UPDATE: Lisa Simeone may have kept her job as host of WDAV's World of Opera, but the public radio program has lost NPR as a distributor because of Simeone's role in an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street protests.
The broadcaster told the Associated Press late last week that it would no longer distribute the member-produced show to about 60 stations across the country because of Simeone's role as an organizer in the Occupy protests in Washington, D.C.
North Carolina-based WDAV has said that it will keep Simeone as host of the program, despite criticism of her role as an occasional spokesperson for the protests -- a decision NPR disagreed with.
"Our view is it's a potential conflict of interest for any journalist or any individual who plays a public role on behalf of NPR to take an active part in a political movement or advocacy campaign," spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm told the AP. "Doing so has the potential to compromise our reputation as an organization that strives to be impartial and unbiased."
Last week, Simeone was fired by SoundPoint, a radio show that airs on WAMU, an NPR affiliate in Washington, D.C. The show is not produced by NPR, and the public broadcaster stressed at the time that it had "no contact" with its producers prior to their decision to part ways with Simeone.
POST Thursday, Oct. 20: A freelance public radio personality has been fired from her job at a radio documentary show after NPR began looking into her role as a spokeswomen for an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The radio personality in question, Lisa Simeone, was let go from her job at SoundPrint, a radio show that airs on WAMU, an NPR affliiate in Washington, D.C., the Associated Press reports. The show is not produced by NPR, and the public broadcaster stressed that it had "no contact" with its producers prior to their decision to part ways with Simeone.
Still, the news of Simeone's firing follows reports that NPR had begun to investigate Simeone's role as an occasional spokesperson for anti-Wall Street protesters in Washington, D.C. Simeone told the AP on Thursday that when she was fired on Wednesday, she was read NPR's code of ethics.
D.C.-based Roll Call was the first outlet to notice Simeone at the protests earlier this week, and several conservative outlets picked up the story about her role as a spokesperson for the Washington protests, among them Tucker Carlson's the Daily Caller
According to Roll Call, NPR's code of ethics reads, in part:
"NPR [and WAMU] journalists may not engage in public relations work, paid or unpaid...exceptions may be made for certain volunteer nonprofit, nonpartisan activities, such as participating in the work of a church, synagogue or other institution of worship, or a charitable organization, so long as this would not conflict with the interests of NPR [and WAMU] in reporting on activities related to that institution or organization.”
The Caller's beef with Simeone's participation in the protests is twofold: First, her actions appear to violate NPR's code of ethics, despite Simeone's insistence that, as a non-staff freelance broadcaster, she's not doing anything wrong. Second, and this one will sound familiar, that NPR's reception of federal funding means that taxpayer dollars are supporting liberal actions.
Simeone is also the host of a second public radio program, World of Opera, which is distributed by NPR but produced by WDAV in North Carolina. A spokeperson for the station told Poynter on Thursday that Simeone will continue with the program, although there are still ongoing conversations with NPR about whether the broadcaster will continue to distribute it.
Fox News talked to a spokesperson for NPR, who emphasized that Simeone is not a news reporter for the broadcaster, describing her as "a part-time contract employee of WDAV, the classical public radio station of Davidson College in North Carolina."
In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Simeone expressed her frustration with the allegations of an ethics violation: “I find it puzzling that NPR objects to my exercising my rights as an American citizen — the right to free speech, the right to peaceable assembly — on my own time in my own life."
But as Poynter notes, Simeone's actions have a broader, loaded political context, and the criticism of her work may have more to do with NPR than with her, personally: "Questions about politics have dogged NPR in the last year. The public radio network’s new CEO Gary Knell hopes to depoliticize its image; incidents like this clearly will not help."