In 2008, Hillary Clinton said mother would have been in foster care today

She was Senator Hillary Clinton in 2008, when she ran against Senator Barack Obama and John Edwards in South Carolina, the last state before Edwards dropped out of the race.

I spoke to her for NPR’s News and Notes, and she mentioned her mother, saying, “If she had been born at a later time, I believe she probably would have been put into the foster care system because her parents essentially abandoned her.”  Today, former Secretary of State Clinton is expected to formally announce for President, foregrounding themes of her mother.

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The New York Times says:

Sharing that story is a shift for Mrs. Clinton, who in her 2008 campaign was fiercely protective of her mother’s privacy and eager to project an image of strength as she sought to become the first female commander in chief. And in this campaign, her mother’s story may help address one of Mrs. Clinton’s central challenges: convincing voters who feel they already know everything about her that there is, indeed, more to know, and that she is motivated by more than ambition.

But she did, in fact talk about it… perhaps not extensively, but you can still listen here (sometimes with a long page load time). It begins at 5:17.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2008, for NPR’s News and Notes, 1/25/2008, responding to why she has done children’s-rights work in her legal and political career.

I think it was initially important because my mother had such a very difficult life.

If she had been born at a later time, I believe she probably would have been put into the foster care system because her parents essentially abandoned her and her grandparents were very unwelcoming, and basically she had to leave their home when she was 13 just to go work in someone else’s home, just to have a safe place to live and to try to be able to make some way in her life.
They let her take care of her children but she had to but she had to get up and get the other children off to school, and they let her go to high school. I really saw at a very early age, that despite my comfortable, secure upbringing in my family that wasn’t the case for so many children.
It just became the cause of my passionate commitments here in public service to do what I can to give every child a chance to live up to his or her God-given potential.


RIP, Chinua Achebe

via Reuters:

The influential novelist Chinua Achebe passed away, leaving behind a legacy of fiction, poetry, and political discourse. He’s the author of the seminal novel Things Fall Apart.

I spoke with him in 2007 for NPR’s News and Notes. Unfortunately we had a vexingly bad phone line. But listen carefully to his words not just on human nature and creativity, but also politics and the Biafra Civil War.

Audio is here.

NPR Changes Leadership and RIP, David Broder

I’m sure many of you newshound pals of mine are following the leadership change at NPR.

This account comes from an online transcription of NPR’s Morning Edition:

NPR announced Wednesday that CEO Vivian Schiller has resigned after controversial comments made by NPR’s former top fundraising executive came to light in a secret video. Read more

Why to “Save” Public Media: It’s Yours

One of my favorite routines from George Carlin is about people wanting to save the planet. He said, It’s not about saving the planet. “The planet is fine. The people are f***ed… The planet isn’t going anywhere. We are.”

I feel the same way about public media. Once again, some members of Congress want to kill funding for public media. Now, not only do I disagree with that, but I also disagree with a lot of the ways people are framing why and how to “save” public media. We can talk all we want about saving NPR and PBS, but really what we are saving is our own access to information and community.

First of all, America’s public media is a shadow of that in many developed countries. If we want to wallow in our own ignorance, then we can try to eliminate the funding pipeline. At the same time — not to be dismissive, but not to be alarmist — what we call public media is already vastly funded by private individuals and underwriting.

That doesn’t mean that cuts don’t matter. Anyone who’s pinching their pennies in this economy knows that money is money, and money counts. Does the Federal Government need to balance revenue and expenditures? Of course. But the total Federal funding for public media, $430 million, is not only a drop in the total $3.7 trillion proposed budget, but a fraction of what’s spent on political pork. And note — 70 percent of Federal public media funding goes to local stations.

Those stations are also facing state budget cuts. Blue Ridge PBS, which says it serves 26,000 square miles, has had its state funding cut by 25%. The money could be eliminated. As they state in an online piece, “Will Sesame Street Stay On”:

Right now state funding makes up 20 percent of the station’s more than $3.5 million dollar budget. Another 20 percent comes from the federal government. The rest comes from viewers and corporate donors…. In 2008 the state funded more than $1-million to Blue Ridge PBS. This year it’s down to $732,000. Under the current budget proposal it would be slashed to zero over the next two years.

The question facing public media now is what to do and how to frame an argument for continued funding, while still doing the job of reporting the news. That’s no mean feat. But here are a few trends that are changing the game.

First, people, under economic duress, are cutting their cable and other bills that seemed essential in better times, but less so now. Some are turning to broadband for video and audio programming, but others are using radios and rabbit-ear televisions. You can get PBS and NPR on those, and while there are commercial news and entertainment sources, they’re not the same. (Note: I didn’t say better or worse, but different, tonally and substantively.) People deserve choice even if they don’t have a lot of money.

