Sunday, July 18, 2010

Of stupidity and NPR (Ava and C.I.)

Was she born stupid or did she have to work really hard at it?

That's the question those in the news industry ask more and more of Rachel Maddow who, for the record, is not in the news industry and is nothing but a bad talk show host.

Actually, that's not true. She's also a glory hog and that's what's helped lead to the latest round of ridicule. The Maddow Show airs daily during the week on MSNBC -- which means few people bother to watch it. And Maddow's desperate for greater attention -- apparently her father can't help inflate her popularity the way he allegedly did as numerous 'people' commenting on the Unfiltered blog in that Air America radio show's final days.

So Rachel thought she'd found just the way to get more attention, a scoop The Maddow Show had. And since it appeared on her blog, the scoop was shopped around as a Rachel exclusive. And if others read as little as Maddow, she might have gotten away with it. But Laura Conaway wrote the blog post and did the 'reporting' such as it is.

However, as the 'scoop' explodes, we're more than willing to credit the bad reporting to Rachel Maddow herself.

This isn't the first wave of self-promotion for The Maddow Blog. Felix Gillette (New York magazine) reported in May on an earlier attempt by Rachel to push the blog and claim it was better than the show. (Having sampled The Maddow Show, we'd agree the blog is better but argue that few things could be worse and refer those late to the party to Bob Somerby's Daily Howler where he has repeatedly documented the loose-with-facts Maddow.)

The latest wave begins with a Maddow Blog 'exclusive.' And we'll walk you through all the crazy -- which, no surprise, includes smutty Terry Gross -- but we need to start with reality about an interview Terry Gross did with Louie C.K. We have to start there because no one else has -- certainly not The Maddow Blog, certainly not The Maddow Blog's dim witted fan base.

Let's remember that Terry Gross is the White woman who, in 2009, felt it was her right to use the n-word on air. Repeatedly. We're censoring a word that we don't use at this site, that we have never used at this site. The show didn't censor it. It was used repeatedly in the interview with Louie C.K. which aired July 7th. From the show's official transcript:

GROSS: My guest is comic Louie C.K., and he has a new series, in which he stars as a character named Louis C.K.. It's on FX Tuesday nights, right after "Rescue Me," and in this one, he plays a comic and a divorced single father. There's a great scene in the second episode. You're playing poker with a bunch of comics. One of the comics is gay, and so everybody's kind of ragging on him, but they're also kind of curious about certain things that gay people do and where they hang out. And then you ask if he minds when you use the word f**got in a routine. And I want to play an excerpt of that scene.

Mr. C.K.: Sure.

(Soundbite of television program, "Louie")

Mr. C.K.: (As Louie) Does it offend you when I say that word?

Mr. RICK CROM (Comedian): (As Rick) What word, hello?

Mr. C.K.: No, f**got.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) Yes, does it bother you when he says the word f**got?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CROM: No, it bothers me when you say it because you mean it.

Mr. C.K.: Yeah, but really, it's like, as a comedian, a gay guy, you're the only gay comic I know. Do you think I shouldn't be using that word onstage?

Mr. CROM: I think you should use whatever words you want. I mean, when you use it onstage, I can see it's funny, and I don't care. But are you interested to know what it might mean to gay men?

Mr. C.K.: Yeah, I am interested.

Mr. CROM: Well, the word f**got really means a bundle of sticks used for kindling in a fire. Now, in the Middle Ages, when they used to burn people they thought were witches, they used to burn homosexuals, too. And they used to burn the witches at a stake, but they thought the homosexuals were too low and disgusting to be given a stake to be burned on. So they used to just throw them in with the kindling, with the other f**gots. So that's how you get flaming f**got.

Mr. C.K.: So what you're saying is gay people are a good alternative fuel source.

Unidentified Man #1: That's how they get the term diesel dyke.

Mr. C.K.: I'm sorry, go ahead.

Mr. CROM: You might want to know that every gay man in America has probably had that word shouted at them when they're being beaten up, sometimes many times, sometimes by a lot of people all at once. So when you say it, it kind of brings that all back up. But, you know, by all means use it, get your laughs. But, you know, now you know what it means.

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) Okay, thanks, f**got, we'll keep that in mind.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: That's a scene from Louie C.K.'s new series, "Louie." So who is the comic who is explaining what the word f**got means?

