? - Beverly

Listener Beverly wrote on Monday: "Cokie Roberts is just the latest NPR commentator offending my husband and me. We listen to NPR for news. We do not listen for an individual commentator's personal assessment.

“To be biased without even realizing it...for example, in asking a leading question...is sometimes understandable. Cokie makes no excuses for imposing her opinions. Whatever happened to journalistic principles? Is she not a journalist? She seems to be a lifelong politician which is contrary to the Jeffersonian principle of public service by citizens across the board as citizen duty...not public/political careers.

“In this morning's case, she said Trump only talks to white people.
“Yet Trump's intent … is to affect positive change in this regard. This point wasn't mentioned. (Gosh only knows, intent is all we are promised from any person running for public office!)
“Do you realize how these NPR moderators' clear so-called liberal (altho not liberal in the dictionary sense of the word) viewpoints affect donations of principally so-called conservative folks listening to...or leaving...WHQR?  I would say mightily.”

I wrote thanking her for her comment. Cooke’s exact words, when talking to Morning Edition host David Greene, were:

[AUDIO CLIP]

…he’s getting somewhere between zero and 2 per cent of the vote of African Americans in the polls, and as you pointed out, he’s talking to mainly white audiences, and in fact, some African Americans are quite insulted by this language about ‘you’re all in poverty’, you know, African American poverty is about 25 per cent…

(http://www.npr.org/programs/morning-edition/2016/08/22/490889244/morning-edition-for-august-22-2016?showDate=2016-08-22)

The racial composition of candidate Trump’s rallies has been thoroughly documented in various sources, so Cokie is being pretty factual about that.

But the larger issue is that she has indeed, in other media than NPR, publicly declared her belief that a Trump presidency would be dangerous for America. This is an opinion, not a fact. The question is, is it permissible for her to say such a thing, or for NPR to put her on the air?

The answer is yes. Beverly referred to Cokie as a commentator and asked,

Is she not a journalist?

The answer to that is no, because it’s not possible be both. At one time, Cokie was a journalist, that is to say, a reporter, for NPR. Years ago, however, she began appearing on NPR weekly as a news analyst. And more recently, after her remarks about Donald Trump, NPR has been careful to label her as a commentator.

In brief, a reporter tells you what’s happening; an analyst explains why it’s happening; and a commentator tells you what they think you should do about it. Cokie is clearly a commentator, not a reporter. And NPR clearly labels her that way, as they should.

Thanks to Beverly for writing. She wrote back that she’d prefer to listen to Classical HQR, but has trouble picking it up where she lives.

Listeners Carol & Jim Barre wrote:

As faithful listeners, we appreciate your need for little bits that you can slip in to help prevent dead air or awkwardness when you are between shows.  However, there are several tidbits that were interesting for a while but have long since become shopworn. The ones that come to mind are "60 coffee beans" "music and cats" "good for your ferns" and "3 generations of Brandis’s”. We'd enjoy some new material. <smiley face> Thanks. Otherwise we're very happy with two stations to choose from.

Thank you for writing. You should be hearing some new messages this week, referring to our emPowering Our Future capacity-building campaign.

We’d love to hear from you on Friday Feedback. You can always leave a message via email to feedback@WHQR.org. Our Feedback Phone is 910-292-9477. And thanks for your feedback.