Oy, What a Week for NPR

Friday, March 11, 2011


It was a rough week in a tough season for public radio, starting five months ago with the mishandled firing of NPR news analyst Juan Williams, and ending with the resignation of NPR CEO Vivian Schiller. Brooke and Bob look back. Way back.

Comments [79]

I hear so many who pigeonhole themselves as Left or Right...

I hear division, hate, whining, arguing, taunting, and bigotry...

I hear people insist they are "Christians" then insult Christ in every way...

I want to hear people expressing their values and how they live by them...

I want to see love, solidarity, strength, patriotism, cooperation, compassion, courage, paitence, and faith.

Love for everyone especially those who are hardest to love,
...Solidarity for American Values like Truth, Justice, Equality and Peace,
...Strength to stand up to people, government, and businesses who put wealth and power above America,
...Courage and Paitencey listen to those who disagree,
...Cooperation to find common ground that will bring us togather,
...Faith that all Americans love their country, freedom, and democracy.

Lets not be afraid, of truth, justice, or equality.

Sep. 04 2011 04:00 AM
Bill from Milan, MI

I know, I know--I spelled "their" wrong. I thought proof reading would catch it. It did not. I apologize!

Mar. 22 2011 03:50 PM
Bill from Milan, MI

I will concede that NPR news shows are not biased. However, I listen to The Diane Rehm Show, Fresh Air and On The Media. These shows are all left wing biased and the only listeners that don't agree are those who agree with the bias. Certainly all these shows have the right to express there beliefs--whatever they are. But I as a taxpayer should not have to pay for them. Diane Rehm interviewed Mike Farrell and Kevin Spacy. The interviews were fine until they started spewing their left wing rhetoric. My tax dollars should not support this. Often times Diane Rehm includes in one of her roundtables a writer From "Mother Jones" magazine. The last time one of these left wing characters was on, he just reported over and over that all of our current economic problems are George W Bush's fault. No one on the panel--including Diane--bothered to ask him how what he said solves the economic problems. My taxes should not pay for this obvious left wing bias. It is Diane's show and she can run it the way she wants, but let her left wing supporters pay for the show--not my tax dollars. Diane is happy to have Anne Rice and a former Roman Catholic priest on show to villify The Church--how about if she finds some Muslims who have left "the Nation of Islam" and converted to Roman Catholisiam and let them villify Islam? Maybe she is afraid that a Fatwa will be put out on her, or maybe she is just biased against the Roman Catholic Church. By the way I don't watch Fox News programs or MSNBC programs. I get my news from CNN, newspapers, and news magzines.

Mar. 22 2011 03:42 PM
Pam from CT

Seems as if many of your Commenters are more right-on than NPR (which cans its people without getting the FULL picture) dares to be. Just left a message to NPR about doing a Richard Moe/NTHP campaign to get out from under the govt-$-attacks problem. Who's NPR's new Exec & does he/she have enough experience and GUTS? Please keep covering this whole matter, OTM.

Mar. 21 2011 04:01 PM
Edward C. Greenberg from NYC, NY

I am an attorney,Reagan Republican who represents photographers, journalists and others in the media. I listen to NPR every day. I also write, teach and lecture on media issues.

You want to know if NPR has a liberal bias?

1. Examine the stories and people that NPR does NOT cover? Most bias in the media is revealed by looking at what is not covered. What issues that are of concern to the middle or conservatives are ignored by NPR?

2. How many of your staff are registered Republicans or Conservatives or how many have ever voted for a Republican? Betcha 85%+ of your people classify themselves as liberal. To assume that they leave that bias behind when they report, opine or choose which stories to cover (or not) would be naive'.

3. How many of your reporters have ever owned a business, had to make a payroll, served in the military or done anything in the private sector other than journalism? Betcha most have advanced journalism degrees from traditionally liberal institutions.

4. Listen to NPR for 12 hours one day. Then switch to any popular talk radio station in the same market and listen to it for a day. Switch on and off with your other competition.

5. Do a brief demographic on each of your callers/listeners. Betcha the demographic is utterly dissimilar and distinctly more liberal than the "typical radio listener" according to any/all of the radio rating services.

6. Who does NPR use as outside experts? Most are professors and authors. Academics in general and specially professors by nature are liberal. They are out of the private sector and receive pay checks insulated to a great degree by campus life. Why not use people who are actually engaged in the activities or policies in question as "experts".

7. Juan Williams.

I listen to NPR, BBC and the various news talk stations out of other cities. Does NPR have a liberal bias?
Of course it does. Don't believe me? Just take the test.

Edward C. Greenberg

Mar. 20 2011 05:59 PM
Charles from Michigan

In the lifespan of National Public Radio, it is only recently that it began to heavily promote the model that we know today: that is, 24-hour talk radio consisting of news, opinion, advocacy and interviews, just about all of them left-leaning.

No doubt, NPR's general fundraising history has informed them that that programming model works best for NPR.

Before the recent change in the broadcast model, NPR actually served its original mission better. On many public stations, there was more time devoted to classical music, jazz, the arts, et cetera. The two largest public radio stations in my area have both mostly abandoned music, in favor of more talk. 24-hour talk, through to the weekends. And at night, they turn to nighttime broadcasts of the left-leaning BBC.

This is all intentional. People can self-congratulate NPR News all they want; but the current model is to fill in all of the hours between Morning Edition and All Things Considered with "viewpoint" talk radio. That model apparently boosts the ratings and importance of the NPR-supplied shows, and it supplies NPR with plausible deniability as to the editorial content of the non-NPR shows. ("B-b-b-b-ut Democracy Now! is not an NPR show!" "NPR News doesn't produce Fresh Air!" "Ira Glass and Garrison Keillor and Amy Goodman don't work for NPR!")

Mar. 20 2011 02:01 AM

Anti-conservatives aren't just behind the microphone. They're in the exective's chairs as well. What a surprise!

You'd be hard-pressed to find any unedited conservative vioces on OTM, and Bob and Brooke always get the last word. And we know where they are coming from.

NPR shouldn't be funded with tax dollars, it can survive without it.

