About NPR and Fox News

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Increasingly uncomfortable with her on-air association with Fox News, NPR news execs approached Mara Liasson in October and asked her to reconsider her long-running (paying) gig as FNC panelist, according to a report in Politico.

But after reportedly spending 30 days closely watching Fox News, Liasson told NPR execs she could not detect a a discernible change in Fox News' partisan programming this year. (No word if NPR paid for Liasson's subsequent eye exam.)

Apparently, according to Liasson's way of thinking, because she only appears on two news programs, "Special Report" and "Fox News Sunday," and because they're not "opinion" shows (oh, really?), than there's nothing wrong with her cashing Fox News checks and allowing the news channel to buy her NPR status each week.

I find it comical that Liasson reportedly thinks that because she's on two 'serious' Fox News shows that that means she's no way associated with the rest of channel's nutty and hateful programming. Apparently, Liasson is able to magically cocoon herself within the confines of two programs. And even though she cashes those Fox News checks she's not really, y'know, part of Fox News.

Gimme a break.

You can't be half pregnant in a situation like this, which means Liasson needs to forcefully defend Fox News in its entirety. But if she can't do that and she still cares about her reputation as a journalists, than she ought to walk away from Rupert Murdoch's money, because the glaring truth is that Fox News jumped the rails many, many months ago.

Of course, turning down money isn't easy, as former Fox News host Eric Burns wrote just last week. Burns pondered what life would be like if he were still employed by the completely unhinged and nakedly partisan version of Fox News, circa 2009. Specifically, how Burns would have felt, as a professional, being associated with that kind of outfit [emphasis added]:

I ask myself what I would have done if I worked at Fox now. Would I have quit, as the estimable Jane Hall did? Once a panelist on my program, Hall departed for other reasons as well, but Beck was a particular source of embarrassment to her, even though they never shared a studio, perhaps never even met.

I think . . . I think the answer to my question does not do me proud. I think, more concerned about income than principle, I would have continued to work at Fox, but spent my spare time searching avidly for other employment. I think I would not have been as admirable as Jane Hall. I think I would not have reacted to Beck with the probity I like to think I possess.

UPDATED: For the record, here's what NRP's code of ethics states about employees doing outside media work:

9. NPR journalists must get permission from the Senior Vice President for News, or their designee, to appear on TV or other media. Requests should be submitted in writing to the employee's immediate supervisor and copied to mediarelations@npr.org . Approval will not be unreasonably denied if the proposed work will not discredit NPR, conflict with NPR's interests, create a conflict of interest for the employee or interfere with the employee's ability to perform NPR duties. The Senior Vice President or designee must respond within seven days of receiving a request. It is not necessary to get permission in each instance when the employee is a regular participant on an approved show. Permission for such appearances may be revoked if NPR determines such appearances are harmful to the reputation of NPR or the NPR participant.

10. In appearing on TV or other media including electronic Web-based forums, NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not participate in shows electronic forums, or blogs that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis.

Seems to me that NPR exes clearly have the right to tell Liasson to end her Fox News association if they believe it is "harmful to the reputation of NPR." Plus, isn't it obvious that the Fox News shows Liasson appears on do "encourage punditry and speculation"?

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