Should NPR Have Mentioned the Gays in their Boy Scout Stories?

For the 100th Anniversary of the Boy Scouts, NPR’s Weekened Edition Saturday did a story about the history of the Boy Scouts and interviewed famous scouts, including Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder.  What went unmentioned in the story, and two other stories, was the Boy Scout’s famous conflict with gay rights and the exclusion of gays in the Boy Scouts.

NPR’s Ombudsman Alicia Shepard criticizes the network for not including any mention of the gay exclusion and gives voice to listeners who found the stories offensive because there was no mention of the BSA discriminatory policy.

To my mind, the piece should have acknowledged the controversy with the Boy Scouts and gays in a world where there is growing acceptance and integration of gays in all aspects of society. Of course there are positive aspects to scouting that needed to be recognized and celebrated — but not at the expense of giving listeners a full picture.

And here’s what Weekend Edition Saturday‘s Scott Simon–who was on leave when the story ran–said about the exclusion.

Weekend Edition Saturday host, Scott Simon, back from neck surgery, acknowledged on his Feb. 13 show what NPR should have included.

“Mr. Macula is correct,” said Simon “The Supreme Court decision in 2000 allowed the Boy Scouts to bar openly gay Scout leaders and members. And we failed to mention that policy in our interview with Marcos Nava, who heads up the Hispanic Initiatives for the Boy Scouts in America.”

I don’t think the exclusionary policy needed to be mentioned in all three stories and I understand why they decided not to muddle a tribute to BSA’s anniversary with controversy (I heard the initial story and thought it was quite nice–especially the geeky Heder interview–and it never dawned on me they didn’t mention the gay controversy).

But if you are going to give that much air time to an organization, it does seem worthwhile to mention the group isn’t without controversy–non-Christians also feel excluded from BSA–and provide a little bit of balance to a justifiably congratulatory, soft story.

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