According to this update just now, the classical music public radio station WDAV, in North Carolina, will not dismiss Lisa Simeone from her role as a freelance (ie, non-employee) host of an opera (ie, non-political) program carried by NPR, just because she has also been a spokesperson for the Occupy DC movement. The reports to the contrary over the past 24 hours boded ill for all who seemed to be involved, starting with NPR -- though, who knows, their sizzle might increase the audience for the next few installments of World of Opera.
It looks bad enough that Paul Robeson (Wikipedia pic) was blacklisted as a singer for his political views -- and at least that was on accusations of being an actual Communist during the tensest Red Scare/ Cold War era. Are we really going to start pushing people out of roles like hosting an opera show, because they side in their free time with a movement that an increasing number of mainstream politicians have said they endorse?
For the moment I won't go through the whole parsing of what outside roles are and are not appropriate for mainstream media figures. (You could look 'em up in a book!) The rules are and should be different for full-time employees of NPR than for a contractor like Simeone.* And they obviously should be different for news reporters, or editors or analysts, than for opera-show hosts. Whatever version of the rules you might come up with, there is no sane version of them that should have led to a panic over Lisa Simeone's role on a music show.
So, good for whoever it was in the WDAV management with the sense to have an "oh calm down" reaction in the face of this non-scandal. And, yes, I would say the same thing if it turned out that the Car Talk guys were also spokesmen for the Tea Party
, or even if Ira Glass is doing PR for Scientology. [On two minutes' reflection, bad analogy, since This American Life does so many stories that are "political" in the broadest and best sense.]
* Or a contractor like me. I have never been an NPR employee but have done contract work for various programs over the years: in the 1980s and 1990s for Morning Edition, and now for Weekend All Things Considered. But -- to belabor the point -- I think different rules should and do apply to me than to a music-show or car-talk host, because I'm on there to talk about politics and the news.