Saturday, October 22, 2011

Another Heavy-Handed Move from NPR Executive

Dana Davis Rehm
NPR Senior VP of Marketing Dana Davis Rehm has done it again: managed to fire somebody for acting like a U.S. Citizen.

This example--the firing of a woman who was host of an opera show--is a good bit more egregious than the first: axing NPR commentator Juan Williams for opinions expressed over on rival Fox. NPR commentators have no business appearing on Fox.

In the latest travesty, however, Rehm (who apparently is not related to talk show host Diane Rehm) managed to get freelance opera show host Lisa Simeone canned for a while, then got her whole "Opera World" show cancelled from NPR distribution because Simeone participated in the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Simeone, who is not a news correspondent at any level, was fired for being a citizen in her off hours. That is immoral if it is not illegal--and my guess is that it is both. Rehm told the AP, "Our view is it's a potential conflict of interest for any journalist or any individual who plays a public role on behalf of NPR to take an active part in a political movement or advocacy campaign. Doing so has the potential to compromise our reputation as an organization that strives to be impartial and unbiased."

The conflict of interest comes into play when NPR correspondents participate in right-wing shout fests over on Fox, which is to news what a fly is to a five-star meal. When I hear an NPR correspondent on that waste of air time, it reflects badly on my view of NPR and I don't trust that correspondent any longer.

But if an opera host participates in a political demonstration, that act has nothing to do with her music show. They are entirely separate. If she were to participate in the GOPAC (the right-wing slobber-fest each year in Washington), I would have the same feeling about it. It's her business and not NPR's or mine.

The outcome of this is that Simeone kept her job, but the distribution of the show was dropped by NPR. The show will be circulated by the producing station in North Carolina (and my guess is it won't lose any of its 60 outlets). At least I hope not. Rehm's heavy hand needs a lighter touch and a lot more thought.

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