A Roundtable on Campaign Coverage Some voters have complained that the media has not given equal coverage to the different candidates. Three journalists consider the role of the media in the presidential primaries and discuss the campaign issues that have made headlines--and the ones that have not.
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A Roundtable on Campaign Coverage

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

We're still more than six months away from the national party conventions, and it already feels as if the presidential campaign has been running forever. In fact the voting began earlier than average just a little over a month ago, and there have been any number of complaints about coverage by the news media about what has been covered, too much horse race, too many predictions, too many polls and about what hasn't, not enough on the issues, not enough about the so-called minor candidates and not enough about where campaigns are getting and spending their money.

In just a moment, Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism joins us to talk about coverage in general. A bit later, NPR ombudsman Lisa Shepard will talk specifically about listener complaints about NPR's coverage. And we'll also talk with NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik.

If you want to know more about how the media covers the campaigns or if you have specific complaints, 800-989-8255. E-mail us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our blog. That's at npr.org/blogofthenation.

Later this hour, five myths about those nefarious neocons on the opinion page this week. But first, how the media covers the campaign. Tom Rosenstiel directs the Project for Excellence in Journalism. He's here in studio 3A.

And, Tom, nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.

Mr. TOM ROSENSTIEL (Director, Project for Excellence in Journalism; Vice Chairman, Committee of Concerned Journalists): Thanks. Happy to be here.

CONAN: And the campaign started earlier than ever, and it seems to be raising an unprecedented level of complaints.

Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Well, those fact goes hand in hand. The more the media covers something, I think the more people are grumpy about it. This campaign started a year ago in February of 2007. It was the second biggest story behind the war, and by the end of 2007 - and we monitor this every day ad nauseum - the amount of 70,000 stories that campaign ended up the biggest story of 2007. At this year, that's just going out of control. Last week, half of the stories that we monitored were about the campaign.

CONAN: Half the stories?

Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Yeah.

CONAN: And you also monitored them for how they portray various candidates positively, negatively. There have been some complaints by some campaigns that they - for example, get bad press.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Particularly, we monitor sort of the race for exposure - who, what candidates are getting that air time that is often considered to be oxygen for the campaigns.

CONAN: So-called free media.

Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Yeah. That was the way that it was described back in the 1980s. They now call it earned media because they think it's harder to get, and they shouldn't call it free.

You know, and there're some surprises there. Mike Huckabee had a very good week in the polls. He, last week, got 2 percent of the newshole, the airtime in space in a media. So he is winning voters without a lot of free media and without a lot of paid media because he doesn't have money for ads either.

CONAN: And there's also how the campaigns are portrayed, and thus far there've been a lot of complaints from the Clinton campaign that they get bad press.

Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Yeah. Now, we don't monitor that on a weekly basis. It takes longer for us to tabulate the tone of coverage. But the Clinton campaign certainly went on a warpath against one of the cable networks, and that's NBC last week, after one of their guest hosts who was actually a regular staffer used the word pimped out to describe the way that the Clinton campaign was using daughter Chelsea to help with her mother's cause.

You know, I mean, I think that's a - MSNBC was very quick to apologize that the language is so is crude and, you know, sort of unperceptive that I think on any basis, it doesn't really pass muster. But then the Clinton campaign pressed that further to describe a pattern of bias, as they saw it, against Hillary Clinton. I would say one thing as a general rule both for campaign coverage and after 25 years of being a press critic and that is beware of politicians who critique the press. Their motive is usually more self-serving than it is social science.

CONAN: There, you also monitor how much coverage is devoted to various kinds of issues due to tactics to polls to issues and that sort of thing.

Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Yeah. Now, last year, in the first six months of the year, in 2007, when the polls we all knew were going to be basically popularity and name-recognition polls and that really shouldn't be given a lot of credence. Sixty percent of the coverage was focused around polling, horse-race tactics and strategy, and that was a long time ago. That number has almost certainly going up. And I think, you know, arguably, during the period we're in now, where it's rapid-fire event after event, rapid-fire caucus followed by primary. This is a horse race. And this is probably the moment in a campaign where a journalist would most vocifierously justify horserace coverage and even press critics might defend it.

