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Journalists from NPR/Minnesota Public Radio earn SPJ Ethics in Journalism Award for exceptional, ethical journalism


Christine Cordial, Program Coordinator, 317-920-4788, ccordial@spj.org
Isaac Taylor, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-920-4785, itaylor@spj.org

Update: This press release was updated on 8/13/2018 to include names of other reporters on the project.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists has bestowed the 2018 Ethics in Journalism Awards to journalists at NPR and Minnesota Public Radio for extraordinary reporting on the topic of sexual harassment within or connected to their own organizations.

The Ethics in Journalism Award honors journalists or news organizations that perform in an outstanding ethical manner demonstrating the ideals of the SPJ Code of Ethics.

NPR did exemplary work in covering allegations against Michael Oreskes, its senior vice president of news, as well as others within the organization, particularly through extensive reporting by David Folkenflik and Merrit Kennedy.

Mary Louise Kelly conducted a powerful interview of NPR CEO Jarl Mohn, showing persistence and grit.

The MPR News staff dug in to explore allegations against “A Prairie Home Companion” founding host Garrison Keillor and how the company handled the allegations. MPR’s parent company distributed Keillor’s show and owed much of its success to him.

The masterful work, including reporting by Laura Yuen, Euan Kerr and Matt Sepic, provided a much fuller, richer account of the circumstances, going well beyond the initial vague statements by MPR executives. Until their reporting, Keillor drove the narrative regarding his behavior in the workplace.

Editors in both newsrooms did strong work in shaping the coverage and shielding it from possible influence from management.

Both organizations met high standards of transparency, too, with disclosures explaining the lines they drew to preserve the independence of their reporting. They pursued truth with neither fear nor favor.

Folkenflik took the extraordinary step of refusing to participate in off-the-record staff discussions about the allegations so as not to compromise his ability to cover the story within his newsroom. Other reporters and editors involved in the coverage similarly did not attend staff meetings about the topic they were covering.

Folkenflik and Kennedy worked with a small cadre of colleagues within a protocol that Folkenflik and his editors developed over a period of years to ensure the integrity and independence of their reporting on their own network. NPR was open and straightforward in explaining the boundaries and safeguards it established.

MPR also was a model of transparency in explaining how it steered clear of potential entanglements.

“What distinguished NPR and MPR in the media world was their treatment of the news when it involved their own staff members and management,” SPJ Region 2 director Andy Schotz said. “While [others] largely passed along statements from top executives and, on the air, told viewers how upset they were, NPR and MPR dug in as journalists, with the same drive and thoroughness as if the stories had happened somewhere else.”

In his nomination letter, Schotz noted that the NPR/MPR teams’ actions and reporting exhibited outstanding ethical behavior in alignment with the SPJ Code of Ethics.

Schotz said, “They interviewed colleagues. They pressed top managers and leaders. They developed sources. And they didn’t hold back in their reporting despite the obvious awkwardness of being in the middle of an important news story.”

The winners will be recognized during the President’s Installation Banquet at the Excellence in Journalism 2018 conference in Baltimore, Maryland.

A complete list of previous winners is available online.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.


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