NPR ombudsman puts her faith and trust in journalism

Samantha Lambert
Staff Reporter

Having a guest speaker like Alicia Shepard, the ombudsman for the National Public Radio, was a great honor here at McDaniel College on October 28th. Not only was she an excellent speaker in detailing her job description, but she was a great informant about how the media today is morphing and what NPR and other affiliates are doing to cope with that change.

Declaring herself as the “public advocate” for NPR, Shepard explained that an ombudsman is an official who represents the public by investigating and addressing the complaints of citizens. She estimates that she receives more than 75,000 inquires every year. Her main task everyday is to make sure that the media, that NPR, remains unbiased, especially during this heated presidential election. Shepard said that she has to make sure that NPR lives up to its name.

A diverse audience, peppered by people of all ages, who listened to Shepard, praised the public’s passion for media, especially over the fairness and objectivity in the media. For example, a listener to NPR’s radio called in and complained about a piece done on Hillary Clinton. The listener said that NPR had not given Obama the same amount of media coverage. However, Shepard looked up the previous night’s television schedule and pointed out a piece done on Obama, stating that it was the same amount of media coverage.

Shepard said she is actually thrilled that this nation is so concerned with the media. She stated that she is a public critic of NPR, just as much as the rest of the viewers and listeners. For example, if a main story is covered by another station and not by NPR, she will bring it to the attention of the editors, write a column on it, or talk on the radio station discussing the issue. She also ensures that the public knows NPR is being screened everyday.

“We all have core beliefs and core political beliefs which make it harder sometimes,” Shepard said. She noted that it is harder today to keep up with the news, commenting on how many miscommunications happen since people hear or see things at different times of the day as a result of all of the different forms of media used today, not only print but broadcast, radio feed, and internet.

Shepard added that she puts her faith and trust in journalism because there are truly professional journalists who will keep the media clean, objective and as unbiased as possible. In my opinion, Shepard does her part by being the spokesman for media everywhere, to NPR, to her graduate class at Georgetown and to all of the citizens who take time to critique and question the media.