NPR: Alicia C. Shepard

Alicia C. Shepard was appointed NPR's ombudsman in October 2007. In 2000, NPR was the first U.S. broadcast news organization to create an Ombudsman position.

In this role, Shepard serves as the public's representative, and is responsible for bringing transparency to journalism decision-making processes. She responds to queries and comments from listeners, writes a blog, appears on NPR programs to discuss listener concerns, and provides guidance on journalism practices to NPR Member stations. She sees her job as explaining NPR to listeners, and listeners to NPR.

She also teaches a graduate-level course in Media Ethics at Georgetown University, where she won the 2009 Dean Service award for teaching in the journalism program.

Before coming to NPR, Shepard spent four years teaching journalism and contributing to Washingtonian magazine, Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Newark Star Ledger and The Washington Post while working on a book.

That book, Woodward & Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate (2006, Wiley), chronicles the lives of the two journalists during and after their landmark investigation. She is the co-author of Running Toward Danger: Stories Behind the Breaking News of 9/11 (2002), about how journalists covered the tragedy and the public roles they played. She also wrote Narrowing the Gap: Military, Media and the Iraq War (2004).

She is on the boards of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism awards, the Fund for Investigative Journalism, and the Organization of News Ombudsmen.

From 1993 to 2002, Shepard was a principal contributor to American Journalism Review on such topics as ethics and the newspaper industry. Her work was recognized three times with the National Press Club's top media criticism prize.

In 2003, Shepard served as a Foster Distinguished Writer at Penn State.

She was a staff reporter with The San Jose (CA) Mercury News from 1982 to 1987. Shepard has also taught English in Japan.

Shepard holds a B.A. in English from The George Washington University and received a M.A. in Journalism from the University of Maryland.

Lots of things drive NPR's audience crazy. One I totally agree with is this: NPR often does a lousy job of identifying the background of think tanks or other groups when quoting their experts.

NPR also rarely explains why listeners should pay attention to the experts it chooses to quote.

This matters.

  • If you hear from experts at the Cato Institute, you need to know they market themselves as libertarians.

Following standard procedures at LA-based public radio station KPCC, the program director sent an internal memo Friday suspending its sponsorship spots funded by Planned Parenthood.

"Given that the (federal) budget debate in Congress is focusing today on abortion in general and Planned Parenthood by extension, let us suspend airing any Planned Parenthood spots effective immediately," wrote program director Craig Curtis in an internal email.