No More On-Air Plugs For “The Test” (& Other NPR Staffers’ Books)

There’s been no small amount of teeth-gnashing among pro-standards, pro-accountability school reform advocates about the fact that NPR’s lead education blogger Anya Kamenetz also wrote a 2015 book, The Test, which some consider to be a critique of standardized testing.

Those concerned about Kamenetz’s views on testing and their prominence on NPR will gain some small measure of satisfaction from the decision by NPR today to limit on-air promotion of staffers’ books.

Michelle Lerner, of the right-leaning Fordham Institute, first brought the news to my attention earlier today, noting it would address “how often @NPR plugged The Test”:

According to Poynter (Hosts shouldn’t plug their own books on air), “The long-standing routine of NPR employees using the network’s airtime to discuss their own books has got to stop, NPR ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen wrote Thursday.” This includes both hosts discussing their own work, and during segments in which hosts interview NPR reporters.

Wrote Jensen, “Overall, it also ought to be much more stingy when handing out these features to fellow staff members, particularly when it comes to the main newsmagazines, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and their weekend counterparts.”

You can read the NPR blog post from Jensen here: On NPR Authors And NPR Airtime. Kamenetz isn’t named by Jensen but is referenced in a quoted email from Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep:

“I have, over the years, done book interviews with Juan Williams (then of NPR), Scott Simon, Anya Kamenetz, Michele Norris, Cokie Roberts and David Greene, as well as hundreds of book talks with reporters and writers who aren’t from NPR and have no connection to me. The way I look at books, at least the kind of books we talk about on NPR, they are about doing original research and reporting and spreading ideas.”

You can listen to the January 2015 interview below, or read a transcript here. Kamenetz is part of a much-expanded education team and section that includes her, longtime correspondent Claudio Sanchez, and editor Steve Drummond. (Disclosure: I was interviewed for the job Kamenetz now holds.) NPR Education “now publishes 6 times a week online and has expanded on-air coverage too,” according to Kamenetz.

It’s not immediately clear whether the new policy will affect online (as opposed to on-air) treatment of staffers’ books. I will reach out to Kamenetz and Drummond and report back any information I receive.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.