Mission and Mandate: The Ombudsman at NPR

The Ombudsman

Journalist, editor, columnist, and educator Edward Schumacher-Matos joined NPR as Ombudsman in June 2011. He and his staff review emails, phone calls and letters that are directed to the ombudsman.

Concerns are forwarded to the appropriate staff member or station manager. Resulting conversation is often shared on the Ombudsman blog in the form of a column. Schumacher-Matos usually takes sides on the issue, but not always. He focuses on the fairness and consequences of NPR stories as much as on rules and standards. The Ombudsman's role is purely advisory. It has influence, but no force.

The best way for listeners to contact the Ombudsman is to use the Contact Us page. It is helpful to have complaints in writing in order to communicate with reporters and editors who are often on the road. If you would prefer that we not forward your complaint or quote you on the blog, please indicate so in your letter.

In addition, please include the name of the station you were listening to and the day and time when you heard the story. The more specific the concern, the better. It's difficult to investigate a general concern about overall bias and find an answer that is satisfactory to either party. Arriving at a conclusion about a specific story or series of reports, is much more likely.

For those using social media, you can also contact Schumacher-Matos on Twitter at @SchumacherMatos or on his Facebook page.

The Ombudsman is the public's representative to NPR, serving as an independent source of information, explanation, amplification and analysis for the public regarding NPR's programming.

A. The Mission of NPR

1. NPR is committed to the presentation of fair, accurate and comprehensive information and selected cultural expressions for the benefit of, and at the service of our democracy. NPR is pledged to abide scrupulously by the highest artistic, editorial, and journalistic standards and practices of broadcast programming.

2. NPR is committed to providing diverse and balanced viewpoints through the entirety of its programming. NPR recognizes that its credibility in the minds of the general population is its most precious asset and must be protected.

3. Even a rigorously managed programming organization may inadvertently depart from its own standards and practices, and abuse its freedom and power to inform and entertain. NPR is dedicated to identifying such transgressions if they occur, correcting them, and acting to prevent repetition.

B. The Mandate and Office of Ombudsman

1. The Ombudsman is the public's representative to National Public Radio, empowered to respond to significant queries, comments and criticisms regarding NPR programming.

2. The Ombudsman will serve as an independent source of information, explanation, amplification and analysis for the public regarding NPR's programming and NPR's adherence to its programming standards and practices.

3. The Ombudsman is empowered to receive complaints from the public regarding NPR programming, and refer the complaints to relevant management for response.

4. Should a complainant deem a response from NPR management unsatisfactory, the Ombudsman is empowered to investigate NPR's standards and practices with regard to the matter raised, respond to the complainant, inform the management of findings and conclusion, and make public any conclusion(s) if the issue is relevant to people other than the complainant. The Ombudsman may also intervene if NPR management fails to provide a timely response to a complaint.

5. The Office of the Ombudsman is completely independent of NPR staff and management, reporting directly to the President and, through the President, to NPR's Board of Directors.

6. The NPR Ombudsman will identify issues and trends in contemporary artistic, editorial, and journalistic broadcast programming for the benefit of NPR's professional staff, member stations, and the public. The Ombudsman will use on-air broadcasts, and online and public discussion groups to present issues and suggest ways for NPR's practices to uphold the highest professional standards.

7. The Ombudsman will be available upon request to member stations and to the public to represent NPR by addressing issues of contemporary broadcast programming and public radio's role in American society.

8. The Ombudsman shall assist, as required, with the writing and editing of NPR's guide to standards and practices.

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