The Bias Bias

Friday, March 11, 2011


So, is NPR liberal leaning? Are public radio employees broadcasting a bunch of leftist propaganda? This American Life host Ira Glass issues a challenge.

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Comments [192]

Emily from Brooklyn, NY

Years ago I asked two friends if they listened to NPR--one said, no, never, NPR is too liberal; the other said, no, never, it's too conservative.

More recently, I was in a public park in New York at the time of that major power outage, and the guy sitting next to me said he had just heard that it was a terrorist strike. I asked him what his sources were on that, and he screamed at me, "you liberal!" He never told me his sources.

People label as "other" someone who just asks questions, perhaps because we immediately assume that they are questioning their whole personhood. Because the journalist is obligated to ask questions, they are always going to be labelled as biased by someone afraid of questions.

The political Left does that as much as the political Right.
There are many on the Left even now who refuse to listen to NPR because it's too right wing.

And certainly, a political reporter's personal bias does not necessarily appear in his stories. A journalist can be very biased on either "overcompensate" for his views, or perhaps just want to know all the facts about something.

I don't see NPR as biased.
I don't see NPR as biased overall. Yes, each story, each reporter, might betray some bias.

Apr. 07 2011 03:21 PM
Mark Saleski from New Ipswich, NH

Backing up to the recent issue that's generated a lot of this commentary (should NPR be defunded), I've been thinking about this from an arts/cultural point of view. I sort of hate to say things like "the real issue is...," mostly because it reminds me of the slight-of-hand that politicians engage in during debates, but here I DO think bias isn't quite the issue...because the calls for defunding are based on the idea that we shouldn't be spending money on things if only a portion of the populace agrees with it.

This is where I disagree:

Mar. 28 2011 09:31 PM
kimba Spencer from Long Beach, CA

I consider myself to be quite a bit left of center so although, I understandably do not enjoy the likes of Fox News, I also can't tolerate the far left media such as Radio Pacifica. Even though I generally agree with their conclusions, it makes me angry that they are trying to manipulate me and are only giving me the left side of the story - just like Fox on the right.

Which is why I listen to NPR. I feel like I get both sides of the story in an unbiased way. Nearly every debate includes people representing the different views surrounding it.

Mar. 28 2011 10:42 AM
Bruce from Knoxville, TN

I will try to keep this as short as possible. In my opinion the liberal / conservative bias controversy is missing the point. I was born in Washington DC and I grew up there. I have listened to NPR since its inception. But I have lived the last 35 years of my life away from Washington, mostly in Tennessee. NPR presents a well researched, inside the beltway, urban approach to the news. That’s great, and I am comfortable with that presentation most of the time. It works well for most things NPR covers. But it is not uncommon for NPR to show how insular they are when it comes to reporting on issues that are important to residents of many parts of this very large country of ours. There is an element of condescension that I hear too often. If persistent intractable regional or social issues are reported on as if they are quaint and colloquial, it should be no surprise that some group will champion them.

Mar. 27 2011 03:42 PM
stephen smith from 4501 winter dr, anderson, in 46012

I heard Ira this AM say that he was going to be more "sensitive" toward the conservitive view in the future. This was after we heard from conservitives about the bias. I was disapointed. If 0 is as far to the right was one can get and 10 is to the right then iin the 1990's NPR was a 4. With the onset onthe neocons NPR moved to a 6, or slightly conservitive. After a while NPR became convinced by the neocoms that a 6 was really a 4 and NPR moved to a 7. Now Ira seems to want to move to an 8. Shame on NPR. There is no reason to become a FOX light network just because the neocons keep up the drum beat. Please get real again.

Mar. 26 2011 03:06 PM

I am glad that NPR is trying to evaluate themselves to find out if they are in fact left leaning. I'm glad that they are challenging others (including the conservatives) to point out where they are left leaning. I think it is premature of Ira to claim that there is no liberal bias, but it's the fact that a news organization like NPR is willing to stop and evaluate whether they are biased that makes me appreciate their reporting more. When was the last time Fox stopped and questioned themselves of something similar? It convinces me all the more that they are committed to a fair and balanced news reporting, unlike Fox. Whether NPR should be funded by the government is a different topic.

I'm glad that Seth brought this up, that just because a reporter is liberal doesn't mean that their output necessarily has a liberal slant and there is evidence to show that some over compensate. Can you expect all reporters to be free of bias in their reporting? No, probably not, but the mere fact that the reporters on NPR are willing to rise to that challenge is something that I value.

Comparing NPR to Fox is really unfair. Fox is not "a little" on the right. Fox is way way out there, and it's incredibly unfortunate that we've let Fox dominate the conversation for so long that it seems like anything that wouldn't show up on Fox must have a liberal slant. Don't forget the Florida court case involving Fox that decided the FCC policy against the falsification of news reporting were merely "suggestions" and Fox didn't need to actually broadcast "news." This is not "a little right." In fact, even in the court case, Fox didn't dispute that they pressured the reporter to broadcast a false story, just argued that it was their right to do so. "Fair and balanced" is a joke. This is why working for Fox News as a journalist gives one a bad rep. Appearing on Fox News as a commentator is different.

Mar. 24 2011 07:41 PM
Carrie from Colorado

To any folks commenting about how their local affiliate only has left-leaning programming: This doesn't show any kind of "bias" on NPR's part, particularly in terms of reporting. If (liberal or conservative) programming is available and the majority of listeners in the affiliate's area wish to have that programming broadcasted that is what ultimately decides what an affiliate carries. I don't believe there is a requirement for an affiliate to carry certain programs over others. So, to me, it sounds like the listeners in your particular area have made it clear that they prefer shows that are liberal in nature. That has nothing to do with whether NPR itself has a liberal bias.

Mar. 24 2011 12:52 PM

As a tongue-in-cheek suggestion, perhaps it would be simpler to return to the jounralism of the 19th century. Newspapers were published by political parties, so there was no question of bias. It was open and obvious, and no one had a problem with it.

Mar. 24 2011 11:52 AM
Howard from Texas

3 of 3

When I was in Journalism School (yes, I have a degree in journalism, and have worked for newspapers, magazines, and even been on the radio) I would have been given an “F” for using language so sloppy and laden with not-so-hidden meaning.

I have been listening to NPR on a daily basis for over 30 years, and I enjoy much of its programming. But when I turn on the radio, I know what I’m going to get. Yes, Ira, your reporting is biased. NPR’s reporting is biased. It doesn’t happen every day. It doesn’t show in every story. But it lurks in the background and puts a taint on the rest of your work. At least Ron Schiller was on the (lunch) table about his beliefs, and I, as a taxpayer, am tired of paying for it. If you want to spread liberal beliefs, that’s fine. Put them out in the marketplace, and see if they survive without a taxpayer subsidy.

Mar. 23 2011 10:51 PM
Howard from Texas

2 of 3

And, according to NPR, global warming is a done deal. I am not a climate scientist, but I believe there is, at best, enough contradictory evidence of global warming to prevent me from coming to a definitive conclusion one way or another on this issue. Such issues matter not a bit to NPR, where global warming is regularly portrayed as established fact.

Ira himself recently broadcast a segment in which he confronted a young woman who was skeptical of global warming with an academic who tried to change her mind with “the facts.” The tone was clearly one of, “Here’s the girl who can’t believe the earth is round, even though we’ve just put proof of what we all know to be true right in her face.” I notice that Ira didn’t give air time to someone who could present arguments counter to global warming to an ardent environmentalist.

Then there are NPR’s on air personnel choices. Juan Williams is summarily dismissed when he makes a comment perceived to be anti-Muslim. Yet liberal Robert Reich is given a coveted regular commentator slot on “Market Place,” despite the fact that he admitted to making up parts of his auto-biography. “All truth is subjective,” is how he justified lying.

NPR’s liberal bias is also reflected in the language it uses. People who break the law to emigrate into the United States are never “illegal”; they are “undocumented.” Yes, call me an evil racist, but if I were I to steal a car I would not be the undocumented owner of the car; I would be a criminal.

Similarly, today I heard Terry Gross interview two gay activists on “Fresh Air.” She referred to one as “the husband” of the other. Her show is produced in Pennsylvania where gay marriage is not legally recognized. The activists were from Washington State, where gay marriage is not legally recognized. Hmmmm, making myself the owner of that car is looking better and better.

Conclusion next post ...

Mar. 23 2011 10:50 PM
Howard from Texas

If Ira Glass is looking for instances when NPR reporters sign off with hearty cries of, "Hail the revolution, comrade" he’s engaging in sleight of hand. While I can think of a few examples of blatant liberal bias, that's not where NPR’s leftist tilt shines most brightly. If you’re looking for examples of NPR’s true leanings, I believe its bias glares in its *selection* of stories, personnel choices and use of language.

For example, it seems that every program must address the racial angle of an issue. If space aliens descended upon the earth, NPR coverage would inevitably include a story of how this affects women and minorities. Entire shows are devoted to race. For years, my local affiliate has produced “In Black America” and “Latino USA.” Nearly half a century after Martin Luther King dreamt of a day when people would be judged by the content of their character, NPR continues to put the focus on the color of one's skin.

Of course, NPR’s treatment of minorities does not extend to all people. Perhaps in an effort to balance things out NPR, it seems, will never discuss Israeli Jews in a positive light. Palestinians are always poor and oppressed and justified in whatever horrific actions they take. Recently, Palestinians slipped over the border and murdered an Israeli woman and her small children. I heard not a peep of this on NPR. I cannot imagine the coverage NPR would give if, for instance, a group of Jews slipped into the West Bank and butchered an Arab woman and her children. Want another example? A few days ago, Israeli jets bombed Hamas training camps Gaza. That was the lead. The fact that Hamas had been launching dozens of mortars into Israel days before was not considered to be worth a mention on NPR ... until it was briefly mentioned in the context of an Israeli bombing. The subtext always seems to be that the Jews had it coming.

Part 1. See next comment

Mar. 23 2011 10:47 PM
Carrie from Seattle

How amusing to hear such a passionate idealist like Ira Glass say he knows the truth. The data will prove what he already knows! Clearly, he's never studied philosophy (what is truth?) . . . or the scientific method. An old cynic like me wants to actually see the data, and I have a few metrics to suggest to Brooke Gladstone. 1) How many minutes are devoted to Republican guests compared to Democrat guests? 2) When Republicans are interviewed, how often are they introduced as a guest who can "provide the other point of view" or "refute the argument" or other similar phrases? 3) How many stories are selected that emphasize causes near and dear to a liberal's heart vs. a conservative's? For example, count the number of stories recently that contain references to the importance of green energy relative to the number of stories on increases in the estimates of available natural gas available in the United States. And I could go on.

I'm liberal leaning and so none of this bothers me, but it's naive to argue it doesn't exist. I like that NPR's reporting is calm vs. the frenetic tone of other news stations. I like that when NPR reporters deliver their stories (chosen based on their liberal outlook) that they give a nod to an alternative point of view. But, like David Brooks on the NY Times, I make sure I counter my consumption of NPR content with some forays into some right of center media so I can draw my own conclusions.

Mar. 23 2011 10:02 PM
Pat Martin from Canyon Lake, CA

I also wonder how NPR programs would fair if members paid ala carte for programming like many think we should be able to do with cable and satellite TV programming.

San Smith's observations about what he calls "Nominally Public Radio" are worth a read. Here's one:
"SAM SMITH - It occurred to me recently that Nominally Public Radio has its red and blue states, too. Car Talk and Whadya Know? are among the red states, Diane Rehm and Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me among the blue.

It's not much about politics; it's about humor and attitude. Whadya Know is consistently funny; Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me just tedious.

The Magliozzi brothers and Michael Feldman leave you feeling that there is still an America worth loving. Wait, Wait makes you feel like it's just full of itself. Ira Glass in This American Life treats it all like reporting a distant colony back to London. And Diane Rehm, after one of her sycophantic exchanges with a carefully conventional guest, leaves you feeling that life is just one big policy difference nuance."

And I'll repost Adam's outstanding links to FAIR's research on NPR.

Mar. 23 2011 12:07 AM

To steve, he of the first comment and no capitalization:

Ira probably didn't sign the letter because he is not technically an NPR employee. He is a part of Public Radio International (which is why he does not appear on the page of their on-air contributors).

Mar. 22 2011 07:53 PM
Pat Martin from canyon Lake, CA

I remember a study several years ago that tracked the guests on NPR and wasn't the ratio nearly two conservatives to one liberal? Wasn't part of NPR's justification that Liberals are often represented by academics? Does not that suggest bias? And didn't NPR also use the same shrill voices every other media outlet uses? ( Doesn't that undermine the reason for having NPR?
I think bias also shows up in how aggressively NPR hosts question conservatives compared to other guests-as in less aggressive for conservatives lest NPR be called biased. I also think bias shows up in some of the topics NPR's own shows choose which seem outside of NPR's mission.
For these reasons and a few others I hope NPR's funding ends. That will give politicians less sway over NPR, should give NPR less concern against charges of bias, and thus I hope stop NPR from over-reacting to charges of bias by, like most of the rest of the MSM, reacting to charges of bias by moving in the opposite direction of the charge or, more likely, just lowering standards.
Personally, the NPR shows out of Washington could all go away and I wouldn't miss them. The smaller shows from individual stations are the gems IMHO.

Mar. 22 2011 07:16 PM
Pat Martin from canyon Lake, CA

I saw the request for comments about bias at NPR. I think there is bias at NPR and because of that I hope government funding ends. The bias I think I'm noticing shows up on the NPR shows out of Washington IMHO and not much on the shows out of individual stations with the glaring exception of Marketplace. Marketplace has gone from an enlightening show under David Broncaccio to just another PR outlet for Wall Street and new product rollouts. I think NPR bias is toward conservative on topics conservatives care about. I think NPR bias also tends conservative on status quo issues. For example NPR has had an inhouse science person, a lady I think, providing expertise on the nuclear problem in Japan. I have yet to hear her truly have a useful answer to a question that wasn't instead some vague reassuring useless empty vessel of words posing as information. Bias also shows up in the guests chosen by for example having an academic on one side and a PR flack from a conservative think tank on the other. How is that balance? Why are PR people ever on NPR. Does NPR think its listeners too stupid to know where to find industry PR? It also deftly plays into Conservative PR that academics are liberals. How is that not biased? Isn't that the same formula Juan Williams has made a career out of? That formula also makes for zero enlightenment.
Most troubling for me is your study into bias Ira( Did it not occur to anyone that NPR might have a conservative bias? Why are you only looking for one sort of bias? Isn't bias a part of a larger systemic failure and journalistic corruption and shouldn't we be looking for evidence of that greater failure? What does excluding the possibility of other bias tell us?

Mar. 22 2011 07:16 PM

I think I might have to disagree with Ira Glass on On the Media being the only and best place for the discussion. One of several possible good places possibly the best no. For example there is FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting).

They did a four month study back in 93 on NPR and found that "in selecting news sources, NPR titled toward government officials and representatives of establishment and conservative think tanks."
They also did a think tank study in 2006 this also showed that NPR tended to lean right.

Mar. 22 2011 11:21 AM
Dudley from NC

I don't think it is a question of over bias as much as group think. Go back and read the bios of the NPR executives involved in these controversies and you sure aren't going to find anyone who went to Grambling, Iowa State, or the University of Georgia. Diversity is more than just demographic. Organizations need diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints or else you end up with a group of people who all think alike wondering why anyone would think they have a bias. Kind of like Ira Glass and "On The Media".

Mar. 20 2011 05:24 PM
Brian from NJ

While I generally agree with Ira's interpretation, I am concerned that now is not the time to debate the relative bias of NPR. The survival of many local NPR stations is under attack, and no amount of rational debate on potential bias will counter the ideological and symbolic (and therefore irrational) gestures currently being undertaken by the U.S. House. Rather, NPR should focus acutely on vocalizing and defending the substantial and important public service it provides, its right to co-exist alongside for-profit media organizations, and the necessity of funding from the taxpayers that it serves.

