Is A Tabloid Tale Fit For Public Radio?
National Public Radio's ombudsman has agreed with listeners who complained that a recent All Things Considered feature about Mel Gibson was ill-considered. The ombudsman, Alicia C. Shepard, noted that the complaints had little to do with the recordings of Gibson, unearthed by RadarOnline, spewing obscenities at his onetime girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva, but everything to do with NPR devoting four and a half minutes to Gibson's foibles. "While I understand that NPR programs struggle to find the right balance between serious news and tapping into the zeitgeist in the story of the moment, I agree with many who complained that NPR could have skipped this story and lost nothing," Shepard wrote. "After all, NPR has built its reputation on in-depth reporting of important news and arts and entertainment coverage that rises above the ordinary." ATC executive producer Christopher Turpin defended the report. "It's a story that everyone is talking about. I was in the coffee shop and what were people talking about in line? They were talking about Mel Gibson." He added that it was entirely justifiable, therefore, to be covering "what happens to celebrities when their personality or character is undermined by their personal behavior." Shepard, however, agreed with one letter writer who said that the feature was "entirely outside what NPR has always been about." Said Shepard, "Listeners generally do not turn their dials to public radio for the kind of gossip featured at the grocery store check-out counter. At the very least, if ATC really believed this story deserved airtime, something less than 4 minutes and 31 seconds would have done the job."