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Media Analyses





NPR Ombudsman Dodges Listener Query


NPR describes ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin as "the public's representative to National Public Radio, serving as an independent source of information, explanation, amplification and analysis for the public regarding NPR's programming." But when an NPR listener contacted the ombudsman on March 21, 2005 for comment on a column by CAMERA Director Andrea Levin about NPR’s continuing tilt toward Arab positions, he was met with obfuscation and insults.

The frustrated Jerusalem Post reader forwarded CAMERA a copy of his exchange with Mr. Dvorkin, which is posted below. (The name and contact information of the correspondent has been abbreviated for the sake of privacy.)

-----Original Message-----

Subject: Ombudsman=Please address these comments by CAMERA re NPR
Date: Monday, March 21, 2005 1:16 AM
From: PM
To: Ombudsman

Another NPR Winter of Distortion
March 18, 2005
by Andrea Levin

-----Response from Ombudsman-----

Subject: RE: Ombudsman=Please address these comments by CAMERA re NPR
Date: 3/22/2005 10:07:13 A.M. Mountain Standard Time
From: Ombudsman@npr.org
To: PM

Dear Dr. M,

Thanks for your note.

As usual, Ms. Levin continues to evoke images of NPR's so-called bias but her articles are replete with her usual innuendo. She may have some facts right, but as my grandfather used to say, "even a broken clock is right twice a day."

Must be a slow news day at CAMERA's offices.

Regards,

Jeffrey Dvorkin
NPR Ombudsman

***

----- Message 2-----

Subject: Mr. Dvorkin
Date: 3/22/2005 1:34:17 P.M. Mountain Standard Time
From: PM
To: Ombudsman@npr.org

Dear Mr. Dvorkin,

Thank you for your response.

Please advise me, what is inaccurate in the facts as reported by Ms. Levin in her article?

If there are no inaccuracies, and Ms. Levin's facts are accurate, how does it follow that NPR does NOT have a pro-Palestinian bias.

Hence, where are the "innuendos" in Ms. Levin's piece?

Respectfully,

Dr. PM
New Mexico

-----Response 2 from Ombudsman-----

Subject: RE: Mr. Dvorkin
Date: 3/22/2005 1:36:05 P.M. Mountain Standard Time
From: Ombudsman@npr.org
To: PM

When Ms. Levin has more credibility, it will be worth answering this.

***

 ----- Message 3-----
Subject: Mr. Dvorkin
Date: 3/22/2005 1:43:20 P.M. Mountain Standard Time
From: PM
To: Ombudsman@npr.org

Dear Mr. Dvorkin,

Then, please cite where Ms. Levin has "less" credibility regarding the facts (and the conclusions that she draws from them.)

Otherwise, this is a cop-out response, not dealing with the issues I raise and NPR's ombudsman is falling down on the job.

Respectfully,

PM
New Mexico

-----Response 3 from Ombudsman-----

Subject: RE: Mr. Dvorkin
Date: 3/22/2005 2:06:11 P.M. Mountain Standard Time
From: Ombudsman@npr.org
To: PM

From CAMERA:

But Siegel does not just fail to counter distortions, he himself presents Palestinian views as fact. On March 1, for instance, he declared that "one of the real obstacles of the moment...is the security barrier..." He added: "In many parts, it is pretty - although the word is disputed - it sure is a wall."

In the Israeli view, "one of the real obstacles of the moment" is the ongoing failure of the Palestinians to eradicate the terrorist infrastructure, and the fence is a monument to Palestinians' refusal to control the killers in their midst. Nor is it accurate and professional of Siegel not to report the actual makeup of the security barrier, which is 95% fence and 5% wall.

This is the exchange, as it actually occurred:

SIEGEL: .. I should point out here one of the real obstacles of this moment is that in order for Israel to proceed with its withdrawal, it links that very closely to the building of the security barrier...

CONAN: Speaking of obstacles.

SIEGEL: ...right--which is a physical barrier, a physical obstacle. In many parts, it is pretty--although the word is disputed--it sure is a wall. It looks like a big highway barrier that we put up to block sounds from alongside an interstate. Around Gaza, there's a fence and there has been for several years, and the Israelis link their confidence in disengagement to the presence of these barriers which they hope will limit the possibility of people getting into Israel to commit violent acts. These barriers are anathema to the Palestinians and they regard their presence alone as offensive but also the route that they take as also being political and being an attempt to draw unilateral and de facto boundaries. So again, another area of rather imminent argument.

***

----- Message 4-----

Subject: Mr. Dvorkin
Date: 3/22/2005 4:43:34 P.M. Mountain Standard Time
From: PM
To: Ombudsman@npr.org

Thank you for your response.

PM
New Mexico

-----Response 4 from Ombudsman-----

Subject: Mr. Dvorkin
Date: 3/22/2005 6:46:46 P.M. Mountain Standard Time
From: Ombudsman@npr.org
To: PM

My pleasure. It's somewhat frustrating to have Ms. Levin always using the Jerusalem Post as a stick to bash us. I'm surprised that the Post doesn't have higher standards for its op ed pieces.

I'm happy to take up the cudgels myself to deal with journalistic lapses at NPR, but Levin's relentless and unfair attacks are so partisan and even dishonest, that they do the Israeli cause a disservice.

