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NPR Ombudsman

A Brief Timeout For Some NPR Shoutouts


Singer Alberto Carrión performs <em>Amanecer Borincano</em>, his song about sunrise over Puerto Rico, at the point where Hurricane Maria made landfall one year ago.
Adrian Florido, NPR

Singer Alberto Carrión performs Amanecer Borincano, his song about sunrise over Puerto Rico, at the point where Hurricane Maria made landfall one year ago.

Even a public editor needs a week's break.

The Ombudsman Office is here to provide a voice in the newsroom for NPR listeners and readers. As I recently reported to NPR's board of directors, in the last year (November to November) that meant reading (and sharing with the newsroom, when appropriate) some 6,000 of your emails and countless tweets.

All but a handful of those emails raised concerns (or were outright complaints) and that's what my column usually addresses. But, Thanksgiving gave me a moment to pause and think about all the NPR work for which I was thankful. A comprehensive list would be way too long, but in the spirit of the season here is some NPR work that recently caught my attention.

A Year In Puerto Rico

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, with devastating results. NPR sent Code Switch reporter Adrian Florido, a fluent Spanish speaker, to spend a year on the island reporting on the attempts at recovery. The move paid off; he has produced exemplary accountability journalism, most recently reporting on the "stunning admission" that the island's emergency management agency still has not put together a "hurricane-specific response plan" for a future major storm. Some of the accompanying content has been in Spanish, an important public service. Florido's assignment ends in December; you can read all the stories so far here.

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Covering The Census

Do you care about the upcoming 2020 census? If you follow national correspondent Hansi Lo Wang on Twitter, you soon will. He's another reporter who has been regularly breaking stories, in this case on an under-the-radar topic that nonetheless has enormous consequences for the country because of its impact on our political system. Much of the recent action has been in the courtroom, which doesn't lend itself to radio reports, so it's also worth seeking out his reporting elsewhere. Vickie Walton-James, NPR's senior national editor, says NPR has spread the reporting on this subject across the newsmagazines, digital and social media, and member station talk show appearances.

Library Love

NPR's annual Book Concierge was posted online earlier this week, featuring more than 300 books published in 2018 that were loved by critics and NPR staff members. One of the best parts? There's a little button after each synopsis that links to copies in local libraries. The function, which was developed by the Visuals team in 2014 (on an idea from David Eads, a former employee), can be a bit wonky, I've found, but I've already used it to track down a couple books I'm looking forward to reading over the holidays.


Some news organizations are transparent about the ethical and journalistic standards that govern their work and, as Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan recently wrote, some aren't. Happily for me, NPR is on the list of newsrooms that clearly and publicly state their policies. You have to know where to look to find the ethics code on but it's there, buried under the About section at the bottom of the home page. Better yet, just bookmark it.

Next week, back to audience concerns; keep them coming.

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