NPR reporter on covering NPR, federal funding and the essense of James O’Keefe

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.

Wait? What?!?!

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.

  • bigalsouth
  • RinoHunter

    I don’t want to read anymore on the politics in and around NPR. The answer is simple. Cut off all government funding. They can move on from there. If they are smart they will create and advertising department and compete for listeners the same way all the rest of radio does. If they can’t do that then dissolve NPR and let the program talent put together their resumes and sell them somewhere they can be useful. There’s plenty of market for some of these liberals that may or may not survive without a NPR to protect them. Let the games begin. We’re done with the Vivian Schiller conversation.

  • esby

    I am curious why the link “serious questions raised” on page four hasn’t gotten more exposure on Daily Caller. It’s not like The Blaze is a liberal outlet.

    • esby

      “significant”. Sorry.

  • johno413

    I listen to NPR on occasion, although I gave up on PBS a long time ago mainly due to personalities like Bill Moyers, for example, who had become so dreadfully partisan and therefore boring. But I still enjoy the squirming by those within the NPR organization who still just don’t get it. Might there be more balance at the working level of NPR? Sure. But the top was and perhaps still is very ideologically driven. Are we really expected to believe that recent events expose a near totality of the impact of the executive’s political world view? Really? The firing and O’Keefe sting exposed it all???

    Most telling of all is the somewhat consistently irrational defense of the “pittance” that is the federal support. If all of the numbers the supporters seem to repeat by rote were true, then why not ask for ten cents per year (more) from the 30 million listeners to more than balance the federal support? Or, better yet, why not press for $1 more per year and expand?

    It just doesn’t add up. And until the organization passes a credible but not internal “balance” test, it seems valid to question the appropriateness of subsidy. There is nothing wrong with what they produce and there is no reason to change it if it works. It just must work BECAUSE of its popularity and NOT because of taxpayer dollars.

  • http://www.wearethesun.com Daily reader

    if the had been Bill O’Reilly, and the reporter from NPR, we’d now be reading brave and innovative reporting that deserved a Pulitzer.

    a San Diego public relations guy

  • bigalsouth

    David Folkenflik, the NPR reporter was trying so hard to show that he is an example of a “fair and independent” NPR journalist/reporter, that is until he drops this nugget of nonsense:

    “There were a lot of people, even in more conservative circles who pulled back a bit, when O’Keefe, for example, tried to lure the CNN reporter onto a boat filled with sex-toys as a way to humiliate her. And I think it’s fair to question what the real point was to doing all of that.”

    Really now, David. O’Keefe never “tried to lure” the CNN reporter onto the boat. It was a proposed “stunt” that never made it past the discussion committee. Folkenflik can claim that O’Keefe “conspired” to lure the reporter onto a ship, but nothing was done to attempt such a stupid sting.

    O’Keefe’s response to CNN (via RedState):
    O’Keefe, in a statement to CNN, said that the document was not his “work product” and claimed that when it was sent to him, he “immediately found certain elements highly objectionable and inappropriate, and did not consider them for one minute following it.”

    But hey. A golden opportunity to spank the golden boy of ambush journalism.

    • esby

      I love that your logic that Folkenflik is wrong about boatgate because…O’Keefe made a statement! John Edwards made a statement it wasn’t his baby, did you believe him?

      It happened. Try Google. Own up to it.

      • bigalsouth

        Esby: “It happened.” Really? What exactly happened? Did the CNN reporter step on board a boat full of sex toys or not?

        • bigalsouth
          • esby

            This part totally wrong in your link: O’Keefe never posed as a pimp. His actors never posed as the Muslim Brotherhood either in the NPR sting. Live Action actors never posed as pimps either. In all cases, leading pictures or narration makes you think that the “mark” was in on the information that the viewer is fed beforehand. It’s a classic case of misdirection, what magicians do. Look at the edits made that are available on Glenn Beck’s website, The Blaze.

            When it comes to “boatgate”, we have someone that worked for PV who warned Bordreau not to go on the boat, and James O’Keefe…is on a boat! Just because O’Keefe wasn’t dressed as described in the original idea (not that he couldn’t have quickly changed) doesn’t mean that he wasn’t about to go through with a plan to embarrass Abbie Boudreau. It’s a weak defense. Even Breitbart didn’t defend him. Breitbart.

            He’s not a golden boy. He’s screwed up all the stings he’s tried but one: ACORN. He’s gotten minor victories, but his major ones? Fail. Big with the confirmation bias crowd (those that want to believe), but not with the general public. Plus, no O’Keefe fan follows up on his stories. Everybody just takes them at face value.


          • riseabove

            esby – your whole comment is about “misdirection” as this isn’t about Okeefe. It’s about absurdity and corruption caught on tape. The focus is what what was uncovered, not who did the investigating. There’s no sham or scam involved here. However, if you really feel the need to persuade people otherwise, might I suggest you try slinking around a few college campuses throughout the country?

          • esby

            Well, I can’t help it if you aren’t aware of what’s really going on. Your wishing that this is true seems to be trumping the facts. Sham, scam? Absolutely.


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