Does Public Radio Have a Liberal Bias? The Finale!

Friday, March 25, 2011


This week, the final installment of our exploration into the question: Does NPR have a liberal bias? Last week, we learned why the question is so complicated and PEW's Tom Rosenstiel said he'd examine NPR's coverage and report back to us. This week, we hear from conservative listeners Sam Negus and Kevin Putt. Then FAIR's Steve Rendall provides his take on our endeavor. And finally, Rosenstiel reveals his findings.

Comments [250]

Theodore from New York City

Its not that NPR is liberal. It really isn't. It's about as Centrist as it can get. NPR swerves slightly towards the Democratic Party, which is really a centrist-right party. The problem is that the American Right has moved into such extreme ends that it is impossible to please them. Mind you, if you don't agree with any of their radical and absurd agendas you are immediately a liberal. For them liberalism goes from moderate right to center and from there its just one big "Socialist agenda".

The attack on NPR has been just pathetic and malicious and tells us the absurdity of our current Republican party....

Apr. 20 2011 11:06 PM
Max Tom from Pacifica, CA

Melissa Block had every right and duty to ask the follow up question, "Can the country afford it?" referring to tax cuts for corporations. Otellini's statement that tax cuts for corporations don't cost anything is an outright fallacy. Tax cuts for the rich and corporations add to the cost the rest of us have to pay. Why should the rest of us common people have to pay to concentrate more wealth on the super rich so that GE can benefit from society's infrastructure yet not contribute to it? Tax cuts for some cost all of us more. Journalists need to probe and question false premises. Thank you NPR!

Apr. 16 2011 01:34 AM
CrimsonZ from Seattle

NC Boy- On your suggestion of a TAL story. That's a really specific example and doesn't really answer my question. They also haven’t done an episode on the atrocities that anti-abortion people have committed. See, just as pointless. I was wondering what TAL would have to be like in order for people to consider it a conservative show.

I just think that TAL is actually fairly unbiased. But its format lends itself to seeming liberal because they focus more on minority viewpoints. Is it a liberal bias to gather stories from people that legally immigrated to the states? It seems that if you acknowledge people that conservatives see as outside the norm then you are sympathizing with the wrong people and must be a liberal.

I think that a lot of this comes down to the fact that everyone has already made up their mind. You can find examples of when anything is biased and you can even claim that the same statement is biased toward both sides of an issue. So it's a pretty pointless exercise. I think that the gathering of over-arching evidence like they did in this episode is much more convincing than a bunch of specific examples. Especially since the examples given are presented with the bias of the person providing them.

Apr. 05 2011 01:44 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Mik - The small font superscript "187th" in that document (shown in Wikipedia) could not be produced by typewriters of that time. It's that simple. A good summary of the mess:

The info the panel had that I don't have was the status of negotiations with Dan Rather and his lawyers. That's obviously what determined the text of the final statement of the panel. A later lawsuit was laughed out of court.

From Wikipedia/Dan Rather
"2007, Rather filed a $70 million lawsuit against CBS . . . Rather accused the network and its ownership and management of making him a "scapegoat" in the Killian story. . . September 21, 2009, Rather's lawyers claimed that Bush's military service would be proven to be a sham and Rather would be vindicated. On September 29, 2009, a New York state appeals court dismissed Rather's lawsuit against CBS. On January 12, 2010, New York's top court refused to reinstate Rather's lawsuit against CBS Corp"

Apr. 01 2011 09:10 PM

NC boy, it may be clear to you, sitting at your computer, but it wasn’t clear to a panel that had far more access to evidence than you. That’s a fact. You can come up with all the assertions you want - along with $1, they might buy you a cup of coffee at McDonalds.

Apr. 01 2011 07:40 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

John - Yes, that incident took some of the bark off the media's tree. Up to then they could pretty well say whatever they wanted and rely on their position as "professionals" for cover.

When he made that statement, Mr. Klein didn't realize that the world had changed. He probably still talks about the "good old days". I guess you could say that his ilk are "conservatives" in that regard, because they surely didn't want their position of unquestioned authority to change!

Apr. 01 2011 02:44 PM
John from NC

Just read the Wikipedia account of Dan Rather 60 min report. The aftermath was that CBS fired people, let some resign, and stated that it wasn't indicative of CBS' high standards. This sounds familiar.
The piece mentions Jonathan Klien, a CBS VP. who said ' the "checks and balances" of a professional news organization is superior to individuals sitting at home computers in their pajamas'.

Apr. 01 2011 01:45 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Mik - Thanks for the glimpse of "the world according to Mik".