Mr. C.K.: That's Rick Crom. And Rick is a comedian, lives in New York City, and he's just this guy who I met. I started in Boston, when I was about 18 years old, doing standup. And in Boston, you didn't meet a lot of openly gay people. Usually, when people said I'm gay, the next thing they would say is ouch, you know. People - it wasn't a very giving place that way. And when I moved to New York City, he's probably the first openly gay person I ever met, I think. It's possible. I don't know, but definitely the first gay comedian I met. Anyway, Rick, when I met him, I had that conversation with him about the word f**got. I asked him about it, and he said pretty much that to me. I mean, I wrote that scene as written. But he said it that way too, that he didn't lecture me or say you shouldn't say it. He just said, hey, if you're interested, it's totally devastating, and he gave me that information. And I never forgot it. I mean, I was about 22. I have said f**got on stage a number of times since then, but I don't - I know what I'm saying, and I know what it means now.

GROSS: So if you still use the word f**got on stage, how do you use it? What's the context?

Mr. C.K.: Well, I feel like when I get asked that, I get defensive about it. I start saying oh, well, no, it's okay that I say f**got because this or that, but to be really honest with you, I'm not sure why I say it. [. . .] So that again, to say yeah, I'm a fat f**got, and then find out what gay people feel about it and then say it, talk about that. I think that's all positive. Talking is always positive. That's why I talk too much.

GROSS: I never heard that explanation of the word f**got or flaming f**got before. Is that, like, etymologically true?

Mr. C.K.: I don't know, and I've actually read things online where people are saying that's not accurate. I don't think it matters. I love that on all sorts of websites and gay blogs and stuff that this scene has sort of, like, stirred up conversation, which I think is just healthy. And this scene is about a guy who believes that to be the true origin of the word, and it's about his feelings about it and what impact it has on me. If it's not the real explanation of the word f**got, I don't think it matters. The point of the scene isn't to be accurate. It's not a news show. It's an exchange between characters.

First, of course, it doesn't matter to that piece of crap 'comic' whether the definition is accurate or not -- as his attitude makes clear, he doesn't give a damn, he just wants the freedom to express his fear and hatred of gay men. Got it, we understand. What we don't understand is how NPR continues to allow that s**t from Terry Gross.

We're counting at least fifteen times that two straight people used the f-term on that broadcast. Fifteen times, they used a hateful, derogatory expression. And it was 'okay' because it was historical? Well, Louie C.K. admits he doesn't know and doesn't care whether it was historical or factual, it's all about the "exchange between characters." You mean the exchange where multiple straight people put one gay person on the spot? Or the exchange where the gay man is the employee and the Louie C.K. -- who gets the last word -- is the employer? In what world is there any way to justify that?

There's not. So Maddow and others ignore the exchange.

Mississippi Public Radio pulled Terry Gross' Not-So-Fresh Air from the airwaves.

Discussing Fresh Air requires a few notes/disclosures. First of all, Ann covers Fresh Air at her site Ann's Mega Dub. We invited her to participate in the writing of this article but she said the two-week vacation she's been on from Fresh Air (with one exception) doesn't end until Monday and she intends to enjoy herself. We fully understand. The second aspect is Alica Shepard.

Alicia Shepard took issue with what we wrote here at an earlier date. What exactly? We're not sure because we responded to her e-mail on July 5th, she responded to us, we responded to that and that was the last exchange.

At the end of that, her second response, it became clear she hadn't read "Media: Let's Kill Helen!" when we took her to task for going on KPFA and making false assertions about Helen Thomas (ones she couldn't even back up when asked for examples by Aimee Allison). No, it emerged she was unfamiliar with that -- this despite suggesting to us that we review the transcript of the interview. The transcript, Alicia?

Alicia Sheppard's referring us to a KPFA transcript? Alicia, KPFA does not do transcripts. The closest to a transcript that broadcast of The Morning Show will ever have is the quotes in our article.

What had her upset? It appears to be (correct us, if we're wrong) that we had repeated that NPR friends (producers and execs) informed us of her upcoming study -- including the findings -- and told us that she had decided to take a pass on The Diane Rehm Show and Fresh Air when examining whether or not there was a gender bias on air at NPR.

