Chapin, in conversation with Tulsa Public Radio’s Rich Fisher, discussed ethics and humanity in journalism.
On Wednesday, September 12, Public Radio Tulsa hosted one of its “The Give and Take” events. The guest speaker was Edith Chapin, executive editor of NPR news. The event was moderated by Rich Fisher, Public Radio Tulsa’s general manager.
Edith Chapman spent 25 years working for CNN before she “saw the light” and went to public broadcasting, where she has been for six years, first as the senior supervising editor of the Foreign News Desk and then as the executive editor. She said that her current job entails “overseeing all the reporters and editors at NPR and a cursory, but broad oversight of the stories we should take and the direction [NPR] should be taking.”
Chapin and Fisher spoke about how public radio serves as a voice that grabs the stories often ignored by the corporate media. That goal of covering such stories, Chapin said, is the reason, for the name of the popular NPR program “All Things Considered.” A major theme of the night was the mainstream media’s apparent fixation on news coming from Washington, D.C.
Chapin made it clear that NPR understands, “There are more than three big stories a day.” She also emphasised the role of the “number of talented young reporters” who seek out stories in the realm of science and art rather than fixating on the intrigue of the political system.
One specific critique she had of the for-profit news companies that dominate the airways was the amount of time they spent covering the humanitarian disaster in Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. She said that she was surprised that media outlets like CNN didn’t stay in Puerto Rico longer and said that it was a “point of pride” for her that NPR had decided to remain and continue to cover the unfolding story up until the present day.
Something that came up later in the evening was a controversial interview with Jason Kessler, a white supremacist who was involved in the planning of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, South Carolina. She said that there was a lot of kick back and criticism because “people thought we were giving him a platform.” While she admits it may have not been a great idea, she maintains that “sometimes when you do a story about race, you have to talk to racists.”
Near the end of the event, Chapin spoke about how she felt moments of tremendous humanity when she witnessed South Africans standing in line for days to cast their votes for Nelson Mandela, or when refugees in Bosnia, whose only food was a small ration of “two tomatoes and a can of spam,” tried to share it with the reporters covering their plight.
After the discussion, Chapin thanked the Tulsans in the audience for giving her such a warm welcome, and Fisher offered her the gift of a Tulsa Drillers hat because of her affinity for minor league baseball.