NPR Host Diane Rehm To Step Away From Fundraising Appearances For Right-To-Die Group
March 10, 2015 at 3:45 AM (PT)
NPR and AMERICAN UNIVERSITY News-Talk WAMU/WASHINGTON talk host DIANE REHM will step away at the end of this month from her advocacy work fundraising for the non-profit COMPASSION & CHOICES, a group supporting right-to-die/assisted suicide laws.
REHM's participation at dinners for the organization became controversial after the WASHINGTON POST reported on her activity in the wake of her husband JOHN's ordeal with Parkinson's disease (NET NEWS 2/16). In a report by NPR Ombudsman ELIZABETH JENSEN on REHM's decision, VP/Programming ERIC NUZUM said that REHM will honor commitments to appear at two more dinners this month but will not accept more requests. The advocacy would run afoul of NPR ethics guidelines for its own journalists, but REHM technically works for WAMU and while contracts for programming do require shows to abide by NPR's ethics code, it is unclear whether talk show hosts are subject to the same standards as journalists.
The statement released by NPR after meeting with REHM said: "As a talk show host, DIANE REHM is free to express her own opinions alongside people who have different views. This is one of the things her listeners expect, and it allows for empathy, and a lively exchange of ideas. DIANE's visibility on end-of-life issues comes from a very recent personal experience but raises important considerations regarding impartiality.
"Together with WAMU, the show's producer, we have determined the following:
"THE DIANE REHM SHOW will continue to handle end-of-life issues as it does all other newsworthy subjects – giving them no more and no less coverage than the news dictates. If and when the show addresses end-of-life issues, DIANE will remind the audience about her personal experience and be transparent about her affiliation with any organization focused on the issue. She has always been candid with her audience. Listeners expect and appreciate this openness.
"To further avoid any perception of conflict, DIANE has decided that after she honors her commitment to participate in two additional COMPASSION & CHOICES dinners this month, she will no longer participate in their fundraising events.
"NPR will continue to work with the producers of all the programs we distribute to clarify that our ethics guidelines apply."