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NPR and Torture: Time to Revisit Publicly Funded Media

Glenn Greenwald posts about NPR’s refusal to use the word "torture." Here’s what NPR’s Ombudsman, Alicia C. Shepard, said on the subject:

Both Presidents Bush and Obama have insisted that the United States does not use torture. Officials during the Bush administration acknowledged the use of what they called "enhanced interrogation techniques."

Say what? We never tortured anybody because they say so?

Even if it were true (and it isn’t — as Glenn notes, both Obama and Holder have said that waterboarding is torture, and acknowledged its use) it’s the height of Pravda-esque stenography to adopt "because the President says so" as a journalistic standard.

NPR is considered one of the most trusted sources of news. It only gets 2% of its funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, but the CPB became an easy target for the Bushies when they decided it was ground zero for "liberal media."  Ken Thomlinson tried to dismantle it, and they nominated Warren Bell (NRO contributor and producer of "According to Jim" (Belushi) to the board of CPB. Basically did the same thing they did to the Justice Department and FEMA, stacked it with Brownies.

While I don’t think it’s the sole fault of the Bushies, the CPB has become overly cautious about pissing off those in power. I was an infrequent guest on a PBS show a couple of years ago, until a rather oily old conservative bird who didn’t much like me called and threatened to have their funding cut if they had me on again, and that was the end of that.

The CPB’s structure has resulted in a commitment to "he said-she said" journalism that is insufficiently firewalled from political pressure and reinforces many of the problems of traditional media.

With media structures all in serious overhaul mode these days, it’s probably time to revisit how the government devotes funds to public media.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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