Almost a month after the New York Times announced that the 2018 podcast “Caliphate” was not up to journalistic standards, a public broadcaster has accused the Times of ethical errors in its efforts to redress.
The Public Radio Program Directors Association, which represents executives in public media across the country, sent a letter of complaint to the Times audio division on Monday. It was signed by executives at 26 public radio stations that broadcast The Daily, the Times’ popular podcast by Michael Barbaro.
In mid-December, an editorial note in The Times outlined the journalistic problems in “Caliphate”, a 12-part series that was supposed to shed light on the Islamic State. In the note, the Times said it had too much faith in the misrepresentation or exaggeration of one of the main topics on the podcast, Shehroze Chaudhry, a Canadian who claimed to have participated in atrocities by the Islamic State. On the day the note was posted, Dean Baquet, editor-in-chief of The Times, gave Mr. Barbaro an apologetic audio interview, which was attached as the 13th episode of Caliphate. Mr Baquet described the problems as “an institutional failure” and said the podcast’s errors should not be blamed on “a reporter.”
In his letter, the public broadcaster asked why The Times did not reveal, in the audio interview with Mr. Baquet, that Mr. Barbaro was romantically involved with Lisa Tobin, an executive producer on “Caliphate”. The letter also criticized Mr. Barbaro for sending messages to reporters, including NPR journalists, trying to influence their coverage of the Times’ handling of the caliphate’s erroneous reporting.
“We believe that Barbaro’s actions are in direct contradiction to our ethical guidelines and question his general credibility,” the letter reads.
On Tuesday, Houston Public Media announced that The Daily had been discontinued by KUHF, a Houston, Texas public radio station known as News 88.7. “Reports that ‘Daily’ host Michael Barbaro failed to adequately disclose essential facts about his connection to the controversial ‘Caliphate’ series during a recent broadcast inconsistent with Houston Public Media’s commitment to transparency and journalistic standards.” the company said in a statement. BBC Worldwide will take the 10pm time slot on Tuesday that was previously occupied by The Daily, Houston Public Media added.
A Times spokeswoman said it was a “privilege” to be part of the company’s programming and not something we take lightly. We hope that Houston Public Media will reconsider this in the future. “
The public service broadcaster’s letter also challenged the Times’ hiring decisions regarding Caliphate co-hosts, investigative reporter Rukmini Callimachi and audio journalist Andy Mills.
After the correction, Mr Baquet said Ms. Callimachi had been banned from reporting on terrorism and international conflict, a prestigious blow in which she won a number of journalism awards over more than a decade.
Shortly after the editor’s note was published, Mr. Mills guest hosted an episode of “The Daily”. The letter said that the decision to reassign Ms. Callimachi “while adding visibility to her white male counterpart” suggested that The Times had not done enough to ensure the equality of its employees.
The letter goes on to say, “We respectfully urge the New York Times to acknowledge and take responsibility for these misjudgments and to take steps to correct them now and in the future.” The letter included program directors and station manager at public radio stations in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington.
Mr Barbaro and Mr Mills declined to comment. Sam Dolnick, a Times deputy editor-in-chief who oversees the audio team, responded to the association on Tuesday in a letter provided by a Times spokeswoman.
Mr Dolnick wrote that Mr Barbaro “deeply regrets” sending private messages to journalists covering the correction of the “Caliphate”, adding that the Times editors “have discussed their expectations with him in the future”.
Mr. Dolnick defended the Times’ decision not to disclose Mr. Barbaro’s relationship with Ms. Tobin during the interview with Mr. Baquet. “This was an audio version of our editor’s note, not an accountability interview that Dean had already given NPR,” Dolnick wrote. “With that understanding, we saw no need to refer to Michael’s relationship with Lisa Tobin.”
Mr. Dolnick regretted Mr. Mill’s stay as a “daily” innkeeper. “The timing of this episode was in error and sent an unintended signal that undermined the severity of the ‘Caliphate’ Editors’ note,” he wrote.
In the weeks since the Caliphate was corrected, people who worked with Mr. Mills before joining The Times in 2016 have been complaining on social media about his behavior towards women in the workplace and in social settings.
Reports of his behavior were detailed in a 2018 New York Magazine article in The Cut about workplace problems at New York public radio station WNYC, where Mr. Mills had previously worked. He was also a focus of recent articles in the Washington Post and on NPR.
“Radiolab,” the WNYC podcast that Mr Mills worked on before joining The Times, issued a statement Thursday to address the recent complaints. “We hate that this happened and we apologize to those who have failed,” said “Radiolab” in the statement. “At the time, the show management initiated a response from WNYC to deal with Andy’s behavior, but it wasn’t going fast enough and it wasn’t doing enough.”
In the public service broadcaster’s letter, Mr. Mills was described as “someone with a history on public service”. In response, Mr. Dolnick wrote: “You also referred to allegations of wrongdoing by Andy Mills, which we take very seriously. We will thoroughly examine all complaints received and will take appropriate corrective action. “
Abby Goldstein, the president and executive director of the Public Radio Program Directors Association, said she wrote the letter after broadcasters’ executives contacted her with concerns. Complaints about The Daily, which is broadcast by around 200 public radio stations across the country, have come more from people who work on public radio than from listeners, she added.
“Where the feedback comes from in most cases lies in our own industry – employees, board members, donors,” said Ms. Goldstein. “Employees more than anything else. The stations have the feeling that we have a great responsibility towards our employees. “