Chuy and the Battle for Chicago
A note from NPR's editors, April 10, 3 p.m. ET. Scroll down for a response from Latino USA and the Futuro Media Group:
"Chuy and the battle for Chicago," the April 3, 2015, episode produced by Latino USA, does not meet NPR's editorial standards. NPR distributes Latino USA to more than 130 stations and did not have an opportunity to review the program prior to its distribution.
In the episode, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's opponent and other critics make some serious charges about the way he has governed the city. There are mentions of "financial mismanagement," that he cares only about "millionaires and billionaires," that he threw immigration reform "under the bus" and that decisions he made while working for President Obama led to deportations. The episode appeared just four days before Chicago's runoff election.
But there are no responses to those charges from Emanuel or his aides. There was no mention in the episode about whether Latino USA even tried to get any comment from them.
In fact, a Latino USA producer did contact the Emanuel campaign to get its assistance in reaching prominent Latino supporters of the mayor. But the campaign also needed to be informed that specific complaints would be heard during the episode. And the campaign needed to be given a chance to respond. If the campaign wouldn't cooperate, Latino USA needed to find and use previous responses.
Conversely, almost no critical attention was focused on Jesus "Chuy" Garcia. Latino USA's producers were aiming to tell a tale about what it is like to be a Latino running for the highest office in a major American city. That is a good story. But listeners learned little about Garcia's record or how he would govern. Instead, he was more generally portrayed as a rebel who was fighting against "the machine." He was the "longtime grass-roots activist ... giving one of the most powerful men in America a run for his money."
"Fairness" is among NPR's core principles. Our Ethics Handbook clearly states: "We make every effort to gather responses from those who are the subjects of criticism, unfavorable allegations or other negative assertions in our stories."
We also value "completeness." As the handbook says: "Errors of omission and partial truths can inflict great damage on our credibility, and stories delivered without the context to fully understand them are incomplete."
We are not saying that Latino USA needed to split its story and give both candidates the same amount of time. There is a place for a profile that focuses more on one than the other.
But this episode did not meet our standards. Following consultation with NPR Programming, NPR News and NPR Standards & Practices, NPR will ask the Futuro Media Group, the organization that produces Latino USA, to remove NPR's name and branding from all digital versions of this episode. NPR Programming leadership is in active discussion with the producer to reaffirm the principles of our Ethics Handbook.
A response from Latino USA and the Futuro Media Group:
Latino USA and the Futuro Media Group acknowledge NPR's concerns regarding the "Chuy and the Battle for Chicago" episode. Having covered Latino issues in the United States for over two decades, we understand the weight of our responsibility. We regret any appearance of imbalance or lack of fairness in the episode, particularly as it may have reflected on NPR.
We should have made clear in the program that we had reached out to the Emanuel campaign numerous times without response. We also are reviewing other ways in which the program might have been better executed.
We intend to redouble our efforts to bring to our listeners overlooked stories while conforming at all times to the highest journalistic standards.
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