CONAN: Our guest is Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

If you'd like to join us, 800-989-823 - 8355 - excuse me, 8255; 800-989-TALK. E-mail us, talk@npr.org.

Let's begin with Andrew(ph). Andrew with us from Mason City in Iowa.

ANDREW (Caller): Yes. Thank you for taking my call today. I just had a question, general statement, then I'll take my answer off the air here. I'm a big Ron Paul supporter, and he's a ten-term congressman. He's been named the taxpayers' best friend, and he broke the single day fundraising record, and he raised over $6 million in one day, yet he receives little to no media coverage and pretty much any media coverage that you see on him is bad media coverage. I'm just wondering, I guess, what your opinion is on how much the media has an influence on who's elected and who's not. And I'll take my answer off the air.

CONAN: Thanks for the call, Andrew.

Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Well, I think Andrew raises obviously one of the fundamental questions: is press coverage a self-fulfilling prophecy? Can a candidate who doesn't get press coverage win votes or do you need the exposure, the oxygen, of attention? Last week, the week right before Super Tuesday, the day - the coverage that ended February 3rd, Ron Paul was a significant or a primary figure in 0 percent of the stories that we - 600 stories across 48 different news outlets. Andrew is correct in suggesting that the press has discounted the chances of Ron Paul having any success.

The fundraising success that he's having is one of the traditional metrics that journalist use to test viability. If somebody's raising money, usually, that translates into some attention. For a variety of reasons which are, you know, some of them are obvious and some of them are mysterious, Ron Paul is - gets less coverage than he does. He raise money and gets less coverage than he gets votes.

You know, we can go and on about this but there is no doubt it's an objective fact that the press has decided Ron Paul as not viable candidate.

CONAN: Let's talk with Joyce(ph). Joyce with us from Columbia, South Carolina.

JOYCE (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi.

JOYCE: Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

JOYCE: My question is essentially do you think these 24-hour news channels are what's driving all this horserace business. And to be honest with you, I am just about sick and tired of it. Enough is enough, and I would much rather instead of, you know, the cool maps that everyone has on TV now, I'd rather hear the candidates actually state their positions. And the debates I personally have - think need to be on not pay TV. I mean, all debates have been on, you know, cable channels. And I don't think that's fair to the majority of people that don't - can't pay for that. And I'll take my comments off the air.

CONAN: Thanks, Joyce.

JOYCE: Thank you.

Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Well, she raises two very important questions. First, about where the debates should be and the fact is that not everybody gets cable, not everybody can afford it and it's not available in every community. The cable channels like to stage debates because they're good for cable ratings. Eight million people watched the California debates staged by CNN, which was enough to beat "Celebrity Apprentice," Donald Trump's reality program on NBC.

And that - it doesn't get much better that for a cable channel. If you get anywhere close to what is on a broadcast channel, you're doing great. So there is an element here of the cable channels staging debates not just out of civic mindedness.

Then to the question of cable news, in general. It's interesting. We deconstruct how cable's put together. How much of it is interview, how much of it is live standup by people, how much of it is taped stories that where the reporter sort of write to the pictures and verify what they say. And 70 percent of the time on cable is live. It's an extemporaneous medium, and I think there's a lot of reasons for that. One is, it's cheaper to do it that way - you don't need as many people. And the other is that if things are changing or you want to create the illusion that you're up to the minute and this is breaking news, then live suits that.

The reality is that three-quarters of the time that you're - that a story is updated, it's basically a straight repetition. You know, in our analysis - very little of the updates - it contain new information. So what is that do in terms of the way the coverage, what the coverage is about? I think there's an inevitable tendency given the amount of time that they have to fill on cable to spin things forward. You spend a certain amount of time talking about what's happened. And then you inevitably sort of move toward what might happen next.

Cable news covers this campaign basically twice as much - devotes twice as much of their news all to it as other media do. They found that it's good for ratings, there's a lot of interest in the campaign, and the more time you have to fill, I think the more you just sort of - it lends itself to prognostication, to anticipation. And we've got problems with polls, which I'm sure we'll talk about in a little bit. But I think that cable is more guilty than other media. I'll say, okay, so what's going to happen next.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Another thing is, do the races in both parties get equal coverage, this in terms of Democrat and Republicans, and well, I hate to project but is the Republican contest now going to get less coverage since it appears Senator McCain is likely to be the candidate?

