Bill Lichtenstein sends this note about an apology from On the Media, the NPR program about journalism.
[March 19, 2009] NPR's "On The Media" this week corrected its November 28, 2008 report that accused the executive producer of "The Infinite Mind" public radio series of having known that the show's host, Dr. Fred Goodwin, had received $1.2 million in fees for giving marketing lectures on behalf of pharmaceutical companies, while he was hosting the program.
In its on-air correction, "On The Media's" host, Brooke Gladstone, apologized for what she called the "lapse of journalistic judgment" in the report, which relied on an unnamed source to corroborate Goodwin's claim that Lichtenstein was aware of the speaking fees. In its correction, "On The Media" acknowledged that, contrary to what was originally reported by the show, the anonymous source says she has "no first-hand evidence that [Lichtenstein] knew of any fees." Gladstone added that "The Infinite Mind" says it "had always adhered to standard journalism practice in vetting guests and disclosing conflicts of interest."
"On The Media" also apologized for failing to seek a comment or response from Lichtenstein, who has maintained that he first learned about Goodwin's speaking fees from a November 22, 2008 article in the New York Times, and that Goodwin's activities violated the strict conflict of interest agreement Goodwin had with "The Infinite Mind." Gladstone said "On The Media's" failure to present Lichtenstein's and "The Infinite Mind's" side of the story was "a mistake, it wasn't fair and it didn't serve our listeners."
Despite "The Infinite Mind's" protests at the time of the broadcast, "On The Media" corrected the story only after the anonymous source came forward to say "On The Media" had incorrectly reported what she told the program. The source said she told "On The Media" that in 2003 "The Infinite Mind" was aware that host Goodwin gave educational lectures, but said she had no knowledge or evidence to support Goodwin's claim, as reported by "On The Media," that Lichtenstein or "The Infinite Mind" was aware that Goodwin was being paid to give marketing talks on behalf of pharmaceutical companies.
"On The Media's" report, which aired a week after the New York Times article was published, attracted wide attention as it represented the sole evidence that "The Infinite Mind's" producers were aware of the reported $1.2 million in speaking fees received by Goodwin.
Since the publication of the New York Times article in November 2008, Goodwin has shifted his position from stating that "The Infinite Mind" was aware of his activities, to maintaining in interviews with the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) and other publications that he did not believe there had been, in fact, a conflict of interest. "I frankly do not see these things as a conflict of interest . . . I've always thought that if you have multiple relationships they sort of cancel each other out," Goodwin told the student newspaper at George Washington University, where he is on the faculty.
"The Infinite Mind" had previously announced it would, after 10 years, be ceasing production at the end of 2008. The Infinite Mind was independently produced and distributed to public radio stations, and NPR aired the series on its Sirius Satellite channel.