Alicia C. Shepard
Jay Starkman has had it with NPR after listening to coverage of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who has been charged with killing 13 people at Ft. Hood on Nov.5.
"I can't take you any more! NPR is so PC, it insists on calling Hasan "alleged" and the name of his unnamed contact abroad is an "alleged" terrorist," wrote Starkman, of Atlanta, GA. "Wake-up! This was a TERRORIST act on U.S. soil, not unlike Timothy McVeigh." [McVeigh was behind the Oklahoma City bombing which killed 168 in 1995.]
Another listener from Louisville, KY wrote: "Is there one shred, scintilla, mote, or nit-sized piece of evidence that Major Hasan did NOT shoot those people? If you have one, please share it. If you don't, please delete the word "allegedly" from your stories about him. If he is found not guilty because he was insane, that still does not mean he was not the killer, obviously."
I understand the frustration because, to listeners, it may seem clear that Hasan is responsible for murdering 13 men and women who have families. But in the United States, since our country's founding, a person is legally considered innocent until proven guilty.
Until Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty, for example, the press referred to him as the alleged mastermind of the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time. Right now, short of a confession or conviction in a court of law (rather than a court of public opinion), Hasan is still considered innocent.
Journalists use the word "allegedly" both to protect the suspect and honor one of the most important underlying premises of our nation's legal system. They also use the word to protect their news organizations.
There are plenty of cases where someone was accused of a crime and it seemed obvious that they did it, and then it turns out they didn't.
Slate has a good explainer on why journalists use allegedly.
This week NPR's audience research posted a "word cloud" online that indicated what terms come up most when listeners were asked to describe NPR and their local public radio stations. Informative, interesting and intelligent came up most. But so did liberal. Fair, objective, balanced and accurate weren't used as often. Take a look.
Annual Reports Updated Online
Some of you have been asking NPR to update its annual reports online. Citing the need for transparency in an organization that has the word "public" in its name, I have been making the same request for almost a year (until recently the latest report posted online was for 2005). And now the latest reports are online. What you will find are a list of sponsors and donors, shown by categories of how much they spent for fiscal years 2006, 2007 and 2008.