Mar. 20 2011 04:33 PM
Liz Ryan Cole from Vermont

Well informed has been made into a negative = "liberal" or "elite". NPR is not sufficiently unbiased - you are forced by funding (I assume) to present this fake balance and so we have to listen to Climate cranks and other uninformed people presented as news. Give up federal funding and get your soul back (a 30 year supporter).

Mar. 20 2011 10:49 AM
Ruben from Fort Worth, TX

Listened to the whole unedited Schiller tape and I encourage everyone to do the same. My opinion is that thirty minutes in he makes a comment about the Tea Party movement that is fairly inexcusable ( and, I think, inaccurate ) except that he does say it with the caveat of "talking personally and removing his NPR hat". The rest of the time he really is a model fundraiser. Of course people are much more likely to listen the 11 minute edited version than the whole 2 hours. But for me it illuminated how a decent and diplomatic man's career could be destroyed in an instant. Sure he was a little too candid at times but he was being baited again and again and again and he mostly rose above it and especially during 15 minutes at the hour mark presented a case for an organization that I am proud to support.

Project Veritas deserves credit for releasing the unedited version but their edited version truly misrepresents what was said. I'll just take one misrepresentation that is inconsequential but highlights my point. The edited version says that a stretch limo was provided for the NPR associates like they were being spoiled and basked in all these lavish gifts. In fact, they took a taxi to the lunch and at lunch were offered a ride back to their offices as a convenience. Look, if you are a fundraiser anywhere and someone who expresses interest in giving a donation offers you a ride it doesn't matter if they are in a strech limo or a Geo Metro you take the ride.

Mar. 19 2011 11:59 PM
Wes Womack from Jackson, WY

For context: On the conservative side, I am a gun-owning, wild game hunting, nearly party-line conservative voter, who is active in his local church. On the other hand, I believe in social safety nets, and would like to double our education budget and halve our military budget. I usually vote for the Red Team, but I do not buy the factious nonsense being served to me by my party any more than I buy what the Dems are selling. It seems that a general lack of thoughtfulness among the populace results in foolhardy positions among the leadership on both sides of the aisle.

Most of my news comes from NPR, the BBC, The Daily Show, and my local newspaper. I am a faithful NPR listener, even though I think it leans left most of the time, as does Stewart. Nevertheless, both provide more thoughtful analysis than most other sources. I think it is better to have multiple openly biased but thoughtful sources than neutered content.

Shame on my GOP for this. Biased NPR is better than no NPR.

Mar. 19 2011 10:33 PM
Mark Flores from El Paso, TX

It appears that journalists would be more liberal. Is there a bias within a bias. Are we discriminating journalists who are conservative if there is a bias occurring in "liberal" media. Nearly 80% of journalists probably consider themselves as liberal. Clearly there is a seriously lack of diversity. Public radio was to resemble such diversity not only the articles they provide to America and the world but should also extend such diversity to its employees. It's kind of hard to believe that if there were minorities or women that were underrepresented the first word that probably comes out is discrimination. However, when conservatives seem to be underrepresented in any field there is always an explanation to follow. We all have a voice. Even the idiots. You can simply turn up the volume or shut off the radio all entirely. Either way NPR should welcome ideological diversity instead of bitch and whine because someone is criticizing them. There supposed to criticize you.

Mar. 18 2011 02:44 PM

I wouldn't trust OTM's analysis of anything. Stop Fed funding of NPR in any fashion.

Mar. 18 2011 02:38 PM
Russell from Dallas, TX

A) If NPR had audio of tea party folks acting like thugs, what would NPR do?

B) If NPR had audio of pro-union folks acting like thugs, what would NPR do?

If your answers for A & B are different, and that sort of troubles you, then welcome! Let's talk about solutions.

If your answers for A & B are different, and you're cool with that, then own it! Let your flag fly! Just please don't continue to say NPR is balanced. That makes you look foolish.

If your answers for A & B are the same then perhaps you aren't paying attention. On the other hand maybe occupying a legislature in an attempt to stop it from passing unfavorable laws is now acceptable behavior. Well, OK, we're not happy with that but we'll update our playbook. Sauce for the goose...

Mar. 18 2011 01:29 PM
Clyde from South Bend

NPR is balanced in its coverage....but the conservative right does not want balanced coverage. They want coverage "slanted to their liking" News. Most on the far right think the media should be "cheerleaders" and constantly support conservative ideas and politicians. They don't want a "watch dog" media. So, unless NPR slants its coverage to the right...the tea people will never be happy.

Mar. 18 2011 10:28 AM

I am pretty shocked to see Ira Glass responding to the allegation that he did not sign the NPR letter condemning Schiller. (He pointed out that he is not an NPR employee and never saw the letter.) Ira wants the world to know he agrees with that letter.

The letter I believe was written when the very significant manipulation of the video was not known. Then it came out that in his most offensive comments Schiller was quoting 2 important Republicans but this was spliced out. And while I did not see the whole tape, he does not seem like he needs to be so condemned and kicked and piled on.

Ira Glass naming names ala the McCarthy years.

Mar. 18 2011 01:12 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

So, NPR is supposed to have a liberal bias. Well, if so, it is doing an awful job of promoting that agenda with its supposed audience of Eastern elites. They are still holding on to their cash, leaving the working poor and the newly poor to their and their families' fates.

Now, Fox is a right wing house organ, ABC, CBS, CNN and PBS, along with the confusing outlier C-SPAN (at least they don't screen out callers as TOTN does) , are all commercially compromised, middle-of-the-road, muddled news operations with MSNBC and NBC veering ever so slightly left. Where we find much more progressive news coverage is on public access television in my area and, apparently, on satellite with your basic Free Speech T.V..

That's the ticket, not Schweaty Balls!

Mar. 17 2011 10:00 PM
Russell from Dallas, TX

Events in Wisconsin are proceeding. Unfortunately I suspect that soon National Public Radio will be making more news judgments about what we NPR listeners should know and what we don't need to know.

The short version is this - there's a group of angry folks in Madison who seem to believe the rules don't apply to them. To be fair they have reason from recent experience to believe that. These folks seem to be about to cross lines that really shouldn't be crossed in a civil society.

Just for fun read the words at the following link as if they came from a right wing militia group.

In a healthy society media attention to this post would apply pressure on it's authors to stay within the boundaries of acceptable civil behavior. Instead NPR will avoid this issue as long as possible. I wish 'em luck with that. It's still possible nothing more will happen.

In the sad event that 'something does happen' NPR will go to great lengths to shield the 'good guys' from blame. We'll hear long explanations of the reasons for their righteous anger. We'll hear history lessons about how the other side used to kill the 'good guys' a hundred years ago. We'll hear fake apologies offered by PR folks and approved of by NPR interviewers.

We will not hear sustained detailed criticism of the behavior of the 'good guys'. Bias.

Mar. 17 2011 08:04 PM
Michael Metzger

Mr on All Things Considered there was a report of how people are afraid in New Jersey because they have a similar nuclear reactor to the ones in Japan. The 'expert' they had on (and the only one by the way) was a representative from The Sierra Club. Now please, oh please let me know how responsible and unbiased that one was. And you said you only wanted one. I found two this week and didn't even try.

Mar. 17 2011 06:11 PM
Bernadette from Detroit, MI

Ira Glass' segment on the OTM show was a much needed perspective. It seems that the news organizations other than National Public Broadcasting report on fluff like celebrity news, the latest sequels to cash and splatter movies made for teenage boys, or spew the most vile sentiments regarding every syllable and gesture made by our President or members of the Democratic Party.
Of all of the commercial shows broadcasting on the public airwaves, where can I find shows like Frontline? Diane Rehm? Being? All Things Considered?

Public Broadcasting should not retreat from their mission nor race to terminate the job of anyone in hasty response to criticism of liberal bias. Liberal is not a disgraceful word that Public Broadcasting should shrink from.


Mar. 17 2011 05:38 PM
Aaron Grissom from Charlote, NC

I consider myself somewhat conservative in my views and I think the liberal bias people perceive with NPR is somewhat different than what one first thinks when one hears the words "liberal bias".
It is not so much that NPR leans left in reporting on the stories that it reports. It does not. NPR is very even handed in its treatment of both sides of any story they feature. I believe the perceived liberal bias originates from the subjects NPR features. They seem to feature subjects that may be of greater concern to a more liberal audience but NPR handles those subjects very evenly and in an unbiased manner. Some of these subjects (that I must again add are handled very professionally) include: the environment, labor disputes, global perspectives on current events, non-majority perspectives and opinions domestically, alternative energy, and international reporting that puts everyone on equal footing and within which the United States may not be at the forefront.
And I want to emphasize that none of the above is bad. When you look at the style of NPR's reporting and measure the use of the words "liberal" and "conservative" when they do come up and objectively look at the angles of the coverage I think NPR is more fair and unbiased in the way it covers stories than any other news organization in America. The subject matter is just different. And that's what makes NPR great. I like international perspective and non-majority domestic viewpoints but the initial impression- before any rational or objective analysis of the content is executed- lends itself toward merely seeming more liberal when it is not truly so. For some this "seeming" is enough for an indictment of liberal bias when they really can't put their finger on it. It's like what often happens in the workplace when a woman does equal work to any male in the same workplace but is perceived to be worth less in pay as opposed to those males.

Mar. 17 2011 07:06 AM
Wade Bennett from Fulton, MS

I appreciate journalistic standards, and I believe NPR practices them well. When liberal bias first became an issue over a decade ago, it wasn't about leaning left, it was about poor reporting; shallow, basic, underdone.

The word liberal is now used in a different sense by the people at Fox News, it links with other words like sinful, low-brow, pretentious. When you hear of liberal bias, conservatives are "name calling." Just look at the way they sometimes snarl their lips as they say it, it's almost like they're calling you "N*****". Accusations of liberal bias are a tool to promote unity in the conservative community, and hostility to those outside of it.

It won't matter how balanced or perfect you can be, you will still be trash talked. I'm not suggesting you switch to a liberal biased format as they believe you are, but maybe it's time.Sadly, they are at war with you, even though you are not at with them. Personally (My opinion NOT yours) I'd like to see them get their nightmare

Mar. 17 2011 06:11 AM
Russell from Dallas, TX

If thugs tore up petitions for the recall of Wisconsin republicans would NPR tell you about it?
If thugs tore up petitions for the recall of Wisconsin democrats would NPR tell you about it?

(On YouTube but answer first before you look it up.
Remember: you didn't hear about it on NPR.)

Mar. 16 2011 10:55 PM
Russell from Dallas, TX

"Do you really need to be told when people are acting like thugs?"
I wasn't there. Of course I do.

"Can't you just hear what happened and draw your own conclusions?"
If National Public Radio is in charge of what I hear? That's the question, isn't it?

A short while ago NPR was in a huff about 'civility in the public discourse'. Apparently death threats to public officials were a big deal. Along comes the Madison Wisconsin story.

Did NPR spend time dissecting the signs the protesters were carrying? Not that I heard. Did NPR tell us about death threats? I recall one of the fourteen democrat senators said something in passing. Death threats to republicans? Not that I heard. Protesters who damage property tend not to get my sympathy. Did NPR report any property damage? Not that I heard. (Corrections with cites welcome)

"My own conclusions" would've been miss-informed by NPR's reporting alone.

Some of the signs the union folks had were surprising as in "You need to keep up, buddy. Cross-hairs are now uncool. And the Nazi imagery doesn't help anymore." The death threat to republicans was down right cold ( The damage the protesters caused was mostly minor but it was more than you heard about from NPR (local blogger: scroll back to early march). "Spray paint? Dude, what were you thinking?"

Now then, were these omissions random honest mistakes? It's more like NPR was unwilling to provide information contrary to their narrative for this story. There's a word for that selectivity. Bias.

Mar. 16 2011 10:50 PM

The only reason NPR may *appear* biased is because it offers critical perspectives and analysis on subjects that are slanted to the right in other popular media & infotainment outlets.

Unfortunately, supporters of those right-angled outlets deny the bias of their sources and either believe or claim their perspective is the rational balance point from which all other sources should be judged. How woefully and disturbingly misguided, misinformed, and flat out wrong they are.

Mar. 16 2011 06:30 PM

Russell wrote:

"Fox news is 'what real bias looks like'? Ah, now we're getting somewhere.

A story with the theme "The union protestors in Wisconsin are acting like thugs" is accompanied by, well, unflattering audio & video. Would that constitute 'poisoning our democracy with bad information'? Around half the country agrees with me that such audio & video might well be useful in understanding the situation. "

What? What? I just can't believe that I'm reading this. I don't think that you have any idea what news is, or is supposed to be. Do you really need to be told when people are acting like thugs? Can't you just hear what happened and draw your own conclusions?

Mar. 16 2011 04:39 PM
Robin C from Hanover NH

You want a liberal-conservative "metric"? Try some vocabulary counts. For example, NPR reporters often summarize one speaker's viewpoint, then give an opposing view, saying the second speaker "refuted" the first. But they really should be saying the second speaker "rebutted" or "countered" the first. (To "refute" is to PROVE incorrectness, not merely to disagree.) Is this simple NPR ignorance? I don't think so, as it seems to this conservative listener that it is the left-leaning speakers who are far more often awarded the privilege of having "refuted" the opposing position.

Another word-count: how about the use of "gap" (gender gap, promotions gap, income gap, etc). This word carries a plain connotation that the "gap" is illegitimate or undesirable. Take any story about a social or economic "gap" and replace that word with "difference" and see if it carries the same message. Then assess whether programs to close the supposed "gap" would fit more closely with a conservative or liberal viewpoint.

How about "inequity"? In NPR-land, almost any "inequality" is likely to be characterized as an "inequity," with the obvious implication that some agency (usually the government) should take steps to change it. In a better world, when NPR holds some inequality to be inequitable, the reporter would REPORT the issue as an inequality, then editorialize plainly that NPR believes the inequality is unfair. Don't bury your editorial opinions in the vocabulary of the story.

Then there's the NPR-ubiquitous term "undocumented workers," suggesting the issue at hand is a matter of paperwork. It's not about paperwork. If you don't like "illegal aliens", try "unlawful workers." The issue is about whether these immigrants are breaking the law, not about documentation. So count up the number of references to "undocumented workers" vs all other designations, and you'll have a pretty good metric of NPR balance right there.

Mar. 16 2011 01:19 PM
Connie Dickerson from Connecticut

After reading 100+ comments, I couldn't find a mention of the organization FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting)--I posted on the OTM facebook page suggesting that FAIR could supply the missing metric. Seriously. Next to OTM, FAIR is by far the best coverage of the media.

Mar. 16 2011 01:03 PM
Russell from Dallas, TX

Fox news is 'what real bias looks like'? Ah, now we're getting somewhere.

A story with the theme "The union protestors in Wisconsin are acting like thugs" is accompanied by, well, unflattering audio & video. Would that constitute 'poisoning our democracy with bad information'? Around half the country agrees with me that such audio & video might well be useful in understanding the situation.

It's safe to say NPR as a whole doesn't agree me and half the country on that. Folks at NPR would chose different audio. Maybe a nice teacher expressing fears her children will soon be eating dog food. Yeah, that's the ticket! That's the real story.

Now suppose a large tea party rally were to occupy a state capital building with the expressed intent of preventing an elected legislature from acting. Might the ideas 'thuggery', 'mob rule', and 'lawlessness' appear in NPR's coverage of that event? Suppose a rowdy tea partier shouted "This is what Democracy Looks Like!" Might NPR give voice to mockery of that phrase in that situation? Hell yes, it would, and with good reason.

