Ahead Of Saturday’s ‘March For Our Lives,’ Some Reminders

As you know, there will be student-led rallies and marches across the country on Saturday to call for stricter laws and other steps that organizers say would reduce gun violence.

We’ve discussed demonstrations before. Our guidance remains that it’s OK to watch, but not to participate because that could raise questions about NPR’s independence and impartiality. Here’s a key passage from what we’ve said:

“There is real journalistic value in being an observer at public events such as a march or rally, even without a reporting assignment. But while we may observe, we refrain from actively participating in marches, rallies or public events involving political issues or partisan causes that our organization covers or may cover. Of course, the distinction between being a participant and being an observer can be subtle. But waving a picket sign or joining along in a cheer would be inappropriate. Again, we rely on your good judgment.”

We’ve also noted that:

“These rules definitely apply to our journalists and to NPR employees in ‘outward-facing’  positions. As we’ve said, those are ‘jobs that sometimes put them in the position of representing NPR to the outside world.’ They should not ‘participate.’

“Other staffers – those whose work doesn’t touch our journalism and who aren’t in outward-facing positions – should understand that their actions can reflect on NPR. We can’t cover every eventuality with a ‘do this, don’t do that’ list. We do ask that no one wear any NPR paraphernalia or do anything that would raise questions about NPR’s objectivity.”

Now, some of us have children, nieces, nephews or young visitors who want to take part. If you feel you need to be there to keep them safe or from getting lost, that’s obviously fine. Stay as close as you think is necessary (yes, you can get into the middle of a crowd). But, again, the goal is to be watching, not participating.

Related notes:

- “March For Our Lives” is the name that organizers have given to the events. It should be capitalized on first reference and put in quotes. In audio, we need to note that it is what the students and their supporters call the events. You might say, “in cities across the nation Saturday, high school students led what they call the March For Our Lives. Their message …”

On social media, stay away from opinion. Also, remember that retweets may been seen as endorsements. Basically, proceed “as if what you’re saying or passing along is information that you would put on the air or in a ‘traditional’ NPR.org news story. If it needs context, attribution, clarification or ‘knocking down,’ provide it.”

- We have to be wary of crowd estimates. This is also a subject we’ve covered before. Focus on describing the crowds and do not cite figures coming from the organizers or critics as if they’re real. They are claims. If authorities come up with estimates (and in many places, including Washington, D.C., the authorities steer clear of doing that) use judgement about citing them and definitely attribute the information.

(“Memmos;” March 19, 2018)

March 19, 2018

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