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May 30, 2005

Dvorkin's Conflict of Interest

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Ken Bode and William Schulz, two newly appointed ombudsmen hired by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to monitor NPR and PBS in response to concerns about liberal bias as well as imbalanced Middle East coverage, were barred from becoming full members of the Organization of News Ombudsman. Who was instrumental in keeping out the CPB ombudsmen?

None other than NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin whose own work is to be examined by Bode and Schulz. Dvorkin was ONO's president until last week when his term ran out. As the New York Times reports, fellow ombudsmen are crying foul:

Mr. Dvorkin’s meeting with Mr. Bode drew criticism itself from at least two other members of the ombudsmen organization, who saw his involvement as a conflict of interest. The corporation not only oversees funding for NPR, but their ombudsmen are in position to review Mr. Dvorkin’s adjudications.

One of the critics of Mr. Dvorkin’s handling of the matter was Jamie Gold, the readers’ representative at The Los Angeles Times, who protested by quitting her post as the organization’s treasurer, resigning from its board and declining to attend the conference.

“It was the ONO president’s attempt to manipulate the CPB ombudsmen’s application process from the beginning that I objected to,” Ms. Gold wrote in an email. “ONO values transparency. Jeffrey Dvorkin could have taken steps early on to make the entire process–their membership application, their request to attend the conference–transparent by recusing himself and handing it over to the ONO board. He didn’t.” . . . .

Mr. Dvorkin said he came to realize that he had a conflict of interest. . . .

On a separate note, Dvorkin said he had blocked the CPB representatives from joining ONO because “We want members who are responsive to readers, not to governments or lobby groups.” Only Dvorkin himself is demonstrably not responsive to readers, insulting them rather than listening to their substantive concerns.

Posted by TS at May 30, 2005 04:48 AM