After a memo banning staffers from attending rallies — specifically the two high-profile ones to be orchestrated by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert later this month — made its way around the internet and collected backlash in its swath, NPR is trying to get other news outlets to join its side of the fight.
This morning, Dana Davis Rehm, the public broadcasting network’s senior vice president for marketing, explained on the This Is NPR blog why top brass put a ban on the supremely hyped events. The memo explained that NPR singled out Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity and Colbert’s March to Keep Fear Alive because it was not “obvious to everyone that these were overtly political events. It’s different with the Colbert and Stewart rallies; they are ambiguous.”
Rehm signed off by asking other newspapers and broadcast outlets to chime in and state their policies, with the presumed intent of trying to drum up support for NPR’s maligned ban. Michael Calderone went fishing for answers, and it turns out that NPR now has a few more allies in its definition of journalistic ethics.
A statement from NBC echoed NPR’s objections, albeit with a potential loophole: “NBC News prohibits employees who function in an editorial role from participating at partisan events, however on a case by case basis we have permitted msnbc hosts to participate in such events.”
The Washington Post allows for a bit more breathing room — in a memo to newsroom managers they differentiate between “participating,” which they define as wearing buttons and buying t-shirts, and “observing, as journalists do.” No word on how the bosses are going to regulate that policy come Oct. 30, but that’s what they have.
The New York Times also coughed up a statement that said they view the rallies as serious political events “despite the comic/satirical elements,” and don’t want attendance to “raise any questions about our impartiality.”
It remains to be seen whether these policies will be followed, and bringing up the issue is only raising the profiles of the rallies. Regardless of whether Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are joking, these two events have become serious business.