After facing backlash, Twitter removed the label of “state-affiliated” media from National Public Radio (NPR)’s official account and instead replaced it with “government-funded media”. On Tuesday, the state-affiliated label became available to the news organization’s official accounts.
John Lansing, the President and CEO, said Wednesday that Twitter labeled NPR “state-affiliated media” in an alarming statement. Our millions of listeners depend upon us to provide independent and fact-based journalism. Twitter should not label us like this.
Critics of the labeling quickly suggested that it would place NPR in the same category as Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency or China’s official state news agency Xinhua – and each has received such a state-affiliated label.
According to reports, even Elon Musk acknowledged the fact that “state-affiliated media” wasn’t accurate.
Musk stated in an email that “The operating principle of new Twitter is just fair and equal treatment”, but this may not apply here.
There is a big difference between NPR and TASS
NPR is not bound to Washington, as Xinhua and TASS are to Moscow.
According to Dr. Dustin York (associate professor of communication, Maryville University), “Labeling NPR alongside propaganda media run by China/Russia is a grossly inaccurate parallel at worst” and “a misinterpretation without basic research at best”, added York.
Colin Campbell is associate professor of Marketing at the University of San Diego’s Knauss School of Business and editor-in chief of The Journal of Advertising Research.
Campbell noted further that the dictionary describes ‘affiliated” as “officially attached or related”, which is not appropriate because NPR editorially separates it.
Campbell explained that NPR is funded largely by donations. Campbell added that a more exact term for it would be “state-funded Media.” The state does not have any editorial power over broadcast content, even though it receives funding.
NPR is not eligible for grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or federal entities. However, these grants account for less that 1% of NPR’s total revenues.
Mix of Labels
Musk has proposed to replace the blue checked system of verified status with one that offers paid subscriptions. Twitter, however, is working on improving how news and government agencies are labeled. However, this seems like a very “work in process.” At the moment, BBC’s official Twitter account is labeled “Government Funded Media”, while all other BBC News accounts are unlabeled.
NPR receives even less funding than the BBC and is not comparable with TASS when it comes to reporting on what and how it reports.
According to Dr. William Pelfrey Jr. of Virginia Commonwealth University, “State-affiliated media outlets are the direct mouthpieces of governments.”
Pelfrey stated that “these governments are generally dictatorial,” such as Russia and North Korea. Or a religion-based one like Iran. Pelfrey stated that “National Public Radio has no connection to media outlets in these countries, and labels NPR state-affiliated with them is a significant misrepresentation.”
Musk may have walked away from the label, but the damage is already done.
It shines a light on a bigger problem that could cause businesses not to use Twitter: dereliction. York said that Twitter had provided numerous situations where businesses have been unable to do their due diligence, which has led to questions regarding the business role they want in the current Twitter state.
The bigger problem is that NPR could lose its credibility on social media and reputation.
Campbell stated that “long-term readers will understand the assertion better, but casual readers will take it at face value.” NPR’s reputation will be harmed by this.”
NPR articles might not be shared or commented on as often by Twitter viewers.
Campbell also suggested that this change could further undermine trust in news media, at a crucial time. American are receiving more news from influencers and individuals that have not been vetted. Because smaller sources are less vetted and have more potential to share false information, this can pose a problem.