Mar. 18 2011 02:07 PM
Terry G

I simply wanted to thank the folks at OTM for NOT editing out Brook's final exchange with Frank Mankiewicz. I love the show and listen to be engaged, informed, and occasionally argued with. Rarely do I expect a spit-out-my-milk funny exchange.

Mar. 18 2011 01:44 PM
Christian from Rhode Island

After listening to public radio for years, my impression is that the reporting is well-balanced, but the commentators and essayists are overwhelmingly liberal in the views they promote. I've heard various essays about how hard it is to be an illegal immigrant, or how normal homosexual parenting is, etc. But I can't recall ever hearing opinion pieces defending traditionally conservative positions on such issues.

So I actually do agree with Ira Glass that NPR's reporting is impressively well-balanced. However, NPR airs more than just reporting.

Mar. 17 2011 11:23 PM
Jennifer from PA

How do you measure a left-wing bias? Why not just look for bias first. One way to do this might be to select a news story that has been covered by NPR and 2 other media outlets. Put the stories on the web and have the listeners point out the bias. Judging by the comments to this story there seems to be some diversity of thought among listeners. The story selected should not be immediately associated with right wing / left wing politics but should not be a completely neutral topic either. An example that comes to mind is international adoption of children , it is not a neutral topic but most people do not know where the left/right stand on the issue. Once the trouble spots in the coverage are detected then it may be easier to determine what is truly bias and which way the bias leans.

Mar. 17 2011 08:44 AM
Maeve Clark from Iowa City Iowa

I never comment or send letters to the editor as I don't want to be labeled one of those people I complain about, you know, the crazy commenters, but I do feel compelled to comment on the Gladstone/Mankiewicz exchange. Purposeful or not, the end of the conversation with the attempt to help Mr. Mankiewicz more clearly understand the word Ms. Gladstone was repeating will go down as one of my favorites in all my years of listening to NPR. Now whenever I hear the word cookies I do not picture Oreos or chocolate chip, but Brooke shouting back for the third time and Mr. Mankiewicz replying, "Oh pussies. Yeah that may be true...".

On a more serious note, I greatly appreciate On the Media and look forward to it every Sunday morning at 6 am on Iowa Public Radio.

Mar. 16 2011 04:28 PM
david hakim from bay area, california

want to get the job done?

go here: http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2447

or here: http://www.knightdigitalmediacenter.org/news_blog/comments/20100803_spotus_sponsored_survey_on_objectivity_in_journalism1/

or here: http://www.journalism.org/node/11961

or here: http://www.americanpressinstitute.org/Reynolds0224/ExecutiveSum.pdf

i think any of them are prepared to study the situation - but would they be believed? or would they be written off as more of the "commie-antichrist-ivorytower elitists that are wrecking the country"?

letting the far right define the conversation *and* the terms has been a mistake for forty years, and the rest of us just keep making it. we have to bring the fight to them... and to the democrats who run with them because the money's so good.

@ hug: "civilly humored" - nice phrase

Mar. 16 2011 07:05 AM
Hugh from New York

I really think it is time someone at NPR went after James O'Keefe and Breitbart in a meaningful way.


If not you guys, then who? Defend yourselves! You can also point out that when most people are confronted by lunatics, they are rationally and civilly humored.

Mar. 16 2011 01:26 AM
Ron Wheeler from Warner Robins, GA

Brooke, if that was you interviewing Frank Mankiewicz, he heard you the first time and knew darn good and well you didn't say 'cookies'. At his age, hearing a nice lady say that word is about all the turn-on he can expect to get.

Mar. 15 2011 07:24 PM
Andrew Sleeth from Raleigh, NC

Heck, I'd pledge an additional $20 to my local affiliate just to hear Brooke say "pussies" one more time.

Mar. 15 2011 06:47 PM
Omar Sanchez from Perris, California

First let me say i LOVE npr and its shows and cant watch more than a few seconds of any cable news program. But i dont agree that NPR should be getting any public funding. As a matter of fact i believe that is what stops me and other folks from contributing... the fact that NPR already recieves funding. NPR should not be afraid that its programs will suffer becuase of lack of funding. They already have sponsors. On every show you hear brought to you by toyota, or cisco or some other company. As for conservatives complaining about the programming... havent they stopped to think that maybe the world isn't 'conservative' anymore? good luck on the media... you will do just fine.

Mar. 15 2011 02:43 PM
TheMadKing from NH

It kills me how many people are still talking about the tape! It reminds me of Don Ameche in TRADING PLACES: "Turn those machines back on!" It's done. Well, maybe not. O'Keefe still has more tapes. As for those who still say NPR turned down the money, two questions. One, if they were going to turn down the money, why were NPR's top two fundraisers involved? Two, a second tape was released from AFTER the dinner, with Betsy Liley talking to the faux MB reps by phone about how to hide the money from government auditors. How do you explain that away?

Sad fact is, I really like a lot of PBS and NPR. WGBH in Boston has had some of the finest programming ever. But NPR and CPB leadership is hopelessly politicized and corrupt, and I prefer not to subsidize that anymore. Let them be hopelessly politicized and corruptd on their own dime! Or should I say, the dimes of George Soros, MoveOn.org and the Muslim Brotherhood. Let Disney or Nickelodeon buy and show the Muppets. Free market will take care of it. Or not. But I won't if I can help it.

Mar. 15 2011 02:09 PM
Andrew C from New York

@marvinsmith: hear hear, a detailed structuring. Joan Lowenstein urged it too here as early as post [6], noting these are already done. And that Universities will themselves be criticized. Of course, we know that Universities are hotbeds of hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history, the nattering nabobs of negativism.

Mar. 15 2011 01:47 PM
Marvin Smith from Chicago

Regarding Ira Glass' challenge:

Send requests to numerous universities across the country with reputable rhetoric and communications programs and ask for rhetorical analyses of NPR over, say, one full week of programming. This could be projects for graduate students in these disciplines.

This would include listening to not only NPRs staple programming (e.g. Morning Edition, All Things Considered) but also many other types of nation programs on NPR (The Story, This American Life) and state-based programs (WUNC's The State of Things).

It involves asking probative questions such as: What is the story about? What does the story include? What does the story NOT include. For example, if the story is about illegal immigration, is the content of the story heavily weighted in favor of this type of immigration. Is there ever any comment on the negative effects?

