NPR is prohibiting its news staff and others from attending the Oct. 30 rallies in Washington led by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
Management sent word on the NPR blog and via e-mail on Wednesday that attending the event raisies concerns about objectivity, even if the rallies as conceived are not advocating any candidate or party. The exception, of course, will be for staffers who are covering the event.
NPR’s Dana Davis Rehm wrote in a blog post, “Some people are asking why staff shouldn’t attend, since these events are just good fun? How serious could rallies led by comedians be? They are asking whether we sent a similar memo to staff about the Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally or any other recent rallies on the mall in Washington, D.C., such as the “One Nation” rally.
“We didn’t get questions from staff about the “Restoring Honor” and “One Nation” rallies, because it was obvious to everyone that these were overtly political events. It’s different with the Colbert and Stewart rallies; they are ambiguous. But their rallies will be perceived as political by many, whatever we think. As such, they are off limits except for those covering the events.”
Update: Huffington Post has a roundup of policies at other major publications, but it is actually encouraging participation. The site is sponsoring buses to take attendees from New York to Washington.
I actually think that, for journalists, this is more about common sense than anything else.