Mr. ROSENSTIEL: The reality is the Republican race has gotten less coverage all along. For much of 2007, two-thirds of the coverage was about Democrats and only one-third was about Republicans. Most of this year, Obama and Clinton have far outstripped the other candidates in coverage.

Last week was, the first week that we saw a Republican candidate, John McCain, after a Super Tuesday, wins, lead the pack in overall coverage. But after that, it was Obama, Clinton, and then Romney for sort of getting hosed, was a distant fourth. So there has been consistently more interest in the Democratic race this year that may reflect the fact that there's more interest by Democrats. It may reflect the greater enthusiasm of Democrats, but it may reflect some other things as well.

CONAN: We're covering the campaigns today covering the coverage, that is. What are your gripes? We're taking your calls - 800-989-8255. You can also send us e-mail, talk@npr.org.

I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

We're talking about the press and presidential campaigns. In a moment, NPR's ombudsman will join us. We'll get her view of NPR's coverage. But right now, we're talking with Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. Of course, we want to hear from you. What's your review of the coverage? What would you like to see more or less? 800-989-8255. E-mail us, talk@npr.org. And you can read what other listeners have to say at our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation.

And joining us now from our bureau in New York is NPR media correspondent, David Folkenflik.

David, nice of you to be with us.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

CONAN: And we were talking with Tom Rosenstiel just a second ago. The media - very, very interested in the future, who the nominee will eventually be. How the race is going to play out in Texas, in Pennsylvania and Ohio, not necessarily - people saying so much about what happened yesterday.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, and of the perfect examples of that was I believe in one of the dates you had CNN's Wolf Blitzer asking senators Clinton, Obama. Well, Senator Clinton, you know, would you accept being the running mate for Senator Obama and vice versa. It was almost as though they were trying to achieve closure before of course the result had been determined.

CONAN: And last week when Mitt Romney pulled out, speculation on the 2012 race.

FOLKENFLIK: Yeah. Well, that was almost self-mocking. I mean, they were, you could see sort of the body language and the voices, people that once who are raising it and kind of making fun of themselves for having done so. But indeed, you started to hear that and I sort of laughed and said, wow, instead of a year and a half, it's going to be four and a half years.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. There has also been, as we also heard complaints that so-called minor candidates - it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you don't cover them, they will not emerge. and then there's the case of, well, Governor Mike Huckabee who did not get an awful lot of coverage and sort of emerged and won the Iowa caucuses.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you know, Huckabee sort of wins my vote for the roller coaster candidate. He got almost nothing from the beginning of last year until November where it suddenly it occurred to people that he might actually be out hustling and out organizing people in Iowa. He got this huge sweep of coverage leading up to Iowa - enormous rush of coverage out of Iowa and he kind of disappeared again in New Hampshire, South Carolina. And then suddenly, he did well again in Southern states with heavy, you know, evangelical social conservative voters. And you know, he sort of spanked Senator McCain, metaphorically, of course, in some of the results over the past week.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FOLKENFLIK: So, you know, all I'm saying is that the press is really waxed and leaned over Huckabee - not somebody I think who one could say has been badly treated by the press. I mean, he's actually been rather favorably treated. Reporters I have talked to have enjoyed his folksy mannerisms, his, you know, well very solidly and explicitly conservative evangelical beliefs, you know, is very user-friendly about expressing those to people who may not share his faith.

CONAN: Tom Rosenstiel?

Mr. ROSENSTIEL: I think it also - I think it's interesting and it reflects in part the metrics that the press tends to use for viability. They see that Huckabee has got talent but they see not enough money raising and no national organization, and that's they say. Well, regardless of how well he can do in a retail state like Iowa, it can't last. And therefore, he gets no coverage which makes it indeed harder to raise money. So there is what, you know, scientist will call a Heisenberg effect. The observation of the act influences the event that's being observed. And press, I think, needs to be cautious about that. Clearly, last week when they gave them two percent coverage and he - almost tied McCain in terms of states, there was a disconnect there.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, and there's a fair question about chicken and egg, you know? It didn't prevent voters from sort of understanding that he was out there still possibly away. He's registering a protest or actually trying to prevent Senator McCain from getting the Republican nomination.