What comments do the hosts make offhand not related to show content. e.g. anti-war statements, remarks about results of recent elections.

What topics are covered most often by NPR? (Anti-torture, Israel vs Palestine, Protests, human rights). What are the recurring themes? What words are used and how often are they used?

et al

Without this type of comprehensive look, neither side will have a solid position. I agree with John Stewart but it should be a bit longer than 24 hours and quite a bit more inclusive of NPR content.

Mar. 15 2011 01:02 PM
John Ranta from New Hampshire

I've been thinking about courage. These past few weeks we've been listening to Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, reporting from northern Africa with bullets cracking in the background. This morning I listened to Richard Harris reporting from Japan, and talking about rising radiation levels at his location. We've heard many reports from Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, Anne Garrels, and on - so many correspondents putting themselves in risky, dangerous situations to get the story back to us.

Contrast the courage of NPR's staff with the actions of the board at NPR. O'Keefe mashes together a clumsy hatchet job, and a bunch of right-wing Congressmen threaten to pull NPR's funding, and what does the board do? Stand firm and stare them down? No, they fire the falsely accused, fire the CEO for good measure, issue obsequious apologies and promise to be more accommodating to right-wingers in the future.

Have a little spine, NPR board, and stop negotiating with blackmailers...

Mar. 15 2011 07:03 AM
Ron Gutman

Ira Glass's comment about Ron Schiller's were the most relevant ones expressed on last Sunday's OTM. Schiller was not a journalist and speaking, he believed, in privately. It is absurd to apply the standards of journalism to his comments, and for NPR to buckle under the weight of this so-called scandal. It's absurd to imagine that no one in a news organization has a private opinion that could not be squeezed out of him by some clever opponent using drugs, booze, or money. Anyway, I imagine the stingers were really hoping that Schiller would say yes to there phony offer of money, but he wisely dodged that more serious bullet.

Mar. 15 2011 02:43 AM
TheMadKing from NH

This is all just major CYA on NPR's part. They know they're in the toilet and Republicans have their hands on the flush lever. As to Ms. Slocum's claim that even were Glenn Beck or O'Reilly broadcasting from NPR wouldn't change perceptions of liberal bias, that is the worst and most deceptive kind of hypothetical. NPR couldn't even take Juan Williams making an offhand comment that people dressed in Muslim guard on airlines make him nervous.

I suppose none of you have heard the recent story about how a plane in flight went on lockdown because four Muslims started praying? Yes, Americans ARE touchy after 9/11 and over 16,000 Islamist terror attacks worldwide. You'd never know that from NPR though. They seem to be too busy trying to round up big bucks from the Muslim Brotherhood. The sooner NPR is off the public dole, the better. Spin events your own liberal lefty way on your own dime, NPR. Like MSNBC!

Mar. 15 2011 02:12 AM
david hakim from bay area, california

@ john r - hear, hear - that is so true... and something especially hard for some jews and israelis to comprehend... though many jews and israelis are beginning to get it. i think it was a kind of intention-based momentum to get away from the pograms and death-camps that has given this whole issue about palestine a kind of intensity that perhaps was not entirely justified... ("never again - hand me that rocket launcher")... but that is another story for another time...

Mar. 14 2011 10:12 PM
CTM from United States

I would definitely LIKE Mr. Ranta's last comment. It is quite ironic that those who criticize NPR's coverage of Israel seem to want MORE bias in this instance, not less.

Mar. 14 2011 10:08 PM
John Ranta from New Hampshire

That said, david hakim - a big LIKE! Stacy Harris, there's a difference between being anti-Israeli and being critical of Israeli actions. Often times, Israeli advocates do not see the difference...

Mar. 14 2011 08:19 PM
John Ranta from New Hampshire

This is why NPR is so damn valuable - the depth and breadth of discussion here, in the OTM comments.

That said, there are two things missing here, from the Comments section. One is a "Like" button, to use when one agrees strongly with another's comments. Two is a "Reply" button, to use when one is motivated by another's comment to expand/respond.

Mar. 14 2011 08:16 PM
david hakim from bay area, california

I liked your piece on fundraising and the debate over cutting public funding.

But when your interviewer lets Nick Gillespie of "reason.com" (*that's* a misuse of language) get away with a very disingenuous argument, you’ve got a story problem.

Gillespie claimed on-air that government (read: "taxpayers") shouldn't fund public access to news because the government (read: "taxpaying public") doesn't fund churches.

But Gillespie is just spouting poppycock.

By not taxing churches, the government (read: "the taxpaying public") is in fact supporting churches to an enormous extent - the amount which any other corporation of equivalent financial "size" and means would be taxed.

And the two arguments are not even comparable.

And neither the government nor taxpayers *should* support churches, as that is not the brief of the government. Whereas - to use the analogy of matriculation from school - defense and civil & health issues and trade & communications matters and protection from any number of threats (crime, disease, etc) are to be considered "mandatory" (or "core curriculum") religion is definitely an "elective" (personal choice and not having much of a place in the public discourse).

It is only reasonable that real access to real people reporting real news in real time has become a requirement in a civil democratic society (and therefore eligible to be protected and nourished by taxes), while the moral beliefs of its citizens should not be held above the civic responsibility to pay taxes to support the government to which they will turn expectantly in times of need or disaster.

Thanks for all that you do, especially providing the last free and valuable educational services in broadcasting.

Mar. 14 2011 07:32 PM
Patrick Hatcher

Funny to hear the "P" word said so often on NPR. Sounds like what O'Keefe does now is the conservative equivalent of what NPR was doing in its early days. The irony is delicious.

Mar. 14 2011 06:31 PM
radiowxman from Atlanta, GA

Full disclosure - I'd be considered one of those right-wing tea party radicals (although I'm far from it). Heck, I work for a conservative news radio station. I'm also an NPR fan.

That being said, I find it laughable that Ira Glass is shocked -- shocked I say! to find people taking jabs at NPR for having a left-leaning bias.

Did he not hear employee #1 wax poetically about NPR being rabidly anti-Nixon, anti-war? Or how a former director for NPR was taken from the McGovern campaign?

Or we can just use the description for last week's OTM podcast: "...why there may never be a Canadian Fox News...." (on a story about Canadian broadcast law not allowing lies and distortions). Get it? It's hilarious because Fox News lies all the time!