We're not sure what piece she saw because we actually wrote about that several times (as we informed her in our last e-mail). We first wrote about it April 4th in "WMC: Too pathetic (Ava and C.I.)." In that article, we explain in paragraph six that the piece started with a call on Friday night from a Women's Media Center friend who wanted us to write about a WMC blog post about the study Alicia Shepard did. For those late to the party, unless we're on vacation (less than six weeks a year), we're on the road. We wrap up in Boston on Fridays and fly back home to California on Saturdays (and are back out on the road on Mondays). So a Friday night call prompted the article we worked on Saturday night/Sunday morning. Let's go to the article:

When we were told of the study two weeks ago by NPR friends, we immediately asked what programs were being studied? We knew it wasn't all the programs. We knew that was too much work for the lazy ombudsperson. We were told it was Morning Edition and All Things Considered and right away we saw the problem. They do tiny segments. Five and six minute reports are considered "long." They're far from gender balanced but if you were really interested in the imbalance, you'd look to other NPR shows.

Alicia, we apologize for the use of the term "lazy." We don't think you're a lazy person and that was wrong of us to call you that. We were wrong and we say we're sorry. We also called you "idiotic" and, based on your e-mail exchange, you're not that either. So we were wrong there as well and say we're sorry on that.

We'll further note that we may have made another mistake but, as with lazy, it wasn't a mistake Alicia brought up in her e-mails. What was the other mistake?

In her ombudsperson column that WMC wrote of, Alicia noted pundits on air Friday evenings and we point out that The NewsHour is PBS and not NPR. Two NPR friends have suggested Alicia was writing of All Things Considered and not The NewsHour to which we reply: NPR.

Meaning? "National" Public Radio. Not "East Coast" Public Radio. We're all over the road. We hear All Things Considered in some areas at 4:00 and 2:00 pm. That's not an evening show and we've never considered All Things Considered an evening show. The NewsHour is an evening show. If you're the ombudsperson of "National" Public Radio, you are writing for and answerable to a national audience and should be aware of different time zones.

So we won't be apologizing for that if it was an error. But we will say we're sorry for using "lazy" and "idiotic." (We'll also note that Alicia was idiotic on KPFA and we will issue no apologies for anything in "Media: Let's Kill Helen!" because we stand firmly with Helen Thomas. If there's a factual error in that piece, please let us know. Otherwise, we aren't interested.) The judgment calls -- poor ones on our part -- were not an issue that Alicia brought up.

She was bothered that we didn't phone her for a response.

Our response is: Why would we?

The story is dumped on us via a Friday night phone call calling in a favor. (And, no, the WMC friend did not feel a 'favor' had been done when she read our article.) We do some working of the phone (not a great deal) then. We go to sleep. We wake up and grab a flight back home, land and immediately have to catch up on several personal things going on while we were gone all week, attend at least one function and at least one dinner so friends and family don't feel snubbed and around ten o'clock PST begin writing. At which point, we make any calls we need to but are calling people we know who aren't going to be pissed (or surprised) that we're waking them up.

We never presented what we were told as what Alicia Shepard told us. We didn't know her -- and that was clear in the original article and in all that followed. We didn't know her, we'd never spoken to her. We certainly wouldn't have phoned her at two in the morning her time for a comment while writing the article if we'd had her phone number.

We understand why Alicia feels she should have been called. And we will agree that by today's journalism, Alicia is correct, she should have been called.

If you believe in the he-said, she-said school of journalism, she should have been called.

We don't. "So and so denied the charge . . ." Has that ever been news?


It's a false concept of 'balance,' to us. We've gone over it before many, many times. We presented what we were told and presented it as what we were told. There was no implication that we'd heard it from Alicia and there certainly was no outright claim that we had.

Alicia writes that she eliminated the two shows from her study for other reasons (Fresh Air and The Diane Rehm Show). Her study was about, for those who missed it, the number of men on air versus the number of women. Both Fresh Air and The Diane Rehm Show are built around guests. If you're going to examine a gender bias, these are the shows to tabulate, in our opinion.

Alicia says she eliminated the two shows for a reason: They aren't produced by NPR.

We took that back to NPR friends (as we informed Alicia in what was our last e-mail to her) and they not only stood by their comments, they pointed out what they saw as a false distinction. They brought up, for example, The New York Times characterizing The Diane Rehm Show as an NPR show and how there was no correction issued. (And we checked on that, no objection from NPR or The Diane Rehm Show was ever lodged with the paper over their editorial where they called the program an NPR program. In addition, we have at least one friend with The Diane Rehm Show -- at least one left -- and each week, the show is credited at The Common Ills as a NPR one and the friend has never objected to that -- although many other objections have been lodged.)

