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From Neil Best's Desk

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Dear Firends, 

Several days ago, when I began thinking about the subject of this note my thoughts turned to how important membership is to the fabric of KUNC and all public media.  Bluntly, individual memberships mean that our editorial integrity is not for sale.

That thesis is being amplified following the interview late last week that All Things Considered host Mary Louise Kelly conducted with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  The interview became contentious when Ms. Kelly stayed on task with tough questions and following questions about Iran turned the conversation to Ukraine.  A topic the Secretary clearly did not want to discuss. 

Since that interview the Secretary has claimed that his follow up conversation with Kelly was “off the record” a claim Kelly vigorously denies and that a published email trail between Kelly and the State Department staff confirms.  I wish to point to the statement issued by NPR President John Lansing.

“I have enormous respect for NPR’s newsroom and journalists, who hold themselves to the strictest standards of accuracy, integrity, and accountability. Audiences know when they turn to NPR they will hear news they can trust. There is nothing more essential to our success than that trust. We have to do everything in our power to protect it. With Senior Vice President for News Nancy Barnes, it is my privilege to do that.

Following a statement released from the Secretary of State over the weekend challenging Mary Louise Kelly’s reporting, Nancy put it this way in a note to the newsroom:

“We all know that attacking the press is a political strategy intended to discredit news reporting. These attacks have only increased in the current political environment, and that makes it all the more difficult for our journalists who are here to tell the truth and serve the public. I just want to say that I am proud to stand with you all, every single day, and today, I am especially proud to stand with Mary Louise Kelly.’

In her character and in her work, Mary Louise sets a standard for all of us to follow. This afternoon, I was invited to join an interview with Michel Martin on Weekend All Things Considered to talk about Mary Louise’s reporting.

I believe in great journalism, and the work of reporters everywhere. Thank you to all of our journalists and the entire NPR team for the integrity you bring to our important work every day.”

For many of us here in Colorado and across the country the charges of “fake media,” “mainstream media” etc. have been such a drum beat they don’t elicit much if any action or reaction. But the interview with the Secretary of State is a powerful reminder of the need for public media.  For organizations that are able to uphold the highest standards of journalism.  Reflecting on this event NPR reporter Mara Liasson offered this thoughtful summary.

“If you think that the Trump presidency is a stress test on democratic institutions, with its contempt for any fact-based institution - like the FBI, the judiciary, the CIA,the press - and you are taking the pulse of these institutions to see how well they're holding up, well, I would suggest, as a famous person once said, read the transcript. Read the transcript of Mary Louise's interview with Secretary Pompeo.  It is a gold-standard example of how journalism - professional, polite journalism operates without fear or favor, and it's an example of how the First Amendment is holding up just fine, even under pressure.”

Today I am thankful for principled reporters like Mary Louise Kelly and for your continuing support.  It ensure the editorial independence that is so critical at KUNC and at National Public Radio.

Warm Regards,

Neil Best 
President & CEO

Interview with Secretary Pompeo

https://www.npr.org/2020/01/24/799244678/pompeo-wont-say-whether-he-owes-yovanovitch-an-apology-i-ve-done-what-s-right

Secretary of State Pompeo’s statement

https://www.state.gov/statement-by-secretary-michael-r-pompeo/

NPR President John Lansing interview with Michel Martin.

https://www.npr.org/2020/01/25/799584780/npr-responds-to-sec-pompeo-interview