NPR host Michele Norris steps down from All Things Considered as husband becomes Obama advisor
NPR host Michele Norris will temporarily step down from her role as host of the evening newscast All Things Considered after this week, as her husband accepts a senior advisor role in the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama. Instead, she'll work on other reporting projects until after the election.
Norris, 50, sent a memo to co-workers at NPR this morning announcing the change, which she said was a mutual decision. Her husband, Baltimore native and attorney Broderick Johnson, has a long history of working in Democratic political circles, from work in the Clinton White House to time spent as an informal advisor to the Obama campaign in 2008.
The move also comes as NPR faces continuing scrutiny for its stances on the outside activities of people connected to the outlet. Last week, Lisa Simeone, a freelance host of two shows airing on NPR, found herself dropped as host of the audio documentary show Soundprint after news broke that she was also the spokeswoman for the Washington D.C. branch of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
NPR also stopped distributing another show Simeone hosts, World of Opera, that is produced by North Carolina station WDAV.
Simeone's controversies brought cries of a double standard or unfairly disciplining someone who doesn't cover politics. But supporters of NPR's position said the outlet's ethics codes apply to all, regardless of freelance or full time status, or what they cover.
This isn't the first time NPR has faced this issue with Norris. Back in 2004, when her husband was an advisor to the presidential campaign of Democratic nominee John Kerry, management decided to keep Norris off of political interviews and stories without telling listeners why.
After the 2004 election, then-ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin wrote a column on the issue wondering if a spouse's employment really should affect what a journalist can cover at NPR.
But, just one year removed from the controversial decision to fire news analyst Juan Williams over opinions he expressed in another job on Fox News Channel, NPR is in a position where all of its major personalities and their ethical connections are under increased scrutiny.
Norris came to NPR in 2002 after nearly ten years as a correspondent for ABC News, making history as the first black woman to host a weekday news program at NPR.
(full disclosure: I create commentaries for NPR on television each month as a freelance contributor)
Below is the memo NPR staff received earlier today from the host:
I need to share some news and I wanted to make sure my NPR family heard this first. Last week, I told news management that my husband, Broderick Johnson, has just accepted a senior advisor position with the Obama Campaign.
After careful consideration, we decided that Broderick's new role could make it difficult for me to continue hosting ATC. Given the nature of Broderick's position with the campaign and the impact that it will most certainly have on our family life, I will temporarily step away from my hosting duties until after the 2012 elections.
I will be leaving the host chair at the end of this week, but I'm not going far. I will be wearing a different hat for a while, producing signature segments and features and working on new reporting projects. While I will of course recuse myself from all election coverage, there's still an awful lot of ground that I can till in this interim role.
This has all happened very quickly, but working closely with NPR management, we’ve been able to make a plan that serves the show, honors the integrity of our news organization and is best for me professionally and personally.
I will certainly miss hosting, but I will remain part of the ATC team and I look forward to contributing to our show and NPR in new and exciting ways.
My very best,