Open Letter to NPR Re: "Blogs Capture, Amplify Gallaudet Protest"

I have been an ASL interpreter since 1990 and have trusted NPR as my primary news source for more than a decade. Sadly, you shook my faith in your reporting last night when you made ostensibly “factual” statements about Jane K. Fernandes that sounded like they came right out of her administration’s Public Relations Office.

Dr. Fernandes couldn’t have described herself better than you did when you said, “She’s deaf, but some protesters don’t like that she grew up speaking and reading lips, before she learned sign language.”

Contrary to what Dr. Fernandes would like the world to believe, her late ASL acquisition is not what the protesters don’t like about her. Shame on you for being a mouthpiece for Fernandes! You should have done your homework and read that blog you reported about: ridorlive.com. Or, for primary source material, you could have read the many statements and open letters at gufssa.org. Read those, along with the blog entries syndicated at deafread.com, and then you will be qualified to report on what Gallaudet University faculty, staff, students, and alumni don’t like about Fernandes.

The statement, “Others resent the tough decisions she’s made as a long-time administrator,” sounds just like Fernandes, too. She paternalistically accuses her detractors of “resenting” her (resentment being a childish emotion), brags about her “tough decisions,” and reminds you that she’s been an administrator for a “long time.”

After opening the story as a mouthpiece for Fernandes, you closed it the same way:

Gallaudet administrators called in special Washington police — ones who used sign language. And then spent two days patiently negotiating with students about how the arrests would take place.

To Gallaudet administrators, this showed they’d bent over backwards to reach out to the protesters. But you won’t find any of that in the deaf blogs. Instead, the arrests are bitterly depicted as a moment when deaf administrators betrayed their own deaf students.

I couldn’t help but note the Fernandes-like paternalistic bias in your adverbs: the police “patiently” negotiated; the deaf bloggers “bitterly” depicted. Once again the deaf bloggers are depicted as resentful, bitter children. Well, I’m sure Dr. Jane K. Fernandes thanks you! Call me bitter, but I feel you’ve betrayed me, one of your own listeners.

Author: Daniel Greene

I facilitate communication between Deaf and hearing people, and I teach people American Sign Language (ASL) and interpreting. Apart from doing the work I love, my greatest joys are family & friends, entertainment, food, photography, and travel.

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