But it's absolutely true. I mean, it seems just sort of a reaction in one direction like one ton of coverage and then an overreaction in the other. I would say in comparison with somebody like Congressman Ron Paul with the color raised, two things. One of which is he saw some people of national stature, you know, maybe not of the stature of Bill Clinton or Senator Kennedy but, you know, some people backing someone like Governor Huckabee and that the role of governor of a state tends to be much more of a launching pad than something like a lesser known member of Congress. I mean, the last time, you know, a member of the House of Representatives because president was when? It certainly wasn't this - it's not this young century; it wasn't last century. I'm not sure precisely when it was but that's not been a launching pad to the Oval Office.

CONAN: And if you're hearing a slight buzzing sound in the background, I think that's David Folkenflik's friend sending messages to his BlackBerry to tell them that he's on the radio.

Let's get a call on the line. Now this is Ted(ph). Ted from Tucson, Arizona.

TED (Caller): Hey, I'm - one of the (unintelligible) comments, best thing I actually - I was an Obama volunteer and I'm a Obama supporter, but I (unintelligible) that your guest was a little bit too dismissive of Hillary Clinton's complaints of her coverage in the press. And if you look at this latest incident with David Shuster, if you kind of look beyond the - in our (unintelligible) he said what he was actually doing was criticizing her for having her daughter campaign for her, which I think every candidate has, you know, well, is campaigning for them. You can see MSNBC, (unintelligible) since call…

CONAN: All five (unintelligible) of Mitt Romney, I think, for example.

TED: Yeah, that Mitt Romney was pimping out tag for something like that. I mean, it's - so, I mean, I think she's got a really strong case to make that there are criticisms that she's getting from members of the press that other candidates don't, and that's been going on for a long time.

CONAN: We should mention Mr. Shuster was suspended, the Clinton campaign has argued that that's insufficient but anyway, David Folkenflik, what do you think?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you're talking about Shuster there.

CONAN: Yes.

FOLKENFLIK: You know, what Shuster said, you know, the pimped out that you mentioned at the beginning of the show was clearly problematic language. He initially sort of brushed off complaints and by initially, I mean, sort of into the immediate complaints after he said that. You know, well, he was trying to convey what she was perhaps - a more felicitous term was being trotted out by the Clinton camp to address people like significant donors and superdelegates and other people of influence who could help Senator Clinton in her bid and in this, you know, hard-fought horserace period.

The phrase pimped out is, you know, wrong on all kinds of levels, and fairly, quickly, NBC and certainly MSNBC and Mr. Shuster himself then came to apologize. The Clinton camp seemingly were saying this is not enough saying, you know, they have to not only just do a temporary suspension, which they actually out in quotes, but they have to do more than this to make it up as though they were calling for his head.

The campaign is now saying no, it's more that there has been a culture of dismissive comments and certainly Chris Matthews ultimately backed off after he had said that Senator Clinton was only really able to be a credible candidate because of the philandering of her husband, President Clinton, and the guilt that somehow attached to that that people felt they should do well by her, you know, Mr. Matthews had to back track from that as well.

You know, I got to say it's very interesting because cable news perhaps differently than the news cast says Tom Rosenstiel, said it tends to be a live forum. People say things in this day and age, people say things that are edgier because of the influence of - what - talk radio, because of the unregulated nature of, you know, YouTube and ways in which people communicate because of the, you know, punch-line driven commentary that often carries quite serious import on shows like, you know, "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Show."

You know, John Oliver said that is a - someone said to me recently - if John Oliver said what Mr. Shuster said, nobody would raise an eyebrow. There is a degree of difference on the straight news show, but the well separating the two is not as thick as one might imagine.

CONAN: Ted, thanks very much for the call.

TED: No problem.

