On Stefanik and NPR

To the editor:

Rep. Elise Stefanik called for defunding National Public Radio after an unfortunate but innocent error was made by a former staff member of North Country Public Radio. In her attack, which focused on this incident, she displayed her lack of knowledge of two of her district’s notable institutions: NCPR and St. Lawrence University. Both are institutions independent of NPR. St. Lawrence University began in 1856 as a Universalist theological school and later added a liberal arts college.

In 1866, theological student Olympia Brown became the first woman on record to be ordained to Christian ministry in the United States and went on to become Susan B. Anthony’s primary assistant in the struggle for women’s equal rights. Stefanik prides herself on her status as a woman representative and her efforts to recruit female Republican political candidates. Would she not respect this institution in her district?

Perhaps Stefanik is unaware of the history of NCPR, begun as an experimental station in 1922 in the St. Lawrence University physics department. The station gained professional status on the air as WSLU, a campus station, and in 1974 became an affiliate of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, not NPR. By 2001 the station provided region-wide multimedia coverage of arts, community development and service.

NCPR currently covers one-third of New York state including the entire 21st Congressional District, parts of western Vermont, Ontario and Quebec, providing national news, public affairs programs and a wide range of music, with 15 full time transmitters and 18 translators. Through heroic actions the staff kept us connected through the deadly ice storm of 1998. It helps locate our lost pets. NPR offers music of all genres, science news, investigation of current events most often interviewing local community members who experienced the events as well as analysts who gather facts. NPR openly acknowledges and corrects mistaken content when discovered. Why would anyone who knows this district not recognize the value to her constituents?

There are reasons why Stefanik might want to deter listeners from listening to NPR and other media, like NCPR, that offer a full range of current and historical information as well as varied opinions across all spectrums: local, national and international. Broadening exposure to a range of media might lead individuals to discover information for themselves rather than accept party-line propaganda.

Ellen Rocco, former general manager of NCPR, in an interview concerning the future of public radio, said this: “Let’s stand firmly on a belief in the American public and its ability to use fact-based news and information to make good choices about the world around us. Honesty and journalistic rigor are essential to the trust relationship we have with the public. That means we must maintain — and always aspire to — the highest standards, regardless of what is going on in the world around us.”

In sum: Stefanik does not know or respect the institutions in her district. She demeans institutions that maintain standards of community service and ethics, engaging in disinformation whenever she sees an opportunity.

In doing so she shows disrespect to her constituents. We deserve better.

Phyllis Magnus

Saranac Lake


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