NPR's double standards are a problem. NPR's selection of which stories to cover is a problem. NPR's framing stories from a liberal POV is a problem. NPR's lack of self-awareness is a problem - i.e. "A fish doesn't know it is wet" (looking at you, Ira). And none of this is a problem if (when) NPR stops taking tax money and becomes a private enterprise.

Mar. 16 2011 12:16 PM
John Ballard from Canton, GA

Further to my point, programs like Prairie Home Companion and Wait!Wait! are nakedly Left-leaning. To my knowledge they have no "Right-leaning" analogues on NPR. That said, most of the programming falls squarely into the "Brittanica" category, furnishing far more information than the average listener, Liberal or Conservative, is apt to want.

It seems to me, though, that in my sixty-plus years of life the biggest difference between Liberals and Conservatives has to do with complexity. Conservative thought demands straightforward, arguable positions, whereas Liberals are forever navel-gazing, never really happy with any clear conclusion. (That's also the main difference between science and faith, but this is not the forum for that discussion. People of faith demand and get certainty whereas scientists are forever open to yet another challenging hypothesis.)

Here in Georgia one of our more colorful former governors, Lester Maddox (yes, the famous segregationist) actually did a lot of good deeds while in the governor's mansion, including improvements in the prison system. He was once quoted as having said "What we really need is a better grade of prisoners." In that same vein, I would like to see a "better grade of Conservatives," a bit more open-minded, better able to tolerate differences of opinion.

Mar. 16 2011 10:59 AM
John Ballard from Canton, GA

I heard Ira Glass and he is correct. It's past time that NPR stop being defensive and started clarifying the difference between facts and opinions. This is what I left elsewhere:

"NPR is the Brittanica of Journalism, making the broadest and closest examination of any topic. Too much information for most people, but those of us on the left seem to have either too much patience or too little discernment to jump to quick conclusions. Subjects that fail to receive editorial condemnation therefore appear to be Left-leaning because no condemnation was forthcoming. I'm thinking of abortion, homosexuality, gender equality, distribution of wealth, bullying, climate issues, etc. Radioactive topics reported without a proper Conservative spin are presumed to carry a Liberal bias, perhaps even more so when no value judgments are clearly articulated."

Mar. 16 2011 10:59 AM
Nate from New York

"Go through the transcript of Morning Edition and find me a single piece of evidence of bias."

NPR covered the Egyptian uprising as if it was a coup by the Muslim Brotherhood. They covered the unprecedented protests in Wisconsin as if it were an American Gladiators challenge with Scott Walker as the intrepid contestant. ("will he make it?" - scarcely a mention of the fact that walker gave away 140 mil to corporations and the the union workers were ready to give him everything fiscal he asked for, as they continued to call it a "budget crisis.") Ari Shapiro let a comment from an interviewee that Wikileaks "has Anti-American interests" go unchallenged.

The trouble with NPR/CNN/PBS, etc is not that they're biassed, it's that they're so pathologically *afraid* of being charged with bias they often hedge on the truth. Both sides of an argument get equal weight, equal credibility. If there's an issue both parties agree on, such as the solitary confinement of Bradley Manning, NPR/CNN/PBS consider it uncontroversial and move on.

There is bias, however. When reporting on activities of regimes considered persona non grata by the US government, the language is often unmitigated in its descriptions of torture, corruption, etc. When reporting on activities of Americans or American allies, the very same behaviors are often either described euphimistically or avoided altogether. (yes, I could give you examples.)

NPR has become the butt of every media joke - unapologetically pro-corporate, dutifully towing the government line most of the time, yet so afraid of being called "liberal" it's constantly burnishing its supposedly "balanced" credentials.

no wonder Al Jazeera and BBC are shelacking us.

Mar. 16 2011 10:20 AM

No one is really saying "the other guy does it too". Fox News keeps coming up as an example of what real bias looks like, and as such, it's perfectly relevant. It's also relevant as a good example of the source of this focus on "bias" a fuzzy, generally subjective charge that can always be alleged, and can rarely be proven. Therefore it proves nothing, and leads to 150 comments that add up to no consensus about anything, and that's what it's supposed to do. It's all about muddying the waters.

I'll say it again: the media issue of the age isn't bias, it's misinformation, which is provable, and so naturally, it is the misinformers who always want to talk about bias. If you're poisoning our democracy with bad information, who's paying for the poison is a relatively trivial matter. Wherever the money's coming from, NPR's job is to inform, and as long as it's doing it, bias is not an issue. As long as I'm getting good facts, I'm capable of forming my own opinion. Bias becomes an issue when the quality of information is undermined. That's an objective standard that we should all be able to support. Don't talk to me about how Katie Couric was mean to Sarah Palin, check Katie Couric's facts, not only for accuracy, but for completeness. That's a more objectiv standard that's worth discussing.

Mar. 16 2011 04:59 AM
Eric Allen

My gauge (for either liberal or conservative slant) is the use of adjectives in describing people or whatever. One example: "Anti-choice" is a common adjective frequently used on NPR stories for (well, actually, against) the position that ALL life is valuable, even while in the womb. As an aside, I don't call the "pro-choice" crowd "pro-genocide," despite the 50,000,000 (or however many) babies murdered since Rowe v. Wade, even though it would be more correct to use such a term, in light of the evidence. Even though medically correct, I do not call them "fetuses", or the reason that it de-humanizes babies). But I digress...

Maybe because I'm an ex-liberal AND an ex-conservative, I can laugh at the hilarious antics of NPR's Saturday morning shows, because I can take some light-hearted abuse of my political and social views from some brilliant (mostly liberal-biased) comedians and writers (OK, I'm not fully out of conservative mode, but I'm not as deeply entrenched as I once was).

Fact is, we're ALL biased in one way or another. But sometimes ALL of us must face issues to which we would rather not talk address, and since I listen to quite a few avowedly-conservative talk shows, I must challenge my mind with NPR shows, in order to keep me balanced.

And of that, I'm quite unapologetic.

My verdict: NPR = liberally-biased, but not totally liberal. Just check the adjectives used.

PS: Thank you all for keeping this message board relatively calm, and words spelled right!!! :-)

Mar. 16 2011 01:11 AM
Russell from Dallas, TX

There's a strong theme in this thread - "But the other guy does it too!" Did that talking point work for ya'll when you were kids? Really? Didn't with my mom.

There are plenty of other sites on the internet where you can go dislike conservative people. This thread's subject is the idea of Liberal Bias at NPR - does it exist, how might it be measured, what arguments for & against are useful for understanding the situation. (If ain't right, do tell.)

"Look at Rush!" isn't helping your cause - the first thing we notice about Rush is he doesn't take tax money.

Jerry -
The Global Climate Emergency (do keep up) issue would make an excellent proxy for Liberal Bias as NPR. Yep, sure would.

Mar. 15 2011 11:30 PM
Jerry Griffith from Fairfax, VA

Determining if there is a bias at NPR requires first defining the sides. If we consider observation as being as relevant as deduction, then NPR definitely has a bias. For example evidence indicates that temperatures have risen by 1-2 degrees in the last 100 years as have CO2 levels. Ice core samples show a strong correlation between CO2 and temperature. But observation says it's cold outside. Some right leaning media outlets will suggest their observations indicate climate change isn't real. NPR doesn't do that, and the observation that they are not covering "both sides" of the story suggest that NPR is biased.

Mar. 15 2011 09:24 PM
Io Wright

As someone who simply can not stand the sound of Ira Glass's voice & will go out of my way to avoid even looking at him (my sister say the magic word is 'hate'), you've driven me to near rage by having to admit... Ira has a very, very valid point. Sure defending yourself might lead detractors to figure out a way to use it against you but doing nothing seems cowardly & plain wrong. As a long time listener it makes me wonder if you've somehow given up. Going forward I hope you do something, atleast just so I don't have to say Ira Glass was right.

Mar. 15 2011 09:10 PM

Actually, the whole issue of "liberal/conservative bias in the media" is a red herring used to distract us from the conservative media's lack of respect for facts,. which has come up again and again. Honestly, I don't care how conservative Rush Limbaugh is, I care that he's been causght using made up facts day in, day out for years, and that in 2009 Sean Hannity was caught using doctored footage, and then lied about it in a fake apology (he claimed that his crew had accidentally "used the wrong footage" when what actually happened was two different events were edited together to appear as one event. )

All intelligent people are expected to have a point of view, and anyone can prove bias because bias proves nothing, and these discussions are completely subjective and go nowhere. Let's just assume that everyone is biased, let it go, and start checking everybody's facts.

I can appreciate that the use of public money places a higher standard on NPR than on Fox News, but the use of private money doesn't absolve Fox News of all standards whatsoever. After all, Fox uses public airwaves and public bandwidth. Respect reality, and you can be as opinionated as you want to be.

Mar. 15 2011 08:37 PM
Ron Rosenthal from California

These studies have already been done. Do you want to do something like this but more recently?

Mar. 15 2011 07:14 PM
Kathy from Nj

Really I find this whole situation ridiculous.. Isn't this a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black? A setup by a conservative jerk who completely distorts the truth with editing the situation to suit his own agenda. What is fox news but a puppet of the right and a wasteland of disortion and lies at the hightest proportion. NPR is not liberal, the left if this country is asleep at the wheel, or so disgusted by the current media landscape that it is turning to alternate sources to get real insight and analysis. For NPR to fold to this huckster is a sad commentary, NPR - grow a frickin' pair would ya??

Mar. 15 2011 06:47 PM
brian from KC, MO

Reading through these comments I keep seeing people professing that NPR is obviously left-biased and everyone knows it, sans evidence. Big hello to all the folks being directed here from Newsbusters, BTW.

The irony being that newsbusters couldn't actually cite anything to prove bias other than the fact that most journalists are democrats. Forget any examples, it's self evident that if a journalist is democrat the news must be slanted, actual examples be damned.

All that Newsbusters, Breitbart and Fox do is repeat, ad nauseum, that NPR is left-biased and the echo chamber dutifully repeats it until it becomes accepted wisdom.

And the proof they cite? IS accepted wisdom, isn't it?

Mar. 15 2011 06:15 PM
BigGuy from Forest Hills, NY

There are folks on the radio telling us why they're against the Democrats and Obama all day long. Outside of the coasts, Madison, WI and Austin, TX, it's about all you can hear on AM radio, aside from country and western music and gospel.

When W was in, NPR would interview folks from the Right about how W was doing the RIGHT thing. NPR rarely had people from the Left about how W was doing wrong by us all. Now with Obama in, to provide balance, NPR interviews people from the Right about how Obama is WRONG.

Why not have more people from the Left and Democrats about what the Right has done wrong and about what Republican congressman and women can do to help the Democrats and Obama so the federal government can help us all?

Note that Bob Herbert, the most left of NYT op-ed columnists, has hardly ever been on your show, while David Brooks is on some NPR show at least every week.

Fewer than 10 broadcasts featuring the man from the left and more than 500 broadcasts featuring man from the right.

That doesn't seem like liberal bias to me.

Mar. 15 2011 04:54 PM
BigGuy from Forest Hills, NY

Why does NPR so rarely interview Democrats and honest to god liberals about successful Democratic party programs like social security? Why so very few labor union leaders?

Count it up in terms of numbers and time -- folks from the Right and Right of Center and far Right are 2/3 of NPR programming. Folks from the Far Left and Left are less than 10%.

Why does NPR accept the Right saying NPR shows a liberal bias in reporting? You do not have a liberal bias in reporting. You have a corporate and anti-union bias in reporting.

Here in New York City, I hear a business and stock market report for ten minutes at 6:50, 7:50, and 8:50 in the morning, and a half-hour report at 6:30 in the evening. On the weekend, there is an hour show
about investing in the stock market.

When is there a report about the BENEFITS of labor unions? NYC is the most unionized city in the USA after Las Vegas, but there's no full time labor reporter working for any broadcaster.

I personally benefit from being a member of a labor union. I have yet to hear any programs on NPR about the BENEFITS of labor unions. From time to time, I do hear programs sponsored by the American Enterprise
Institute and the Cato Institute about unions being a pernicious influence upon working men and women, but I very rarely hear any regularly scheduled programs about how unions can and do benefit working men and women.

Mar. 15 2011 04:46 PM
Troy from Louisville, Kentucky

I probably listen to NPR more than most. And yes, I do love it. I used to live overseas and can tell you, NPR is much better than the BBC and all others combined. Yet, there is a bias. It is subtle. I have a journalism background and have worked for a few news organizations.

First, it is the way the story is crafted. For example: The GOP wants to cut a government program they feel isn't working - the Dems disagree. This is how NPR intros and crafts the story "Republicans on the Hill want to kill a bill that is designed for women and children, but Democrats say the bill helps the poorest Americans...."

Then the reporter is at some unnamed shelter where she found a woman that benefits from the program. The problem with that is this: Maybe you did find a person that benefits, but the GOP's point is never examined. Maybe if only a few hundred people benefit from a program that cost is a dumb program. You never explore the other side.

Also, NPR very cleverly uses commentators. Leftists who come on and read their opinion. NPR says it is not their opinion, but the commentators. Well, who chose them? How did they get on? Why no conservative commentators.

I also once heard you announce financial support from NARAL... would you even take a check from a pro life group?

Why did you take a check from George Soros? Would you even take a check from Rupert Murdoch?

Finally, and this isn't your fault...most people don't pay attention to the difference between NPR, APM, PRI, etc. Therefore, they get all that programming from different sources all on one station on their radio. So those uber liberal game shows like Wait, Wait and Whadda Ya Know, and Garrison's Prairie Home Companion (weekly mocking Republicans) may confuse people to think that yes, "This is, NPR."

I still love you guys, but Ira is wrong: There is a bias.

Mar. 15 2011 03:26 PM
Bruce from Ohio

its red herring... there is commercially supported media that has to cater to a consensus hospital to their funding, and then there is everyone else. So , take everyone that accepts advertising dollars from corporate entities that wish to promote a consumerist view of the world and put them in one pile, and put what's left in the other pile. Now, where is the bias? To argue left and right is to distract us from the real elephant in the room, the self-filtering of "news" to reject any view that does not conform to a pro-consumer consensus.

Mar. 15 2011 12:49 PM
Karen Cheshire from Chilmark, MA

May I presume that shedding the liberal bias label is less about public perception than it is about preserving government funding?

There is no reason that NPR or PBS should receive public funding. If sufficient tax revenue is invested in education, there will continue to be enough "smart" Americans who would not own a television were it not for PBS. (Well, maybe I would rent one for football season.) Trust your listeners, NPR. You may end up "downsizing" from broadcast to only streaming and podcast, in which case, consider yourselves pioneers.

btw: Did any "conservatives" catch Jim Lehrer's dedication of the Marine Corps Museum?

Now, let's hope the conservatives also stop the tax exemption (subsidies) for religion. How many more educated NPR devotees that money could be used to produce!

Mar. 15 2011 12:15 PM
Matt Martin from Southwest

As Bob pointed out, when it comes to quality broadcasting, no other broadcaster in America comes close to NPR--and NPR has shelves and shelves of the highest honors in broadcasting to prove it.

Noam Chomsky best explained why public... media is so much better than commercial media. Like any business, commercial media has a product and they have a customer. But their customer is not the audience and their product is NOT the news. Their product is advertising and their customer is other corporations.

This commercial bias is much more powerful than any liberal or conservative bias--and it encourages commercial news organizations to sensationalize and simplify the news--hence the "if it bleeds, it leads" mantra. And it's no accident that public media the world over (CBC, BBC, NPR, PBS, etc.) is univerally of higher quality than their commercial competitors.

Public media on the other hand does not have a commercial bias. Their product is indeed the news. Now NPR relies on audience contributions for its survival to a much greater extent than government subsidies. So NPR is certainly guilty of catering its coverage to what it thinks its target audience (which is overwhelmingly white and highly educated) wants. But that's not the same thing as liberal bias.

