The Protocols of the Elders of South Dakota
When Edward Schumacher-Matos signed to serve as the NPR Ombudsman he probably forgot his hip-boots. He was blissfully unaware that his job description would include a thorough mucking of the Augean Stables. When NPR reporter Laura Sullivan ran a series that accused the state of South Dakota of removing Native American children from reservation homes and farming them out to wealthy Caucasian foster parents to collect federal subsidies for the adoption, he knew that he had stepped into a bear-trap of a professional assignment.
Schumacher-Matos took Sullivan apart and NPR to task. He detailed five fundamental professional ethics violations that occurred in the reporting of the story. He gets straight to the point below.
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The series committed five sins that violate NPR’s code of standards and ethics. They were:
1. No proof for its main allegations of wrongdoing;
2. Unfair tone in communicating these unproven allegations;
3. Factual errors, shaky anecdotes and misleading use of data by quietly switching what was being measured;
4. Incomplete reporting and lack of critical context;
5. No response from the state on many key points.