Alicia C. Shepard

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Alicia C. Shepard is Ombudsman for National Public Radio, a position she commenced in October 2007.[1]


A biographical note states that before coming to NPR, Shepard spent four years teaching journalism at American University.[2] Another biographical note states that she "was a Times Mirror Visiting Professor at University of Texas at Austin for the 2005-2006 academic year where she taught a class she designed on Watergate and the Press and contributing to The New York Times, Washingtonian magazine, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, The Newark Star Ledger and The Washington Post ... In 2003, Shepard served as a Foster Distinguished Writer at Penn State. 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. She was a staff reporter with The San Jose (CA) Mercury News from 1982 to 1987. Shepard has also taught English in Japan."[1]

"She teaches a graduate-level course in Media Ethics at Georgetown University and is writing a chapter on the media for the Center for Public Integrity's forthcoming book, "The Buying of the President"," it states.[1]

Pentagon Military Analyst Program

In April 2008, David Barstow from the New York Times revealed that in early 2002 the Pentagon military analyst program had been launched by then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke. The idea was to recruit "key influentials" to help sell a wary public on "a possible Iraq invasion." Former NBC military analyst Kenneth Allard called the effort "psyops on steroids."[3]

One of the 75 analysts mentioned in Barstow's original story was Robert H. Scales Jr., who appeared on programs for both NPR and Fox News programs. Barstow noted that Scales, "whose consulting company advises several military firms on weapons and tactics used in Iraq, wanted the Pentagon to approve high-level briefings for him inside Iraq in 2006.'Recall the stuff I did after my last visit,' he wrote. 'I will do the same this time.'"[3] In 2003 Scales co-founded a "defense consulting company" Colgen, which boasts that it is "America's Premier Landpower Advocate".[4]

A little over a week after the New York Times story ran, NPR Ombudsman, Alicia C. Shepard, wrote in her blog that when the story broke "emails began flying trying to assess the damage and determine how to proceed. NPR waited until Wednesday on Talk of the Nation to first discuss this issue publicly. The Bryant Park Project followed up the next day with two pieces on how the media was ignoring The Times' story."[5] Shepard noted "since February 2003, he has been on NPR 67 times, most often (28 appearances) on All Things Considered (ATC). The latest was March 28, when he gave ATC listeners an assessment of the fifth anniversary of the war ... Only once in December 2006 was Scales' relationship to Colgen mentioned."[5]

Shepherd disagreed with the suggestion of a number of NPR listeners who wanted the media organization to stop doing interviews with Scales. "Rather than toss Scales off the air and lose his practical and scholarly knowledge of the Army, in the future NPR should always be transparent and identify him as a defense consultant with Colgen. NPR's audience can evaluate what Scales says through that lens. NPR should also append a note to each archived Scales' appearances that indicates he is also a defense consultant with Colgen. What also is needed, and I believe NPR will now begin doing, is a more careful vetting of all experts before they go on air," she wrote.[5] NPR have developed new guidelines for "vetting guests" which state "Ask the guest if he/she has any conflicts of interest. You can modify the question to be more descriptive; any financial, political, personal or other conflicts of interest. In some cases, the appearance of conflict of interest obvious to some, may not be obvious to the guest. For example, has the guest made any trips paid for by an organization having an interest in this story?" [6]


Articles and Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Alicia C. Shepard, NPR Biography Ombudsman", acessed May 2008.
  2. "Alicia C. Shepard", Woodwardand, accessed April 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 David Barstow, "Behind Analysts, the Pentagon’s Hidden Hand," New York Times, April 20, 2008.
  4. Colgen, accessed April 2008.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Alicia C. Shepard, "NPR, New York Times and Sourcing Military Experts," NPR Ombudsman column, April 28, 2008.
  6. Ellen Weiss, Vice-President for News, NPR, "National Public Radio follow-up policy on vetting guests", NPR, April 22, 2008.

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