NPR = ‘Nvestigative Public Radio

Tuesday was a banner day for investigative reports on NPR.

Start with Morning Edition’s major takeout on the 2005 Congressional mandate that dollar coins be issued with the image of every U.S. president:

$1 Billion That Nobody Wants

Politicians in Washington hardly let a few minutes go by without mentioning how broke the government is. So, it’s a little surprising that they’ve created a stash of more than $1 billion that almost no one wants.

Unused dollar coins have been quietly piling up in Federal Reserve vaults in breathtaking numbers, thanks to a government program that has required their production since 2007.

And even though the neglected mountain of money recently grew past the $1 billion mark, the U.S. Mint will keep making more and more of the coins under a congressional mandate.

The pile of idle coins, which so far cost $300 million to manufacture, could double by the time the program ends in 2016, the Federal Reserve told Congress last year.

What’s that old saying: The road to waste is paved with governmental intentions?

All Things Considered followed up with a chilling investigative report, The Child Cases: Guilty Until Proved Innocent.

A joint investigation with ProPublica and PBS Frontline, the series “analyzed nearly two dozen cases in which people have been accused of killing children based on flawed work by forensic pathologists. Some of the accused were later cleared, others . . . remain in prison.”

Excellent work on both fronts, demonstrating both the range and the depth of NPR’s journalism.

UPDATE: Not all NPR listeners agreed with the hardworking staff.  On Wednesday, All Things Considered featured their responses:

[ROBERT] SIEGEL: We also received quite a few emails about a story from NPR’s Investigative Unit. NPR’s Joseph Shapiro brought us an in-depth report about a Texas man who was convicted of killing a six-month-old baby on questionable medical evidence and is serving a 60-year prison sentence.

[MELISSA] BLOCK: Some of you did not appreciate the time devoted to that story. Martha Encherman(ph) of Pittsford, New York, writes: I listen to become enlightened, not to have dramas dragged out to the nth degree.

JoAnn Lee Frank(ph) of Clearwater, Florida, writes: Enough already. And she adds this: My suggestion is to cover more stories and not go the long-distance marathon on one.

SIEGEL: But we received just as many letters like this one from Celie Hart(ph) of Allston, Massachusetts. She writes: This is journalism for the people, journalism at its best, and I can’t thank you enough for giving The Child Cases the time and attention they deserve.

BLOCK: And Ursula Pike(ph) of Austin, Texas, who says she has young children, writes this: There will be people who say that was too graphic for that time of day because their kids were in the car as they drove them home from soccer practice or whatever.

SIEGEL: Ms. Pike continues: I know there will be stories about crimes that my five-year-old shouldn’t hear. The story was hard to listen to and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

BLOCK: Thank you, as always, for your comments. Send them our way at npr.org. Just click on contact us at the bottom of the page.

Your comment could go here, too.

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3 Responses to NPR = ‘Nvestigative Public Radio

  1. BP Myers says:

    I’ll never forget the first time I had to use one of those atrocious “Charlie Card” machines (first and last time, I might add) and received a whole bucketful of these things as change. I’d never even seen them before. So I take them out and they’re all . . . James K. Polk. James K. Polk! On an (apparently) legal tender coin!

    Anyhow, I had to walk sideways for much of that day and got rid of them as fast as I could.

  2. Munzen says:

    The NPR story COMPLETELY ignored the fact that continued production of $1 bills costs the US at least $600 million a year, according to investigations dating back as far as the 1990s. Ones make up almost half of all bills produced, and disposing of them when they quickly wear out is becoming a serious problem. In addition their continued use forces every vending machine to be equipped with a bill acceptor at a cost of several hundred dollars extra, and there are additional costs at banks, transit systems, and other places where bills must be hand-processed when mechanical counters are unable to deal with less-than-pristine notes.

    Four dozen other countries including all other major industrial nations got rid of their low-denomination bills years ago as cost-saving measures. The US now stands alone, but remains unwilling to change. Yes, people in those other countries fussed for a short time when their bills were withdrawn but inside of a few months everyone adapted and life went on. It’s a sad commentary that the US is so politicized and mired in the past that even the efficiency of a new coin is rejected, not to mention all of the other more significant ways we’re losing (or have lost) our primacy in the world.

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