NPR Bans Staffers From Attending Stewart, Colbert D.C. Rallies

News org restricts attendance to maintain appearance of objectivity

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s dueling rallies in Washington, D.C. are a little more than two weeks away, with the Comedy Central duo expecting a big crowd — thanks, in part, to Arianna Huffington's generosity.

No thanks, however, to NPR, which fired off an all-staff memo on Wednesday morning reminding employees of the company’s ban on attending rallies that the non-profit news organization covers. (When did attending a rally become an endorsement? Also, how does it threaten objectivity? And finally, who cares if it does?)

At least they’ll be able to watch it live on TV.

Memos via Romenesko (bolded for emphasis by TheWrap):

From: [NPR chief executive] Vivian Schiller
Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 8:58 AM
To: AllStaff
Subject: FW: NPR Journalists and political activity

To ALL NPR staff,

Please see Ellen Weiss' note to her staff below (and in particular, the reference to the upcoming Jon Stewart rally). In addition to News, the other divisions that are required to abide by the NPR News Ethics policy are digital, programming/AIR, legal and communications.

However, no matter where you work at NPR you should be very mindful that you represent the organization and its news coverage in the eyes of your friends, neighbors and others. So please think twice about the message you may be sending about our objectivity before you attend a rally or post a bumper sticker or yard sign. We are all NPR.

If you have any questions or concerns, please speak to your supervisor.

Vivian

From: [Senior vice president for news] Ellen Weiss
Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 8:46 AM
To: News-All Staff
Subject: NPR Journalists and political activity

As we head into the final weeks of this political season, I thought it would be valuable to send out a reminder of what NPR News Ethics Policies and Social Media Guidelines are regarding political activity. These are the relevant excerpts from the full documents that can be found online.

Please review carefully and if you have any questions please talk to your direct supervisor.

Many thanks,
Ellen

Political activity:

* NPR journalists may not run for office, endorse candidates or otherwise engage in politics. Since contributions to candidates are part of the public record, NPR journalists may not contribute to political campaigns, as doing so would call into question a journalist’s impartiality.

* NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers, nor should they sign petitions or otherwise lend their name to such causes, or contribute money to them. This restriction applies to the upcoming John Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallies.

* You must not advocate for political or other polarizing issues online. This extends to joining online groups or using social media in any form (including your Facebook page or a personal blog) to express personal views on a political or other controversial issue that you could not write for the air or post on NPR.org.

* NPR journalists may not serve on government boards or commissions.