Elizabeth Jensen

Years ago, when I worked at the New York Daily News, I had a busy day: two stories about CBS on the front page. They ran under a single headline that was, in my opinion, a very witty play on the title of the 1950s thriller, "Bad Day at Black Rock."

Late last year, many listeners and readers rightly objected when NPR released statistics tracking the diversity of its on-air sources and didn't include a category for Native or Indigenous sources, because the numbers were so low.

This is National News Literacy Week. In that spirit, here are some thoughts on the journalistic ethics surrounding the interview that NPR's Mary Louise Kelly conducted last week with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the aftermath, prompted by questions to my office.

I wrote last week about what we in my office informally call "missing stories," those stories that NPR listeners and readers feel have been under-covered. Newsrooms have to set priorities, of course, and they can't cover everything. But this week's "missing story" is a particularly notable omission.

Listeners have reacted with sadness to the news that Cokie Roberts, an NPR "founding mother," died this morning of complications from breast cancer.

As one listener wrote to our office, "she had a plumb, level and straight presence that promised that we would get through this hail and lightning storm."

The inbox overflowed this past week with passionate (and yes, often angry) listener and reader feedback about NPR's decision to use the word "racist" to describe President Trump's tweets that certain members of Congress should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." He didn't name the members of Congress, but it was clear he was referring to four Democrats: women of color known as "The Squad," three of whom were born in the U.S.

Morning Edition listeners could not have been surprised: NPR gave them lots of heads up that new theme music was coming this week, the first change since the show went on the air 40 years ago. And the music is actually better described as "new-ish" than "new."

A Dec. 17 report on All Things Considered about the Indian Child Welfare Act prompted harsh criticism from the Native American Journalists Association, which called it "inaccurate and imprecise." A meeting between NAJA leaders and NPR editors resulted in a clarification being posted on the online version of the piece, but NAJA members continued to have concerns about the reporting.

A listener wrote: "What ethical calculus has been used to decide that NPR will broadcast POTUS live?"

He was referring to President Trump's Oval Office address tonight, his first from that venue. It is expected to be on the topic of immigration and his demand, as part of the negotiations to end the partial government shutdown, for funding for some kind of barrier on the southwest border.

In June 2016, David Gilkey, an NPR photojournalist, and Zabihullah Tamanna, NPR's Afghan interpreter and also a journalist, were killed while on assignment for NPR in Afghanistan. Their deaths in the field — when their armored Humvee, driven by a Afghan National Army soldier, was hit by heavy weapons fire — marked a sad first for NPR in its more than 45 years on the air.

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