Guidance on: Coverage of books written by NPR staffers

Ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen has offered her thoughts here about how NPR should handle books written by its staffers.

Her post includes a note from Mike Oreskes. It says, in part:

“NPR has not had a written policy on this issue or even a consistent practice. We will now. NPR’s producers and editors will use the same standard they apply to outside books to decide whether works by our own staff merit coverage and on which of our programs and platforms. That decision must be approved by the Senior Vice President for News — that is, me.”

He adds that “for the future, NPR staff members will not appear on their own shows to discuss outside books or other works unrelated to NPR coverage.”

The Ethics Handbook has been updated here. The post includes these key points:

– The tests are the same as for any book. They include: Is it newsworthy? Is it of interest to our audience? The books desk, led by Ellen Silva, must be part of the discussion. So must the NPR News deputy managing editors.

– Staff members (hosts, producers, editors) cannot appear on their own shows to discuss “outside books.” Those are books not based on work they’ve done for NPR. In some cases, if a book is based on reporting done for NPR, they may be given the OK to talk about the book on their own show or file a report that airs on that show.

– Coverage plans must be approved by the Senior Vice President for News.

(Memmos; May 21, 2015)

May 21, 2015

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