Home / General / Conflict of Interest

Conflict of Interest


It’s really hard to see how Adam Davidson’s tenure at NPR can continue after this powerful report linking his “journalism” to his real job as a paid shill for the banking industry.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • NPR’s purse strings are controlled by House Republicans.

    So it’s a slam dunk he stays.

  • Malaclypse

    Look, it is not like this is a real conflict, like, say, someone involved with “World of Opera” attending an Occupy protest.

    • DrDick

      He is only doing his patriotic duty in glorifying our Masters of the Uninverse.

  • Davis

    Here’s a quotation from his “apology”:

    “I liked the idea of revealing myself in a less than flattering light. Planet Money tries to be transparent and I liked the transparency of that.”

    Bullshit. He thought he looked pretty good browbeating Warren until everyone else called him on it. Funny definition of transparency, too. Revealing himself as an asshole., but not revealing his speaking fees from the banks he was defending.

  • Murc

    I remember that interview with Warren.

    I hadn’t thought much of Davidson one way or the other before it, but at the time I found the idea that a financial reporter didn’t know any experts who thought we had a household debt crisis.

    Sidebar: I really hate “out of the mainstream” as an argument for the de-legitimization of opposing views. I can’t speak for everyone, but I could give a damn if a policy view is outside of the mainstream or not; I care about its correctness.

    • Holden Pattern

      I can’t speak for everyone, but I could give a damn if a policy view is outside of the mainstream or not; I care about its correctness.

      Why do you hate America?

      • Murc

        Because hate sex is the best sex.

    • timb

      Good point, since the mainstream is what sent us to war in Iraq and allowed the fraudulent bankers off the hook…

    • Slocum

      I bet you read “books,” too.

  • Scott Lemieux

    It’s really about time for a blogger ethics panel.

    • somethingblue

      Long past time, if you ask me.

  • ROTFLMFAO, Erik. You win the “Best Joke on the Internet this Month” Award.

  • The first couple posts of that SHAME project were pretty wobbly but this is excellent stuff. Hope they keep going. It’s a good idea and definitely needed.

  • Mike

    I found this story really surprising. Upon reflection, it’s because Davidson has a soft, nasally Ira Glass sort of voice. If it was Kai Rissdahl who was in bed with financial oligarchs, that would just be intuitive.

    • Sharon


  • timb

    You know, I didn’t find SHAME’s report that compelling, except for the stuff about speaking fees and underwriting. The speaking fee issue is just about as unethical as one can get

    • Themac

      I think he should be let go, but I agree that, at least in this piece, there’s not a lot of evidence that his affiliation has inordinately influenced Planet Money. The Warren interview does support this, but I disagree that ‘Giant Pool of Money’ was too protective of investment banks. I could be missing something, but his influence does seem to be fairly well contained.

      • Halloween Jack

        I agree. TAL has also done follow-up reports, such as the one (IIRC, by Glass himself) which have put the boot to investment bankers who refused to give Obama credit for bailing them out and saving their jobs.

  • Slocum
  • Corey

    So, basically, the point of that piece is that Planet Money has a sponsor? And that occasionally Davidson didn’t merely spout progressive dogma about banking and finance?

    The notion that having a single sponsor is somehow inherently corrupt doesn’t pass the sniff test; it’s not like journalism outlets with multiple sponsors spend a ton of time making sure sponsorship levels are equal and that sponsorships are balanced (one clean energy ad for one coal ad, one Toyota ad for one GM ad, etc).

    • Corey

      The speaking fees, of course, are a different story, but the evidence that Davidson planned segments on Planet Money to align with a lobbying push with his show’s sponsor is so absurdly tenuous I don’t even know where to begin.

    • Corey

      Also, Jesse Eisinger, who won the Pulitzer for this, says the idea for the piece was Davidson’s. Not exactly a pro-bank piece of journalism.

    • Lasker

      Your replies to your own post make reasonable points, but your OP suggests that your sniffer needs re-calibration. Yes, it is absolutely a conflict of interest for a show devoted to one industry to have a single sponsor from that same industry. Of course it might not always matter that much – “Gardening Hour brought to you by Miracle-Gro” is clearly not as problematic as “Farm Policy Fridays brought to you by Monsanto” – but the point remains.

      • James E. Powell

        It’s more like Environmental Report brought to you by Exxon-Mobil.

    • Patrick

      Honestly the only reason I know that Ally Bank is the Altria to GMAC’s Phillip Morris is because of hearing it on Planet Money, during coverage critical of GMAC/Ally.

    • Cody

      I don’t see how it doesn’t raise a red-flag. Can I do a news show for my employer and claim to be a journalist? Isn’t that the definition of propaganda?

      GMAC is paying him, and he’s saying pro-GMAC things. What WOULD make it suspicious? Does someone have to be doing commercials for a company before one suspects they’re biased?

  • Lee Hartmann

    Forget it Erik, it’s NPR.

    • timb

      I don’t get the leftist critique of NPR. NRP TRIES to do journalism right. It attempts to play the game straight and yet leftists, who are correct on so many things, complain about it like it’s freakin’ Fox News

      • Malaclypse

        Because EvenTheLiberal NPR is a center-right organization that polices the boundaries of Acceptable discourse, and would exclude Matt Yglesias as being unacceptably left-wing.

        • DrDick

          They have been so cowed (and possibly bought off, like PBS) by conservatives that they have ceased to be an independent voice. I don’t think they have been “liberal” since the Clinton administration and maybe not since Reagan.

