NPR to News, other divisions: Don’t attend Stewart/Colbert rally

Here’s a new wrinkle to the Rally to Restore Sanity and March to Keep Fear Alive events: NPR has sent a reminder to certain of its divisions noting that they will not be allowed to attend unless they’re covering the rallies.

From Poynter Online – Romanesko:

From: [Senior vice president for news] Ellen Weiss
Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 8:46 AM
To: News-All Staff
Subject: NPR Journalists and political activity

As we head into the final weeks of this political season, I thought it would be valuable to send out a reminder of what NPR News Ethics Policies and Social Media Guidelines are regarding political activity.

. . .

* NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers, nor should they sign petitions or otherwise lend their name to such causes, or contribute money to them. This restriction applies to the upcoming John Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallies.

. . .

Read the full emails here at Poynter Online

Look, NPR, I applaud your rules on elections, donations, etc., as an overall policy, but here’s a little factoid that I think makes a big difference: these rallies are NOT political events.

The rally and march are entertainment. They will benefit non-political and non-partisan charities. Although an unfortunately large portion of the mainstream media wants to play up the “liberal rally” idea, it is not true. Does NPR bar its reporters from attending Barbra Streisand concerts during election years just because she’s usually associated in people’s minds with Democrats? That would seem equally draconian.

Also? It’s “Jon Stewart” — no “h”. Top notch newsies you’ve got there, NPR.


  1. NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers

    So apparently NPR thinks “restoring sanity” is a political cause? Who knew?

    I think they need to go look up “satire” in the dictionary. And maybe “overkill” while they’re at it.

  2. lockhart43 says:

    I find it hard to take an article seriously when they can’t even spell Jon’s name right. And well said, Ms.I – these rallies are entertainment, not a political ploy to influence the elections.

    I hope Stephen catches wind of this, it’d make for a great TotH/WotF.

  3. Karenatasha says:

    Ummm—“Keep fear alive” is political? Well, yes, I guess it was when Cheney was in office. Now it’s entertainment!

    This is an incredibly stupid memo. I can’t wait to see what Jon (not JOHN) does with it. After all, no one has been more insistent than he that his show is comedy, not news.

  4. Gratefull says:


    So they can’t go to a Springsteen Concert because The Boos sings about the working class? Can’t go to a restaurant because they might serve food that was picked by immigrant farm worker? Where in this vague pronouncement are the sensible boundaries and the trust that their employees know the difference?

  5. i think, to be fair to NPR, this is considered a political gathering because the rally will talk mainly about about politics and political parties, and a particular political cause — a cause which happens to be counter to some political groups own political philosophy.

    hence, watching shows by artists who have affiliations with certain parties are OK, as long as the show ISNT about political parties, political ideas and personalities.

    if barbara streisand were to hold a show whose stated purpose is to discuss some political belief, and if NPR were to cover that show, then it might affect how people might perceive their bias.

    • Ms Interpreted says:

      Well, I think NPR and the mainstream media are making their error in assuming that this IS about politics any more than TDS or TCR normally are. Put another way, would NPR be sending out a reminder if Saturday Night Live decided to hold a “rally”? Or if TDS and TCR had decided to call these “[generic live comedy shows]” instead of “rallies”?

      Jon and Stephen haven’t said much about the content of the rallies yet, but I noticed that Mick Foley is one of the guests. I might be doing Foley a disservice, as I don’t know much him aside from what I’ve seen on TDS, but I somehow doubt it’s going to be something that calls NPR’s journalistic integrity into question.

      • “Or if TDS and TCR had decided to call these “[generic live comedy shows]” instead of “rallies”?”

        yes, indeed. in this case, its not about a specific political idea, or personality or party. had they called it, “The Daily Show VS The Colbert Report: Thrilla in DC-illa” (or something like this :) ) it wouldn’t have mattered.

        the fact that it is a rally, as opposed to a TV special or show, matters greatly.

