Major News Outlets Under Scrutiny For How They Handled Controversies

May 3, 2018
Originally published on May 3, 2018 8:37 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

News organizations - NPR among them - often demand greater transparency from government and big corporations, but they are not always so good at being transparent themselves. Right now, The New York Times, MSNBC and other news outlets are under scrutiny for the way they are handling controversies of their own. Here to talk about this is NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. Hey, David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Hey. So start with The New York Times. This week, The Times revealed that one of its top news editors had resigned. The Times did not reveal much more than that. What is the story?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, we're talking about Wendell Jamieson. He was the Metro editor. The Times did acknowledge in a statement announcing his departure that there had been an investigation and questions raised. It didn't say anything about the severity of the questions. It didn't say anything about the nature of the questions raised. And he was...

KELLY: Yeah.

FOLKENFLIK: ...Gone. And that's basically where it was. He even was allowed sort of an opportunity to apologize, which he did, for what he called inappropriate activities but also does take sort of a valedictory lap for the coverage that he helped to direct there.

KELLY: OK. So assuming that Times reporters started asking a lot of questions, did they get a lot of answers from their bosses?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you know, inside the newsroom, people I've talked to said they're pretty dismayed by this lack of transparency. The Times followed up a day later with kind of a tepid story acknowledging that yes to - that Wendell Jamieson had been part of the Me Too moment and not in a good way - that he had been accused of sexual harassment. The Times, of course, had been such a leader in coverage of accusations of figures, who had committed sexual harassment or accused of it, in so many different fields in life that people at Times were - I think it was tender over the fact that one of their own had left in essentially - under a cloak in terms of what the causes were for that.

KELLY: Now, let me turn you to another story. This is MSNBC, which is where Joy Reid, a popular host on that network, has been fighting for her job. This after reports surfaced of homophobic blog posts that she made nearly a decade ago. What's going on at MSNBC?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, the network hasn't - basically not handled it at all. That's the way in which they've dealt with it. They keep pointing to her own statements. Joy Reid originally came out and said, you know, there's this archive called the Internet Wayback Machine, and that was hacked. And that's why people are seeing these things. And the archive was able to show, no, that wasn't the case. She then procured a security consultant who said actually it was her old posts that were hacked, and those claims were unraveled pretty swiftly as well. And then MSNBC said she's going to explain it. Why don't you listen? And here's what she told her own viewers a few days ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AM JOY")

JOY REID: I genuinely do not believe I wrote those hateful things because they are completely alien to me, but I can definitely understand - based on things I have tweeted and have written in the past - why some people don't believe me.

FOLKENFLIK: And it's important to note that she had apologized some months ago for some earlier - perhaps slightly less homophobic - postings that she had made. You know, it seems as though she's made claims of hacking without any grounding for it, and it's hard to understand why a cable news operation would sort of defer to that and present her as credible in the absence of her taking full responsibility for what appears to have happened.

KELLY: Hey, one more situation just to quickly let you weigh in on. And this is Charlie Rose, the former PBS and CBS news star. The Washington Post has a story out today with fresh sexual harassment allegations against him. How is CBS handling that situation?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, it's acknowledging that it's changed its policies a lot in the last year or two since a lot of these accusations have surfaced at Fox News in particular but at NPR - at other places as well. It's announced today also that it's instituting an outside legal review by the law firm Proskauer Rose to take a look at how these things handled in the past. But there are people at CBS, who are concerned about the issues raised there, who say, you know, there's a culture there that allowed him to get away with this for quite some time.

KELLY: David Folkenflik, thank you.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

KELLY: That's NPR's David Folkenflik. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.