He can stay, she must go.
He can remain as host of On the Media.
But if a freelancer for WNYC, Caitlin Curran, stands with Occupy Wall Street, by carrying a sign with a passage from the Atlantic.com about corrupt practices in the financial industry, that’s an obvious ethics violation.
And she must be removed.
Are we all clear now?
The above is an exact description of something that has transpired at WNYC, New York City’s powerful NPR affiliate. Follow me on this, and if you are having trouble believing it… click the links.
From 2007 to 2009, Bob Garfield headed up an advocacy effort against Comcast, a giant communications company. His site tried to rally public opinion and consumer outrage to force changes at Comcast. There was nothing hidden or subtle about it. See, for example, Our Non-Negotiable Demands.
“Comcast is getting pounded,” Garfield wrote. “But it still doesn’t understand why. It doesn’t understand that the world has changed, that its customers are no longer passive victims of the corporate agenda. We are stakeholders. We not only wish to have a say in how things are done, we not only demand a say in how things are done, we have the power to get our way.”
A few weeks ago freelancer Caitlin Curran, who sometimes worked as a producer for The Takeaway, decided to march with Occupy Wall Street. At one point she held a sign that she and her boyfriend had made. It repeated a passage from Atlantic writer Conor Friedersdorf about shady practices in investment banking. Curran was photographed holding the sign and the picture spread rapidly on the Net. She suggested The Takeway do a feature on the virality of it.
“The next day, The Takeaway’s general manager fired me over the phone, effective immediately,” she wrote. “He was inconsolably angry, and said that I had violated every ethic of journalism, and that this should be a ‘teaching moment’ for me in my career as a journalist.”
Garfield stayed. Curran had to go.
I was a guest on On the Media this weekend, and I raised the discrepancy with co-host Brooke Gladstone. You can listen to the interview, including her response here: Journalists are People Too. She said she disagreed with Garfield’s decision to launch Comcast Must Die, and confronted him about it on the show. People at WNYC were not happy with his advocacy campaign, she added.
Caitlin Curran was also a guest on On the Media this weekend. And it was Bob Garfield who interviewed her! I don’t know if the matter of his advocacy campaign came up; if it did that discussion was edited out. You can listen to their exchange here: Public Radio Journalists and Political Expression. (Update: Curran told me it did not come up.)
Can anyone at WNYC, can anyone in public radio, explain why Bob Garfield is still there and Caitlin Curran is gone?
By the way, officials at WNYC declined to be interviewed by On the Media, their own show, about the Caitlin Curran decision.
Final point: I am a loyal listener and a member of WNYC. We just renewed and gave them $120.
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