If you are clinging to the tiny shred of hope coming from the fact that the CBS Investigation didn't use the word forgery, you are completely incapable of recognizing or admitting bias from any source that agrees with your opinion.

The timing of the 60 Minutes piece (2 months before the election), the early defense by CBS of the fact-checking, the clear forgery (shown in the upper RH corner of the Wikipedia piece). All these things show a hubris that was routine in the days before "common people" could do their own research.

Apr. 01 2011 09:56 AM
David from San Diego Ca

I don't care that NPR is bias to the left and most if not all of it's staff is white, but what bothers me is the taxpayers should not be funding it when we have more pressing items to be paid for.

Mar. 31 2011 11:25 PM

NC boy: since one of the two panel members was a republican politician, I believe it's quite reasonable to consider it stacked against Mr. Rather. However, in deference to your sensitivity, I'll be happy to withdraw the term "stacked" and simply remind you that, even with one republican member, the panel simply referred to the disputed document as "unauthenticated"; had it found that it was forged, it would surely have said so.

Rather's judgment in using a document of an unknown source was in error (especially since it was a minor component of his report) but he was not the first journalist to do so and won't be the last. The difference was that it cost him his job when others don’t even get a reprimand. Right-wing groups had been going after him for years and CBS buckled in the face of their pressure. The same McCarthyite technique is alive and well today, as in the sustained campaign that’s used against NPR, simply because it doesn’t conform to the ideological requirements of a loud minority. They only want exposure the THEIR talking points, and to put anything else on the table (e.g., as one poster mentioned, raising taxes on the wealthy) is simply unacceptable bias. Well folks, if that’s what you want, you have just about the whole of the commercial news media to choose from, plus the Fox wing of the Republican Party.

Mar. 31 2011 10:09 PM
Edward C. Greenberg from NYC, NY

Sorry I think I may have failed to answer your question as to whether I think NPR is biased.

Yes, clearly there is a liberal bias. It manifests itself most often in the tone and manner in which questions are asked by hosts. This has been referenced by others above. As an example of someone who is clearly liberal but "unbiased" when on air, I always point to Tavis Smiley. He is open about his preferences and opinions. By disclosing his views, his interviewing technique is more honest. You know where he is coming from as do his guests. He's honest and terrific.

BBC while left leaning, is far more palatable and frankly its leftist perspective is just fine with me. The tone is civil and more objective. Code words used by some of the hosts on NPR to let you know how they feel are not employed.

Its all been articulately stated above by many of the posters who collectively methinks, have done a great job. I'm aware of the bias. Most of the time I just suck it up and go with it as I like to hear what "the other side" has to say. The fact that NPR is even questioning whether it is biased is frankly, amusing. Yes you guys at NPR, you do have a navel.

Mar. 31 2011 08:40 PM
Edward C. Greenberg from NYC, NY

Non-profits most certainly go into the same weeds. Charities get a certain number of free Public Service Announcements (PSAs) from networks, affiliates and so on. After they have exhausted their allotment and want or need to buy time to raise money, their fund raisers (many in effect work on a percentage of funds raised) do their homework and check the same type of demographic information as the guys who sell Fords and Hondas.

Also consider: if during the height of the AIDs epidemic a not for profit would want to get the word out about using condoms all the time. Should they run their spot during a show which appeals to a 18 -30 yr old demographic or on re-runs of Murder She Wrote?

I would love to undertake this project on bias and wish I had the time and resources. Brain surgery its not. There are many far more qualified than I. But here's a few things I would do as a start:

First thing to do would simply be to chart the broadcast day. One uses a simple time line with the names of guests, topics covered, nature (and demographic) of phone ins and so on. You chart a given station for say a month. Your results literally stare you in the face.

Second, you have a "bias" hot line. You ask your listeners to e mail any instances of perceived bias and prepare a simplified form for later analysis. Give a few tote bags away to spur participation.

Third, you ask your staff to chart their own political persuasions and positions on current political and social issues. You ask for a list of the publications and shows they read/watch and/or subscribe to. Cooperation needed.

Any good executive gets a feel for his/her staff, the nature of the product, solicits critics and can ascertain the make up of the buyers/listeners via various conventional methods. Just not that hard a task if you just give it to the people in the ad business who do it every day.

Mar. 31 2011 08:27 PM
Mutt Moir from NY State

Edward C. Greenberg:

I'm not surprised that people zealously evaluate the various demographic data that you talk of for commercial stations. I would be surprised if it were as relevant for stations which don't carry commercials. (Of course I understand that they have underwriters; I doubt, however, that they go as far into the demographic weeds as their commercial brethren--because the driving force is not nearly so competitive.)

