And, he continued, "In my opinion, it shouldn't matter, because on any given day, 'Morning Edition,' for example, is a conglomeration of stories produced by full-time NPR correspondents, member-station people, freelancers and independents. But the bottom line, to the listener, it's all NPR — it's all NPR news."
Hochberg, who teaches radio news and journalism at the University of North Carolina, also said it doesn't matter, according to the NPR Ethics Code, whether she is performing as a journalist on a news show or as host of a music program on NPR.
"The ethics code also addresses this other thing where people say, 'Well, she's not a journalist -- she's hosting an opera show.' ... The ethics code says this applies to every program unless the program producer has conferred with NPR and NPR has agreed that it doesn't. I take that to mean that the conferring has to be done before you commit the behavior -- not retroactively."
And NPR had never given WDAV such a waiver.
"And even if this weren't spelled out in black and white, I think most journalists would just look at this and say it's obvious," Hochberg said. "If you just wrote about the local music scene, or you were just doing the recipe-swap column in the Thursday food section in your paper, you still couldn't be out serving as the spokesperson for a political movement at any journalistic organization I'm familiar with."
Simeone disagreed about the ethics code: "From what I've looked at of the NPR ethics code, I don't believe I've broken it," Simeone said in an interview with the Sun Friday, "because it specifically says if you are a news reporter covering these topics, then you can't go and advocate on these same topics. I am not a news reporter, and I am not covering these topics."
Hochberg is correct about what the ethics code says, and the decision has been made in accordance with it. And while some columnists are having fun satirizing NPR for hewing so closely to the letter of its law, the public broadcasting operation did what it had to do if it wanted to have an enforceable ethics code.
Simeone is part of a larger media movement that is starting to emerge in a significant way. And, in my opinion, that movement is an important story that has yet to be outlined or seriously reported.
I'll try to tell some of that story later tonight or tomorrow. There are a few moving parts that I want to nail down and think about before I commit to print. Please check back later.