NPR Freelance Host Fired for role in Occupy D.C. Protest

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Freelance radio host Lisa Simeone was fired for her involvement with an Occupy D.C. protest in Washington, D.C., the Associated Press reported.

Simeone hosted “music documentary” program Soundprint, which “isn’t produced by NPR but is aired by its affiliates across the country.”  Simeone claims that Soundprint “read NPR’s code of ethics to her before she was fired.” According to the AP, NPR denied calling for her firing, but did note that its programs are required to follow its ethics code. NPR also published a statement clarifying that NPR didn’t have “a role in the decision made by” Soundprint.

In a statement on Soundprint’s website, the program addresses Simeone’s firing, noting she worked for the program for 15 years.  In part, it reads:

Soundprint is a journalistic program and Lisa’s leadership role as a member of the steering committee and a spokesperson for the October 2011 protest activities, associated with the Occupy DC movement, conflicts with her role as the host of a documentary series.

Soundprint adheres to the highest standards of journalism which include maintaining appropriate distance from marches, demonstrations and other political activity. These are standards held by many other journalism organizations, including National Public Radio.”

Simeone also hosted a program called World of Opera, which is currently supporting her, the Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik reported Oct. 20.  In a separate post, Zurawik noted that the Daily Caller prompted questions about Simeone’s involvement with Occupy D.C.  The Daily Caller’s Oct. 19 article cited the NPR ethics policy’s ban of working in public relations, unless it’s a “certain volunteer nonprofit, nonpartisan activities.”

For that program, Simeone works as a WDAV independent contractor, according to a statement on WDAV’s website.

“Ms. Simeone’s activities outside of this job are not in violation of any of WDAV’s employee codes and have had no effect on her job performance at WDAV. Ms. Simeone remains the host of World of Opera,” WDAV’s Lisa Gray wrote. (See here).

Simeone questioned why her involvement with the protest is a problem and as having told the Sun that  she didn’t work for NPR.

“I’m a freelancer.  NPR doesn’t pay me.  I’m also not a news reporter.  I don’t cover politics.  I’ve never brought a whiff of my political activities into the work I’ve done for NPR World of Opera.  What is NPR afraid I’ll do — insert a seditious comment into a synopsis of Madame Butterfly?”

Further, Simeone told the Baltimore Sun that “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.”

TIME‘s James Poniewozik sarcastically criticized the questions about firing Simeone as host of World of Opera.  “Public radio listeners! Have you long worried that your station was undermining capitalism through its broadcasts of the Ring Cycle? Tired of having your children brainwashed by the socialistic messages of La Traviata?” he wrote.

Poniewozik also called it a “stupid, stupid decision,” but one that “may also be unavoidable” because of NPR’s public funding.

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NPR Freelance Host Fired for role in Occupy D.C. Protest

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