Like death by 1,000 cuts, little jabs like the above add up.

NPR would be well served by hiring some conservatives who can point out these things before they air, and you'll have a start.

Mar. 14 2011 05:57 PM

JOYCE SLOCUM: Well there are hardened critics who are never going to change their perception… but the really amazing thing that happens with a lot of people who have misperceptions about NPR…is all it takes to change that perception is to turn on their local member station and listen for a couple of hours.


Logically, Joyce is correct with her first premise, but her logic goes off the rails with her second.

For anyone in NPR leadership to prop up the "we're not biased" pretense, is a scary, scary harbinger of what George Soros and company are capable of.

Mar. 14 2011 05:07 PM
Andrew C from New York

Listening again to the Feb 11th OTM podcast: it's chilling. You reported on an attempted 'sting' of Planned Parenthood which failed after PP turned away the fake clients and reported the incident to the police. At 42 minutes in, Brooke asks, "...what do you think the Next would-be video stinger needs to do to make his or her scandal resonate...?" The response: "... If this fails its because, for all of the flash, its a bit lazy. There needs to be a more innovative way of exposing what these left wing groups do with their money in a way that makes people angry ..." What day was that Schiller lunch? The entire OTM conversation is prescient.

Mar. 14 2011 05:04 PM
MIke White from Westland, MI

Really? You had to drop Pussies not once but three times? Brooke, were you channeling Howard Stern?

Mar. 14 2011 03:56 PM
MIke White from Westland, MI

Kicking it old school.

Mar. 14 2011 03:45 PM
Tamera Herrod from Ohio

I cannot wait to see if Jon Stewart mentions Brooke Gladstone quoting his "pussies" comment on his show tonight! Love your show, Brooke. Love NPR.

Mar. 14 2011 03:32 PM
Al from Soda Springs ID

Several comments here criticize OTM for failing to further analyze/justify the Schiller video. That would be nice and interesting, but, as was said in the story, the Schiller incident is a small part of the bigger story, and whether he was taken out of context or was justified in his remarks is immaterial. The fact of the story's existence plays into the eminent de-funding of NPR, and that's what concerns me.

I think NPR will almost certainly continue to exist without Fed. monies, but I worry that without this tie to taxpayer dollars NPR no longer has, or feels the same obligation to rigorous standards of journalism, but feels more obligated to the donor base, or the corporate funding (whatever it may be). It's not such a bad thing that NPR is as obligated to serve as a news source to conservatives and liberals alike, and that they must respond to the outcries of both. I worry as much that NPR will become Left leaning as I do that they will become more conservative. As it is, NPR does a better job of getting it's listeners as close to the truth as possible than any other news source I know. I pray that this ethic won't be lost if or when they lose their public money.

Mar. 14 2011 02:13 PM
Chrisco from Bay Area

It is sad to see OTM pile on without even an acknowlegment of O'Keefe's past manipulation of videos. For instance, as at least one commenter pointed out, in the clip you played where he disparages Republicans, it was prefaced with words to the effect: "I have been told by 2 top Republicans..." that the party has become extreme, etc.

The point is, he was relaying opinions told to him and O'Keefe presented them as his own words and NPR and OTM and everyone in the world, despite O'Keefe's record of manipulating video, bought it hook line and sinker.

That is the MEDIA story here. Will you ever learn? Or will the sensationalism get you every time?

Mar. 14 2011 12:35 PM
Sko Hayes from Kansas

I loved the show yesterday, and cheered Ira on his comments! Not one media outlet, or right winger who accuses NPR of a liberal bias has brought up one example of that bias in their news reporting.
To Bryan D. above, you mention On The Media as a biased show (the other shows you mentioned are not news shows, but shows that talk about the news). Could it be the fact that most so-called "news outlets" report the story from one side, and pointing that out isn't biased, but truthful reporting?
Take the protests in Wisconsin for example. Had these protesters been tea partiers, we would have had reporters from Fox News up there 24/7 and a CNN reporter "embedded" with the Koch Brothers bus.
There were Tea Party people on the Sunday shows week after week. Have you seen one Wisconsin Senate Democrat on any Sunday news shows?
Looking forward to next week's OTM.
And Brooke will never live down shouting out the "P" word, LOL.

Mar. 14 2011 11:53 AM
Michael Metzger

Ms. Gladstone...I can honestly say I do not know the name of the person I spoke to. I called your number provided on your "Contact Us" listing and was transfered once. It was a young woman. She was nice enough about it but yes, that is almost a direct quote from her. And no, it was not the number from a web-site, it was the OTM number. And yes, all 3 sources were pro-health care bill. This did take place months ago and I did not write down the name of the woman I spoke to. Thank you. You might not think you are biased but if you go to the middle of America, away from either coasts, you might understand that the smugness you hear on the NPR programming probably does not truly represent the ideals of what lies between the cities of the coastline. And yes, I do support NPR.

Mar. 14 2011 09:12 AM
Stuart Givot from San Mateo, CA

I think that the problem I have with NPR is not in the content because NPR is probably my most reliable source of news. But I often perceive a bias in the presentation. I think perhaps that your corespondents may not even realize that the way they present some stories gives the listener a sense that the correspondent has a point of view which very often could be considered to the left of center; or at least a lean in that direction. Try listening to stories by Mara Liasson and Michelle Norris in their coverage of President Obama during the 2008 campaign. I thought I heard an affinity for the candidate that bordered on cheerleading. Again not in the content but in the presentation.
I'm not sure exactly if Fresh Air and Wait, Wait, Don't tell Me are "official" NPR shows or are produced by a local station or are American Public Radio shows. But both shows had Lynn Cheney as a guest. Terry Gross sounded
antagonistic, Peter Sagal right down the middle. Compare.

Mar. 14 2011 03:36 AM
Gary Sell from Oakland

Tell you what. I will trade defunding NPR for the elimination of "faith based" funding, for the taxation of churchs, and the end of corporate personhood.

NPR is so fair and balanced that if they interviewed Columbus, they would also give the flat earth society equal time.

Mar. 14 2011 03:28 AM
Bryan D. from Portland, Or

NPR is great media, and I listen for many hours each day.

