Letters: The Burning Of Washington

Aug 28, 2014
Originally published on August 29, 2014 8:40 pm
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From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel. It's been over a week and finally we have stopped getting feedback about our imagined coverage of the burning of Washington by British forces during the War of 1812.


TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: I'm embedded with the invading British forces. We're on Capitol Hill. The British have formed a line, muskets at the ready and then they're on the march toward the Capitol building Itself.

BLOCK: Well, your reaction burned up twitter with a lot of love. But our online inbox and our comments section, well those were more of a mixed bag.

SIEGEL: There were plenty who liked what they heard, Rob Rivera of Cleveland Heights, Ohio writes, as a high school history teacher let me thank you for bringing the events of 1814 and the burning of our Capitol alive. I plan to use it in class and now have inspiration for a multimedia project for my students.

BLOCK: And then there were the haters. Glenn Rose of Lexington, Virginia writes, this was a new low in journalistic responsibility. Please make up your minds, if you want to live up to the excellence of the 1970s, when NPR grew into a source of thoughtful reporting or if you think you all are the Mercury Theatre players.

SIEGEL: And there were comments that were hard to categorize. We think they were kidding but, well you decide.

BLOCK: Like this letter from Cory Burns of Cozad, Nebraska, I found your reenactment of the battle over Washington in 1814 to be in very poor taste, it has taken a long time to heal the wounds from that period in our history and to establish a tenable trust with the British government. Why then would you so blithely and carelessly make a joke of this episode and tear opens those wounds a fresh? This may be amusing and entertaining, perhaps even educational to future generations. But your timing was awful. Too soon ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, too soon.

SIEGEL: And David Stapel of Overland Park, Kansas writes this, when I heard your reports on Thursday, that the British had captured and burned Washington D.C., I immediately destroyed my wife's "Downton Abbey" DVDs as an act of defiance against our national enemy. It was not until Friday morning, when I was at my local McDonald's demanding that they change their menu to offer, Eagle McMuffin's, that I learned that you had been reporting on events that happened two centuries ago. Shame on you NPR for your fear mongering and sensationalism.

BLOCK: We are ashamed and sensational. And we appreciate all your comments, please keep them coming. You can write to us by visiting NPR.org, click on contact, it's at the very bottom of the page. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.