Recommended: ‘Investigative Storytelling Gone Awry’

The NPR ombudsman, Edward Schumacher-Matos, produced an extraordinary investigation-of-an-investigation earlier this year:

My finding is that the series was deeply flawed and should not have been aired as it was.

The series committed five sins that violate NPR’s code of standards and ethics. They were:

  1. No proof for its main allegations of wrongdoing;
  2. Unfair tone in communicating these unproven allegations;
  3. Factual errors, shaky anecdotes and misleading use of data by quietly switching what was being measured;
  4. Incomplete reporting and lack of critical context;
  5. No response from the state on many key points.

I was convinced after the first couple of chapters that Schumacher-Matos was worth reading for those who are invested in the issue covered by the original report. I found his writing to be fair, cautious, and reflective.

To me, his report is a model of critical thinking applied to journalism, and I was disappointed that NPR responded with only a defensive memo.


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