Big Box Buys Buddies

"Stung by criticism of its labor practices, expansion plans and other business tactics," Wal-Mart "has become a sponsor on National Public Radio," underwritten the "Tavis Smiley" talk show, and "plans to award $500,000 in scholarships to minority students at journalism programs around the country." A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said there's "no hidden agenda," but "we've really been in the spotlight and I think that's made us especially sensitive to the need for balanced coverage." NPR's ombudsman wrote, "Wal-Mart symbolizes values that some listeners believe to be antithetical to the values of public radio." Mounting opposition has rejected or stalled new Wal-Mart stores in California, Illinois and Louisiana.