If she has learned one thing as Ombudsman for NPR, Alicia C. Shepard writes, "it's that NPR member stations are fiercely independent and do not take directives from NPR." Last week's decision to pull the plug on Planned Parenthood spots while the group was under discussion in Washington was strictly local and routine, she said. But could have been handled better.
KPCC pulled the spots following its policy to suspend sponsorships from any underwriter that suddenly comes up in the news, as Planned Parenthood did last week in the budget negotiations.
NPR has a similar policy. "If a given sponsor is in the news in a controversial way, there is a provision that calls for its schedule to be evaluated to determine whether or not the spots pose the risk of potential misperception on the part of the public," said NPR's Rehm.
If nothing else, this incident provides just another reminder for any news executive (or anyone, in reality) to carefully craft emails assuming they could reach the public, as well as the intended audience. That way, there would be less ground for misinterpretations.
KPCC has already said the suspension was routine and temporary.