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NPR News and NPR's Ombudsman Respond to Conversion Therapy Story Criticism

Monday's story on Morning Edition concerning conversion therapy prompted a swift and enormous reaction. Thousands of people tweeted, posted their views on Facebook and otherwise expressed their opinions about the story, most of them critical.

Thursday evening, NPR's independent Ombudsman published a thoughtful review of the story's merits and shortcomings, and our Acting SVP of News shared this statement:

The issue of conversion therapy, and the experience of those who undergo it, is newsworthy and we stand by our decision to report this story. As journalists, it is our job to feature the experiences of people all across the spectrum--political, religious, and sexual — and to allow their experiences and views to be fully enough shared so that they can be understood. We don't want to shy away from stories like this one that are controversial.

Nonetheless, we could have done a better job on this story. Though we stated at the end of the piece that conversion therapy harms gay people and people who find it beneficial are very rare, we should have addressed those questions earlier and in greater detail so that listeners could hear the stories of Rich Wyler and Peterson Toscano with that context in mind.

We also unintentionally left the impression with some listeners that the establishment psychological community only began to discount conversion therapy in the last few years. Though some therapists disagree with that mainstream view, it has been widely held for many years.

Finally, we should have mentioned in the story that both of the men profiled - in the wake of their therapy - organized their professional lives around their respective experiences and profit from their activities.

Margaret Low Smith
Acting SVP of News

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