Alicia says the shows were eliminated because they weren't NPR shows, NPR friends insist that's not the case. Who's telling the truth?

We believe both are and that there's a misunderstanding going on, a lack of clarity.

Alicia, in her e-mails, came across as someone forthright and honest. We wish we knew her. We'd love to have a pitcher of margaritas or Bloody Marys (or both) with her one Saturday night and dissect the state of media and women. We think she's a highly informed person and has keen insights. She also seems like a fun person.

We don't think she's lying. We do think she's misunderstanding and that our NPR friends are misunderstanding her. (We love our NPR friends and have drank many bottles with them. Sadly they're not big fans of tequila or vodka. And two are in recovery -- from alcohol, not from our friendship although the latter may be just as damaging.)

But we will make a call on the issue of Fresh Air and The Diane Rehm Show. What is NPR's responsibility? It's an issue -- as NPR friends pointed out -- that we've taken up repeatedly -- and two pointed out are blistering attacks on them when Amy Goodman brought on Melissa Harris Lacewell in January 2008 as an unbiased observer to explain what was happening in New Hampshire -- with Goody and Lie Face Lacewell 'forgetting' to inform viewers that Lie Face joined the Barack campaign in 2007. Hillary won New Hampshire. Don't you think it's kind of strange that Lie Face never noted Hillary in her 'on the ground' 'report'?

If you're late to the party, do not write us that Lie Face announced she was a Barack campaigner. She did do that. The following week when she was brought back on to go Jerry Springer show on Gloria Steinem, she made that announcement. But we're referring to her being presented as an unbiased observer and allowed to 'report' the week prior to her assault on Gloria. It was a conflict of interest and the lack of disclosure was a violation of NPR guidelines.

NPR friends then said Democracy Now! wasn't an NPR show and we shot back that the NPR website provides a link to the show.

So, at the urging of NPR friends this time, to the website we turned.

For many reasons including that National Public Radio has a strong internet presence that is only going to get stronger and that streaming is up this year at NPR. And if you want to know what's NPR, you should be able to find out via NPR's own website, right?

Google NPR and, you'll notice, a number of programs are listed.


See Fresh Air, above? And, below, you'll notice Fresh Air and The Diane Rehm Show are among eleven shows the website elects to name.


And now we return to Fresh Air, specifically the transcript we've already linked to, the interview with Louie C.K. and can you read the copyright notice?


This non-NPR program has a transcript copyright by . . . National Public Radio.

Alicia Shepard's drawing a line based upon what used to be, in the pre-internet age. We're living in the world of what is (while longing for the world of what could be). And any visitor to the NPR website has every reason to expect that Fresh Air and The Diane Rehm Show will be ground the ombudsperson can stride across. There is no fence walling website visitors away from either program.

And while we like Alica and would much rather write of her, the topic dictates that we return the uglies: Terry Gross and Rachel Maddow.

As we trace the story, The Maddow Blog picked up on a post at the website A Unitarian Universalist Minister in the South (which for some strange reason was credited as "Serenity Home" by Laura Conaway). There, a self-identified gay male blogger (and apparently a minister) speculated about MPB's decision to drop Fresh Air noting an e-mail that stated the program was cut "due to recurring inappropriate content." He doesn't listen to Fresh Air. He also isn't fully honest. On the last one, he's listing some shows and fudging the list. How do we know that? We cover Fresh Air with Ann and in his 'recent shows' he lists a few not so recent while implying all aired in July. We haven't yet covered Fresh Air (due to the holiday and Ann's vacation) for the month of June. So if we're recognizing the program, it aired in May or April. A fact that he 'forgets' to inform his readers. In his second post, he informs his readers that he "looked at one weeks worth of programs, reviews, political commentary because if this was indeed a recurring event than it would have to be, well-recurring." That's dishonest and disturbing. (Equally true, Fresh Air does not technically do "political commentary.")

First off, there is a pattern and many NPR stations are aware of it. When Ann was looking for a topic to cover (she dropped her coverage of The Morning Show over Aimee Allison's justification/endorsement of US drone attacks in Pakistan), we suggested Fresh Air to her because NPR friends so often bring the show up. We knew it would give her much to talk about (and endless headaches). There is a pattern and we'll get to that pattern. But first we need to note that you can't establish in one week a pattern. And it's appalling that the blogger thought he could do that.

