Monday, February 18, 2008

Why was Obama cut off?

[We had a number of comments about a snafu in February 10th's Weekend Edition that caused an interview with Senator Barack Obama to be cut off prematurely. In WMUB's defense, the problem originated at NPR in Washington and our automation computer did exactly what it was programmed to do by running the normal 9:38 am station break right on time.

This problem was first brought to the attention of the NPR system by WMUB, thanks to an alert WMUB listener who contacted us, and seconded by many other stations on the public radio email list. On Monday the 11th Ellen Weiss, NPR’s Vice President of News, sent a note to stations apologizing for their part of the problem that affect dozens of stations and thousands of listeners. The NPR Executive writes:]

I would like to sincerely apologize for the problems and confusion during WESUN's broadcast of the Obama interview.

From a journalist and show producer’s perspective, the motivation was well intended. When the WESUN producer got a call from a key news-maker late Saturday night offering a live interview Sunday morning, it seemed like the right move to say yes. But in the enthusiasm to book the guest, the editorial, operational and communication protocols that have been put in place in recent years, as a result of extensive consultation with our partner stations, were not adhered to by program staff.
  • We did not make the right call in considering this an interview worthy of breaking format. This wasn’t breaking news.
  • We pulled the interview after the first feed because it violated our own policy about airing candidate interviews on election days.
[Weiss went on to say that NPR also did not send messages to stations using the normal systems in place for such last-minute programming adjustments. She concluded:]
  • We will be reviewing our procedures here for making sure that the decision-makers on all of our programs, 7 days a week, are familiar with the issues involved and are trained and ready to act on them appropriately.
  • Again, our apologies for these events. This is good reminder to all of us at NPR that we need to be better and smarter partners with our stations seven days a week.
[As Program Director of WMUB, I will add a note of thanks to those who noticed this issue and let us know about it. We depend on you to keep up your expectations of the best possible public radio service at all times. -- John Hingsbergen]


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