CONAN: Let's bring another voice into the conversation. Lisa Shepard, NPR's ombudsman, who joins us here in studio 3A. As NPR's public representative, she's responsible to bring transparency to journalistic decision-making and she writes about it on npr.org.

It's nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.

LISA SHEPARD: Nice to be here.

CONAN: And I know that you've been writing about a lot of complaints you've been hearing from listeners including complaints about early calls, in -particularly, in the state of Missouri on Super Tuesday.

SHEPARD: Yes. NPR was used as AP and they - AP called that race for Senator Clinton at 11:03. And NPR waited and until 11:27 and also called up for Clinton, and then it was pulled back within an hour, and NPR held on it because of what happened in 2000. They were understandably afraid that they made a call that was incorrect. So later he was seen at the time and then they pulled it back, and that it turned out to be correct. You'd have that same flip-flop.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And that's hardly the only complaints you've heard,

SHEPARD: That's hardly the only complaint I've heard. I have to say that I had a column on npr.org/ombudsman about Ron Paul and it's of the four columns I've done since I started doing when in January, I've gotten the most comments on that and that's because I do think that the media is not covering the phenomenon of Ron Paul which I think is an interesting story. It wasn't just once in one day that he raised a record and I would up was twice. He came in second in Nevada. He won in, I mean…

CONAN: At a distant second (unintelligible)…

SHEPARD: A distant second but nonetheless, there are people out there - I live in Arlington, Virginia and the most signs I see - I did a long bike ride - that's what I refer Ron Paul.

CONAN: Let's see if we get another caller on the line. This is Warner(ph). Warner calling us from San Jose in California.

WARNER(ph): Hello.

CONANL: Hi there.

WARNER: I'm calling because there's been no coverage, generally, but also when NPR about the current presidential race in the Green Party of the United States. We had four primaries last Tuesday in Massachusetts, Arkansas, Illinois and California. And it seems to me that basic journalism coverage the facts and if you're not covering all the facts, you're not doing your job. And I've also not heard of anything about large-scale voting interference with Green Party members voting in Illinois, which occurred last Tuesday, and I want to know if NPR is going to cover the District of Columbia primary that's going to be happening tomorrow including the Green Party primary.

CONAN: Lisa Shepard?

SHEPARD: I don't think I can answer that but let's hope that the political editor, Ron Elving, is listening and I'm sure that NPR will be covering the Democratic primary in the district for sure.

CONAN: Republican primary too.

SHEPARD: And, yes, of course.

WARNER: Well, but that's the point. There's also another party's primary, the Green Party primary, the Libertarian Party, which is another smaller national party also is not getting any coverage. And they have a full slate of presidential candidates also. I know because I saw their ballot with mine for the California primary.

CONAN: Warner, thanks very much for the call.

Let's see if we can go now to Heather(ph). And Heather is with us from New Haven in Connecticut.

HEATHER (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi there.

HEATHER: Yeah. I'll go off the air for my answer. I want to state first, I'm a Ron Paul supporter and my husband is for Obama, so that's fun. I'd like the media to sort of address the reality that, at large, they seem to, in some sense, hold an unregulated primary through the fact that they choose who to cover, who not to cover, which minor candidates or major candidates and all of that, and it seems - it seemed to me mostly and during the debates because which candidates get questions, the time to answer the questions, et cetera. And how can that be remedied when, again, it seems rather obvious that there's certain candidates that have incredible appeal to everybody except all the people who talking about them.

CONAN: Okay. Heather, thanks very much. It sounds like you've got other things to occupy your time there.

HEATHER: Oh, yeah. Shepherd's pie. Got to go.

CONAN: Okay. Bye-bye.

HEATHER: Bye.

CONAN: Let's turn to David Folkenflik. Are Heather's criticisms valid, do you think?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, I think, you know, there's a winnowing process that occurs but that the press is pretty good at following rather than necessarily leading. You know, Mike Huckabee, as he gained strength (unintelligible) as I've mentioned before, really started to gain a lot of coverage. The fact that he got under, you know, the Project for Excellence in Journalism has count 2 percent of the coverage last week, seemed to miss the mark, particularly when you see what happened last weekend. If you look at back at Ron Paul, you know, I'd just looked at something like three or four dozen national polls in which Paul broke a double digits once and that was back I think early to mid-December.