Objectivity is not merely spending equal and unquestioning time on both sides of an argument. Objectivity is applying research and reason to the day's events--and not being afraid to point out when someone's opinion has nothing to do with reality. And in that regard, NPR has no peer.


Mar. 15 2011 11:53 AM
Edward Burke

During The Takeaway (Tues, 15 Mar), host John Hockenberry (hereafter JH) interviewed a nuclear engineering professor with U. Wisconsin-Madison. The interviewee offered terse replies to JH’s probing questions; JH characterized the exchange in mid-interview as “contentious”, a characterization the interviewee disputed. At its conclusion JH characterized the entire interview (which failed to elicit the responses of concern with US nuclear power plant operations JH seems to’ve hoped for) as “reassuring“; arguably, this last characterization was offered, if not with tongue in cheek, then with an audible measure of irony.
No one begrudges NPR/PRI/CPB anchors, reporters, editors, or producers their resort to irony; but irony is irony, and its use always entails the risk of misapprehension on someone’s part, especially when the someone is only a casual listener. It’s not necessarily the case that JH posed his questions as an exercise in “scaremongering”: he distinctly seemed to be trying to elicit legitimate concern about US nuclear plant operations, but this was not forthcoming from the interviewee. Had JH innocently believed that any professor at UMW (in view of recent populist tumult in Wisconsin) would automatically take the bait and respond to his questions the way he seems to have wanted? Had JH been misled to believe that the interviewee would be amenable to the suggestions lurking in his questions? Or, did JH know exactly what to expect, in order to style himself as an intrepid journalist, knowing full well that the interviewee would deliver circumspect answers in keeping with his training as a scientist or his institutional loyalty to the nuclear power industry?
The fact that LANGUAGE is the currency of radio (when it’s not electricity generated by the US’s hundred-odd nuclear power plants) should begin to show how easy and how difficult it is to demonstrate “bias” in NPR/PRI/CPB programming.

Mar. 15 2011 10:52 AM
Kevin McKague from Davison, MI

When Juan Williams commented, *on the air* that he is afraid of Muslims on airplanes, conservatives came to his defense, stating that he simply stated his opinion, one which happens to be shared by millions of others. For these conservatives, the firing of Mr. Williams was an example of censorship, even "totalitarianism".

Mr. Schiller shared his comments in what he thought was a private conversation, he stated his reservations about the Tea Party, conservatives, and the Republican Party. Mr. Schiller's comments were also brutally honest, and also shared by a very large section of the population.

Instead of standing up for Mr. Schiller's 1st Amendment right to make bigoted comments, the right, and almost all of the talking heads at FOX news, called for his dismissal, and used his comments to prove that NPR is a "totalitarian organization".

Can we all at least agree that FOX, and many of the conservatives on it are full of it?

Mar. 15 2011 05:59 AM
Heather from Moscow, Russia

I am a US expatriate living in Russia who relies on TAL podcasts to endure the dreary morning metro commutes. I also self-identify, philosophically, as a religious Christian conservative. After 20 years of donating to my local PBS stations, it wasn’t NPR news that finally pushed me into the “public broadcasting is biased” camp—it was Garrison Keillor. Now I target my donations to WBEZ to support TAL.

To be human is to be biased. We can school our natures to be fair and govern our tongues to express well-reasoned sentiments. We cannot, however, pretend that we are unaffected by our life experiences and that includes public radio reporters, producers and writers, no matter how well-intentioned they are. I don’t fault them for having a point of view, rather I savor it.

The issue, to me, is the role of taxpayer funding in producing news for ostensibly “the public” when clearly, the NPR demographic appears to be quite narrow. This isn’t a dog fight between NPR and Fox News. Fox News is an unabashedly, abrasively for-profit business. Whether I “buy” Fox’s biased product (and I rarely do) is a market function. Government involvement in funding takes NPR outside the market and implies a greater obligation to be “neutral” for public benefit. If NPR/CPB became a privately funded enterprise, its biases would be a non-issue.

Mar. 15 2011 04:11 AM

AARON wrote:

"As for siting specific stories, I have made no habit of making a record of the obvious, though it would be a good idea to do so. I can tell you that if you "google" the phrase "Illegal Israeli ..." and click on NEWS, you will find no shortage of articles; same for NPR. While many reports are more objective, many are not at all objective. Thanks again for the question, I hope my answer is of some help to you. "

Aaron, did you actually do this? I did, and I didn't find it very persuasive. Most direct references to "illegal" acts by Israel were from outfits like the Arab News, Catholic News, etc. More mainstream outfits like Time and ABC were quoting NPR wasn't mentioned in the first two pages that came up.

Mar. 15 2011 03:40 AM

ED Leechman wrote:


Count the number of reports that have the lables 'conservative', 'right-wing', 'far-right' versus reports that have 'liberal', 'left-wing', 'far-left' and, so as not to forget the latest re-branding, 'progressive'.

If you're standing in left field where there's not too much to your left and the rest of the world is off to the right, maybe you're not that 'balanced'.

Well, Ed, Noam Chomsky was described as "ultra-liberal" every time he was mentioned in the mainstream media, which is exactly zero. The FAR left in America is about as invisible to CBS as it is to Fox, and only slightly more visible to NPR. This is how Barak Obama can be painted as far left. The real far left in America is academics, authors, and hometown activists. There are millions of them, but they're not making the news at all.

Mar. 15 2011 03:02 AM

Steve wrote: "Ira Glass did not sign the letter condemning Mr. Schiller's actions.

Doesn't that say enough about Ira Glass right there?"

Steve, it says a lot more about you that you want to make this seem like a bigger deal than it actually is by referring to Mr. Schiller's words as "actions".

How shocked are we supposed to be that an NPR fundraiser has a negative opinion of people who want to defund NPR? Steve is clearly shocked... SHOCKED, but it seems like a pretty straightforward example of self-interest to me. I'm sure that when Oil company exectives get together they all talk about how much they love environmentalists.

Ira Glass doesn't have to condemn anything that's none of his business, and made it pretty clear that he doesn't feel responsible for words that don't make it onto the air. Maybe he thinks what Mr. Schiller thinks about the tea party is his own business. I don't know what Mr. Schiller said about jews, but since Ira Glass is a jew maybe he wanted to turn the other cheek, to use an expression originated by another favorite jew.

Mar. 15 2011 02:46 AM
Russell from Dallas, TX

Suppose I admitted that not all NPR listeners were in fact godless communists. But certainly most of you pinks do yearn for the day the revolution comes and all the many enemies of The People are stood up against walls and shot. Personally I've no doubt that plans exist for my twitching corpse to be bio-digested or at least properly composted so I may benefit The People.

Nicole, would you pity my ignorance? Would you try to set me straight that NPR listeners in real life are nothing like that? Would you clue me in that I'm living with some significant delusions that could have serious consequences?

There's a reason I'm asking, Nichole.

Mar. 15 2011 01:29 AM
David Turner from Chicago

When it comes to WBEZ in Chicago, the short list of shows demonstrating left-leaning bias includes Latino USA, World View and Tavis Smiley. Of course, there will be those who will say, 'Those are but THREE examples among the MYRIAD shows NPR can you POSSIBLY point to them as displaying bias???'

The answer is simple...WBEZ (the Chicago affiliate) airs only so many programs, and most of them are repeated twice, if not many times, within a day. And these particular shows are so desperately one-sided (World View being the most egregious example; if Jerome McDonnell ever invites a panelist to dispute anything any of his featured guests talk about it will be a first; if he ever invites ANYONE onto his show other than someone to talk abut such things as the dire need of solar powered ovens in Third World economies, it will be a first) they make my ears bleed. Of course NPR is one-sided. But I still contribute. What the hell, right?

Mar. 15 2011 12:57 AM
fausto chavez from texas

discovering public radio while on a long drive to NYC from Missouri was like finding a bag of Sneakers chocolate when i was 14 years old. it was such a refreshing...a break from the cable news screaming matches...edited and condensed, articulate and savvy, exposing me to new ideas and people that don't get the time of day on tv.

here in texas we have kera and i donate because i find that content very useful. if cnn, msnbc and foxnews reported like npr this country would be better off...but their ratings would be lower.

ira...hope you do another pitch for kera at the next campaign.

Mar. 15 2011 12:15 AM
fausto chavez from texas

@Darrell Gregg

you must not be familiar with the show Ira Glass normally hosts and the format of on the media.

it was a light hearted segment and not a news report.

npr isn't all news all the time. listen to it for a week every chance you get and you'll see.

Mar. 15 2011 12:09 AM
fausto chavez from texas

@Mark Rummel

and hindsight being 20/ up to Afghanistan bush had a blank check and he cashed it and abused it...and rest of the media didn't say 1 negative least npr was on the job.

Mar. 15 2011 12:05 AM
fausto chavez from texas


until recently...juan williams.

now david question? didn't even have to look it up man.

Mar. 15 2011 12:02 AM
fausto chavez from texas

i hear the charge about npr bias against israel...but what little i know...that is only true if you assume anything negative about israel must not be reported or true.

Israel isn't a "saint" and american media fails to report it the way it is reported outside of the USA.

BBC, Al Jazeera, Univision report on Israel different than american MSM.

Mar. 14 2011 11:57 PM
fausto chavez from texas

about sometime somebody said it!!! i'm 100% with Ira. I love on the media and this american life.

right wingers need to listen to the content and see if npr is fox new or msnbc...bnpr is imainstream reall old school news reporting...not freaking talking heads or psychos (cough beck cough)

it isn't biased reporting when it is fact based. it isn't biased reporting when they strive to balance the stories with both sides for the audience, it isn't biased reporting when npr and its affiliates don't do a 24/7 blitz where they push a view point across.

npr, pri and public stations are the best source of news the main stream public has and right winger puppet masters hate it for it. you want to put npor a better job of reporting news and sharing your airtime with the other side, and not cutting people off when they are making sense. then you can talk.

i'm so sick of this nonsense and the fact that there are people buying these fairy tales. i sure hope people who respond to Ira's challenge go on the air with their will be interesting next week.

Mar. 14 2011 11:54 PM

RE #69 MICHAEL JOHN CROSS COMMENT: You make a very interesting point about the media marketplace. So many so easily lose sight of the reality that government itself does not exist independent of the marketplace, although in the realm of academics and in the business world, such a clear separation is given the appearance of reality. And the class warfare couched in terms of "welfare of the masses" v. "welfare of business" is rather the pot calling the kettle "black". Thanks for your comment.

(p.s. By any chance does The Priory in Geneva, Switzerland circa 1972 ring any bells for you?)

Mar. 14 2011 11:12 PM

Should have been indicated as #38 (NOT #69)

Mar. 14 2011 11:02 PM

RE #69 ATTN BLACKBELT_JONES: Thank you for your question. Most likely the phrase "Illegal Israeli {settlement, occupation, etc.}" goes in one ear and out the other, as it is used so frequently. This usage is found commonly on radio and t.v. media, especially BBC, which is carried by Public Television. The BBC is careful to be more circumspect in it's print media. Note that one never hears about "illegal Arab occupation...". Bias is bias and as one commentator stated, "A fish does not know it is wet..."; as I am at times a "fish" myself, I humbly suggest that it is easy for many not to even be aware of such an ubiquitous bias as I have pointed out. After all, it is said so often and so commonly, it must be true, right? As for siting specific stories, I have made no habit of making a record of the obvious, though it would be a good idea to do so. I can tell you that if you "google" the phrase "Illegal Israeli ..." and click on NEWS, you will find no shortage of articles; same for NPR. While many reports are more objective, many are not at all objective. Thanks again for the question, I hope my answer is of some help to you.

Mar. 14 2011 10:55 PM
Ira Glass

Steve wrote:
>Ira Glass did not sign the letter condemning Mr. Schiller's actions. Doesn't that say enough about Ira Glass right there?

Steve, I wasn't asked to sign that letter (and didn't hear of it till after it was made public) because I'm not an NPR employee. Our show is produced by a member station, not by NPR, and distributed by NPR's arch-rival, Public Radio International. One strength of the public radio system is that you have people all over the country making shows and distributing them. NPR and its execs produce a bunch of popular news show - All Things Considered, Morning Edition, etc - but they're just one small part of what public radio is. Marketplace, The World, Prairie Home Companion, and many other shows have nothing to do with NPR.

I agree with that letter and would've signed it, if asked.


Mar. 14 2011 10:43 PM
Thomas in Freedom from Freedom, Michigan

I loved this piece on NPR bias in reporting. It made me laugh out loud as I was headed to Detroit. I was a professional public speaker for 11 years and one thing I learned is "last heard, best remembered". What that means is no matter what you talk about in your speech, whatever you say last will be best remembered. How does this apply to NPR? Just listen to most of their reporting. You will notice that many stories start out with something along the lines of "while 70% of the people we interviewed said (insert a conservative opinion here), we inetreviewed one person who said (insert liberal opinion here). Then the liberal interview is played but you rarely hear the conservative interview unless the person they interview makes a flub of some kind. Additionally, any guest that has conservative point of view is usually identified as a Republican but other guests with a liberal opinion are rarely identified as Democrat. But there's no bias.

Mar. 14 2011 10:20 PM

NPR lost the debate when they failed to counter the assumption that "liberal" is a label to be avoided.

Whoever frames the debate wins it. Right-wing media commonly seizes control of the debate-framing by immediately going on the attack, and putting the left in a defensive starting position. It's easy, in that position, to reflexively respond to the accusations, rather than the underlying assumptions.

That's what NPR did here: responded to deny the liberal label, instead of challenging the assertion that such a label is automatically bad. That's how the window of normal is shifted slowly to the right--attack people for being something that's not necessarily bad, and get them to disavow it in your favor.

Ira Glass didn't throw down a gauntlet, Bill O'Reilly did--and NPR has fallen for it.

Why in the world should NPR be on the defensive? Why should its employees spend their time, with dogged sincerity, attempting to refute the liberal-bias accusation? Do they honestly think that even if they can, O'Reilly and his ilk will issue a retraction?

Why is it up to the right-wing to decide how the media should be?

And does anyone else see this as massive projection from the right, finger-pointing so as to take critical eyes off their media outlets?

NPR: if you have a bias that's more liberal than Fox, GOOD FOR YOU. That's why people are listening! It's a STRENGTH, not a weakness--don't fall for right-wing attempts to get you to disavow the very thing that makes you competitive with them.

Mar. 14 2011 10:16 PM
camerontw from NYC

The case being made by many of the comments critical of NPR, is that NPR is biased without knowing it. This is a very different matter to saying that a media organization is now on record as having directives from management to intentionally skew stories (Fox). It is a very different matter from a media organization having been caught repeatedly using historical footage as if it were contemporary in order to make situations look more extreme than they are (Fox). This is an enormous asymmetry (though so is one that is primarily funded by government and listeners as opposed to one primarily funded by corporations [with the most to lose from a liberal agenda]).

Some of the comments here seem to value someone being honest about the fact that they are lying over someone trying to be honest but failing. I prefer fallible integrity.

Mar. 14 2011 09:47 PM
B. Serum

Journalistic integrity of the work is more important than the political preferences of a person. I suspect that the heart of the bias debate is the suspicion that reporting from a self-described "conservative" or "liberal" is going to push an ideological agenda. So we argue about left and right rather than the integrity of the reporting.

I'm no journalist, but I have no doubt that defining metrics is feasible. Say what you will about the quality of individual Wikipedia contributions, I think their policies on Neutral Point of View are pretty solid...

Mar. 14 2011 09:17 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

In one of the early Tea Party rallies, one woman carried a sign (noted only in the right-leaning media) that said "No matter what I put on this sign, the media will call it racist." I suggest that woman with the sign was more sophisticated about the tendencies of liberals and media people than they are about her. NPR is getting schooled, once again, on the disconnect between the liberal theology on race and racism and the reality, and this disconnect has now cost Juan Williams, Ellen Weiss, Vivian Schiller, and Ron Schiller their jobs.

