NPR's Michele Norris To Take 1 Year off Hosting 'All Things Considered' to avoid Conflict of Interest

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NPR’s Michele Norris announced Oct. 24 that she is stepping away from her program “All Things Considered” for the next year to avoid any conflict of interest, the New York Times reported.

According to her NPR biography, Norris has co-hosted “All Things Considered” since 2002.   She left NPR because her husband, Broderick Johnson, began working as a senior adviser for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, the Times reported.

“I will be wearing a different hat for a while, producing signature segments and features and working on new reporting projects. While I will of course recuse myself from all election coverage, there’s still an awful lot of ground that I can till in this interim role,” Norris is quoted by the New York Times as saying in an internal memo.

NPR published an Oct. 24 story explaining that Norris will only be leaving her program.  “She is not leaving NPR’s airwaves, however. While she will not be involved in coverage of the 2012 election, Norris will continue to report and produce projects for the organization.”

NPR cited its ethics code,  which reads

“When a spouse, family member or companion of an NPR journalist is involved in political activity, the journalist should be sensitive to the fact that this could create real or apparent conflicts of interest. In such instances the NPR journalist should advise his or her supervisor to determine whether s/he should recuse him or herself from a certain story or certain coverage.”

According to the New York Times, Norris’ husband worked as “an informal and unpaid adviser to the Obama campaign during the 2008 presidential election.”   He also was a “senior adviser for congressional affairs for John Kerry’s presidential campaign” in 2004. NPR decided in 2008 that Norris’s role wouldn’t be changed and in 2004, she “did recuse herself.”

The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple wrote “In a righteous world, no journalist should have to adjust job responsibilities on account of a spouse’s work”  However, he noted that “conflict-of-interest disclosures don’t work on radio,” suggesting a possible introduction Norris could have had to make disclosing her husband’s relationship to any story about Obama she may have to report on.   “If they’re a bit of a distraction in print, they sound like static on radio,” Wemple added.

iMediaEthics wrote in September when Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz resigned to avoid any conflict of interest related to her spouse’s work. Her husband, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), is running for re-election.  Schultz took a leave of absence in 2006 when Brown first ran for office.

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NPR’s Michele Norris To Take 1 Year off Hosting ‘All Things Considered’ to avoid Conflict of Interest

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