All Things considered, Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation, The World, Marketplace, etc, are some of the best sources for unbiased journalism.

I subscribe to the On the Media podcast & enjoy it, but OMGosh, it's anything but unbiased. Brooke has a great, but liberal voice. I feel she is quite biased, but regularly snubs this concern. I used to interpret Bob as more fair, but think his bias is increasing.

The weekend programming on NRP is fantastic and keeps me entertained for hours. However, it's hardly unbiased.

Wait, Wait, Don't tell me, Whad'Ya Know? and even Prairie Home Companion, while very entertaining, all have a strong liberal bias.

Shows like On the Media will claim a neutral bias, when I find they are often unfair. Then there are shows, such as Tell Me More, that are incredibly liberally biased

Can you name a NPR show that leans Conservative? I can't.

I enjoy the programming, but do find a heavy liberal slant.

Mar. 14 2011 03:25 AM
Dr. J. Curtis Kovacs from Sun City, AZ

What is the metric? How about addressing Ms. Gladstone's comment that other media (read talk radio & Fox News Channel) all you hear is voice yelling. Really.

Sure seem like many, many people are listening to that yelling.

You ALL seemed to think that acknowledge that the mainstream press in lib/prog. is somehow justification for NPR being so. NOT.

Mr. Bernie Goldberg was right the media is not a conspiracy, it is simply an incestuous, homogeneous breed.

Mar. 14 2011 12:04 AM
Stacy Harris from Nashville, TN

I wonder what Bill Buckley would say about all of this, were he alive. (Of course, it was Firing Line’s demise that coincided with the first cries of "bias" with respect to PBS and, most recently, NPR.)

That said, as an occasional All Things Considered listener for many years (mostly during occasional 15-20 minute commutes), I was astounded a couple of years back when a fellow Nashvillian, a more ardent NPR listener, urged me to withhold my occasional financial support due to what he cited as NPR’s blatant, anti-Israel reporting.

Dan indicated that he’d contacted NPR, substantiating his concerns, but NPR officials blew him off.

I certainly never noticed anti-Israel bias during the period I listened most to NPR (when I anchored and produced programming at Nashville's WPLN). Then, and later, when I heard NPR reports sympathetic to Palestinians I considered them to be the other side of the same coin.

But I wasn't focused on the subject and comparing the frequency and tone of the respective reporting. When Dan peaked my curiosity I began to listen more intently and more often.

Focused listening convince me that NPR's reporting on Israel is often unsettling. Where in years past a report of an Israeli "attack" might have seemingly struck me as the latest volley in a perpetual war with enough blame (on both sides) to go around, I now realize that, to use the same example, NPR reporters fail to inform listeners that the Israelis are RESPONDING to provocation that I know of only because I've seen, for example, the wire story.

Understanding who is instigating and who is acting in self-defense- and the "why" of both- provides a clearer assessment of war for those who expect NPR to use our "pledge gifts" to fairly advise of the day’s events..

Stacy Harris
Publisher/Executive Editor/Media Critic
Stacy's Music Row Report

Mar. 13 2011 10:16 PM
Brooke Gladstone from Brooklyn

To Michael Metzger: You called OUR office and were told that "we want to endorse the bill"? If so, please furnish a name, because I do not believe that any of our staff would have asserted that. We do not work that way - we do not stake positions through recommendations. When we stake a position we do it explicitly and forthrightly. If you are referring to a remark made by a staffer of one of the websites recommended by a guest on our show- all I can say is they were recommended based on the accuracy of the information they provide. If they have come to a conclusion based on that information - that is their business. Obvously, you can choose to accept that information, or ignore it.

Mar. 13 2011 09:07 PM
CTM from United States

It was really refreshing to listen to Ira Glass discuss the core NPR issue -- that it doesn't get much credit for being as mainstream as it is. I'd go even further, really, and note that of all of its coverage, NPR's political reporting never lives up to its own hype. With the exception of Nina Totenburg and Peter Overby, NPR's political coverage isn't much better than Cable TV -- lots of he say/she say soundbites from the players, but little to no policy background so that listeners know what is real. Which I imagine is why NPR reporters rushed to report on yet one more bit of fake journalism from the right. Certainly there would not be a report coming from a clearly left-biased outlet that you'd so uncritically pass on as gospel. You guys are *supposed* to be a news organization. Time to get back to that -- because when you become a player in your own horserace coverage, you really have forgotten why you show up for work every day.

Mar. 13 2011 08:16 PM
Michael Metzger

I remember when the Health Care bill was being debated on. On the Media did a report on web-sites that could give you information concering the pros and cons of the bill. Problem is each one of the 3 websites it gave were all pro heath care bill. I actually called their office to ask why and was told "because we want to endorse the bill". And that my friends, is why people think NPR is biases towards the left. People like Ira Glass think NPR is centrist journalism. Some people are so far to the left that to them, it is.

Mar. 13 2011 07:52 PM
R. Jacobs from Santa Rosa, CA

An excellent program, but I disagree with Ira Glass about the elephant in the room. Not whether there's an elephant in the room but what it is. Ira thinks the elephant is the accusation of liberal bias. I think the elephant is a certain TV station that claims to broadcast news while actually broadcasting highly emotional - may I say rabid? - accusations against the Democratic party, liberals, and the U.S. government, all of which are moshed together as one entity - the "enemy".

So while reasonable men and women consider the accusations, review history and examine the facts in order to rectify falsehood and build a platform where truth may stand, the loud and angry bullies of the air smirk and sneer with satisfaction.

They have no interest in truth. Their only interest is in power; and every blow to NPR, economic, political, or personal, fattens their political purses and strengthens their agenda, which is to claim everything - even the word "public" - for themselves.

Mar. 13 2011 07:29 PM
PMM from Tucson, AZ

Okay, now what about this "edited" tape! Are you going to go back and see what really was said. Are you going to have a discussion about how gullible "liberals" and/or NPR are... I heard that Michelle Norris signed an angry letter to NPR management about how horrible they are.

Is anyone going to even try to stop this nonsense and stop instantly quitting or firing people until that get all the information! Is NPR always going to be duped and manipulated by the "right" !