NPR must be cringing at the level of intelligence displayed by its defenders on these threads. The psychological parallel between whites who obsess about race and racism (white only, of course, as if African-Americans have more to fear from old ladies at Tea Party rallies than they do from ethnically-based gangs in most big cities) reminds me of some Bible-thumpers who act as though there is only one explanation for human behavior, and one kind of sin, i.e., those of the flesh. When I read yet another post, emanating from some urban or campus fastness, and sometimes from African-American-free environments like Vermont or Boulder or the Pacific Northwest, going off about 'racism' in America, I think - as I do with sex-obsessed preachers - of how unintentionally revealing they are.

Mar. 14 2011 09:06 PM

Nicole posts one of the most bigoted and demonstrably ignorant rants of the day; what would an urban-centric liberal understand about the decent folks of middle America?

You have only seen the tip of the tea party iceberg. It's manufactured narratives by the extreme left and right, that has awoken a sleeping giant.

Mar. 14 2011 08:52 PM

Seth, as an academic I respect my colleagues - even those crass enough to employ pedestrian tangential programming tactics.

Yours in scholarship,


Mar. 14 2011 08:49 PM
Tyson F Nuss from Tucson, AZ

To someone with a dualistic-absolutist mindset who also happens to be conservative, a lack of obvious conservative bias "is" a liberal bias; this is why such people see "liberal bias" in the media everywhere, and especially in the most neutral and evenhanded sources. The mere failure to reinforce Fox/GOP talking points, nevermind presenting any alternative coutnerpoint to them, is regarded as prima facie "evidence" of a presumed bias against those positions. In this view, true fairness and balance is impossible to strike, and facts do not matter; the only thing that matters is whether their own foregone conclusions are being reinforced or not -- if you're not clearly for them, they conclude you can only be against them.

Mar. 14 2011 07:33 PM
Michael Albert

I've thought about this in the past. I think it's not so much that NPR has a liberal bias, in as much that it doesn't have a conservative bias. Meaning much less of the programming is geared towards aspects that conservative's value (religion, small government ideals, mono-culturalism (meaning the opposite of multi-culturalism)). While at the same time I do think NPR tends to be geared not so much liberal but progressive. NPR embraces multiculturalism, and for good reason, but many (for whatever reason) are threatened by such an idea.

Also as much as I LOVE Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, it can lean a tad liberal in it's jokes (less harsh on Obama than Bush lets say). And people often mistake what one show says as being a microcosm for the entire radio station (which is unfortunate).

Mar. 14 2011 07:28 PM
Chrisco from Bay Area

I found this exchange on Morning Edition quite biased and/or shoddy journalism:
"WERTHEIMER: Because, of course, we are always susceptible to rises in oil prices and they're rising very rapidly now. There's obviously pressure on the president to allow more drilling to produce more domestic oil.

"ROBERTS: Right. And we heard some of that over the weekend, particularly from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who was criticizing the president for not doing enough along those lines.

"He talked on Fox News "Sunday."

"Senator MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY, Minority Leader): There's been a conscious effort to make it difficult to drill in this country, both onshore and offshore, by the bureaucrats who've been appointed by this administration.

"ROBERTS: So pressure to drill more. But of course that won't doing anything immediately even if it happened. And oil prices are really being felt. You can see it. I was realizing in terms of my own shopping that the two words that had really made a difference to me were free shipping. And now, I think it would be very hard for companies to do that because, of course, the shipping costs will go way up. And it means the cost of everything goes up, just at a time when, of course, the government is trying to cut back. "

See what's going on here. President is under pressure to increase oil. A clip is played by a Republican accusing Obama of INTENTIONALLY making it more difficult to drill. They played that clip, could have played anything. There was no rebuttal. I understand that domestic oil production was up 3% in 2010. So this false charge is played, no rebuttal and just marching on.

That is biased!

Mar. 14 2011 07:20 PM
Eleanor from Portland, OR

I love that Ira's speaking out about this. I think he's right, and I think he's going to catch a lot of flak from listeners and even his own colleagues. Well, and the question it raises for me is, is it any different for NPR to employ liberally-minded reporters than it is for FOX news to let their talking heads express plainly biased conservative opinions?

I pulled from this show to write a post for Take a look and vote!

Mar. 14 2011 07:07 PM

Good luck, guys. You're going to need it. Not because you aren't fair. Not because you aren't straight. Not because you aren't honest. But, because of the challenge you're up against. A lot of minds are already made up. Godspeed.

Mar. 14 2011 06:37 PM
radiowxman from Atlanta, GA

Oh, got another one. Go back to the OTM home page, and look to the left column.

The NPR reporter's piece about the Libyan resistance is clearly biased.

It's a bias 99.8% of us (myself included) agree with, but it's hardly unbiased.

Mar. 14 2011 06:33 PM
radiowxman from Atlanta, GA

As a conservative, I listen to NPR because they:
- Tell me the WHY, and HOW the 2 items of the "5 W's and H" you learn frosh year in j-school almost never touched upon these days. Maybe I don't always agree with their conclusions or wonder why they don't interview other sources, but at least they try.
- They know what nat sound is and actually use it.
- They'll spend time on an esoteric subject and tend to make it interesting.
- It's a relief from the daily shouting match that passes for programming on the radio and TV.

That being said, I'll take Ira's challenge, and I found it before the end of the show. Listen to Employee #1's interview about NPR in the Vietnam era.

Mar. 14 2011 06:30 PM
Grumpy Demo from

Gotta love the FOX trolls, ad hominem attacks, name calling and flat out lies without any factual examples, everything they've learned from watching FOX.

Here's my problem with NPR because of its "view from no where" reporting it treats FOX News talking points/lies as factual positions and incorporate them into their reporting.

The Right Wing hates NPR because it only repeats 25% of FOX lies, we progressives hate NPR because it legitimizes 25% of FOX News lies. NPR then likes to claim "see both sides dislike us, we must be unbiasis".

That and the fact that NPR's news operation has black listed from it broadcasts just some of the following groups:

- Single-payer health insurance and its advocates,
- Harry Shearer's movie,
- Civilian deaths in our wars,
anti-war veterans,
- Uninsured, families that have gone broke from medical bills,
- Scholars who were right about Iraq
- Trade union members in Wisconsin (they just had a rally 85K people bigger that any Tea Party, no coverage by NPR)
- Doesn't report on torture by the US.

Lastly for more than a decade three of it on air talents have all worked for Rupert Murdock, Williams, Liarrsn, and Simon (WSJ).

Mar. 14 2011 06:26 PM
Darrell Gregg from Albany, OR

it bothers me that Ira has predetermined the outcome of a survey that has yet to be done. He was asked "what if the answer is "yes" that public radio/tv IS biased... to the left" and he, without hesitation, replies "it isn't"... but earlier had asked that a survey be done to find the measure... and as to the "sting tape".... listen... we all know that the money is what drives the content. So let's not be naive about that either.
Seems to me this was more "op-ed" than "reporting"...
reporting to me means bearing the facts, with no spin as to the reporter's personal predilections/predispositions.
Survey's have been done.... not sure but I seem to remember Stanford did one that found most outlets, except FOX, were left leaning....
So the point being... what is the measure, who did the measuring... and what was said in the report about the measuring...
it's about chasing money. and that fouls reporting.

Mar. 14 2011 06:23 PM
Nicole Nyarko from Minneapolis

I agree with most of what Schiller had to say about the Tea Party. They ARE mostly white, gun-toting racists who hate that this country elected a black President, hence "We want OUR country back." Do I believe this of ALL Tea Party supporters, no, but most, damn right, especially the early ones who were peeved about healthcare reform. What's most sad to me is that liberals have become afraid to stand up for what is right. They are scared to speak the truth and then STAND TALL behind that truth. Instead, liberals are cowering in the shadows while the right uses a major TV network to sell lies, half-truths and propaganda on a DAILY BASIS. Whose going to fight that? Dems have no backbone in Washington. The media is lazy and more interested in ratings than actually reporting...the bottom line is REAL Americans are going to have to get involved. I'm not going to sit back and let the rich and corporations snuff out the middle class in MY city. Not without a fight

Mar. 14 2011 06:19 PM
Seth from Columbia, MO

As an academic, I want to point out the occasional usefulness of scholarly research. There is plenty of stuff out there to address Ira's questions.

First, as Ira points out, just because a journalist is liberal/democrat, that tells you nothing about the bias of his/her output. In fact, there is evidence that some journalists overcompensate for their liberal perspectives and produce content that skews conservative.

Second, a body of research demonstrates that consumers of public and non-commercial media are better informed and have fewer misperceptions than consumers of mainstream corporate media, especially Fox. For starters, see Kull et al., 2003:

Mar. 14 2011 05:50 PM
Nessie G from NY, NY

I'd like to see On The Media take on the "NPR = National Palestinian Radio" charge. I listen all day to public broadcasting because I like their programming, but because I also get my news on the Middle East elsewhere ( to start with), I know that across the gamut public broadcasting is biased against Israel. To make this assessment, let Bob and Brooke consult with knowledgeable others, such as staff at CAMERA and HonestReporting.

Mar. 14 2011 05:43 PM

There is a place in everyone's conscience - I hope - where we are able to sense the truth; even a truth that is so dangerous to their contemporary programming that it must be suppressed, even lied about - but it's still there.

Forget about conservatives; having the gall to promote NPR and PBS as unbiased media environments, so offends independent thinkers, that I predict a quiet, yet thorough backlash unless something is done.

For starters, how about letting someone like me, take on 4 or 5 of your unbiased correspondents in a Q&A format? Let everyone witnessed them tear me to shreds with fair and balanced discussion.

Or, continue suppressing cogent independent thought.

Mar. 14 2011 05:27 PM

ira is such a biased bigot/tyrant that he KNOWS that npr is not biased and that any assessment by npr people will prove him right. yea right. talk about closed minded bigots. this is why conservatives KNOW that npr is 100% liberal. telling npr liberals that they are totally biased is like telling an alcoholic they have a drinking problem. alcoholics have to self destruct first before admitting the issue. so too it seems for nrp. denial is the decision not to know. denial is quite ironic in a news organization.

Mar. 14 2011 05:19 PM
sanych from NJ

there is an obvious problem when someone identifies Kim Jong-Il as the leader of the left or even belonging to the left.

Mar. 14 2011 05:10 PM
Dana FRanchitto from S>WEllfleet, MA.

HI kris what Ira didn't say was that even if the 90% figure about journalists is accurate the majority of media are owned by major corporations. Hence , the genuine liberal left will more likely than not be marginalzied as a threat to the bottom line. Furthermore, are we listening to the same NPR? When was the last time, you heard an anti-war voice on Scott Simon's program? of Neal Conan's? Don't you rememebr LIane Haaaaaansen's gushing for two hours about what a ":nice man" president Reagan was at teh expense of any examination of his legacy? Or the hero mythologizing of him at his 100th? Aren't you aware of Morn. Ed.'s decision to serve as a mouthpiece for the Pentagon? INstead of any critical inquiry into why we're in Afghanistan or Iraq, we are served up a plate of "hero" stories by embededd Pentagon shills like Tom Bowman and Sorya Sirhaddhi Nelson (sic?) who would rather tell us how she went to the bathroom infront of the marines rather than question IS conduct of the war, or why the Marines are there in the first place.So just what is so "libveral" about NPR? Finally just what do you mean by "politcally correct"?

Mar. 14 2011 04:27 PM
kris kelly from NC

Ira even admits that most in journalism (90+%) are left-leaning/liberal/whatever. And I do hear it on NPR: in story selection and reporting. I don't hear it on every story on every program, but often enough to remind me that the people bringing me the news are very different from most Americans. And I am not whining about it. NPR is no worse than CNN, CBS (or FOX). I don't think they can help but assume their position is the proper one. They decide, after all, what is politically correct. And I don't see the point of the left-leaning NPR investigating itself to see it they think they are too left-leaning or not.

Mar. 14 2011 02:08 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

It would be good to take the 'metrics' that apply to, oh, I don't know - Fox News, in its actual reporting? - and then apply to them to NPR and other mainstream organizations. How many reports of death threats directed at 'leftist' vs. 'rightist' figures? (Sarah Palin gets a lot of death threats, I expect.) How about 'labeling' language - the use of 'far Left vs. far Right in the context of the American politics that is being reported, or even 'liberal' vs. 'conservative'. (NPR already did a study of its use of the prefix 'ultra', and it confirmed conservative critiques about the linguistic double standards there.) Stories on 'inflammatory' signage or rhetoric at, let us say, Tea Party rallies vs rallies by groups supporting immigrants in the country illegally, or the recent public-sector union rallies - compare and contrast. NPR is on the case in pointing out that Tea Partiers say they are opposed to 'big government', but many still want their social security and Medicare. But it never occurs to them to ask protesting teachers whether there is not a similar cognitive dissonance going on with them - since their precious pension funds are invested in the same big corporations their signs denounce.

Conservative critics have an amused feature called 'name that party', which likes to contrast stories on public-servant wrongdoing as per how prominently they feature party identification. If a party identification of some boodler is not given, well, you may assume he or she is a Democrat. I expect NPR has never identified the much-publicized corrupt figures in Bell, California, as all being Democrats, for example. Somehow I think if they were GOPsters, NPR would have said so. No lying there, just omission.

The bottom line is that NPR and the Republican Party have a long-standing antagonism. This is a problem NPR cannot get around anymore than Fox can get around the mistrust of it by Democrats.

Mar. 14 2011 01:15 PM
Chrisco from Bay Area

It is interesting that a lot of commenters here call themselves conservative, say they love public radio and listen to it a lot but conclude it obviously has a liberal bias.

I am interested in how these conservatives can so value NPR if it is so biased against their view as they claim. Do they like the challenge of hearing the other side? Or does it's lack of mockery and excoriation of the left ala Rush Limbaugh etc. make it seem liberally biased to them?

Mar. 14 2011 01:11 PM
DonA in Pennsyltucky

Easy metric is lies per unit time. Low score is good, high score is bad.

Mar. 14 2011 11:44 AM
Linda from Petaluma, CA

Metric suggestions: (1) Knowledge base of audience -- refer to Univ. of MD PIPA studies -- include ability of audiences to articulate positions of those with whom they disagree (This was actually covered by some doc film maker -- can't remember title but filmmaker was self-professed Christian who wanted to explore this phenomenon for himself & who traveled across the country interviewing people re religious views); (2) Frequency that media sources inform their audience that the source is unbiased, and how that affects the opinions of audiences.

Begin an ongoing campaign that underscores examples of NPR presenting multiple POVs. Don't tell listeners that NPR's unbiased, just present the facts & let them decide. You're not going to change anyone's mind that's already made up, but you will at least be arming your audience with concrete examples for them to take out into their lives and use in social conversations.

For example, Talk of the Nation does this consistently. Find any conversation they have hosted, such as one concerning abortion rights, and then highlight, in short, repeated PSA's, the opinions of different panel members.

My husband claimed for years that NPR/PBS are left-leaning, even though he RARELY listened to or watched any shows. He heard so many times from right-leaning folks he encounters during the course of his work, people he respects and trusts, that he ASSUMED it must be so. I asked him to spend 3 days listening to NPR, and then to tell me if he still feels that way. This changed his mind. I then asked him to listen to right-wing talk radio, he did, and within just a few hours said he just couldn't continue, because he felt his BP going up, was becoming angrier and angrier, and his radio-stoked emotions were interfering with his ability to get any quality work done and causing him to react inappropriately in his vendor/customer relations.

