The Washington Post

NPR audits its own coverage of same-sex marriage

NPR Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos and his assistant put together some information on the outlet’s coverage of last week’s big news on the same-sex marriage issue. Some numbers, that is. Over eight days of coverage, they found “34 interviews with supporters of gay marriage versus 22 opposed and five uncommitted.”

As Schumacher-Matos notes, that’s a 3-2 edge for pro-gay marriage forces on NPR airwaves. Crisis? Scandal? Evidence of bias?

Nah. One thing that both sides agree on is that President Obama’s revelation to ABC’s Robin Roberts was a historic moment — and given its magnitude, there’s nothing irresponsible about giving an edge to the folks who are celebrating or applauding the occasion. Consider, too, that the mantra of the opposition has been seared into our media subconscious by 20-plus presidential debates: I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.

NPR Deputy Standards Managing Editor for News* Stuart Seidel tells Schumacher-Matos that obsessing over equal time “is to miss a core responsibility of journalism.” Seidel says this “core responsibility” is to “seek a multiple of perspectives and to present them fairly, with the nuance and complexity that all these stories deserve.”

Another “core responsibility” is to make the coverage bearable or even enjoyable. And if you’re too busy bean-counting the worldviews of your interviewees, you’re likely shirking it.

*Correction: Article originally identified Seidel as “Deputy Standards Editor,” when in fact he is Deputy Managing Editor for News as well as the standards and practices editor.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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