I'm glad that you listen to NPR. Given that, you would likely hold an opinion re. the type of guests that the shows employ, and the typical length of time that the guests are afforded. But I didn't see that opinion expressed in your response. That's a shame. I stand by what I wrote about the mix of guests and sources, and the length of time that they're typically afforded.

Mar. 31 2011 04:51 PM
Tom from Fl

So, on the Norris question, and the conservative listener's reaction, I don't get it. If our fiscal situation is on the precipice of an economic abyss, as conservatives portray it, is it not fair that we look at both sides of the issue, increase revenue as well as decreased taxes, to solve the issue? To me, it is an issue of simple math.

I am not saying that the answer in this case is that no new business should get tax breaks. I am saying that asking the question is fair.

By the way, if she had not asked the question, the proponent of the tax breaks would not have had the chance to make the simple, if not altogether correct statement, that the tax break "doesn't cost anything" making the conservatives point. If you cannot take hearing a question, a question, that does not fit with your view of the world when an opportunity is presented to respond to the question by someone who is obviously a proponent of the proposition, I am not sure what you are interested in is news.

Mar. 31 2011 03:54 PM
Edward C. Greenberg from NYC, NY

Mr. Moir

Politicians, charitable organizations, news organizations, persons or entities who literally buy blocks of time from stations as big as WABC, WOR and stations much smaller, analyze the demographics, price charged and "perceived value" of air time every day. Why are you surprised? This is hardly a new concept that I am bringing to the table.

If one wants to reach say a 16 - 50 year old male demographic, WFAN Sports Radio is your best bet. If a politician is running for congress from say Nassau County, he/she has to analyze which station(s) at which time of day is most likely to give maximum bang for the buck. Same for charities and on and on.

The criteria used by these for profit and not for profit, buyers of air time are the ones that should have been used by those analyzing NPR for bias. Simple point. One of my advertising executive/clients listened to the comments on OTM by the experts who were examining bias. He couldn't stop laughing. He characterized it as a "college project worthy of a D+".

Answering your question: I listen to WNYC about 6 hours per day (inclusive of BBC), I also listen to public stations WRTI (Phila) and WBGO (Jazz NY/NJ) and still others several hours per week. I am a radio junkie and have been since I was 7 listening to Long John Nebel at 2AM. I spend lots of time in Pennsylvania where I have a "CC Crain" radio which picks up stations from Kentucky, Georgia, Florida and up to Montreal. I listen to at least 40 hours of radio per week from a buffet of about 12 stations.

Its my hobby and my passion. I get to deal with certain of the business aspects in my law practice and from time to time in my lectures. I follow the industry very closely. So most respectfully, I'm not talking out of my hat when it comes to this subject.

Mar. 31 2011 03:43 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Sorry. It is difficult to take you seriously after reading, "CBS appointing a stacked in-house panel to provide an excuse to terminate Dan Rather"

Mar. 31 2011 01:40 PM

NPR helps make my life meaningful and informed everyday. I really do think it would be difficult to have a pure "neutrality"--sometimes the news' idea that neutrality means having two pundits from opposite sides obscures the facts that may lean more heavily one way or the other.

I was listening to Marketplace Money this morning and feeling actually very grateful that NPR does have a bit of left-leaning bias. They interviewed different individuals and couples in each decade of their life and talked about their financial situation. One of the couples was same-sex. What was the left-leaning bias? Taking them seriously as life-partners and co-parents. Discussing the ways that they have to take extra precautions financially to safe-guard that status b/c they can't be married.

As I am now in a discussion with my parents and brother (moderate and conservative, respectively, particularly in religious and values discussions) about my own homosexuality, many non-left leaning folks would find the above outrageously offensive--taking a same-sex couple seriously! That is just encouraging "them." And pointing out the legal challenges of same-sex couples "because they can't get married" is a bias towards gay-marriage.

One of the first times I started being open to my own homosexuality was because someone on NPR interviewed Bishop Gene Robinson during the controversy over his appointment with respect and courtesy--it was the first time I realized that gays could be treated that way, instead of as social pariahs and potential child-rapists. It also felt like the first time that I had heard a distinguished, well-spoken, moral gay person have a national platform. So I am deeply grateful to NPR for that particular bias.

Mar. 31 2011 11:24 AM

NC Boy: You quoted me. You doubted my eyesight. But one thing you were unable to do: cast doubt on what I wrote, and neither did your reference.