His opinion was that Fresh Air was being dropped due to gay themes. It might seem strange that he didn't object to the use of the term f**got 15 times but, as was obvious as you read him, he didn't listen to the broadcasts, he merely read the topic summaries.

Enter Laura Conaway who wrote at The Maddow Blog, "Mississippi Public Broadcasting shares a campus with offices for the state's colleges and universities, and we have learned that some of those offices play public radio for callers who are on hold. Recently, a caller got put on hold during Fresh Air and heard Terry Gross ask comedian Louis C.K. if he always has sex with his shirt on."

Who's your source, Laura?

We don't need a name. We know how it works, a friend passes on this or that and that's your source. We're as inbred as anyone else when it comes to sourcing. But when we make a point of saying something, we source it. Laura didn't source it as "an NPR friend" or any way at all. She just made an assertion. (We're not faulting her for not seeking a reply from MPR before writing, please note. If she had her facts right, we'd be applauding Laura.)

According to Laura, the Louis C.K. show was the straw that broke Terry Gross' smut. And it was the guest stating he "always has sex with his shirt on." Do you remember the lengthy excerpt we offered at the start of this piece? That's later in that same interview. Do you remember the term f**got being used 15 times?

Laura never informs readers of that.

If you were a parent and you heard f**got on the radio 15 times while in the car with your child, might you object? We think you might and we think the term never should have been used, the clip never should have been played (its selection demonstrates that Terry planned to go there and the issue didn't just spring up by chance) and, yet again, her show was offensive. The parent objecting (if one did) wouldn't have to be some right winger. The parent could be a very pro-LGBT person, could even be a gay parent, and could rightfully be offended that the term was used 15 times by two straight people. [For the record, MPR is supposed to have dropped the show due to the pattern with the use of the f-word being the last straw. That's from NPR friends.]

Laura continued to repeat her claim that it was sex with a shirt on that got the program pulled.

She never once informed readers that the broadcast had included the word f**got being spoken 15 times. Why was that?

Bob Somerby might argue that this is another example of how that show traffics in stereotypes and, while one could see MPR's decision as a rejection of homophobia, The Maddow Show's derision aimed at certain types of people (including southerners) dictated that the story would always be spun as look-at-the-backward-fools. Providing the readers with the information that f**got was used 15 times would undercut the narrative Laura Conaway and The Maddow Show repeatedly attempt to sell so that was stripped from the narrative.

Terry Gross has a habit of crossing the taste line for a show that airs on NPR stations and does so via tax payer monies (as well as via listener donations and corporate sponsors). She has a pattern. For example, in March she was interviewing Ben Stiller and we're censoring the r-word from her official transcript as well as the use of a deity's name in vain:

GROSS: And he never goes out of character. So here you are, you know, walking through the jungle with him, and you're both out of character here. You're not but - so you're just talking as yourself, but he's still, you know, quote, talking black because he never gets out of character. And what you're talking about is the "Simple Jack" role, and so this ended up being a very controversial scene because of the use of the word r**arded. So I just want to warn our listeners, for anybody who finds that word, like, really, you know, insulting, that this is a comedy. This is a parody. You know it's an insulting word, and you're using it you, the writer-director of this movie, are using it knowing that. So here's the scene.

(Soundbite of film, "Tropic Thunder")

Mr. STILLER: (As Tugg Speedman) There were times when I was doing Jack that I actually felt r**arded, like really r**arded. I mean, I brushed my teeth r**arded. I rode a bus r**arded.

Mr. ROBERT DOWNEY, JR. (Actor): (As Kirk Lazarus) Damn.

Mr. STILLER: (As Tugg) In a weird way, I had to sort of just free myself up to believe that it was okay to be stupid or dumb.

Mr. DOWNEY: (As Kirk) To be a moron.

Mr. STILLER: (As Tugg) Yeah.

Mr. DOWNEY: (As Kirk) To be moronical.

Mr. STILLER: (As Tugg) Exactly, to be a moron.

Mr. DOWNEY: (As Kirk) An imbecile.

Mr. STILLER: (As Tugg) Yeah.

Mr. DOWNEY: (As Kirk) About the dumbest mother(BEEP) that ever lived.

Mr. STILLER: (As Tugg) When I was playing the character.

Mr. DOWNEY: (As Kirk) When you was the character.

Mr. STILLER: (As Tugg) Yeah, I mean, as Jack, definitely.

