Is it 300,000 or 3 Million?

The Office of the Ombudsman has received an influx of emails claiming NPR falsely reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has 3 million members in an Oct. 6 story.

But they are not correct.

In an All Things Considered story about Apple Inc. dropping out of the chamber, NPR reported that "The chamber still boasts some 3 million members — and a powerful checkbook."

Soon after, emails began arriving and are still arriving.

"On Oct 6, NPR repeated the chamber's claim that they have 3 million members," wrote Steve Ozanne from Falcon Heights, MN. "The chamber has now admitted that they only have about 300,000 members. Please make sure in the future that you don't support their inflated claim of a much larger membership than they really have. An update would be nice, pointing out the inflated claim and the actual numbers."

This may be a case of semantics.

The U.S. Chamber says it represents 3 million businesses when it lobbies on Capitol Hill, according to J.P. Fielder, director of media relations.

The chamber counts about 300,000 local, metro and state chambers and trade organizations as direct members, said Fielder.

The emails we received largely were opposed to the Chamber's position against climate change legislation.

The Chamber's stance prompted a few big-name businesses to withdraw their membership. Apple Inc. was one. Because the Chamber spends millions of dollars lobbying on behalf of businesses, Apple Inc. pulling away from this organization is a news story.

NPR should have said the "U.S. Chamber of Commerce represents 3 million businesses." This would have alleviated any concern that either the Chamber or NPR was inflating membership numbers.

Office of the Ombudsman, intern

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