Steve Inskeep fights back (5×8 – 3/24/11)

A newsperson shall lead them, end of the town cafe, the most powerful video you’ll see today, what’s the story here, and the Zumbro flood set to music.


It took several weeks for someone at NPR (formerly National Public Radio) to fight back against the assertions arising from James O’Keefe’s finely-edited “sting” of an NPR executive which allegedly proved NPR’s liberal bias. Predictably, it was someone in a department known for strong spines — the newsroom. Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep went on the offensive in today’s Wall Street Journal…

I congratulate Mr. O’Keefe for upholding his values: faith in the power of video to mislead. As columnist Michael Gerson noted in the Washington Post, by selectively misquoting the executive’s words, rearranging events, and other devices, Mr. O’Keefe made him sound sympathetic to Islamic radicals and unfairly tarnished NPR with “an elaborate, alluring lie.”

At the same time, my NPR colleagues in the Arab world were reporting on the actual Muslim Brotherhood and many other players involved in the uprisings. My colleagues’ reporting technique demonstrates their values. Suppose you’re NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, one of the first reporters into Libya after its rebellion began. You need to know if the rebels are advancing. The only way to find out is to drive toward the front lines until the artillery shells exploding around you make it clear that they’re not. Next, you figure out how to get back alive. Then you try to rest, because you’ll do it again tomorrow.

With those values in mind, let’s consider the fundamental question: the accusation of “liberal bias” at NPR, which drives many critics calling to eliminate its federal funding. It’s not my job as a reporter to address the funding question. But I can point out that the recent tempests over “perceived bias” have nothing to do with what NPR puts on the air.

Inskeep pushes an ideal that is what drives the extremists crazy: That maybe it’s possible to get people together in a room — or on the radio — and talk big, intelligent ideas without the shouting and drama that is a poor mask for a hollow thought.

Conservatives in our diverse audience let us know when they disagree with our coverage–as do liberals, who’ve sent notes for years to advise me that I am conservative. Most listeners understand that we’re all figuring out the world together, calmly and honestly, in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

Meanwhile, James O’Keefe sent an email to supporters asking for help paying off his credit card debt, accumulated from the cost of the anti-NPR setup. Vanity Fair thinks this might help: Advice on how to cut credit card debt… from NPR’s Talk of the Nation.


It would appear it’s time to bury the town cafe. It lived a good life. The latest casualty: Willy’s in Dilworth. A former owner tells the Fargo Forum it’s the fault of Californians who bought the joint.

“I feel bad I let them buy it from my dad,” said Hieb, who lost his job there a year ago. “They didn’t run it right.” At the time Orv Hieb sold the restaurant, the new owners – who couldn’t be reached for comment for this story – said no major changes where (sic) coming. Kevin Hieb said rising prices, menu changes and other factors combined to sink Willy’s.

Maybe. But maybe people favor the chain restaurants. Close your eyes, have someone drive you to any town, open them — good luck trying to figure out what unique area you’re in.

In Hudson, Dibbo’s Cafe served its last cup of Joe last Saturday. “It was just good home cooking,” a long-time customer told the Hudson Patch. “It was like a pre-Facebook community type of thing … you’d go there share info across the table, learn what was new or what was going on.”

Got a favorite cafe? Share. I need a good road trip in search of the best town cafe.


This ad is one of the winner’s in TED’s “ads worth spreading” competition. It comes from the Topsy Foundation, an organization in South Africa. It was actually released last summer.

Somewhat related: Organ transplant centers in the U.S. have been warned to test kidney donors for HIV a week before a transplant. It’s the result of an incident in which a donor contracted HIV after being tested 11 weeks before the operation.

More health: Yesterday, the White House sent around this video of the story of a Brooklyn Park family on the first anniversary of the health care legislation:


Midnight must have struck early on St. Patrick’s Day, turning the elegant carriage into whatever flotsam this little number is…


It showed up on St. Paul’s West Seventh Street last week and there it’s stayed, with its decaying duct tape lanterns bowing the to the winds of a March storm. But what’s the story here? The bike/carriage is locked to a lamp post. Why? Did the person driving it not remember where he — or maybe, she — put it it? Did the contraption pay the price for exceeding the gross weight limits?

We love puzzles like this and encourage your photos of the weird things of the street you spy. We’ll make more phone calls this week and find out the story. Details to follow.


The spring flooding should have a soundtrack. Here’s the first of what I hope will be several videos contributed by Minnesotans documenting the rising river — this one is from the Zumbro River near Pine Island, uploaded by Bill Shain.

This area was flooded last September and bears watching while the Red, the Cannon, the Minnesota and the Mississippi Rivers get all the attention.

Bonus: If you remove all the breathless ignorance from media coverage of the sleeping air traffic controller story, here’s the story that’s left.

Even more bonus: Considering Tim Pawlenty’s slick Web videos:

But E.G. Austin at The Economist wonders why Pawlenty stressed the negative and didn’t talk up the positives of his state.


Legislators are considering a proposal to do away with traditional teacher tenure. Instead, teachers would rely for job security on periodic evaluations, based on student test scores and other factors. Do students benefit from teacher tenure?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Andy Carvin of NPR on how journalists use social media sites as reporting tools, and how have they shaped the revolutions in the Middle East.

Second hour: When science journalist Joshua Foer went to cover the U.S. Memory Championship, he thought he would be witnessing the “Super Bowl of savants.” What he found was that the competitors were normal people who had trained with ancient techniques that anyone could use. His new book details his own quest to become a memory champion.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Senate GOP tax committee chair Julianne Ortman and ranking DFLer Sen. John Martydiscuss the tax proposals being debated in the legislature.

Second hour: TBA

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: What should we do to live a long life? Debunking the myths of longevity.

Second hour: Imagining a future without nuclear power.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Projects to build rural broadband infrastructure are in high gear. Stimulus funding has pumped $228 million into 18 projects, from Cook County in the northeast to Lac qui Parle County in the west. The projects seems innocuous, but many have been surrounded by controversy. MPR’s Jennifer Vogel will have the story.

Re-election for a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice would normally be a quiet affair. But not when labor unions and the Republican governor are locked in a political tug-of-war. NPR will have the story of union advocates trying to flip the ideological balance of the court before it might decide on challenges to Wisconsin’s new collective bargaining law.