Mar. 13 2011 05:41 PM
S. Bowie from Albany, NY

Too Liberal? That is a joke. NPR is too often depressingly mainstream and bland. If you are going to take up Ira's challenge, please also invite some actual progressives to weigh in on how incredibly timid and conservative much of NPR's reporting is! There is a lot of muck to be raked up!

Also, why not take Jon Stewart up on his recent challenge - someone should closely examine NPR's reporting during any random 24 hour time period and compare it to, oh, say Fox News or even CNN, and see who is even TRYING to report the news in good faith.

Mar. 13 2011 04:53 PM
Bruce White from St. Paul, Minnesota

So it turns out much of the story was fake. Will NPR walk back on their extreme overreaction? Why did any one believe the convicted felon who did this "sting." Even to call what happened a sting is a lie. It was more like character assassination.


Mar. 13 2011 04:27 PM
Fred Kelley from Prescott, AZ

I sent this to Ira Flatow and OTM today. I hope it works.

Mr. Flatow:

I was listening to a Podcast of “On the Media” and heard your remarks regarding the current NPR controversy. I have a suggestion I think would REALLY HELP NPR AND PBS.

I’ll make it short.

I’m an old retired man with a very old Ph.D. in Mass Communications from the University of Oregon. In the early 1970s I was Program Director of KLCC-FM, an NPR affiliate in Eugene, Oregon.

Here’s my idea: Commission a big name survey company to do a survey of “Bias in the Media.” Include NPR, PBS, FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC and for comparison, BBC in this survey. Make sure that all of the media (especially FOX) agree on the methodology used in this survey before it is conducted.

Then we will see who is biased and who is not.

I’m going to send this email to “On the Media” and anyone else I can think of who might be interested in the results.

Considering your comments on the latest “On the Media” program I would think you would interested as well.

I hope this gets to you. It probably won’t. But just maybe....

Fred Kelley

Mar. 13 2011 04:16 PM
John Ranta from New Hampshire

I just heard this week's OTM, and am surprised at how out-of-date their take on the O'Keefe tape is. By now we've all heard the analysis done of O'Keefe's editing - http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/03/13/134495929/questions-raised-about-okeefes-editing-of-npr-sting-video and so we know that the tape was doctored, and that Schiller didn't actually say many of the things attributed to him. To hear Bob refer to the "reprehensible statements made by Ron Schiller" when it turns out that the whole thing was a digital "swift-boating", makes Bob seem hopelessly naive (which I know he is not, but...) I'll ask it here, as I did in nhprogressives.wordpress.org - why did NPR act like a bunch of pussies, instead of reviewing the raw tape and checking with Schiller before firing him? How does NPR feel, to have kowtowed to O'Keefe and his minions, only to find out that they let themselves fall victim to an elaborate ruse? JR

Mar. 13 2011 04:09 PM
Wilie Leahy from Glenview

Hearing Brooke Glastone yelling "Pussies!" at Frank Mankiewicz.... well that just made it a special kind of day.

Mar. 13 2011 03:41 PM
Michael G. Eddingfield from Peoria, Illinois

Juan Williams, well, I've never been quite about that one. As for Vivian Schiller, right now it appears to me that the positives in her track record of leadership outweigh any inherent responsibility with respect to the latest incident. So I tend to side with a view that NPR's board might have chosen to display a bit more, backbone shall we say. Still, the one absolute that persists with both incidents has not changed. Any incident that involves two people, there will always have three sides to the story.

Mar. 13 2011 02:26 PM
Thomas Stewart

New NPR CEO: Adding Beck and O'Reilly Wouldn't Change Conservative Perceptions of NPR

Mar. 13 2011 02:17 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

I'll go further than Whole Story. I want to see all the unedited video and audio that is edited down by NPR and other mainstream news organizations which play 'gotcha' with some group or individual. ABC has been sending actors around to see if they can produce 'racist' or 'homophobic' reactions from NASCAR fans or other ordinary people, with the actors making an effort to provoke such reactions. John Quinones and his staff have not been called out on this by OTM or anyone outside the conservative media ghetto for doing exactly what the MSM condemns in O'Keefe. Nor were establishment press critics demanding out-takes and attempting to discredit Big Media when network news shows were using exactly the same tactics as O'Keefe. They only get their knickers in a twist when the target is one that urban/bourgeois America regards as part of its constituency. The double standards become very noticeable after awhile, which is why O'Keefe has had such an impact.

Mar. 13 2011 01:40 PM
Whole Story

Has anyone even thought to request the UNEDITED tape from James O'Keefe?

His "film" is so chopped up, taken out of context, and plastered with interpretations -- just like the ACORN tapes, just like the Shirley Sherrod tape. What's the full context of his statement. There's likely more to the story. O'Keefe is no unbiased journalist, he's edited out all the parts that conflict with his narrative, and should be called on it.

Please NPR, demand the original tape and show us the whole truth.

The other media outlets will not do it because they have a commercial interest in seeing you go down.

Mar. 13 2011 12:07 PM
Morris Townson from US

A LIE can go around the world before the Truth can get his pants on.

I wish that NPR would have waited 2 weeks or more before firing these fine NPR employees.

Mar. 13 2011 10:34 AM
Hugh Sansom from New York

I'm always amused when people claim American journalism and specifically NPR are liberal. They're far from it. NPR (and the Times and CNN) consistently parroted uncritically the Bush line on Iraq and Afghanistan. NPR has a reprehensible record on the Israel-Palestine conflict, with reporters like Linda Gradstein being an unabashed (and well-documented) supporter of Israel. Former ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin had the miserable audacity to say that NPR was too favorable to Palestinians (despite 10 or more to 1 reporting of Israel losses to Palestinians).

That said, NPR is far better than the abysmal, vile Fox, and I have no problem at all with public funding of NPR.

I suggest more funding for more publicly-supported media of all kinds.

Mar. 13 2011 10:18 AM
Jay Tea from http://wizbangblog.com

Hey, does anyone remember when NPR put out a little story on 'how to speak Teabag?" Or when they fired Juan Williams for saying far less controversial things than when Nina Totenberg wished for Jesse Helms' family to get infected with AIDS, or urged Clarence Thomas' wife to feed him foods intended to give him a heart attack?

Remember, Juan Williams' position was to OFFER opinions, while Totenberg is a JOURNALIST.