***

----- Message 5-----

Subject: Whoa, Mr. Dvorkin!
Date: 3/22/2005 10:28:31 P.M. Mountain Standard Time
From: PM
To: Ombudsman@npr.org

Dear Mr. Dvorkin,

The fact that I thanked you for your response just means that I was acknowledging your response. My thank you did not imply any agreement with anything that you had said. In fact, I thanked you just because I just did not have time at that point to continue our dialogue.

Now that I have read both the response in question and your most recent note, I have to say your communications are totally unclear and without point.

What CAMERA stated (as quoted by you) is a fair condensation of the original "The exchange, as it actually occurred." You have not specified what you see as a problem here.

Much more to the point, you have not responded to Ms. Levin's valid critique which include the following:

(1) NPR’s assumptions that most or all settlements are illegal. This is not true.

(2) The legitimization by NPR correspondents of Hizbollah, including its anti-Semitic

and anti-Israeli rhetoric.

(3) The fact that Siegal did not report on the suicide bombing of 2/25 in Tel Aviv - especially since he was in Israel at the time.

(4) Siegal's not correcting claims that there were no bombings during Oslo.

The above are way beyond nuances! You have not yet made clear what is inaccurate in Levin's reporting.

And by the way, defaming a person rather than critiquing the writing of that person is not a valid, ethical, professional or effective response. ("When Ms. Levin has more credibility, it will be worth answering this.")

"Her '[Levin's] articles are replete with her usual innuendo."

Please document these "usual innuendos." I don't see any in the article she wrote, which I sent to you.

".....but Levin's relentless and unfair attacks are so partisan and even dishonest, ..."

Where in this article in question are there "unfair attacks" that are "partisan" and "dishonest?"

Finally, I'm not sure why you are bringing up the Jerusalem Post at this point. Perhaps I missed something, but I don't know where that piece fits in. The JP is not relevant to the original thrust of my initial inquiry to you.

Respectfully,

PM
New Mexico

-----Response 5 from Ombudsman-----

Subject: RE: Whoa, Mr. Dvorkin!
Date: 3/23/2005 6:19:39 A.M. Mountain Standard Time
From: Ombudsman@npr.org
To: PM

Dear Dr. M,

I think you should listen to NPR and make up your own mind.

Regards,

JD

***

----- Message 6-----

Subject: Re: Whoa, Mr. Dvorkin!
Date: 3/23/2005 8:00:02 P.M. Mountain Standard Time
From: PM
To: Ombudsman@npr.org

And whoa again.

Now you are making an incorrect assumptions, actually 2 of them:

1) That I don't listen to NPR. Actually I do. There is much good material there. Unfortunately, NPR loses its objectivity when it comes to Israel, displaying a definite negative bias.

2) I do make up my own mind, and my conclusions are as above. I quoted Ms. Levin as someone knowledgeable in the field and articulate, whose views happen to coincide with mine.

You still have not responded to or addressed my specific points and questions regarding NPR's omissions and distortions.

It appears that you are now making innuendos, this time about me, after bad-mouthing Andrea Levin and stating that she makes innuendos. I have to wonder what is going on here.

Finally, it is regrettable that you, as an ombudsman, are not fulfilling the responsibilities of your position by not replying in a meaningful fashion to queries. Instead you make personal comments and innuendos without addressing the facts.

This just serves to tarnish NPR's reputation.

Sincerely,

PM
New Mexico

 

-----Response 6 from Ombudsman-----

Subject: RE: Whoa, Mr. Dvorkin!
Date: 3/24/2005 10:14:29 A.M. Mountain Standard Time
From: Ombudsman@npr.org
To: PM

The Jewish Observer of Los Angeles has added the following postscript to Andrea Levin's WINTER OF DISTORTION column:

[Editorial note: The Jewish Observer carries Ms. Levin's article, as well as all op/eds, as opinions only. It does not vouch that statements represented therein are facts.]

***

----- Message 7-----

Subject: Re: Whoa, Mr. Dvorkin!
Date: 3/24/2005 8:07:38 P.M. Mountain Standard Time
From: PM
To: Ombudsman@npr.org

Totally irrelevant to anything.

PM

In a message dated 3/24/2005 10:14:29 A.M. Mountain Standard Time, Ombudsman writes:

>The Jewish Observer of Los Angeles has added the following postscript to Andrea Levin's >WINTER OF DISTORTION column:

>[Editorial note: The Jewish Observer carries Ms. Levin's article, as well as all op/eds, as  opinions only. It does not vouch that statements represented therein are facts.]

All the above is certainly obvious. Your comments right along have been very unproductive and have not addressed any of the concerns I have raised. Rather, you have made critical comments, innuendos, and assumptions about myself, Ms. Levin, and the Jerusalem Post which have made no sense in the context of the concerns I have raised.

As I'm sure you know, the definition of an ombudsman (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language is) "A man who investigates complaints and mediates fair settlements, especially between aggrieved parties such as consumers or students and an institution or organization." There has been no evidence of any attempt on your part to mediate towards any understanding between myself and NPR. Rather, you have served to further alienate me from your organization. Be assured that I will be circulating our series of emails to my very large online community.

Sincerely,

PM
New Mexico

***

Final comment by CAMERA: Mr. Dvorkin recently wrote a column ("Is It Too Late to Ask for Some E-mail Etiquette?" March 8, 2005) advocating  better journalism through courteous and civil discourse.  Isn't it time he took his own advice? 


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