NPR CEO's Previous Activism Sparks Controversy, Leading to Veteran Editor's Resignation

NPR faces scandal over CEO's political activism, editor's resignation, and allegations of bias, raising questions about the organization's commitment to impartiality.

Nitish Verma
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NPR CEO's Previous Activism Sparks Controversy, Leading to Veteran Editor's Resignation

NPR CEO's Previous Activism Sparks Controversy, Leading to Veteran Editor's Resignation

NPR is facing a scandal involving the previous political activism of its CEO, Katherine Maher, and the resignation of veteran editor Uri Berliner. Maher's social media posts displaying what some describe as 'woke ideologies and pro-Democrat activism' appear to violate NPR's ethics policies, which prohibit staff from engaging in political advocacy or undermining the organization's credibility as an impartial news source.

The controversy escalated when NPR reprimanded Berliner for violating its policies by appearing on another news platform without permission. Berliner, who had previously written an essay criticizing NPR's perceived liberal bias, was handed a five-day unpaid suspension for the policy breach. In his resignation letter, Berliner stated, "I cannot work in a newsroom where I am disparaged by a new CEO whose divisive views confirm the very problems at NPR I cited."

The incident has highlighted an apparent double standard in how NPR has handled Maher's political activism compared to Berliner's policy violation. Maher, who had previously worked at the Wikimedia Foundation and had no direct journalism experience before joining NPR, has faced criticism from conservative activists for her previous social media messages disparaging former President Donald Trump.

Why this matters: The scandal at NPR raises questions about the organization's commitment to impartiality and its handling of staff members' political activism. It also underscores the challenges news organizations face in maintaining public trust amid perceptions of bias and the increasing scrutiny of journalists' personal views and previous statements in the digital age.

Responding to the controversy, Maher defended NPR's diversity initiatives, stating that it is "deeply simplistic" to assume that diversity equates to a particular set of beliefs. She announced that NPR will be implementing network-wide editorial meetings and a rotating group to review its coverage. However, the incident has sparked calls from right-wing figures and politicians to defund NPR over its alleged "wokeism." Senators Ted Cruz and Marsha Blackburn have called for eliminating government funding for public broadcasting, while Christopher Rufo, a Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow, has questioned whether Maher can help NPR achieve a range of viewpoints based on her previous tweets.

Berliner, in his resignation letter, stated that he respected the integrity of his colleagues and wished for NPR to thrive and pursue important journalism, despite his disagreement with the organization's editorial direction. The controversy has affected internal dynamics at NPR, with several journalists reportedly unwilling to work with Berliner, fearing confidentiality issues. As the situation continues to unfold, it has sparked a broader discussion on the balance between personal expression and professional responsibilities in journalism, especially in leadership roles within prominent news organizations.

Key Takeaways

  • NPR CEO Katherine Maher's past political activism raises ethics concerns.
  • Veteran editor Uri Berliner resigned after being reprimanded for policy breach.
  • Controversy highlights apparent double standard in handling staff's political views.
  • Calls to defund NPR over "wokeism" allegations, questioning Maher's leadership.
  • Incident sparks debate on balancing personal expression and professional responsibilities.