Mar. 14 2011 11:35 AM
Marcia from Cleveland

Can we first discuss why there's this assumption that being liberal is a bad thing? Of course using the Fox/Tea Party definition, liberal is equivalent with serial killer but why do we just accept that as the definition? I believe gays should have the right to marry and there should be a social safety net for the weakest in our society so by Fox News' standards I am liberal therefore I am evil and wrong, why is NPR not challenging that label?

I keep hearing how the "American people" want to defund NPR well guess what? I'm an American, I pay taxes and I want my money to go to public broadcasting. The defunders don't want me deciding where their tax dollars go but they have no problem hijacking mine. What's wrong with this picture?

Mar. 14 2011 10:17 AM
Bill from Connecticut

I donate to four public radio stations: two locals, plus WBEZ (because of "This American Life") and WNYC (because of "On the Media".) There is almost NOTHING I DON'T like about NPR.

There is a fundamental problem with Ira Glass's suggestion and Brooke and Bob's acceptance that OTM investigate NPR for bias:

It would satisfy exactly NONE of the critics. OTM is part of NPR. It is produced by an NPR affiliate.

Does anyone really think that when OTM produces a nice, neat report that says "No bias!" that critics will say "Oh. OK. Never mind."

Mar. 14 2011 09:52 AM
Annie from Big Rock, IL

Those who decry O'Keefe's videos as heavily edited are practicing willful ignorance. He has only provided the rope...

As The Count over at PBS would say:

One NPR executive... Ah, ah, ah...
Two NPR executives... Ah, ah, ah...
Three NPR executives... Ah, ah, ah...

Mar. 14 2011 09:42 AM
Frog from Michigan

Just take a week of "Fresh Air". Terry Gross doesn't have to say anything liberal. She has her liberal guests on and feeds them softball questions and lets them hit it out of the park. Sometimes it's the way the debate is framed and who gets asked the tough questions.

Mar. 14 2011 08:30 AM

I don't really care if NPR has a bias.

I'd just like them to actually investigate and report.

For example, if they had investigated the O'Keefe video, they would have found it has been edited to appear damning-- just like all of O'Keefe's other "bombshells".

See here at Wonkette, of all places:

Had they really looked into the videos and reported the truth instead of having a defensive, massive freak-out, Ira would never have even come on to issue the challenge.

So it seems to me that perhaps they don't need to be "more balanced", they just need to be "better".

Mar. 14 2011 05:05 AM
Russell from Dallas, TX

Ask a question:
"Hypothetically, what would you accept as evidence of NPR's liberal bias?"

Notice: "That evidence doesn't exist" does not answer the question.
("The other side is evil" isn't an answer either. Must feel good to say though...)

Play games for a while (too hard to measure, what do the words mean, etc) but I'll bet a donut eventually the answer you get will boil down to "evidence of NPR's liberal bias cannot exist."

Therefore the statement "NPR is fair to all sides" cannot be falsified. It can't be tested, it can't be 'proven' one way other the other. "No liberal bias" is simply a belief asserted as true by folks who believe it is true.

An idea that cannot be shown to be false when tested against reality is just a belief, nothing more.

Mar. 14 2011 01:36 AM
Marty from Queens, NYC

Unfortunately, one of the problems is, that the conservative commentators (Rush, Beck, O'Reilly, Savage, Levin, etc.) are so far right that even if NPR could be unequivocally proven to be absolutely dead center, it would still come off as left-leaning. I have listened to Rush, Hannity, Levin, Grant, and Savage extensively and, unlike the dissenting views aired on NPR, I have NEVER heard a single caller disagree with any of them - coincidence? I long for the days of William F. Buckley, whose commentaries I frequently disagreed with, but at least his discourse was intelligent and civil.

Mar. 13 2011 11:50 PM
Mark Rummel from Michigan

Ira Glass has a lot of nerve, and apparently a very short memory. In the run-up to the Afghan war, he devoted an entire program to bashing the Administration generally and GW Bush's actions / decisions in particular.

Of course no one likes or favors war. But was there an opposition viewpoint presented, even for ONE MINUTE? Was anyone invited to respond, explaining the government's viewpoint? NOT ONE WORD.

Bob and Brooke, keep sitting in your ivory tower believing the people you know and work with are unbiased and always fair. It's just not true.

Mar. 13 2011 11:37 PM
bk from san diego

i am well educated and are a brain dead stooge. i belive in science..even though science isnt a belief system but a belive in lies and nonsense.i back up my beliefs with back up your beliefs with propoganda.when any source of media re-inforces my bias..err sorry..facts,it is undeniable truth.if it contradicts my belief system..its all lies no matter how it was measured.i am are bad.i am chock full of human kindness and my breath smells are a loathsome ghoul not worthy of any measure of humanity.and if you dont agree with me you are worse than hitler. there...see how easy that was?

Mar. 13 2011 11:32 PM

@ Cytelica,
if you took a speed reading class, demand your money back.

Mar. 13 2011 11:26 PM
Russell from Dallas, TX

Here's a simple gedanken experiment for you:
1) Consider the statements:
A group is 90% X.
The group's Y members know to keep their opinions to themselves.
The group claims it's product has no bias between X & Y.
2) Is the group's claim believable?
3) If you need to know the X & Y to know who the 'good' people are then:
YOU are biased.

Mar. 13 2011 11:02 PM

When Stephen Colbert warned that "reality has a well-known liberal bias", his joke had more than a germ of truth. If an assessment of NPR's bias that will satisfy conservatives comes to the conclusion that NPR has no bias, then that means that NPR has become useless. It isn't reporting reality.

If NPR wants to give equal weight to evolution and creationism as a way of placating conservatives, good luck with that. The conservatives won't be fooled, and I won't be pledging any more money.

Mar. 13 2011 10:15 PM
Andrew44 from Boston

Fish don't feel wet, liberals don't feel biased, conservatives don't feel biased. Of course NPR slants left, and they do so without being aware of the slant. The cure is difficult, but possible, and taking away government funding is a good start.

Mar. 13 2011 09:59 PM
Julianne Jaz from Seattle, WA

Cytelica - THANK YOU for being so much more eloquent at expressing what I was feeling than I managed to be - you have absolutely nailed this situation to the wall!

Mar. 13 2011 09:44 PM
Julianne Jaz from Seattle, WA

Where is the place where we should be talking about the fact that FOX simply lies in their "newscasts"? Or how about the actors they hire to call in to their programs to be sure to ask those big old softball questions, begging for a biased response? Or how about the report by David Folkenflick (sorry if that's misspelled) this morning exposing ONCE AGAIN that the tape of Mr. Schiller was EDITED to look as though it was one thing, when it fact, it was something else completely?

I am 100% behind what Ira Glass has to say, and I am completely disgusted with the Board of NPR for rolling over in the face of this sort of nonsense. Jesus, please start standing up for what you believe, because it has been more than amply demonstrated that these people - the Republicans - will NEVER give up until they've gotten every single thing they want. There is no "appeasing" them.

Mar. 13 2011 09:41 PM
Cytelica from San Diego, ca

This story demonstrated the devastating long term impact of "working the referee" by right wing extremists and their elected lackeys. Never once did National Re-Publican Radio and O.T.M. consider or discuss the high likelihood, and now proven fact, that the invasive video had been cut, spliced, and doctored by O'Keefe, a known scam artist dedicated to promoting the oppressive Republican agenda. Consequently valuable careers and honest reputations were irreparably damaged because NPR management stolidly accepted O'Keefe's salacious and disreputable conduct. Their lack of courage and eager willingness to ‘throw employees under the bus” without first demanding release of the full and unedited video was a shameful and placatory response to a suspect Republican operative.

NPR management should have supported its victimized employees rather than cravenly boot them to the floor. Their precipitous response only convinced listeners that critical thinking, analysis, and reality have been side lined in favor of NPR's increasing obeisance to malicious Republicans and their malignant operatives.

Ira Glas offered the only salient observations during these O.T.M. segments. NPR management and O.T.M. should heed statement as today’s Republicans are predatory pack wolves who’s voracious authoritarian lust to oppress others and their voices can never be appeased nor satiated.

Finally, to "Stevo" and his like minded acolytes, reality is not a liberal bias. Science is not a liberal bias and Glen Becks re-education camp nor Fox Propaganda News set no valid standard by which NPR can be evaluated. Also, David Brooks is a frequent commentator on NPR, or don't you listen?

Mar. 13 2011 09:38 PM
Peter Anderson

Reportage is a craft. Every craft has a built in bias towards excellence in craftsmanship. In reportage, that means a bias in favor of verifiable facts, the weight of evidence and clear communication in the service of understanding. In America today such a bias is considered Liberal.

There's traditionally made cheese and then there's faux, processed "cheese product". NPR is the Cheddar to the right wing media's pasteurized, processed "cheese product".

Mar. 13 2011 09:11 PM

i'm a regular listerner to NPR who happens to be conservative.
eventhough i enjoy the higher quality, in-depth jounalism at NPR, i must admit you guys have significant liberal bias.

can anyone name me one conservative commentator on NPR's ATC?
until his passing, you had daniel shore forever. you still have ej dionne. and who did you get for the other side?
you parade neocons such as david brooks and david fromm as if they are the counter balance to your liberal bias.
neocons may be more conservative than daniel shore but they are not consevatives.

please name one real conservative commentator on NPR.

Mar. 13 2011 08:55 PM

Here's where there's an appearance of bias: NPR is willing to compromise, and it's unwilling to challenge demonstrably untrue comments by politicians of either category (I should charge for the teeth grinding damage you guys have caused me. The BBC does it better!). Anyway, the democrats are currently the party of compromise, and therefore NPR appears to be leftist.

May I suggest a different branding strategy? Brand NPR as OBJECTIVE AND TRUTH ORIENTED. Obviously every reporter is human, obviously every reporter is time limited, and obviously, some reporters value their access to much to challenge some of the lies they're forced to repeat verbatim.

That said, please focus on reporting the truth and reporting objectively. I'm willing to forgive many faults if you keep trying.

I don't want NPR to be the propaganda organ of Washington, and given a choice between compromising to keep NPR's government funding and closing up shop, I do hope you choose the later.

Mar. 13 2011 08:44 PM
Michael John Cross from Waterloo IA

Steve Wixom wrote above that "On balance the marketplace is rational and consumers pay for goods and services that they value. If you wish to determine the bias of NPR, analyze the demographics of your donor base." I suggest that the valuation of goods and services is affected as much or more by emotion than reason. Marketing professionals wouldn't waste time and money on elaborate images and titalating dramatizations if a simple appeal to reason would motivate consumers.The only truth the sellers of glitz or political propagandists care about is dollars and votes. It may not make any sense, but if it is said over and over and over again and again it will stick. I believe this what the radical conservatives have been doing ever since Obama took office and I expect they will continue to do so until they are sure a vast majority of the electorate considers their misinformation common sense.

Mar. 13 2011 07:21 PM
Frank from Sudbury, Massachusetts

As regards the challenge leveled by Ira Glass, first accept the reality that the right wing is trying very hard to move the center as far to the right as possible. No matter where NPR sits and tries to be centrist, the right wing will ALWAYS say that it is leftist. Of course it is, relative to the extreme right that is so worked up. They will never be happy until NPR advocates for preschool teachers to carry handguns and regularly challenges global warming and evolution. These are people that want us to return to the dark ages. Or at least the nineteenth century.

Mar. 13 2011 06:30 PM
Louise from Sacramento

Ira Glass is correct to state that NPR should clarify that it is not biased. However, he is overlooking the fact that the right wing media and pundits view any entity that fails to espouse inherent right wing bias is, by default, biased towards the left. To clarify, to a right wing pundit, to report on gay rights, climate change or abortion in a neutral manner, without moral judgment, is seen as wrong. When one listens to right wing radio the "of course abortion is wrong" or "of course regulation is always unnecessary" underpinning of all reporting is obvious. Not just is it obvious, but its their default starting point. The lack of this underpinning of judgment on NPR, the reporting of "the facts", is seen by the right wing as evidence of inherent left wing bias of NPR. There is no COMMON VALUE of what neutral means in our society anymore. Read George Lakoff, he brilliantly describes this manipulation of language and message by the right wing.

Mar. 13 2011 05:57 PM
John David from Left coast

NPR is not left? Really?

Why isn't there a gun/hunting enthusiast program?

I'm a conservative who loves listening to NPR but a spade is a spade.

Mar. 13 2011 05:42 PM
Mark from San Antonio

I enjoyed this show and it shows why NPR and public broadcasting are important. Would Fox or even any left-leaning commercial media do such a story?

As far as supposing that removing the public funding from NPR would "shut up" people like Gingrich and Boehner about NPR's bias: don't count on it. The right has been complaining about liberal bias in all media for decades and has successfully managed to put the media on the defensive, and it will not abandon such a strategy even if funding changes.

I am in the education field and I believe that higher education, at least, benefits for having private and public options. Who holds the purse strings at large commercial media outlets? Advertisers. Who holds them at NPR? To a large degree, taxpayers. Taxpayers themselves need representation, especially since wealthy corporations have access and influence to our elected officials that taxpayers will never have.

Finally, consider that, if you enjoy NPR, and wish for a day when you'd never have to worry about it going away, you should probably forget about it. The very attacks on NPR serve an important function in that they require us to think about information and the public good. If it all goes commercial, that debate will never happen again.

Mar. 13 2011 05:25 PM
Fallon from Chicago, IL

One example of NPR's liberal bias in this segment, was the use of the very biased adjective "sinister" preceding Republican, right after Ira Glass insisted no bias will be found. You guys show bias without even trying... Too funny.

Mar. 13 2011 04:56 PM
Kimi from Hartford, CT

Ira Glass is totally awesome. So glad to hear him talk about the real issue. Thank you, Ira!

Mar. 13 2011 04:36 PM
Reynold Watkins from Pasadena, CA

I think one needs to look at how the critics define liberal bias. If, for example, one accepts the theory of evolution, or rejects the notion that Obama is a maniacal socialist, I think THAT is what they mean when they accuse NPR of liberal bias. I, for one, wear the label like a badge of honor.

Mar. 13 2011 03:12 PM
Dana Franchitto from S.Wellfleet, MA.

How can anyone claim that NPR has a left wing bias?
Hasn't anyone heard Scott Simon, Liane Haaaaansen,
or the hosts of Morn, Ed. displace critical journalism about the current wars (as befits journalism in a democracy) with de facto pro war propaganda in the form of "hero" stories and discussions limited to how America can "win the war" in these countries? HAsn't anyone heard all the major news shows shamelessy promote commercial telelvision or the ad industry in general? I could cite specifics here but space forbids.
But I guess ,NPR, despite climes of "independent journalism" simply follows the right wing model,where say genuine conservative sources are 'balanced" with mianstream news sources like Time and Newsweek at the expense of genuinely liberal media.

Mar. 13 2011 02:39 PM
Faith Campbell from Fairfax County, Virginia

Right on, Ira!! NPR & PRI need to fight back by telling the truth.

Mar. 13 2011 02:36 PM
Mike Fitzgibbon from Ashland, Wisconsin

Item 8 in these comments quotes Stephen Colbert who notes that reality has a well-known liberal bias. It's true. For commercial news sources, there is no payoff in covering issues such as gay rights and the Holocaust. They and other "liberal" stories are uncomfortable to many readers and listeners that such news sources can't afford to turn-off. This is where NPR acts as a news media leader and becomes susceptible to conservative criticism that because its coverage is different than mainstream commercial media, it must therefore be partial. It may be worthwhile to follow Colbert's lead and ask if reality is more liberal than how conservatives and the mainstream news media think and present it.

Mar. 13 2011 02:32 PM
Brian Glusman from Ardmore, PA

Er, was my previous comment received? No confirmation occurred, so I don't know how to tell if it went through or is lost.

