When NPR film critic Nathan Lee filed his copy for Kirby Dick’s film Outrage, he was as surprised as readers to see all the names of the politicians the movie outs to be yanked from the review. Among the names removed? Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and former Sen. Larry Craig, although Craig’s photo still accompanied the article (it’s since been removed). Why the self-censorship? Because NPR has a policy about protecting the privacy of public figures, which is a little silly, given NPR is in the business of discussing public figures every day. So Lee protested … by removing his byline, having learned about the policy only after he filed the review, reports Indiewire. “Only an overriding public need to know can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy,” says NPR’s policy. Huh. Then why has it violated the privacy of other public figures willy nilly?
Like how last month alone, NPR was agog about American Idol contestant Adam Lambert’s sexuality, points out Movieline. And last year, when Wanda Sykes came out at an anti-Prop 8 rally in Las Vegas, NPR speculated whether it would lead Queen Latifah — a staunch “it’s none of your business” celeb — to also come out. You know, because black people all do the same thing.
Perhaps we’d have less of a problem with NPR’s policy if they did a better job following it. We get that some folks and media outlets will, at any cost, take sexuality off the table, even if it involves publicly elected officials whose own policies contradict their sexual orientation. And even if naming those names comes in the context of reporting what other folks, like Kirby Dick, are reporting.
But this picking and choosing? Why, that sounds little something like media bias.
UPDATE: Parts of the timeline of NPR publishing the story and Lee knowing about the edits have been corrected here.