Why Is NPR Picking And Choosing Which Public Figures To Out?


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.

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  • paulied

    Larry Craig’s mug shot is back.

  • alan brickman

    are these closet cases republican?…then it would make sense…

  • The Lesbian Mafia

    Good call on NPR. I think I listened to NPR once back in 1999. Zzzzzzz

    It’s so funny what gay people call “news”.

    Personal opinion is not “news”.

    We don’t listen to these so called “liberal” or “gay” stations. They are nothing more than mouth peices for the Hollywood run Democratic party and they either un-inform or mis-inform and divide the community. Usually the latter.

  • Topher

    It could be related to the fact that NPR gets funding from the federal government (“careful not to bite the hand that feeds”).

  • The Gay Numbers

    News is something that can be corraborate by investigation which is what was done for Outrage. NPR has used material with less corraboration than this. They are doing this not because of journalistic standards, but out of fear.

  • Bruno

    Limbaugh must’ve phoned up their bosses.

  • james ii

    why would NPR care? Republicans hate them anyway! It’s like Obama making concessions to Republicans and then the Republicans voting against his budget anyway — what’s the point?

  • The Gay Numbers

    because they suffer under the delusion that they can convince GOP “moderates” that they are okay. Sadly, they do not get there are no moderates at the national level for the GOP. So the only one they are fooling are themselves.

  • Nathan Lee

    I feel obligated to make a correction that has been widely misreported in coverage of this situation. I did not find out about the changes *after* NPR published the article. They withheld the article from publication (without notifying me) while the matter was being debated. On contacting my editor late Friday to inquire about the status of the review, I was told, after a very long discussion, that NPR categorically refused to print the relevant names as a matter of policy. (A policy since revealed to be selectively applied and subject to a double standard.) It was at this point that I insisted I would not sign my name to the review – which had been considerably re-written and censored – and that if it were published I would like a disclaimer amended to explain why. IN addition to protesting NPR policy, my intention was that such a review would alert readers to an example of the same media complicity and double-standard addressed in the film. Unfortunately, the reason for the missing byline was misconstrued by readers, so I posted a comment to the site explaining the circumstances. This comment was removed at the insistence of an NPR editor.

Comments are closed.