The issue isn't whether or not NPR should be shut down. That's ridiculous. The question is whether or not all of us -- even those of us that NPR openly holds in contempt and smears on a regular basis -- should continue to be forced to subsidize those who continually denigrate us, in direct violation of federal regulations against such partisan activity by those who accept federal funding.


Mar. 13 2011 09:38 AM
Andy Baxter from New Albany, IN

Let me start by saying that I get 90% of my news from NPR. I listen almost every day for at least an hour every day. Though I enjoy the majority of the programs I could not believe that you would suggest that you are a neutral organization. There are many times that I find your programing so offensive that I turn my radio off.
I have been listening to my local station for almost a decade. Every year during the fundraiser I consider a contribution (as I do to many organizations). However I can't bring myself to support an organization that supports such liberal view points. I hope to see this organization become as unbiased as you believe yourselves to be. I will then gladly support you financially.

Mar. 13 2011 08:30 AM
cut the BS

"The rank and file of the US Army (and their families) votes considerably more conservative than the average in elections"

No. They do not. Management (ie, officers) does, just like in every other industry.

Mar. 13 2011 05:02 AM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

NPR's ombudsman actually did do a suggestive little study that found the staff reporters were many times more likely to use the term 'ultra' in front of 'conservative' than 'liberal'. I would guess that any intern studying loaded 'labeling' political terms in NPR reporting is going to find similar results. Biases, which may be unavoidable (NPR's staff is urban-based and at the very least middle-class, and that happens to be the profile of the Democratic Party's white base, too), are in the story selection, framing, and vocabulary.

For example, the ' almost all-white' nature of Tea Party rallies is seldom unnoticed. But the African-American-free composition of very liberal gatherings of people - the state of Vermont, or an Ani DiFranco concert, or a Garrison Keillor taping, or an environmental rally at a college campus, or the population of Boulder, Colorado - seems to be overlooked, because NPR reporters don't look for such anomalies and don't ask those 'if you claim to be so liberal, how come . . . ? types of questions. So steady listeners get a distorted view of race and social class in America. The US Army brings representatives of all races in this country together in closer circumstances than just about any other institution. The rank and file of the US Army (and their families) votes considerably more conservative than the average in elections - and has to listen to a lot of sniveling about how 'ignorant' they are from smug and self-absorbed liberals such as those on this thread. There are different kinds of 'knowledge' and 'ignorance'.

I cite NPR's narrowness about race politics in America as an example of the problems in the organization because this distorted view of race has now cost Juan Williams, Vivian Schiller, Ellen Weiss, and Ron Schiller their jobs at the organization.

Mar. 12 2011 11:05 PM

I support NPR and PBS in spite of various biases, though I hesitate to define the various biases by such loaded and abused reference terms as "liberal" or "conservative".

NPR and PBS today are hardly "commercial free", as they were once upon a time. It may be that the commercial success today heralds the downfall of tomorrow; today's commercial success is the plausible argument to destroy the governmental foundations of public broadcasting, which are financial, regulatory, and breadth of network viability. Awash in dollars today, as evidenced by the many slick productions, will these dollars disappear, once Public Broadcasting is divided and conquered by money?

Public Broadcasting, biased as it may be in many ways, still provides a great service to the nation, is unique in it's presentation of news and knowledge, is far more diverse and informative than the mainstream of media, and is unique in blending public and private influences into the media market.

Mar. 12 2011 10:53 PM
Bruce Moyer from Southgate, Michigan, USA

I am fascinated by the full bore drive to retain government funding for public broadcasting. It seems that had certain people been more circumspect in their comments and actions this issue would never have come up.

But that's just the reason the PBS/NPR/APR should be welcoming their liberation from the need to temper their expression of their views to ward off political repercussions.

The government funding was intended as seed money, lo those 40 or so years ago, a kick start to get the system up and running. It is now a strong system, capable of standing on its own without the continued tap into the public exchequer.

I am not a right wing extremist - nor an extremist of any other stripe, for that matter. If anything my politics tend toward libertarianism. (Which basically means I am not especially enamored of either of the dominant parties.)

I do, however, think that a free media environment is only possible if the government has no particular leverage it can apply to media outlets. Sadly, in the end the fact is that he who takes the King's shilling must do the King's bidding.

Public broadcasting needs to suck it up and strike out on its own as a truly independent entity or risk being seen by at least some people as a domestic version of VOA, the propaganda arm of the State Dept.

Good luck. I'll be rooting for y'all to do the right thing.

Bruce Moyer

Mar. 12 2011 10:29 PM

Some doubt from, of all people, Glenn Beck:


And similar concerns from Media Matters:


Mar. 12 2011 09:33 PM
Tamera Herrod from Ohio

From a media standpoint, is it ironic that when reality-based TV shows remain in such great demand that commercial news would also be forced to become more entertainment oriented?

Mar. 12 2011 04:56 PM
Tamera Herrod from Ohio

I loved what Ira Glass had to say today about getting more messages out about NPR not being biased toward any one side.

While we know it is not possible to educate those who have already made up their minds, the statistics might break through to those who are not sure what to think. And at the very least the stats would give us NPR listeners some info to site in conversations when people bring up the alleged bias point.

NPR is the ONLY source of news I can trust. I cannot imagine how uninformed I would feel without NPR.

It is obvious the Republican Party is working very hard to shut down any source of reality-based news that the public has access to. The backward moving ways of the Republican Party are alarming to me.

And as Wisconsin and other states such as Ohio move forward to remove teachers' rights it is quite clear Republicans would prefer a much less educated nation in which to move their agendas forward.

What a very sad state of affairs for our nation.

Mar. 12 2011 04:40 PM

Why the flippancy? "Oh, Ira." This is really important and it seems like assessing the significance/legitimacy of NPR would be an essential role for media's ombudsmen and women.

Mar. 12 2011 04:06 PM
Chris Williams from Connecticut

You claim to be unbiased but just listen to your introduction to today's piece.

You called the person who coordinated the sting "Controversial" and say of Ron Schiller "Saying the darnedest things". That is biased

Mar. 12 2011 03:08 PM
Chris from Chicago

Shame on NPR. They are so weak-willed and cowardly it makes me sick.

