You'd think a journalist would know better. Well, maybe not.
NPR correspondent Dina Temple-Raston earned a negative distinction last week when she gave a paid speech to the Darien/Norwalk (CT) YWCA.
The event was an awards luncheon honoring the local 2011 "Women of Distinction."
Jim Cameron, a volunteer program director for the local cable-access TV channel, was invited to cover the event by the YWCA. But a few days before the luncheon he got word that video was verboten -- allegedly because of an NPR rule. Questioning that edict, he was then told it was Ms Temple-Raston's personal rule.
Cameron says he decided to cover the awards portion -- and hoped to speak with the camera-shy reporter before the event to see if he could change her mind. Here is what he reports in his blog of their brief conversation:
"You know you cannot tape my speech"' she said. "So I've heard," he said, "But why? Is it really an NPR rule?". "No," she said, "It's just my personal preference. I am on vacation today."Doh. Setting aside the seeming inconsistency of a broadcast journalist banning the recording of a public speech -- Temple-Raston pulled the amateur mistake of having a conversation with a reporter and then retroactively trying to declare it off-the-record. Doesn't work that way, Dina.
"As a journalist are you comfortable in stopping my coverage of your speech?” he asked.
"Absolutely," she said without hesitation. "You're lucky I'm allowing you to tape the awards presentations!"
"That's not your call," Cameron told her. "I'm here at the invitation of the YWCA."
"Well, that camera better be off. That's an ethical issue," she said, and then added icing to the cake... "and this conversation is off the record."
Cameron says that perhaps the skittishness about recording has something to do with the flap former NPR correspondent Juan Williams got himself into while speaking not on NPR's air. The turmoil resulted in Williams getting fired from his former employer. But it seems to us that explanation doesn't hold water - she allowed print reporters to cover her luncheon remarks and to quote whatever they wanted.
There is another -- more mundane -- explanation for the evasion of Temple-Raston. Public figures who make speeches for pay, as she does, often try to avoid having lengthy excerpts of their remarks aired -- because they want to re-use the same speech over and over again. A public access channel like Cameron's could easily put the entire speech up on the internet and make it available to anyone who might Google Temple-Raston.
So, all things considered, her reluctance may have had more to do with a desire to recycle the same remarks without her audiences (like the one in Connecticut where tickets were $85 each and up!) knowing that they are getting a canned speech.