        • timb

          Just so you know, you guys sound like a bunch right wingers kvetching about left-wing media bias

          • Right, ‘cuz we all know that the media is owned by people without an economic interest.

            Yeah, both sides continue to do it.

      • Bill Murray

        well if they try they often don’t seem to be very successful as when I listen they seem to be the home for both-sides-do-it-ism. Which is I guess how journalism is taught these days but is not good journalism

      • Furious Jorge

        They lost me about four years ago when they gave Newt Freaking Gingrich a platform to bloviate about how the GOP was the party of honor or some such bullshit. And Steve Inskeep is one of the most egregious practitioners of false equivalency working in the media today.

        • Bart

          This week the News Hour had Scalia on selling his book.

          • timb

            They had a Supreme Court Justice on? Hell, that’s not news.

            • Jeffrey Beaumont

              NPR does try, and sometime succeeds. Hopefully this will have a big impact.

      • tomk

        I’ve listened to NPR since the early 70’s and and at one time I could get basic news without having to filter out too much propaganda. The shift rightward and increasing shallowness has been steady but never jolting enough to put off many people. I often end up discussing issues with friends and coworkers who get the bulk of their news from NPR, good decent liberals, but busy people who don’t choose to spend hours reading Greenwald and Yves Smith and Erik Loomis. The propaganda works, they’re much more complacent than they otherwise would be. I listen to Democracy Now when I can and I don’t love it but at least I don’t have to gag on false equivalencies and meaningless fluff.

      • Anonymous

        No, it doesn’t. NPR’s ombud, in ’09, said “We have to appeal to the right wing more, without debasing our output.”
        That was in an interview on a public radio station.

        New times, new ombud. At some point the new one made some noises about serving actuality, and that replaying, truthfully, lies wasn’t journalism.

        They need to try harder. Too much piss-pants-scaredness about being called liberal. No sense of real media crit. Too much looking for griffins sensible, fact-based right-winger guests (which is a tall order) and somehow not learning anything from that shortage.

        • KadeKo

          (Oops. Didn’t mean to post as Anonymous.)

  • Dana

    Davidson’s reporting is a little too uncritical of the propertarian/market evangelist perspective, and a bit hyperskeptical about the role of the state in the economy but I wouldn’t say there’s an especially conservative bias. I mean, how else are you gonna get the Masters of the Universe to talk to you? If you approach every interaction like you’re looking to skewer them, you get nowhere. That’s true with everyone, esp. if they’re under no obligation to talk to you. That’s journalism. The Elizabeth Warren piece very much had the feel of a reporter who spent the day before the interview getting his head filled with all kinds of Chicken Little commentary about the CFPB from his contacts on Wall Street. That doesn’t excuse his conduct (for which he has apologized), but I do get the feeling that lefties wouldn’t be harping on his finances were it not for that interview. I don’t know what the journalistic standards are for accepting honoraria, but if I lived in NYC on a reporter’s salary and somebody offered me money to make a speech, I’d just ask where and when.

    • timb

      Then you’re take the money or become a reporter. As James Fallows noted a million years ago, that’s the problem with the media.

    • rea

      I do get the feeling that lefties wouldn’t be harping on his finances were it not for that interview.

      Well, yes, we wouldn’t be complaining about his biases if he didn’t show them in his work.

      • ACS

        This. I mean, in that Warren interview, he literally stated his biases. By his own account, he got mad at her because she wasn’t part of the very serious non-partisan expert group he had constructed in his head to lead the TARP oversight panel.

        And clear evidence of bias and conflict of interest isn’t somehow less of a problem if it’s “not especially conservative.”

    • km

      I’ve been listening to Planet Money from the beginning, and I’ve probably heard almost every episode. The Warren interview was bad, but I kept listening because the idea of a short, easy to understand explanation of complex financial stuff was appealing. But over time (before this latest Davidson brouhaha) I’ve become really, really uncomfortable with the show. For a program broadly oriented (purportedly) to addressing money, economy, and finance, the reporters tend to cast a very narrow net. Labor issues are almost entirely ignored if they’re not outright attacked. The voices of average folks are rare. Instead, it’s always the view from the top, elites of various stripes dishing out their “expertise.” I decided a few months ago to keep listening to the show, but only as oppo research, and over the past few weeks I’ve just stopped entirely.

  • James E. Powell

    While some people believe that Davidson’s conflict of interest can only be shown by examining what stories were aired on his show, far more important are the stories that did not air, the ones that were never considered appropriate.

    This is the problem with all corporate press/media. Every reporter working for Big Media Corp. knows, without getting a memo, not to run stories about what a bad company XYZ, Inc. is when XYZ, Inc. is a big advertiser with Big Media Corp. Consider, too, that maybe the president of BMC, or his wife or cousin, sits on the board of XYZ, Inc.

  • efgoldman

    I worked at a commercial station and at two major NPR stations, and volunteered at the TV station attached to one of them. The holier-than-thou-and-all-commercial-broadcasters face NPR presents to the public is disgusting and hypocritical; internally they are even more venal and political than commercial broadcasters.

  • Joshua

    I hate Planet Money and the cutesy way they frame the discussions – like a Q&A between one person playing dumb and one person playing not-so-dumb – while espousing corrupt neoliberal orthodoxy and shilling for big banks.

    I’m glad to see this.

  • Jonathan

    You know, on balance, it’s pretty amazing that three of the best left-of-center journalists in America today came from one small alt-weekly Russian zine from the ’90’s.

  • tomk

    And a great book reveiwer, John Dolan, who was the first to expose James Frey.

  • 9107 723892I got what you intend, saved to fav, really good site . 726044

It is main inner container footer text