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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 04:45 PM ET, 04/24/2012

NPR reporter formerly worked for Common Cause. Cause for concern?

NPR reporter Peter Overby is getting hammered by and for an apparent ethical breach. The alleged offense is a failure to disclose. Overby did a story April 19 on the attacks against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative group that has recently received heavy news rotation. Among ALEC detractors mentioned in the piece is Common Cause, which Overby calls a “good-government group.”

The critique, via Mike Flynn: “What listeners didn’t learn, however, was that NPR’s reporter, Peter Overby formerly worked for Common Cause.”

What readers don’t learn, however is that Overby bolted for NPR from Common Cause in 1994 (in fairness, the story does link to Overby’s bio, which contains that fact).

NPR spokeswoman Anna Christopher notes that Overby’s nearly two-decade-ago stint with Common Cause is right there on the NPR Web site for all to sample. “Peter’s past employment is both transparent, and completely irrelevant to his coverage of this story,” writes Christopher in an e-mail.

And so the journo-ethics SAT question of the day:

The requirement to disclose a journalist’s former employer expires:

a) After a month;

b) After a year;

c) After five years;

d) Never!

By  |  04:45 PM ET, 04/24/2012

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