NY Times article omitted key facts about CPB's new ombudsmen


In a May 2 article on efforts by Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), "to correct what he and other conservatives consider liberal bias" at CPB, New York Times reporters Stephen Labaton, Lorne Manley, and Elizabeth Jensen noted that CPB recently appointed two ombudsmen "to review the content of public radio and television broadcasts." But the article failed to note that one of the ombudsmen, William Schulz, is an avowed conservative with close ties to Tomlinson, while the other, Ken Bode, is a former journalist and a fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute who last year endorsed Indiana Republican gubernatorial candidate Mitch Daniels. In addition, the Times story made no mention that CPB's new chief operating officer and acting president is a former Bush administration official.

Tomlinson was editor-in-chief of Reader's Digest before resigning to work on Republican Steve Forbes' 1996 presidential campaign, according to a February 13, 1996, article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Schulz and Tomlinson worked together at Reader's Digest, where Schulz was the Washington editor and an editor-at-large. A February 11, 2002, National Review article lamented the "saddening transformation" of Reader's Digest away from "overt conservatism" in the wake of Tomlinson's resignation. The Review noted that "[m]ost of the magazine's top editors had been Tomlinson hires, and virtually all of them were, like Tomlinson himself, political conservatives," but added that "[a] few conservatives remain, most notably Schulz." On June 26, 1986, The Washington Post reported that a Reader's Digest-operated foundation pulled its funding from the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) to register dissatisfaction with what Schulz called the desire among AEI leadership at the time "to move the organization to the center and appeal to foundations and corporations not thought of as conservative." Schulz also authored a March 14 article for the conservative website Human Events Online.

The other CPB ombudsman is Ken Bode, a former NBC national political correspondent, former CNN senior political analyst, and an adjunct fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute. Bode endorsed Indiana Republican gubernatorial candidate Mitch Daniels in an October 15, 2004, Indianapolis Star commentary.

According to The Ombudsman Association's code of ethics, an ombudsman is a "designated neutral" who "strives for objectivity and impartiality."

Nor did the Times article note that W. Kenneth Ferree was named chief operating office and interim president of CPB, though the Times had previously reported that Ferree is "a former senior official at the Federal Communications Commission who played a significant role in the failed effort to loosen rules to make it easier for media companies to expand into new businesses and geographic areas." The article also failed to note what came out in an April 24 interview by Deborah Solomon in the Times' own Sunday magazine, as CJR Daily flagged. Ferree told the Times Magazine that he rarely consumes programming by CPB's grantees, which include PBS and National Public Radio (NPR). In response to Solomon's question about his favorite PBS show, Ferree responded, "I'm not much of a TV consumer," adding that The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer is "slow." His interest in NPR seems even harder to identify:

SOLOMON: For the head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, you don't sound like much of a PBS viewer. Perhaps you prefer NPR, which your organization also finances?

FERREE: No. I do not get a lot of public radio for one simple reason. I commute to work on my motorcycle, and there is no radio access.

SOLOMON: Can't you install a radio on a motorcycle and listen with headphones?

FERREE: One probably can. But my bikes are real cruisers. They're stripped down deliberately to look cool, and I don't want all that electronic gear.

Public Broadcasting
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