First off, anyone who responds to a James O' Keefe video without demanding to see the full, unedited version is a fool. He has pulled the same malicious stunt time and time again. He does not practice journalism, he frames people. He lied and manipulated video to take down ACORN, he did it to Planned Parenthood, he tried to wiretap a senator's phone, and he was even caught trying to lure a CNN reporter onto a boat full of video cameras and sex toys. The man gets his fame by smearing people and malicious trickery and the mainstream media takes the bait every time.

I don't even have the ability to get mad at O' Keefe for being a liar and a bully anymore. I can only get mad at NPR for not standing up for itself. What is the point of rooting for the truth tellers when they just roll over and let the liars win every time? Sticking up for yourself is hard, but NPR will have to learn to do it if they want to survive

Mar. 12 2011 12:00 PM
KadeKo from suburban Northeast

Joan, if only NPR stopped entertaining the idea that Birthers were a unique segment of the American population with whom it could reach an "understanding" with a "conversation".

To my ear, NPR does a fantastic job of entertaining every single BS charge the right can come up with. The rest of us in reality world are listening to Steven Colbert skewer it, but NPR goes out with "on the one hand, on the other". Bad journalism (privileging the lie) AND it also doesn't buy NPR any points with their political enemies.

Kenyan? Socialist? Fascist? Hey, "it's out there", NPR is powerless to not cover it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to see how much Beltway Inbred framing WWDTM has reflexively adopted for this story.

Mar. 12 2011 11:06 AM
JAFO from 22181

I watched the entire 2 hour lunch vid and have read a large number of comments. I agreed with everything Ron Schiller said regarding NPR, Tea Party, Republicans and his social analysis but the guy is thoroughly a db and so is Betsy Liley. Ron and Betsy are amazingly naïve and totally pwned!! I enjoy the hidden hegemonies of conversation and there are plenty of them here. I hope the uneducated folks in rural America as Ron and Betsy describe them and so concerned about get to see full vid. Sarah Palin calls them “the real America.” Sit down with a big bag of popcorn and a six pack of cold ones and see how the Washington power lunch works. WoW you probably can’t believe a 2 hour lunch. Café Milano is next door to Morton’s of Chicago in Georgetown where the lunch takes place and I suspect that Morton’s would be your choice over Milano’s. But the fake Muslim organization dudes chose Café Milano and they all claim never to have been there. First timers! Betsy is wearing a tweed riding jacket with a velvet collar and Ron in a business suit. The waiter screws up Ron’s order (risotto followed by a small salad) and Betsy describes to her and Ron’s lunch companions that she is baffled by the lack of a “service culture” in Washington. Ron goes on to give us his erudite knowledge of the history of Madeira wine…

Mar. 12 2011 10:21 AM
Joan Lowenstein from Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ira Glass suggested a study to show that NPR news stories do not have a liberal slant. Those studies have been done, but by university researchers, who the Republicans also accuse of being anti-government liberals. The problem is that we are trying to convince irrational people who don't believe in science or logic. The people who want to kill NPR think NPR is liberal because it won't report that President Obama is a Muslim Kenyan.

Mar. 12 2011 10:12 AM
Wayne Grajeda from Berlin, Germany

I am not addressing On The Media directly but NPR in general. The United States will never solve it's problems if the media continually distorts reality. I was just listening to your interview with Ira Glass and he is so right. There are so many points to discuss but please start here. Stop using the term “left” when discussing the American political landscape, at the very least President Obama or the Democratic Party or any judge on the current Supreme Court. When Americans hear “left” they think of socialists or communists. There are no leftists in the Democratic Party leadership, let alone the White House or, for all intents and purposes, anywhere else in the Untied States. The Democratic Party is more conservative than many right wing parties in other industrialized democracies, if not all of them, as well as Richard Nixon. Democrats are absolutely moderate, pro-business capitalists, unless we are talking about Blue Dog Democrats. They are conservatives, not centrist, and might as well be Republicans. An example. I recently heard a compromise with the Republicans made by President Obama described as being a move to the center. President Obama IS the center. He was not moving to the center. He was leaving it and moving toward the right. Thank you.

Mar. 12 2011 07:51 AM
Jeff Pappas from Ct.

The biggest Lies are the easiest ones for the masses to believe.
Lets tax all the churches, temples and mosques ! They are All Subsidized by the Government .
I am appalled at the disconnect between Truth and Lies that the Neocons, Faux news and the right wing are spreading at an alarming rate.
And NPR like President Obama has to learn how to call Foul !
Thanks and good luck,
Jeff Pappas

Mar. 12 2011 07:40 AM
Phil Henshaw from New York, NY

Hey, why not reverse the logic. In this desperate economic times, is it rational to be conceding to powers that prefer really bad journalism???

Why not fight to double the federal funding of public media, to fund bloggers that meet both the popularity and quality standards of the kind of communication any society actually wants and needs???

Truth-o-meters can in fact be defined to set a bar in that dimension, like lots of other quality standards can be too, without having any political slant at all.

Mar. 12 2011 07:31 AM
Bob Gardner from Randolph, Mass.

Ron Schiller was actually describing the opinions of two other people when he described the Republican party being involved in people's lives. O'Keefe's video was edited to make it seem like it was Schiller's own opinion.
Apparently, nobody at OTM bothered to examine the unedited video before they accepted as fact the deceptively edited video from a source who has a track record of releasing deceptively edited videos.
How about a correction?

Mar. 12 2011 01:30 AM
Chris Feldmann from Brooklyn

ok, I may stumble when handed a microphone in the greene room, but this is an easy one. Ron Schiller was a corporate level fund raiser. Which is to say he was a schmoozer. That was his job. He is not a journalist nor, really, a representative of any journalists; he is an advocate with a task, which is to secure funds. He is allowed to express opinions, even ersatz opinions, in the course of doing his job. That's part and parcel of schmoozing. He does not have the obligation of journalistic disinterest when talking to possible donors.

That said, he was impolitic or maybe even much more, a careless, well, idiot. But this NPR habit of immediate head-chopping from Juan Williams to Vivian Schiller is very troubling. The actions take place so fast it is evident there is no institutional contemplation, just reaction to the news of the day.

Mar. 11 2011 09:22 PM

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