    • Ms Interpreted says:

      We disagree, then. I don’t think the fact that Jon used the word “rally” and Stephen used “march” should matter. They are still doing the comedy and satire they always do, and the fact that the subject is political shenanigans and/or the media’s coverage of politics does not make the rallies political, themselves. If Jon and Stephen decided to do a comedic (and sad) two-man staging of a politically themed show like Crossfire was and called it “Rally to Watch Our Shout-Fest”, that wouldn’t make it political.

      I would love a genuine commitment to journalistic integrity to break out amongst our Fourth Estate, but this is, IMO, as simplistically short-sighted a way of going about it as “zero tolerance” policies are for making schools safer.

      P.S. Sorry if that came out meaner than intended; I’m pretty tired, and I’m just a bit saddened on behalf of NPR employees who might be subject to this.

  6. Another angle I wonder about is the line of fundraising vs. politics in these events. The Race for the Cure is a fundraiser for breast cancer treatment and research, but I am sure that that organization (and lots of similar ones) have paid lobbyists, and use the turnout at these events as political tool. Are NPR staff allowed to participate in those? Because couldn’t you attend the rallies as a way to show support for Restore the Mall and the Yellow Ribbon Fund?

  7. I think these *are* political rallies, even if they aren’t for a particular political party. I don’t like NPR’s policy, but claiming the rallies are “just entertainment” is disingenuous.

    • Mr. Arkadin says:

      Thank you for putting in two sentences what would have taken me two (very tortuous) paragraphs! :)

      • Ms Interpreted says:

        Mr. A., this is actually a reply to your comment below, which doesn’t have a “reply” option. No worries, I’m not offended by the difference of opinion. I just wanted to make it clear that I am not being disingenuous (and I don’t think Jon or Stephen are, either) when I say that I see these rallies as comedy.

    • Ms Interpreted says:

      Again, I disagree. “Disingenuous” implies a calculated lack of honesty, and I choose not to believe that Jon and Stephen are trying to mislead anyone when they say that their aim is comedy, not political activism.

      • I’ve been watching both shows religiously, and Jon has not said “hey, this is just a big joke.” His show is political, I expect the Rally to be likewise, and the official website announcement is political. Same for Stephen, although he is encouraging people to wear costumes to his rally, which seems to say that he’s not all that serious about it. Jon, however, seems to be quite serious.

        If you have a source for thinking it’s all just comedy and entertainment, with no political content (ie, completely different than the broadcast shows) I’d love to hear it.

        So it’s not Jon and Stephen who I think are being disingenuous, other people here.

      • Mr. Arkadin says:

        Ms. Interpreted, although we have differing opinions on the political nature of the upcoming rally. I think I offended you & that was most definitely not my intention. I apologize.

    • Ms Interpreted says:

      The shows are political and media satire, they are not, themselves, political. Other people and organizations insist that they are, but neither man has ever agreed to that characterization.

      Jon and Stephen have said in just about every interview they’ve ever given that they are comedians who are not trying to change the world, not being warriors in anyone’s causes. The most recent NPR interview Jon did used almost that exact quote about the rally, and he’s used it repeatedly with regard to his shows. When taking Q&A at one of Jon’s standup gigs, someone asked Jon whether he would ever run for office, and he immediately made a disgusted face and replied no — when asked why not, he replied with no hesitation that he knew there were photos of him out there “with my dick in a tub of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter”. Stephen’s run for President — carried out in exactly one state — was equally meant to be humorous, and his March to Keep Fear Alive seems to speak for itself on how seriously it should be taken (IMO, not at all).

      We’re clearly not going to agree on this and that’s fine, but I disagree with your choice to use the label “disingenuous” with Jon, Stephen, or people like me who do see these events as comedy and not legitimate politics.

    • Cyn:

      Welcome to the blog! Here’s my thought about why the rally is not political. Think of other political marches in Washington D.C., and think about what they were trying to accomplish. Million man march? Rights for African Americans. March on Washington? Rights for LGBT. Glenn Beck’s rally? A return to traditional values [read: conservative], and one of a slew of rallies to fire up the Tea Party base. But what political gain could come from this rally? So far, they don’t have have any politicians scheduled to speak. They have a few musicians planned, including Toby Keith, who is known for being a conservative. If this is a “liberal” rally, why would they invite him? Is it to get people to vote? Well, they have always said “Go vote”, but this rally is not at all about the election. Jon has repeatedly said this is simply to give a voice to all of those who are not patriots or pinheads (in Bill O’Reilly’s vernacular). This message alone shows that the entire rally is an antithesis to overt politicism. The goal of the rally is to show that there are many, many people who don’t want, in fact, to be overtly political. That sometimes it’s okay to just be afraid of spiders, and not Hitler Obama.

