When news broke that Vivian Schiller was “stepping down” as National Public Radio’s CEO, media reporter David Folkenflik was the first to (forcefully) confirm that the scandal-ridden boss had, in fact, been forced out.
After The Dailly Caller hosted footage by conservative James O’Keefe showing Tea Party-hating, Jewish-conspiracy-propagating NPR representatives begging for Muslim-Brotherhood sadaqat, the scandal became the day’s most important news for those living an abbreviated existence (NYC, DC, NPR). Numerous reporters played catch up with O’Keefe and TheDC, but Folkenflik’s coverage was so respected that even Andrew Breitbart — in his Breitbartian way — proffered praise. Folkenflik’s bosses at NPR, however, may not be as conciliatory.
National Palestine Radio may have a lot wrong with it — a billion-dollar organization insisting on public funds, elitist liberal snobbery so thick even other elitist liberals love to write about it, etc.
But NPR does offer a few good things. One of those is media reporter Folkenflik, whose been on the beat for more than six years. He’s also on a “most influential” list, too.
After Folkenflik pointed out yet another gaffe by Geraldo Rivera, the Joe Biden of TV reporting called Folkenflik a “really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter.” It’s a description Folkenflik proudly displays on his NPR profile page. Over at the conservative National Review, Jonah Goldberg, however — who complimented Folkenflik’s coverage of the Juan Williams “scandal” — recently criticized the in-house reporter for not pressing the issue of NPR’s federal funding.
Poor Folkenflik! Caught between objective reporting and a paycheck! It’s all confusing stuff. After a week of running around and “moving on to other stories,” however, Folkenflik spoke at length with TheDC. It’s not “All Things Considered” but we talked about his peculiar position at NPR, what James O’Keefe should put on his business card and what Folkenflik thinks about NPR’s federal funding, the conversation about which quickly became a semantic black hole.
[Full disclosure: This interview has been heavily doctored (or “edited”) for the sake of clarity, continuity, length, and because TheDC made an unfortunate Charlie Sheen reference (“So, David, would you say you’ve been ‘winning’ lately?”). Furthermore, TheDC was given explicit permission by Mr. Folkenflik himself, who said, “As long as they’re put into fair context, you’re entitled to do what you want with my statements.”]
The Daily Caller: You’re an NPR reporter reporting on NPR. Isn’t that kinda … weird?
David Folkenflik (DF): Look, it’s part of my beat. NPR is an important institution. Obviously, for people who listen to NPR — and there are some 30-plus million people a week who rely on NPR and its station — they’re going to be, if anything, more interested in what’s happening at NPR than other folks.
TheDC: I bet our readers would say, “oh well, he’s working for them. He’s friends with all of them. So there’s no way he can cover it accura .. [DF interjects]
DF: Look, I think these people have to judge me by my record. I’ve been a reporter for, gosh, more or less 20 years. I don’t feel that sensitive about it. I think people get the opportunity to judge what I do every day and they deserve to be so. We should be judged by our journalism. That’s appropriate. I’m not writing the press releases. I’m reporting. NPR is entitled to write the press releases in whatever way that makes the best sense to them and I’m going try to go where my reporting takes me.
I think it’s important to give NPR credit in the executive suites even amid all this turmoil, nobody has thought to block my reporting, if I get something wrong I expect to hear from people, as I do from other institutions. There’s no interference with my, and our, ability to report the news as we judge newsworthy. The trick is making sure we’re not over-covering it or under-covering it, but that we’re covering it to the degree that the news warrants. I think that’s something that should be explicitly acknowledged because I think it’s to NPR as an institution’s credit that we do so. That’s not always the case in journalism.
Often times, journalistic institutions like many institutions can be quite defensive when they themselves are the target.