NPR's tempered Outrage review sparks outrage

5.12.2009

By Jessanne Collins

Kirby Dick's new documentary, Outrage, which calls out the closeted conservative politicians who support hompophobic policies -- was designed to provoke controversy, and it's working. As the film opened in select theaters over the weekend, frequent Out contributor Nathan Lee found that the review he'd penned for NPR.com had been edited -- the names of the prominent politicians profiled in the film (Charlie Crist and Larry Craig) had been removed. NPR cited a "long-held policy of trying to respect the privacy of public figures and
of not airing or publishing rumors, allegations and reports about their
private lives."

Lee, who wasn't informed of the NPR's no-names policy before he submitted his review, then removed his byline from the piece, and left a comment on the site explaining why. “I asked that my name be removed in protest of NPR’s policy of not
‘naming names’ of closeted or rumored-about politicians - even those
who actively suppress gay rights, and thus whose sexual identities are
of significant importance to the press,” he wrote. The comment was then removed by NPR's moderators.

Now, we have a fairly good grasp of journalistic standards and it seems like NPR is way off the mark here. Leaving aside the gay issue for a second, isn't the point of a film review to summarize and analyze the plot of a film? This isn't original investigative journalism -- which would of course be subject to deep fact-checking -- it's a summation of reporting that's already been done. For all journalistic purposes, the "facts" here are the filmmaker's research and conclusions -- call them alleged if the case isn't proven, but don't leave them out. That's akin to a review of Super Size Me that fails to mention McDonald's, or a review of Batman that tiptoes around the Joker.

And as for the gay issue? “The entire point of Outrage is that there is an ‘overriding public
need to know’ about the kinds of men profiled in Outrage," Lee said. "Let’s say Charlie Crist
had a record of voting for vigorous anti-immigration policies, and then
it was rumored that he employed illegal immigrants. The press would
have absolutely no qualms investigating him to the hilt in the public
interest of exposing hypocrisy. Why should it be any different in the
case of possibly gay public figures who vote against the civil rights
of gay people, or, in the case of HIV/AIDS funding, their very life and
death?”

--JESSANNE COLLINS

Previously > Hypocrisy on Trial: Out.com speaks with Kirby Dick

Tags: Popnography
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