Mr. DOWNEY: (As Kirk) Yeah, Jack, stupid-ass Jack, trying to come back from that.

Mr. STILLER: (As Tugg) In a weird way, it was almost like I had to sort of fool my mind into believing that it wasn't r**arded. And by the end of the whole thing, I was like, wait a minute, you know, I flushed so much out, how am I going to jump-start it up again? It's just like...

Mr. DOWNEY: (As Kirk) Yeah, yeah.

Mr. STILLER: (As Tugg) Right?

Mr. DOWNEY: (As Kirk) You was fartin' in bathtubs and laughing your ass off.

Mr. STILLER: (As Tugg) Yeah.

Mr. DOWNEY: (As Kirk) Simple Jack thought he was smart or rather didn't think he was r**arded. So you can't afford to play r**arded being a smart actor, playing a guy who ain't smart but thinks he is, that's tricky.

Mr. STILLER: (As Tugg) Tricky.

Mr. DOWNEY: (As Kirk) Its that working the mercury. It's high science, man, it's art form. You an artist.

Mr. STILLER: (As Tugg) It's what we do, right?

Mr. DOWNEY: (As Kirk) Yeah, it's awful going there, especially knowing the Academy (unintelligible) (BEEP).

Mr. STILLER: (As Tugg) Wait, about what?

Mr. DOWNEY: (As Kirk) Are you serious? You dont know? Everybody knows you never go full r**ard.

Mr. STILLER: (As Tugg) What do you mean?

Mr. DOWNEY: (As Kirk) Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man looked retarded, act retarded, not retarded, count toothpicks, cheat at cards. Autistic, not retarded. Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump. Slow, yes. R**arded? Maybe. Braces on his legs, but he charmed the pants off Nixon, and he won a ping-pong competition. That ain't r**arded, and he was a G** damn war heo. You know any r**arded war heroes? You went full r**ard, man. Never go full r**ard. You don't buy that? Ask Sean Penn, 2001, "I Am Sam." Remember? Went full r**ard, went home empty-handed.

GROSS: So that's my guest, Ben Stiller, with Robert Downey, Jr., in a scene from "Tropic Thunder," which Ben Stiller directed, co-wrote and starred in. So what kind of blowback did you get from that scene?

As Ann noted when she called out that broadcast, there was no need for the clip, it never resulted in a conversation of any merit and Terry's 'warning' came too late and was insulting. It also wasn't in full. Terry felt some people might not find it funny. Some people? She neglected to inform her audience that disability groups had protested strongly about the film's use of the term.

And that's the thing, isn't it? On Fresh Air, Terry uses whatever term she wants. F**got and r**ard. And people who don't fall into those categories are allowed to discuss and interpret the terms and mock people with the terms. But anyone objecting is never heard. In 2010, it shouldn't be surprising that many people find the term f**got or r**ard offensive.

Pattern? Why it's such a pattern and such a long-standing pattern that, yes, even Alicia Shepard has had to weigh in. Three NPR friends who disagreed with Alicia steered us to an NPR page two weeks ago, a column by Alicia Shepard from April 2009 entitled "Using the 'N' Word" about Terry Gross, yes, using the n-word. In the column, we are informed that offensive words, when used, come with warnings. Might we point out that it's probably a good thing to warn a listener BEFORE you use the term? Terry was tossing around the r-word before she gave a heads up.

Of the n-word, Ellen Weiss is quoted in the column stating, "If we feel it is being used in a highly derogatory or offensive way, we may beep it." And Alica herself writes, "It fit within the context of their conversation and I don't feel it needed to be bleeped out."

So should the f-word have been bleeped out or the r-word?

And what of "G** damn"?

In fact, what of that entire clip from that bad movie?

How was that needed?

It didn't lead to a discussion about the protest. It didn't lead to anything of value. It certainly didn't question the use since Terry made it clear -- via laughter -- how amusing she found the clip. Are these the public airwaves or are they Terry Gross' air waves? Is she on to serve the public or just to amuse herself?

Time and again, the only viewpoint is Terry's. Laura Conaway notes that she originally thought Terry got kicked off MPR for a recent program on right wingers. Uh, no, Laura. After the month of December last year, when Terry managed to trash Republicans in nearly every interview she did, her biases are not only well known, they're well established.