Mar. 13 2011 02:18 PM
Brian Glusman from Ardmore, PA

I'm very interested in the results of this challenge, but I don't see a lot of effort being made to distinguish editorializing from reporting. Bias in editorializing is expected of course, and in reporting ti tends to be subtler and harder to make transparent where it exists. I love NPR, and don't feel it's reporting is significantly biased anywhere it matters, but I often cringe when I hear Harry Shearer on Le Show.... he could hardly be more over-the-top and absurd in his liberal bias. If there's no qualitative difference made as a starting point between the kind of programs like Le Show that are largely political in content but almost entirely editorial in nature from shows like All Things Considered and Morning Edition, it's hard to know where you could even start. Show's like Marketplace and This American Life are much harder to fit into such a division though, because they engage in both a kind of reporting and a kind of editorializing that is deliciously, lovingly blended.

Mar. 13 2011 02:17 PM
David Sansone from Champaign, IL

OK, let's say OTM does what Ira Glass suggests and conducts a study that finds that there is no liberal bias to NPR. I can only imagine the fun Fox News will have with the story-line: "NPR Finds No Liberal Bias on NPR."

Mar. 13 2011 01:48 PM
Tone from Springdale, Arkansas

Why isn't anyone mentioning that Mr. Schiller was being offered a 5 MILLON dollar donation? Most people would sell their Mom's down the river for that kind of money in these tough economic times. Film any party or canidate being offered that much and see what the adreneline rush says.

Mar. 13 2011 12:47 PM
Kevin from Princeton, NJ

Economists and political scientists have taken up the challenge of measuring media bias, including of NPR. One prominent paper in this effort is by Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo, published in 2005 in the Quarterly Journal of Economics. Groseclose and Milyo attempt to place the media outlets on the same ideological spectrum as congressional representatives by seeing which think tanks and advocacy organizations each legislator cites and each media outlet cites. That paper is available here:

This method of estimating the ideology of news outlets puts NPR slightly on the left, but about equal to the Washington Post and the three weekly news magazines, and to the right of the NY Times and Joe Lieberman.

However, this methodology is not without its critics. Note especially Brendan Nyhan's critique here:

Mar. 13 2011 12:41 PM
Bort from Syracuse

Carol, I asked NPR's ombudsman to perform such a count, and she demurred, saying that it's impossible to come up with an objective standard. What a cop-out.

Mar. 13 2011 12:39 PM
Carol from nyc

On the Media should take up Ira's challenge. Here's what I would look at -- the number of Democratic vs Republican Congressional Reps interviewed over the Bush 8 years and the Obama three years. My guess? the percentage of republicans was higher in both administrations. If anything I think NPR gives the right MORE chances to give their point of views than the left. I would LOVE to see some count.

Mar. 13 2011 11:20 AM
Yvonne from Park Slope

If what I am hearing on WNYC on another program - that the tape of Schiller was doctored - is true, why is everyone caving in, disowning and allowing them to do to NPR what they did to Acorn, Kerry, etc. where distorted information was allowed to be assumed as true and clarifications were all too little and too late ... only with Sherrod was there an immediate and strong clarification????

I find this incomprehensible!!!

Mar. 13 2011 11:07 AM
Lenore from New York City

Actually I find NPR to be distressingly middle of the road. However, I am glad that Brooke and Bob are taking up Ira's challenge. Especially after this morning's revelations [from Glenn Beck, of all people!] that the tapes had been misleadingly edited--WHY did not NPR wait till it could do this analysis itself, particularly considering O'Keefe's past record?--it's about time that the left--there I said it--fought back instead of noodling whether any minds will be changed. This noodling is something that the right never does--they just go ahead and make their arguments and then make them again, till they win, even if it takes years. The left could use more of that.

Mar. 13 2011 10:53 AM
Terry from Austin, TX

Ira makes a good point, and his suggestion is spot on, almost. There should be an quantitative and qualitative analysis of NPR's reporting regarding the oft accused "liberal bias".

However, it should not be done by anyone associated with NPR. That is simply a setup for those making the accusations to say that the analysis was itself biased and unreliable.

The analysis needs to be done by an independent, unbiased, bipartisan outside organization so that no one can reasonably question the results.

And this analysis should include a comparison of NPR to other news organizations, like NBC, CBS, FOX, MSNBC, etc, so the 'truth' can finally be revealed.

As was stated in the piece, even this sort of analysis will not quiet those who don't care about the truth but simply hate public broadcasting. Nothing can be done about that, but at least it would give some strong proof to refute their arguments and provide some offensive capability when the battle rages.

Mar. 13 2011 10:51 AM
NC Boy from North Carolina

A number of commenters admit NPR's bias, but defend it with some variation of "Fox News is a lot worse". This is done without any recognition that NPR is in the unique position of soliciting and accepting government funding. Quite amazing.

The NPR Ethics statement is excellent. "Our coverage must be fair, unbiased, accurate, complete and honest. At NPR we are expected to conduct ourselves in a manner that leaves no question about our independence and fairness. We must treat the people we cover and our audience with respect."

Notice that this puts the burden of proof on NPR to, "conduct ourselves in a manner that leaves no question about our independence and fairness". I will watch with interest as OTM works to fulfill this NPR standard.

Mar. 13 2011 10:50 AM
Sandra Fullerton from NYC

I'm not an Ira Glass fan so I'm trying to not let his affected delivery style bias my comment, but who does he think he's kidding? I love NPR and am a long-time supporter, but to pretend that there is not a liberal bias would be better illustrated by an SNL sketch.

Mar. 13 2011 10:49 AM
Burgess Jackson from Austin, TX

The discussion of whether NPR has a "liberal bias" overlooks the point of what the right considers "liberal bias," and that is anything that lacks a conservative bias.

Mar. 13 2011 10:41 AM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

Ira Glass's challenge to 'prove' bias in NPR's reporting would require a research paper. However, many such examples have been furnished over the years in media that Ira Glass seems innocent of. I'll leave it to him to look them up and ponder the overall tilt. All journalism has a point of view. It shouldn't be surprising that NPR and other news organizations reflect the point of view of the culture surrounding them, which is urban/middle-class. And the Democratic Party is the party of the urban middle class.

I'd ask Ira why NPR's defenders are overwhelmingly on the Left. The world is too complex for intelligent people to believe that the reality of the world validates exclusively left-wing ideas - with the most dynamic economies being capitalist-roading ones (China, India), with the most powerful idea in the world being a reactionary religious one (fundamentalist Islam), and the white liberal model for the US consisting of a collection of older, noticeable 'white' cultures facing demographic decline and frightened by the rise of alien cultures within their borders (western Europe). People who get their basic political opinions from poser comedians are themselves the ones cut off from reality here.

Mar. 13 2011 10:21 AM
Edward Burke

Curious to've heard Brooke and Bob not defending the man who just left his employ as NPR's chief of fundraising (as of 9 am ET, 13 Mar, I have not heard NPR report on whether Mr. Schiller will indeed take up his new post at the Aspen Institute--are THEY sure they want him now?) but defending their own status as quasi-public employees (also funny: NPR news intro to Weekend Edition Sunday reported how NFL players dispensed with their own "collective bargaining rights" in their move to decertify, whereas NPR has led newscasts all week with hand-wringing over the situation in Wisconsin).
Are we NPR auditors to believe, as Ira Glass purports to, that even though 2/3 of professional journalists self-identify as liberal/progressive/left, this has absolutely NO bearing, NO impact, NO influence on both WHAT is reported and HOW it is reported? Do tell. (Cf. 2004 Pew poll on People and the Press.) Id est: to be liberal or progressive or left in viewpoint is to automatically insulate oneself from bias and inoculate reporters (and editors, and producers) from even the possibility of providing intellectual/ideological support to their liberal or progressive or left friends, admirers, and supporters? To be liberal/progressive/left means to be exempt automatically from any possibility of intellectual dishonesty or from any and every charge of contributing to partisan propagandizing? Really? Our self-appointed media watchdogs ask this of us? In the name of Noam Chomsky, perhaps possibly maybe; but in the name of George Orwell, hell no.
NPR and OTM both avert their gaze when convenient; but sins of omission cannot be cited as evidence of bias or partiality, can they? Not unless we open up your editorial process, which conveniently remains a subject off the table, hunh?
By all means, NPR and OTM, insist on having things both ways; even if you only get half of what you lay claim to, you're well more than halfway home.

Mar. 13 2011 09:48 AM
Mike Smuckler from Queens NY

I recommend a thought experiment:

Pretend for one morning that you are listening to NPR with the ears of someone who thinks you are as dangerous in your naivete as you think they are in their short-sighted self interest.

What you might hear is very difficult to quantify, but you might notice the progressive tilt of NPR programming
Even if the piece you are listening to is relatively neutral, or if there is no overt misrepresentation of a story, I believe you will notice that the democratic, left-leaning side sounds like "the home team" in a sportscast, and the republican or conservative viewpoint is treated like the opposing team.

Mar. 13 2011 08:44 AM
Kevin McKague from Davison, MI

I haven't read all of the comments above but what strikes me as I read them is how relatively civil and smart most of them are. Can this be attributed to the civil and intelligent nature of this show and of NPR? Has a comment thread at Fox Nation ever been so reasoned?

I won't address the issue of bias, but I will say that the most egregious example of innaccurrate or inflammatory reporting you can find in all of the past NPR programs available online for download can likely be topped by any random hour of FOX news.

I will continue to support NPR with my hard earned money because it is the best news organization, period.

Mar. 13 2011 07:12 AM
Bort from Syracuse

Vaondoletindustries wrote: "But the real irony is their apparent belief that listeners should take their word for it, any more than we should take the CIA's word for it that it doesn't engage in torture. "

That's a really lame analogy. The CIA does everything in secret, so you can never verify what they say. In contrast, OTM's metric (whatever it turns out to be) will be published, and obviously NPR's programming is published. Anybody who cares to will be able to verify that the conclusion is correct.

But of course that's not what you're really talking about, is it? What you really mean is that conservatives don't care about studies, correct or not. Conservatives want to "conserve" their beliefs, so they are in the habit of ignoring scientific results that they don't like. This is what Ira Glass was talking about when he said that some people will remain unconvinced regardless. I can't deny the truth of that.

Mar. 13 2011 03:54 AM

Bill, I'm pretty sure that none of the shows that you mentioned are produced by NPR. Couterspin is produced by FAIR, Left Right and Center is produced by KCRW, Alternative radio is produced independantly. Some argue that

Local public radio stations tend to broadcast alternative radio, for example, because the producers make it available to stations for free. It's possible that no one is offering conservative radio of similar quality under the same terms.

But does your community really suffer from a lack of conservative talk radio? Mine does not. If you've got three hours of Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck every weekday, does the public radio station really have an obligation to balance out the ir one lousy hour of "Alternative radio" every week?

Mar. 13 2011 12:51 AM
Matthew Murrey from Urbana, IL

NPR does some great cultural programming, BUT the major NPR news shows - Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and the two Weekend Edition shows are completely in line with a viewpoint that mirrors that of US elites who make decisions regarding our military and economic power and the projection of that power - both in hard and soft terms. If a "liberal bias" means reflecting and repeating almost verbatim the assumptions of the US State Department, Pentagon and corporate boardrooms, then yes NPR has as liberal bias. I have spent almost five years documenting the pro-establishment outlook of NPR News at my blog NPR Check - - and I have repeatedly challenged anyone to FACTUALLY challenge my detailed critiques of NPR - so far no takers because it can not be done.

Mar. 13 2011 12:35 AM

AARON, I don't remember any reporter using that phrase. If it's ubiquitous, could you please supply us with links to examples from the archive? If you can prove this, you'll have made a strong case, but you haven't proved it yet.

I'm not impressed by someone taping an NPR fundraiser speaking candidly. If they can't make a case that public radio is biased by citing the 26 hours of News programming that NPR produces each week, a sting operation seems desperate and contrived. If you want to prove a disregard for facts and a relentless ideological bent for Fox News, you don't need a sting operation. You just need a Tivo.

Mar. 13 2011 12:28 AM
Bill from Dayton, OH

NPR tries hard to be fair, but the liberal bias remains. Two metrics:

One was mentioned in the piece - the fraction of NPR folks who are liberal compared to the general population. Bob and Ira agreed that the overwhelming majority of folks at NPR are liberal. Recall that one argument for diversity in any organization is that excludes people of a given background impedes the organization’s ability to understand the excluded group. Bias affects the choice of stories and the way they are reported.

The second is the number of overtly liberal shows. My local affiliate broadcasts Alternative Radio, Counterspin, and Left, Right, and Center (balanced until they add a rep of the progressive blogosphere). I've heard these and similar shows on many affiliates, but I've never heard a conservative equivalent. I listen and learn from these shows, but believe it is an example of NPR's liberal leanings.

Mar. 13 2011 12:18 AM

Ira, you challenged listeners to report even one solid example of actual bias in reporting. There are many such examples. I offer you one ubiquitous bias that is not unique to Public Broadcasting and which is an example of so-called "politically correct" propaganda rather than honest and objective reporting. My example is the incessant bias of the phrase "illegally occupied by Israel" and the corallary phrase "illegal settlers", when referring to the DISPUTED AREAS of Jerusalem and of the West Bank. This ubiquitous propagandizing is inexcusable, and one expects more from both Public Broadcasting and from all media.

Mar. 12 2011 11:16 PM
Klug from Champaign, IL

I love NPR; I've been listening to it for 21 years or thereabouts. I am a political conservative, so doubtless I'm an idiot.

It would be very difficult to get a good metric of NPR's political biases, but I'll point this out: the political leftward tilt of NPR moved a notch rightward with the death of Daniel Schorr. His commentaries were a guaranteed anti-right, anti-establishment 2 minutes a show.

I also believe that NPR has a leftward cultural bias. While I personally appreciate the anguish of parents of transgendered children, I feel that Alix Spiegel's 40-minute ATC story in 2008 on gender identity issues in children is a very good example of an issue that NPR sees as a priority. It's difficult to see that preference as something separate from NPR's urban, progressive cultural perspective.

I listen to NPR in spite of the liberal political/cultural bias. But to deny that it's not there (in the face of the biases of the newsroom, even!) is silly.

Mar. 12 2011 10:44 PM

Ira's smackdown is the illusionist's opening move: Hey Folks, look over here!
Why does Ira imagine that this is a discussion about liberal bias? It's about the money. The government is borrowing half of what it spends. Everything the govt does is vital, indispensible, and everything worth doing needs govt funding and supervision.
NPR is a viable service and will be fine without the govt. Grow up.
"The US govt is a milk cow with 300 million tits." Alan Simpson said that, on NPR.

Mar. 12 2011 09:41 PM
David from Oakland, CA

Why are liberals afraid to admit they are liberal? Why is NPR ashamed to say they are bias and favor liberals? Do they think we are not smart enough to figure it out?

Mar. 12 2011 07:36 PM

The center of the media universe? CSPAN. Raw footage, very little production or opinion. FOX is a little right... most everything else will fall on the Left.

The problem leftists are having now is one of camoflauge. For years before FOX and talk radio, the Left was able to achieve and maintain media dominance by appearing to be the center... because their ideology was omnipresent - it just WAS. But now, the ascension of Right Wing media has countered that lie, simply by its mere existence. Now we have a wide array of Left, Kinda Left, Mostly Left, Uber Left. And FOX. We have a large assortment of hosts, all with their own biases.

You see? The real problem for Leftists now isn't that there's bias in the media... its that everyone has their nametags on now. The Left can't fade into the background and, increasingly, is the pink donkey in the corner.

Mar. 12 2011 06:54 PM

Just listening to that soundbite is so laughable. They admit that most journalists at NPR and journalists in general lean left but that they present the news "straight" Imagine if most journalists were conservative and said that they were presenting the news straight.. what would the reaction be?
Let's just be honest... FOX news and opinion talk radio tilts right while CNN NPR PBS CBS ABC NBC MSNBC all lean left.
Hopefully one day the pretending will stop.
NPR's primary audience is upper middle class white elite listeners according to Sue Schardt NPR board member.
It's now time that NPR competes in the market place like all the other news outlets and maybe try to gear their programing to a more diverse audience of not only color but of thought as well!

