View Full Version : Media bodies curb employees’ political activity

10-16-2010, 08:59 PM
Media bodies curb employees’ political activity

By Johanna Kassel in New York
Published: October 15 2010 18:00 | Last updated: October 15 2010 18:00

As Congressional elections approach, some media organisations are taking steps to limit the political activities of their reporters, personally and professionally.

This week, National Public Radio announced that its employees would not be allowed to attend the rallies planned for October 30 by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, the hosts of two satirical television news shows. The gatherings are a response to the “Restoring honour” rally in August, hosted by Fox News’ Glenn Beck.

In a blog post by the NPR communications department, the radio network explained that the company’s ethics policy states that employees “may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers . . . This restriction applies to the upcoming Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallies.” NPR reporters covering the events are permitted to attend in a professional capacity.

Other media organisations have not explicitly banned employees from attending, but if many of their policies are strictly followed, they would not be allowed to attend the rallies, which imply political support.

The Washington Post clarified its position in a memo to newsroom managers, saying it does not prohibit employees from attending, but that they are not allowed to “participate”.

“Events, like those organised by Glenn Beck or involving Jon Stewart and Steven [sic] Colbert, are political, and therefore Post newsroom employees may not participate,” the Washington Post memo stated. “By participate, we mean that Post newsroom employees cannot in any way put themselves in a position that could be construed as supporting (or opposing) that cause. That means no T-shirts, buttons, marching, chanting, etc.”

But the “Rally to restore sanity” and the “March to keep fear alive” blur the lines as they are hosted by TV personalities – both have popular shows on Comedy Central – and have an element of entertainment as well as politics.

“I agree that the Stewart and Colbert events – despite the obvious satirical component – are at least in part political gatherings, and we would treat them under the [ethical] guidelines,” said Philip B. Corbett, standards editor at The New York Times.

The Huffington Post, one of the most popular liberal news outlets on the web, offered free bus rides from New York to Washington after Arianna Huffington, during an appearance on The Daily Show, promised to get as many people as possible to the rallies. Thousands of people have taken her up on the offer, reportedly filling 100 buses and costing more than $250,000.

The NPR blog post also goes into detail about the company’s policy about employee participation in social networking, a topic of growing debate in the industry. In addition to not participating in political gatherings, the policy states that employees “must not advocate for political or other polarising issues online . . . including your Facebook page or a personal blog”.

I guess Hell froze over last night. First Merkel and now this. :eek:

Financial Times (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/753310bc-d87b-11df-8e05-00144feabdc0.html)