And NPR listeners who want a referee know that they don't have one in Alicia Shepard who doesn't even bother (this is from 13 readers for Third who contacted Shepard repeatedly) to reply to them. An auto-generated e-mail thanks them for writing but their issue is never addressed in e-mail or in Alicia's writing. Some might say, "I write Third all the time and never get a reply!" Third is an online magazine. We are not, as Jim has repeatedly noted, "in the business of e-mails." By contrast, Alicia Shepard's job is to be the referee for NPR listeners and programs broadcast on NPR.

Terry has wasted the past 12 months asking a King of Queens' actor to describe a lap dance he got, a prostitute to detail the perverse habits of her clients and much, much more. In 1987, if you were placing a bet on who would be embarrassing herself in 2010 in yet another desperate attempt at seeming relevant by coming on smutty, most people would have put their money on Madonna, not Terry Gross.

But it is Terry Gross who works the smut factor. It is Terry Gross who repeatedly, in her old age, attempts to be shocking and apparently can't help but be one-sided. MPR dropped Terry's show due to the emerging pattern. They are the first we're aware of to drop her this year, they are not the only NPR station considering dropping her.

Stupidity is all over the story. Terry's stupidity lets her believe her ambi-sexual (pan-sexual?) qualities remain intact and her S&M style vocal delivery still titilates. Rachel Maddow's stupidity allows her to claim credit for Laura Conaway's bad reporting. Laura Conaway's stupidity allows her to 'weigh in' but 'forget' to inform readers that listeners were, in fact, objecting to use of the term f**got. NPR's stupidity?

The notion that they are serving their listeners.

In what feels like a lifetime ago, The Common Ills called out NPR's ombudsperson for refusing to do their job. That ombudsperson was Jeffrey A. Dvorkin and he had been asked by listeners to weigh in on Morning Edition using Robert Kagan to critique John Kerry's presidential campaign.

Dvorkin played fast and loose with the facts and reduced the issue to whether or not Kagan was a War Hawk. Earlier, NPR had sidelined Michele Norris from campaign interviews due to her husband (in 2004, he advised the Kerry campaign). No one at NPR thought Michele couldn't be objective but they did realize that NPR guidelines dictate that listeners should not be presented with even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Therefore, Michele was pulled from political interviews.

Do you follow that?

What Dvorkin 'forgot' to inform readers was that Kagan's wife worked for . . . Dick Cheney. Kagan critiques the Kerry campaign, finds it lacking, and Dick Cheney is on the other ticket. Yeah, it appears to be a conflict of interest. This was covered in "When NPR Fails You, Who You Gonna' Call? Not the Ombudsman" and, approximately six years later, that's still the case.

We'd argue Alicia's a nicer ombudsperson and a better informed one than Dvorkin. But, even allowing for the huge number of issues raised to her each month by listeners, we'd argue listeners still aren't being served. They probably can't be with just one ombudsperson. Equally true, Daniel Okrent did his finest ombudsperson (or public editor) work on The New York Times after he left his job (see his Public Editor #1-- and, disclosure, The Common Ills is mentioned in one sentence of that book).


A few notes.
"Dyke." We didn't censor it. We spoke with several lesbian friends who felt the term was not as charged as f**got and that it had long ago been 'reclaimed'.
Alicia Shepard seems like a very nice and informed person. We hope we got that point across in this piece. We are honestly bothered by the fact that our writing -- excepting only the Helen Thomas piece -- may have caused her some distress.
We don't read our pieces after they go up and are always surprised anyone else bothers to. For this piece, we read half of the WMC article and the first four paragraphs of the Helen Thomas piece. That's all we could stomach. And that's the most we've ever read of our writing after it was published.
R**ard. As has long been noted, one of us (C.I.) has worked on special needs issue for the bulk of her life, long before she was an adult. In the last three years, the other (Ava) has also been working on this issue. We take huge offense to that word and think there is no excuse for the use of it.
G** damn. We keep our religious beliefs and/or lack of them to ourselves. We do not talk religion. We do, however, respect the right of anyone to believe and have refrained from insulting any deity in our writing. Which is why you do not find even expressions like "Oh my G**" in our writing.
We fully respect and understand Ann's desire not to work on this long piece but a number of the topics we discuss re: Fresh Air have been discussed with Ann. For that reason, we did offer her a credit on this piece. She modestly turned it down but there's no point we made here that Ann couldn't have made on her own.
We're tired and have done all the links we intend to. At some point during the week, Ty may (or may not) edit this piece by adding links to previous pieces here at Third.
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