Mar. 12 2011 06:45 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Hopefully they will read some of what NPR's Ombudsman has posted:
"NPR’s librarian Katie Daugert came up with 8 examples of groups or people being described as "ultra-liberal" in the last 5 years. In 2 cases, the term was used by NPR staffers; other uses were by guests or commentators.

By contrast, the term "ultra-conservative" appeared on air 42 times in the last 5 years. NPR staffers used it 17 times, and others used it 24 times."

"this study shows that NPR is relatively less biased that some other major news organizations"

2 organizations NPR was found to be MORE biased than were Fox News and the Washington Times.

Mar. 12 2011 06:36 PM

You guys still just don't get it. If you looked at a newsroom - like I've heard many of you say about FOX, for example - and say, wow, there's only like 1 minority on the whole staff... that's a lack of diversity. Being Leftist and Progressive, you are drawn to groups and "collectived solutions"... so one of the first things most of you seem to do when entering a room is count all the minority groups present and make a judgement about the "fairness" of the situation. This frequently breaks down to less white guys = better.

In your world, more "diversity" is always seen as better.

So... turn that focus on yourselves. But instead of looking for diversity in skin color or genitalia or sexual preference... try looking for diversity of THOUGHT or OPINION. Suddenly, having that one lone scared quiet conservative on the staff isn't such a big deal, isn't it? Suddenly there's no need to have a "different perspective" if it's from the Right, is there?

Mar. 12 2011 06:12 PM
Fred from St. Paul, Mn

I believe I heard Ira Glass say that many people wouldn't change their mind when presented with evidence regarding which way NPR leans and that he is one of them. Be that as it may I would suggest that you compare how NPR has covered Presidents Obama and Bush. I think you might find that they have leaned a bit in favor of Obama. I also believe that both OTM and This American Live lean pretty far left.

Mar. 12 2011 05:38 PM
Paul T from Ann Arbor, MI

It's easy to construct an objective, if incomplete, measure of bias. Just count the total amount of time allowed for editorializing by speakers of various political stripes. The problem of identifying speakers as "liberal" or "conservative" (or whatever) can be addressed by several methods. There are many who have so labeled themselves. Politicians heard on NPR shows usually have a (D) or an (R) after their names, which can serve as a proxy. Others can be compared to the American public (using poll data) on a variety of issues on which the speakers have taken stands - this requires research legwork, but OTM is probably capable of it.

This research may already have been done. Which makes your job that much easier.

Now, whether anyone will actually listen to the results, is another matter. I suppose they will iff it confirms their expectations.

@ Aimee L,
I believe you've misdefined "liberal". A liberal is someone who won't take his own side in an argument. By that definition, NPR has definitely been liberal - up until now.

And one more thing. Mr. Schiller, for all his idiocy, got one thing right: NPR would be better off without the purse strings that can too easily double as puppet strings.

Mar. 12 2011 05:21 PM
Mariam Touba from New York City

Every week OTM signs off by saying it is partially funded by the Ford Foundation. That sounds oh, so respectable, especially given their fancy midtown New York building. Take a deeper look and you’ll find one very left organization.

Mar. 12 2011 05:13 PM
Ed Leachman


Count the number of reports that have the lables 'conservative', 'right-wing', 'far-right' versus reports that have 'liberal', 'left-wing', 'far-left' and, so as not to forget the latest re-branding, 'progressive'.

If you're standing in left field where there's not too much to your left and the rest of the world is off to the right, maybe you're not that 'balanced'.

Mar. 12 2011 03:38 PM

Kudos to Ira Glass for mentioning the elephant in the room. The problems do not arise from NPR having barely any conservative journalists or management, the problem arises when those people deny that their more progressive worldview does not impact how they cover news or report stories. If you deny there is even a potential for a problem you cannot watch out for it and correct it. If the only people you know and work with have the same worldview you have you will never see the bias. It's like asking a fish how water feels, What water? The firing of Juan Williams should have been a huge red flag to those really interested in promoting a broader understanding of our world's complicated issues.

Mar. 12 2011 03:09 PM
Jack from New Jersey

thanks for not posting my earlier comment....sorry if it didn't support your false position that NPR did not have a liberal slant.

To avoid wasting people's need to change your "comments" to "liberal supportive comments"

Mar. 12 2011 02:59 PM
Matthew McGee from Santa Cruz, CA

Gotta quote Orwell here: To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
What Ira Glass and OTM are missing is that while NPR national shows have made an honest and largely successful effort to be unbiased, no way you can honestly say that about the shows produced and aired on LOCAL NPR stations (some of which are syndicated throughout the country). I grew up and spent many years in San Francisco. KQED has to be one of the most successful and influential media sources in the Bay Area, but their local programming is definitely leftward-leaning. I think in the past few years they have made a concerted effort to be less so, but you can't blame people for looking for leftward bias when that was such a given for so many years. You absolutely cannot expect the average listener to separate national programming from these local sources. Local news and commentary is mixed in with national programs during shows like ATC and Morning Edition.

Mar. 12 2011 02:59 PM
Steve Wixom from USA

I found it interesting and a bit maddening to listen to the defeated statements of how there was not a good way to measure the biases of NPR. Multiple possibilities were mentioned and dismissed but the obvious, at least to me, was never explored. Instead of a self introspection and detailed navel gazing I believe you just need to analyze the audience. Individuals, even well educated open minded media consumers, tend to seek out sources of news and entertainment that reflects their views and opinions. On balance the marketplace is rational and consumers pay for goods and services that they value. If you wish to determine the bias of NPR, analyze the demographics of your donor base.

Mar. 12 2011 12:59 PM
Terry McKenna from Dover NJ

To David: I am a Republican voter and listening to NPR I can easily detect stories that suggest a reality that challenges my beliefs. But that different reality can be political, social, whatever. if NPR was truly left leaning (or needed a rigthward minder) the stories about the Republican tax policy, which i disagree with, would make their votes in favor of lower tax rates sound hypocritical.

Fox, which i find unwatchable, does not improve itself with
"liberal" commentators. NPR on the other hand, does not need artificial "balance."

Mar. 12 2011 11:07 AM
Jack from New Jersey

I like many of the programs on NPR. I especially love Ira's program. But I get a laugh when he insists that NPR doesn't have a liberal bias.

Most NPR programming starts with the belief that liberal is the normal.

When has NPR had a fair and balanced discussion of global warming? An impartial, discussion that doesn't through innuendo treat physicists who presentation a set of facts countering global people who think that the earth is flat.

I think that NPR has every right to air their opinions on every subject, but I have no desire to subsidize them involuntarily through taxation. I think that they would do fine with contributions from people who appreciated their type of programming.

Mar. 12 2011 10:20 AM
Jack from New Jersey

I like many of the programs on NPR. I especially love Ira's program. But I get a laugh when he insists that NPR doesn't have a liberal bias.

Most NPR programming starts with the belief that liberal is the normal.

When has NPR had a fair and balanced discussion of global warming? An impartial, discussion that doesn't through innuendo treat physicists who present a set of facts countering global people who think that the earth is flat.

I think that NPR has every right to air their opinions on every subject, but I have no desire to subsidize them involuntarily through taxation. I think that they would do fine with contributions from people who appreciated their type of programming.

Mar. 12 2011 10:06 AM
Terry McKenna from Dover NJ

Re David's comment: this shows more about him than NPR. to begin with, who has the texts from then and now to review side by side? but then beyond that, the era's were different. Bush "owned" the entire business cycle, whereas Obama came in in the middle of a trough. In any caxe, i still hear the numbers reported a more or less Obama's numbers.

So it is David who has the axe to grind.

Mar. 12 2011 09:48 AM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ


My comments - as I re-read them - do not suggest that everything NPR does is left. They DO suggest, as I think you detect, a missing right.

Now, I gave you left-leaning names at Fox ( I could add more, like Alicia Menendez, Dr. Caroline Heldman. Dr. Mark Lamont Hill, etc.), but what you supplied was the ad hominen "naggers." How about some factual support?

Mar. 12 2011 09:24 AM
Peter from NY

I think NPR and PBS are victims of the Stockholm syndrome. I feel it would be appropriate for OTM to follow up this week's topic with a report about the tax free status of most right leaning religious broadcasters.

Mar. 12 2011 09:14 AM
Terry McKenna from Dover NJ

These comments suggest if not right, all else is left. but that is completely untrue. thus when right wing naggers are annoyed about what is not covered, all they do is betray their right wing bias.

While i assume that Brooke and Bob are left leaning, I never sense being spun. Can't say that about what Fox presents, where canned liberals are really just window dressing.

Mar. 12 2011 09:07 AM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ

How are we to do this? I can assert, as I believe, that the current rising unemployment rate is not portrayed as an Obama Administration problem on NPR. It is usually reported without an Obama angle, as a situation from which Obama himself is removed. Conversely, every month the unemployment rate went up during the Bush Administration it was portrayed as an announcement from the Bush White House or Bush Team followed by an evaluation of Bush’s economic policies. But we would have to listen to that coverage side by side, and I would say that I have a LOUD argument from silence that shows that NPR lacks intellectual honesty, and you would say, I'm guessing, "I don’t hear a thing."

Mar. 12 2011 08:10 AM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ

It's interesting to hear Ira Glass (who I greatly enjoy) and Nina Totenberg (on Inside Washington) say basically the same thing: "I feel like anyone who listens to the news knows that" we're not biased. You know, FOX say exactly the same thing: "Watch Brett Baier and Shep Smith!" And do you believe them, OTM?

What you then have to ask yourself is this: Can I imagine even one dollar of my money going to the support of Fox News?

Then you'll know why there is a call to defund.

And I don't think that folks would complain too much if NPR were only "All Things Considered" and "Talk of the Nation." But it's not – it's also, as Ira says, "the shows." I would love to sit down with Ira and review 20 OTMs and 20 episodes of, say, Fresh Air. Why, for instance, does On the Media present a perspective on the media from two admittedly liberal hosts, when Fox's Media Watch show includes Ellis Henican, Alan Colmes and Kirsten Powers along with conservatives? And sometimes Ira, it's not in finding the liberal bias in what is said, but finding it in what is not even covered. OTM was completely silent on the Journolist scandal. Now that SHOULD have been right in the OTM wheelhouse, but not a word (perhaps because if it was covered they couldn't get liberal journolisters Jeff Toobin and Joe Klein back on the show). So this might pass your standard – no bias on that story – because it wasn't even covered.

Mar. 12 2011 08:10 AM

EXACTLY, Vaondoletindustries!!!! What a joke. Back in February, Brooke interviewed someone from Slate regarding the sting operation of Live Action against Planned Parenthood. After a long conversation with Dave Weigel from Slate, denigrating Live Action’s efforts to show just how Planned Parenthood does work....Brooke said this amazingly “unbiased, mainstream” comment...”Yeah, it’s policy by America’s Stupidest Home Videos.”
I rest my case.
If you really want the real story behind Planned Parenthood, read the stories of those who have left......two words...
Abby Johnson. Why don’t you have her on you show, Brooke?? Maybe I would take you a little more seriously.

Mar. 12 2011 08:01 AM
Paulette from Greenwich Village

Ira Glass is so smart. How can he not realize that his very choice of subjects is informed by his political viewpoint? The one person I listen to regularly on NPR who is consistently fair to conservatives is Scott Simon. I suspect that it is just because he is a good reporter because I would be amazed if NPR had an actual Republican reporter. My bias is showing. I think you live in a bubble. I once thought I was a liberal because of my positions on social issues but now I realize that I just didn't know what conservative meant. I was quite prejudiced against people who had a different idea of what the function of government should be. I think liberals would be better liberals if they were more open to other ideas. I was a member of WNYC in spite of perceiving bias until the firing of Juan Williams. He presents a liberal point of view on Fox but apparently just appearing on that network is frowned upon. What a shame.

Mar. 12 2011 08:00 AM
Aimee Loubert from Flint, MI

If being liberal means being open minded enough to have your own views challenged, than NPR does have a liberal bias. If being liberal means being educated about a variety of topics, than NPR does have a liberal bias. If being liberal means exploring many different sides of sensitive issues,than NPR does have a liberal bias. If creating a well informed, well rounded, independent thinking electorate means having a liberal bias, then NPR has a liberal bias. If channelling world views through a narrow needle's eye view of money hungry corporations, "reality" programming, sensationalist journalism and dummbed down sound bites is properly unbiased and mainstream, I'll take NPR's liberal bias, and support the continuation of government funding. I am proud to have my taxes support public broadcasting.

Mar. 12 2011 08:00 AM
marty siegrist

"Reality has a well-known liberal bias." Stephen Colbert, Apr 30, 2006.

Mar. 12 2011 07:54 AM

NPR's liberal bias is, naturally, invisible to the liberals who populate its ranks (and to many of its liberal listeners: 'it's not liberal .. it's "inclusive"and "smart").

I find it hilarious to hear Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone "pick up the gauntlet" and promise to look into the accusations of liberals bias at NPR. If there was ever a case for liberal bias at NPR, Ms. Gladstone has made it a thousand times over in her sanctimonious .. er "smart" coverage.

But the real irony is their apparent belief that listeners should take their word for it, any more than we should take the CIA's word for it that it doesn't engage in torture. One would think that a reporter (of all people) would perceive the conflict of interest there, given the direct financial benefit they and NPR would (continue) to receive through continued funding should they prevail in their argument.

Mar. 12 2011 07:53 AM
Jeanne from Arlington, VA

Before determining a metric to measure whether NPR has a liberal bias it will probably be helpful to define what liberal is. For a lot of people I think that liberal = inclusive, and smart=liberal, and it won't matter to them how fair and balanced the presentation is.

Mar. 12 2011 07:17 AM
David Villa from Austin, TX

NPR isn't perfect, but I do think it's reasonably balanced and unbiased. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is The Pyongyang Times and 10 is Al Jazeera... wait, that's probably not a good way to frame the question. One person's metric is another person's standard times 2.54. I'm definitely looking forward to next week though. Everyone else seems to frame the question as Republican vs. Democrat as if the parties personified their labels. Liberal doesn't mean Democrat, it means "favorable to concepts of maximum individual freedom" not to mention 2 or 3 other things. It would rock the conservative world if OTM's own assessment pointed to liberal, but it wouldn't bother me at all. In this era of Rush and Fox I've come to equate conservative with disbelief in evolution and global warming while still searching for those Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. That means liberals are equated with, well, truth, and while I don't care if my news is a tad liberal, I certainly do care that it's true.

Mar. 12 2011 04:45 AM
Bort from Syracuse

I see plenty of conservative bias in the NPR news shows. Stuff like glowing profiles of GOP politicians, and failure to challenge demonstrably untrue claims.

Mar. 12 2011 03:15 AM
JO from Montgomery AL

To assess for bias in the media, BBC did an assessment in the past. This was referred to by a guest on the show On Point on March 9.

Mar. 12 2011 12:34 AM
Steve Manskar from Nashville, TN

Ira is 110% correct. NPR and those who value public broadcasting must counter the lie, or as Ira Glass puts it "re-branding", that the GOP and Fox "News" is repeating over and over again. The network news organizations are too timid to counter or challenge Fox or the GOP for fear of being labeled "liberal" or biased themselves.

Glass is correct in his assertion that NPR and PBS provide mainstream news and information to the public. They are too important to the national discourse to allow the right-wing of the GOP to liable and destroy. It's time to stand and fight for the common good. After all, you have the truth on your side.

Mar. 11 2011 10:42 PM

Ira Glass did not sign the letter condemning Mr. Schiller's actions.

Doesn't that say enough about Ira Glass right there?

Mar. 11 2011 09:19 PM

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