      I simply fail to see how a rally, held by two comedians, featuring musicians from all over the spectrum, and whose primary theme is moderation, is going to be politically advantageous to anyone whatsoever.

      And to answer your question about a source that thinks that the goal of the rally is in fact entertainment, here are a few references:

      • How Will The Media Cover The Rally To Restore Sanity, Which Apparently Terrifies Them? – Huffington Post: “I prefer to take Jon Stewart at his word that the event will be something that promotes reason and sanity, and which might be marginally enjoyable, because comedians are involved. Obviously, I reserve the right to dutifully report whether the whole thing devolves into something else — like a massive call to sell Amway products or an urging that I jump into a woodchipper to save the Harry Reid campaign, or something. “
      • Jon Stewart at Barnes and Noble book signing (9/27) – “Here’s what happened – We had applied for a permit to be on the Lincoln Memorial, like, four months ago. I can’t even remember when it was, it was right after the Rally to Restore Honor was announced at the Lincoln Memorial. I thought, wow, that sounds like a lot of fun … It’s a great format for us to use. It’s not … we’re not doing a satire of that rally, but it’s a wonderful sort of … in the way that the textbook is a great parody form for what we do on the show, the rally is a great parody form.”
      • Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert might actually bring out the real moderates – Washington Post: “Maybe it won’t make history as the biggest goof pulled off on the Mall because too many folks will take sanity seriously. “
      • Thanks for the welcome — I’ve been reading for a while, but hadn’t been moved to make comments before.

  8. Caoilfhiann says:

    I wonder if NPR employees are allowed to go to a taping of the shows as a member of the audience. I’d have to quit my job if that were a rule.

  9. I honestly don’t think that by calling this event a rally or a march that it automatically becomes political. Jon and Stephen do satire, and one of the things they’re satirizing is the format that tends to be used for overtly political gatherings. It’s just semantics. They easily could have called it “Big Effin’ Party in DC” and it would still be the same thing. It’s not the format that matters so much as the content, and I’m pretty sure the content is going to be comedy.

    Anyway, I’m convinced that “Keep Fear Alive” is a thinly veiled attempt by Stephen to promote Halloween. I mean, c’mon, his “sponsor” is Reese’s. :D

  10. NPR released a clarification earlier today about this issue. And honestly, it makes sense. I applaud NPR for caring so much about their journalistic intergrity, which is sadly lacking in today’s society…which is kinda one of the point of the RTRS.

    • lockhart43 says:

      Do you happen to have a link to the clarification? I’d be interested in reading that. And you’re certainly right about NPR’s journalistic integrity – I won’t knock that at all, they are one of the few news outlets that still have it, and I appreciate that. I just feel like there’s a big difference between “political” and “political ploy.” The rallies will certainly have a political feel to them, both Jon and Stephen’s shows deal with politics, after all. I just don’t want the media-at-large to stay under the impression that they’re a political ploy to influence the elections.

  11. Here is the link, I should have included it in the OP.

    And I totally agree, I don’t view them as a political ploy either.

  12. It ultimately comes down to the question of whether we can trust the liberal NPR media (as opposed to any other self-proclaimed Joseph Goebbels reincarnation/clone, usually mainstream & at cause with its oligarchal monopolyism) to tell us anything we don’t want to know about the stuff about which we have no knowledge or desire to know.

    As a veteran & retiredman (as well as ordained atheist dysfunctionalist fitman), I will neither be cowed nor aped nor pigged no shrimped into not going to this possibly wild & crazy resurrection of stampeding fear in the name of sanity.

    Or, as William S. Burroughs, Jr. said in quoting Shakespeare, “Let it come down.”

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