NPR made a point to warn employees yesterday that they are not permitted to attend Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s dueling rallies on the National Mall Oct. 30. Doing so, the company said, would be a violation of stated policy restricting journalists from participating in partisan events the organization covers.
Yahoo News! media columnist Michael Calderone notes that Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally or the more recent progressive “One Nation” rally did not prompt a similar warning from NPR.
NPR senior vice president Dana Davis Rehm told Calderone that “it was obvious to everyone that these were overtly political events” and so no warning was necessary.
“It’s different with the Colbert and Stewart rallies; they are ambiguous,” she continued. “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.”
These are long held and reasonable policies for news organizations. But in a follow-up e-mail to Calderone, Rehm notes that NPR’s internal warning on the Stewart/Colbert rallies has received an “enormous amount” of media coverage, more “than our coverage of the war in Afghanistan or our investigation of the military’s treatment of those suffering from mild traumatic brain injury.”
Which is one way of calling the media that covers the media a bit, well, masturbatory. But it also underscores the changing roles of reporters in a cacophonous media universe where keeping your personal views to yourself has become so old fashioned.
As we all know, “branding” is tantamount in today’s media diaspora. And often the quickest way to establish your “brand” is by spewing snarky, and yes, partisan, commentary.