Second, public media is doing some internal mentoring/tough love. I’m thinking of organizations like the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, under CEO Maxie Jackson. The NFCB represents smaller public radio stations, and it’s working to ensure they have a game plan for these times. As Jackson says about the proposed cuts, “FEAR is not an option, ANGER has little value, and DISGUST is not a solution. This dire forecast requires immediate strategic, rigorous and impacting action.” (Disclosure: I’m speaking at their June conference, on the topic of social media for radio.)

Third, to circle back to outlets like Blue Ridge PBS, public media isn’t about some remote system. It’s about communities…. communities that need information, tools, and choice, now in this economy more than ever. It’s up to us to make sure that those tools are available, for free, to everyone.


Some articles of note supporting continued funding:

“Fact Check: Palin Calls for Congress to Defund NPR,” from WBUR

The Argument for Funding Public Media, by WNYC CEO Laura Walker and Kohanic Broadcast Corp. (Anchorage, Alaska) CEO Jaclyn Sallee

Internal Audit At NPR

NPR announced the resignation of its vice president of news, Ellen Weiss, who presided over the firing of Juan Williams. From what I understand, however, the decision is based on much larger and longer standing issues, including ones of diversity.

From NPR:

NPR Announces Completion of Review of

The Termination of Juan Williams’ Contract

Washington, DC January 6, 2011 – The NPR Board of Directors announced today that it has completed its review into the facts and circumstances leading to the termination of NPR’s contract with senior news analyst Juan Williams. The review also included an examination of how other NPR analysts and correspondents have been treated under the NPR Ethics Code with respect to on-air comments. The independent members of NPR’s Board (the “Board”) worked with outside legal counsel, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP (“Weil”), to gather information related to the contract termination.

In light of the review and feedback provided to them, the Board has adopted recommendations and remedial measures designed to address issues that surfaced with the review. The recommendations and remedial measures range from new internal procedures concerning personnel and on air-talent decisions to taking appropriate disciplinary action with respect to certain management employees involved in the termination. Some of these changes have already been made and others are in process. Specifically, the Board adopted recommendations that NPR:

· Establish a committee comprised of NPR personnel, respected journalists, and others from outside NPR to review and update NPR’s current Ethics Code (the “Code”).

· Develop policies and procedures to ensure consistent application of and training on the Code to all employees and contractors.

· Review and update policies/training with respect to the role of NPR journalists appearing on other media outlets to ensure that they understand the applicability of the Ethics Code to their work and to facilitate equitable and consistent application of the Code.

· Review and define the roles of NPR journalists (including news analysts) to address a changing news environment in which such individuals have a myriad of outlets and new platforms for their talent, balancing the opportunities presented by such outlets and platforms with the potential for conflicts of interest that may compromise NPR’s mission.

· Ensure that its practices encourage a broad range of viewpoints to assist its decision-making, support its mission, and reflect the diversity of its national audiences. The Human Resources Committee of the Board is working in conjunction with key members of NPR management on this issue.

Williams’ contract was terminated in accordance with its terms. The contract gave both parties the right to terminate on 30 days’ notice for any reason. The facts gathered during the review revealed that the termination was not the result of special interest group or donor pressure. However, because of concerns regarding the speed and handling of the termination process, the Board additionally recommended that certain actions be taken with regard to management involved in Williams’ contract termination.

The Board has expressed confidence in Vivian Schiller’s leadership going forward. She accepted responsibility as CEO and cooperated fully with the review process. The Board, however, expressed concern over her role in the termination process and has voted that she will not receive a 2010 bonus.

NPR also announced that Ellen Weiss, Senior Vice-President for News, has resigned.

“We have taken this situation very seriously and the Board believes these recommendations and remedial steps address the concerns raised in connection with the termination of Williams’ contract,” said Dave Edwards, Chair. “The Board regrets this incident’s impact on NPR and will work with NPR’s CEO, Vivian Schiller, to ensure that these actions will be expeditiously completed, examined, and monitored on an ongoing basis.”

In conducting the review, Weil gathered thousands of documents from various sources and interviewed many current and former NPR employees and contractors. Weil requested Williams’ participation in the review through both his agent and a former NPR colleague. Unfortunately, these efforts were unsuccessful and Williams was not interviewed.

The Ad Hoc Committee and the non-management members of the Board met on multiple occasions and deliberated on the information provided to them. Weil reported to an Ad Hoc Committee of the NPR Board consisting of Dave Edwards (Chair of the Board), Howard Stevenson (Immediate Past Chair), and Carol Cartwright (Vice-Chair).

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