I enjoy reading other media critics and ombudsmen, (er, ombudspersons?) and thought about discussing this recent take on Kwanzaa coverage by NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos. He updated the post today and it gives me an opportunity to show it to you, too. You can read the initial column (“Gaining Or Losing Credibility By Humanizing A Reporter: A Kwanzaa Story“) for analysis of how NPR covered Kwanzaa on a couple of different programs.
The focus of the analysis is how a Morning Edition segment on Jan. 1 introduced and treated the topic. The host sort of interviews the reporter of the story — who, because he’s a black man, is also giving a first-person take on how he celebrates Kwanzaa — and it doesn’t exactly go well. In short, the reporter is a good personal example of a main point of the story about how celebration of Kwanzaa is on the decline. But this means that he’s a really bad “expert” source as a reporter on the story.
Much navel-gazing ensues, of course, and the host and producer of the show defend their use of an unknowledgeable source because it lends honesty and credibility to their reporting. Of course, listeners were less than pleased:
As Darcelle Gill of Leland, N.C., wrote:
“What a way to introduce Gene Demby, a journalist of race and ethnicity, to your NPR family/audience. I was disappointed to start my 2013 to hear an incomplete description of Kwanzaa.”
Exactly. No need to overthink this one. It’s disappointing as a listener to get an incomplete description of something.
Schumacher-Matos also made some references to how another NPR program — Tell Me More – approached the Kwanzaa story in a “standard” manner … by talking to an actual expert.
Michel Martin responds with an amazing smackdown: