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NPR listeners irate over clipped circumcision interview

NPR OmbudsmanThe prize for discussion of an issue with a straight face goes to Alicia Shepard, Ombudsman for National Public Radio. Shepard’s latest blog post concedes that a recent Weekend Edition story mishandled the controversial question of male circumcision by (sorry, I can’t help it) cutting an interview with an expert in the field short.

The conversation in question was with pediatrics issues expert Dr. Douglas Diekema of the University of Washington. NPR aired Diekma’s comments critical of male circumcision foes, but “pared down” the rest of the discussion.

“Diekema actually did an okay job of presenting both sides during the 20 minutes or so [the Weekend Edition reporter] talked to him” Shepard quotes an NPR editor as saying, “but we didn’t cut [edit] it in as balanced a way as we could and should have in the four minutes we had allotted for the story. Also, it became clear that he had a definite opinion and we probably should’ve either cut it differently or sought another voice.”

The result was that NPR got some pretty snippy feedback from listeners sympathetic to the anti-circumcision side of the debate. They were particularly upset at Dr. Diekema’s comment that the arguments of male circumcision opponents are “largely emotional.”

“OF COURSE THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST IT ARE EMOTIONAL!” one listener wrote. “What kind of thick, dense head do you have to possess in order to find that so vexing?”

Male circumcision “has always been controversial,” Shepard adds, “and that places an extra burden on NPR to treat the subject fairly and give equal weight to both sides.  NPR could  remedy what this story failed to do by posting Diekema’s full interview, or letting a circumcision opponent write an essay for the Opinion Page that NPR could link to the original story.”

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3 Responses to NPR listeners irate over clipped circumcision interview

  1. Restoring Tally September 13, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    The NPR show, All Things Considered, was anything but. The program was very biased. The guest interviewer was very pro-circumcision, as was Diekema. Male circumcision is the excision of a part of a healthy male sex organ. It is the burden of the medical industry to justify why removal of healthy tissue from a non-consenting person is acceptable. Sure, it has been the culture in the US to circumcise, but that culture is changing.

  2. Frank McGinness September 13, 2010 at 4:48 pm #

    Exactly Tally. Cutting off average 75% of man’s sexual receptors is not small thing that can be shrugged off unemotionally.

    BUT why is the BIGGEST PROBLEM not mentioned by NPR and HERE!

    Dr. Diekema is member of the AAP Task Force on Circumcision. His bias has always been known to intactivists and now should be known to everyone across the nation given this telling NPR interview.

    Intacivists further note a strong pro-circumcision camp coming from Washington State and Illinois (where foreskins come to die). Checking this against those on the circumcision task force board shows a troubling composition. Is no one on the board intact? Isn’t this a concern of fairness?

    Diekema must step down from the AAP Task Force on Circumcision. He has demonstrated his bias. A bias either way should step down. Write to the AAP.

  3. Frank September 13, 2010 at 10:25 pm #

    I didn’t catch the episode in question, but I myself have pointed out the highly emotive nature of opponents of circumcision. My problem with it is that an appeal to emotion is often part of a logical fallacy or propaganda.

    “Propaganda is generally an appeal to emotion, not intellect.”

    We can’t base reasoning on emotion, and saying someone has a thick head because they say something you don’t like is something they do because that’s all they can do. The facts are not on their side, so they must rely on appeals to emotion, name-calling, and other non-arguments.

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