Now, obviously, the national polls don't necessarily dictate what actually happens - people have to vote - and it makes a difference they'd be able to and it makes a difference that'd be able to be exposed. But you know, it's not just four or five people running, I mean, if you want to throw it open to every actual candidate who signs up, there would be dozens and dozens of candidates. It would be impossible to allow anyone to speak meaningfully. I think that the networks or the cable networks deserve to be scrutinized about how they do it.

And one of the reasons the cable networks are doing it in this primary season race is to also address an earlier question, is that the broadcast networks don't think it's worth their time, you know? Cable networks are trying to build the largest niche audience as they can. Broadcast audience is, you know, is supposed to be several times larger and - except when there's intense interest as there is during this primary season, in particularly on the Democratic side - they're not going to be able to build those audiences.

Well, they're trying to construct meaningful debates so people can fuse out some personality and policy differences between some of these major candidates, and the networks have to make choices.

Ron Paul is a guy with real, strong, devoted support of a relatively, as far as we can judge, smaller band of voters. And the question is how do you address the difference between the intensity and size of his support.

CONAN: David Folkenflik, who I apparently slanted earlier, that was Tom Rosenstiel's BlackBerry that was buzzing.

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION coming to you from NPR News.

Mr. ROSENSTIEL: I would differ with David on one regard on this and that is I think there's a point at which the winnowing process should be begin but that I arguably, it began far too early in 2007, if the so-called less richer(ph) candidates or less at your candidates back in the spring, there was no objective justification for that. Their early polls are not meaningful enough.

And if the campaign is about ideas, all the ideas should be aired out to some extent. I think there is a point at which the winnowing must occur but happen essentially from the outset in this cycle.

CONAN: let's go to Pat(ph). Pat with us from Prescott, Arizona.

PAT (Caller): Hello. I wanted to play than I would have and I've wanted to bring this up is that there is - it seems to be that with the age of Google and all this Internet stuff that there's just not very much fact checking on what these on what the candidates say.

And as the example I brought up with your screener that, for instance, I heard John McCain last night claimed that he urged Rumsfeld to be fired. And so I looked on the Internet and I could never find any example of him saying that. And you know, he can just throw this stuff out there, but it seems like somebody should be able to go back and look over these statements been since.

And he also said that he was against the way that the war was going, well as, you know, I looked that up and I found numerous quotes for he was seeing - stayed in the course then there like late 2006. And I just think that's problem and I'll take my answer off the air.

CONAN: Okay. Lisa Shepard?

SHEPARD: Well, there are quite a few news organizations now that do do fact checking in a very disciplined and specific way. And then Brooks Jackson has…

Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Factcheck.org.

SHEPARD: Factcheck.org - and The Washington Post started something; I think The New York Times does; I know the St. Pete Times. So it think it's important to bring those issues to these organizations, if you think that things are not being accurately fact checked.

Mr. ROSENSTIEL: I would say though that cable news does not have any systematic sort of checking. The only news program that I know of in which someone comes on at the end of the program and says here's what we got wrong in the last half hour, is a show on ESPN called "Pardon the Interruption." It's a innovation they might consider occasionally on some of the newer media.

CONAN: We're out of time. I'm afraid we'll have this conversation, I'm sure, again before the national party political conventions, can you believe it, in six months from now - more than six months from now. And so let's regroup at a late time.

Thank you all, David Folkenflik, NPR's media correspondent with us from NPR's bureau in New York.

Thank you David.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

CONAN: Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, with us here in studio 3A.

Thank you Tom.

Mr. ROSENSTIEL: Thanks.

CONAN: And Lisa Shepard, NPR's ombudsman and she can be reached at S. Shepard - excuse me A. Shepard.

SHEPARD: S-H-E-P-A-R-D.

CONAN: @npr.org. And you read her column at npr.org.

Stay with us. When we come back, we'll go to the Opinion Page and hear five minutes about those nefarious neocons. 800-989-8255, if you'd like to join that conversation. E-mail is talk@npr.org.

I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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