Kelly McBride

Kelly McBride is a writer, teacher and one of the country's leading voices on media ethics. Since 2002, she has been on the faculty of The Poynter Institute, a global nonprofit dedicated to excellence in journalism, where she now serves as its senior vice president. She is also the chair of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership at Poynter, which advances the quality of journalism and improves fact-based expression by training journalists and working with news organizations to hone and adopt meaningful and transparent ethics practices. Under McBride's leadership, the center serves as the journalism industry's ombudsman — a place where journalists, ethicists and citizens convene to elevate American discourse and battle disinformation and bias.

McBride was appointed as NPR's Public Editor in April 2020 as the result of a new partnership between NPR and Poynter. McBride's role as NPR's Public Editor is supported by researchers and editors from both organizations, significantly expanding the public editor's ability to respond to audience concerns and suggestions.

Even before the first Trump supporter breached the U.S. Capitol last week, American journalists were already sifting through words that have not historically been applied to American democracy — words like coup and kleptocracy.

On the first Sunday of 2021, journalists in two competing Washington newsrooms were listening to a leaked recording of President Donald Trump demanding that Georgia officials find him more votes and change the outcome of their election last November.

NPR assembled a team of journalists in 2013 to plow new ground at the intersection of race and culture. In 2016, the Code Switch team launched a podcast. Last week, Apple named the show the podcast of 2020.

To some consumers, NPR is the sane alternative to partisan shouting on cable news. For others, NPR is lulling its audience to sleep with reassuring false equivalence.

Listeners have long told NPR that they find it appealing because of its approach to news as a story to be told, and the meaning of that story to be discovered. But times change, and there are signs that for NPR (and many other American newsrooms), that philosophy now repels some consumers who are driven to distraction by the lack of outrage.

In the wake of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, one of the most popular stories NPR produced was a 9-minute essay by Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg on her 48-year friendship with the legendary judge.

When a reporter asked President Donald Trump for his thoughts on the teenager who killed two protesters and injured a third person in Kenosha, Wisc., Trump said, it looked like "self-defense."

The lead of the NPR story later that day reads that Trump claimed "without evidence, that it appeared the gunman was acting in self-defense."

When an ammonium nitrate explosion damaged half of Beirut last week, NPR's Lebanon correspondent Ruth Sherlock was in England, having recently returned to work from maternity leave, but unable to travel to her post because of the pandemic. Less than a mile from the explosion, freelance journalist Nada Homsi, who has been working with NPR, was in her apartment.

As federal agents guarding the courthouse from Portland protesters grew more violent throughout July, NPR, and member station Oregon Public Broadcasting, offered extensive coverage, including 40 stories and updates in 70 newscasts.

Many news organizations, including NPR, didn't immediately understand how things were heating up in Portland, but then jumped into covering the story with fervor.

NPR's four-member "election security team" is responsible for covering all things about American voting, from access, to fraud to innova

Protesters confront a car in Louisville, Ky.

News consumers are asking NPR to obscure the faces of protesters who have not given their explicit consent to have their images published.

These requests have come into the Public Editor inbox, and we've been tagged in conversations on social media. Newsrooms everywhere are facing similar requests.

Since a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd on Memorial Day, NPR has faced ethical challenges every hour of every day, including how to describe the killing, how to use the audio of Floyd's last words, how to document Floyd's life and how to describe the mass demonstrations.

The best answer to every one of these questions is: embrace precision, be descriptive, use more words. The more this happens, the better the journalism. When news organizations, including NPR, sometimes fall short, it's usually because of an attempt to economize words.

When journalists write or broadcast these words — "unarmed black man"— what do you hear? It's a phrase that has become pervasive in the American news media, including on NPR's airwaves and in its digital news stories.

Since a string of deaths of young black men at the hands of police gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement, the phrase has become journalistic shorthand for this message: white people unjustly shooting a black man, because their racial prejudice led them to assume he was a threat.

That's a lot of work for three words.

On March 25, a community radio station in New York aired segments of a one-hour podcast interview with Tara Reade, who told a story of being sexually assaulted in 1993 by then Sen. Joe Biden, whom she worked for in his Senate office.

Last week, I was listening to Morning Edition when I heard Scott Horsley's story exploring the benefits and drawbacks of the federally enhanced unemployment benefits. Even before the Internet exploded, I had some questions.

Within a single hour last week, while listening to Morning Edition, I was first charmed by a delightful conversation between Peyton and Lola, 4- and 6-year-old cousins, describing their new reality; I then became enraged by an interview with U.N.