There's a difference between "failure to authenticate" and "forgery". In not one of my posts did I claim that Rather had shown the documents were authenticated and in fact I criticized him for using them to embellish an otherwise credible story.

You would do your own case a favor if you got your facts straight before accusing me of bias.

Maybe that's your problem with NPR: what you hear is not what is said.

Mar. 31 2011 11:01 AM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Mik wrote, "even CBS's fixed panel didn't determine that forgery was involved, as they would surely have done if they had been able."

Now we know why you don't see any bias. It would be quite impossible with your eyes so tightly shut.

Mar. 31 2011 10:25 AM

Diogenes: do you really believe that if they had found real gaps in President Obama's life record, the birthers would have had to invent one?

Truth should be an indispensable currency for our public life and how it's reported in the media, and NPR, while not perfect, is one of the few reliable sources we have. Too often, by the time it reaches the audience, the truth is unrecognizable - much like the currency defaced by your aptly chosen namesake Diogenes.

Mar. 31 2011 09:50 AM
Mutt Moir from NY State

Edward C. Greenberg:
I'm glad you've realized that extreme hyperbole doesn't contribute to a constructive discussion here.
Your point about the way that air time can be measured is interesting, but I'm still unclear. Who are the "buyers and sellers of air time?" I'd figure that would be mostly advertisers, and those who are selling to advertisers. NPR's programs are almost certainly sold by the program, not by bits of air time. So this seems as though it may be a red herring.
I don't know how often you listen to NPR. I will tell you that, based upon my many years of listening to various shows (news, discussion, and frivolous shows such as Car Talk and Wait Wait), it's clear to me that conservatives get plenty of time to air their views.
Contrary to your example: there have been many extensive interviews with John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Mitch McConnell. If an interview with Pelosi has run for five minutes on ATC, you can find an equally compelling 5-minute interview with Boehner. Marketplace (a show by APM, but played on many NPR stations) has a biweekly commentary by Robert Reich, who I think everyone can agree is a liberal. On the weeks when Reich isn't on, the commentary is by David Frum--a conservative. That's 50/50.
Every Friday, they have a news roundup on ATC with EJ Dionne and David Brooks. That's a moderate lib, balanced by a moderate conservative.
The charge of bias is one that should be proved by those making the charge. If you feel that the data brought by OTM is flawed, perhaps you should conduct your own study, employing the metrics that you feel are appropriate. As you say that you're in the business, this would be feasible for you. That would certainly be better than claiming bias based on one or two anecdotes, the purported political leanings of employees, or the subjective feeling about the "tone" of a question--all of which add up to being less than nothing.

Mar. 31 2011 08:58 AM
Diogenes from Newport, RI

What a fascinating record of thought patterns is found in these postings! And, especially, what a record of bias. Those who find no fault in NPR are those who find no bias in themselves - they are sure that they are in command of the truth and nothing but the truth. In other words, all very, very self-congratulatory.
And Mik (227) must surely take the prize for mastery of selective "truth". He actually believes that there are more mysteries about the life record of George Bush than that of Barack Obama: "Can you imagine what the birthers would have done with a comparable gap in President Obama's history?"
I'd find more chance of meaningful discourse by joining Alice at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.
Bonne Chance!

Mar. 30 2011 11:01 PM
Sark from NC

For M Stone-Richard
I am sure you can do a search for paid forum posting and radio calls.
Craigslist had a listing around the time I made that comment and that is why it was on my mind.

Mar. 30 2011 10:02 PM

NC Boy - on the contrary, even CBS's fixed panel didn't determine that forgery was involved, as they would surely have done if they had been able.

Dan Rather paid the penalty for not having determined the provenance of the documents in question; he CAN be faulted for introducing them into his report, but not for showing that there were, and still are, unexplained gaps in the record of President Bush's military service. (Can you imagine what the birthers would have done with a comparable gap in President Obama's history?) They couldn't get Rather on his underlying story, so they got him on the documents, which contributed little but a slight emphasis to the narrative.

Mar. 30 2011 09:47 PM
Gareth Zehngut from San Diego

I appreciate Mr. Putt's suggestion that the question, "Can we afford that?" has a liberal bias. Asking the question implies that the tax break may be something that we can't afford. Since liberals are more likely to oppose a tax break such as this one, the question has to be considered to have at least a slight liberal slant. However, Mr. Otellini is the CEO of Intel, which could benefit from the tax break he was promoting. It is part of a reporter's job to play devil's advocate. Had Ms. Norris not asked the question, she would have given Mr. Otellini a free pass on a subject that is important to listeners on both sides of the political aisle. At that point, the interview would have been less of an interview and more like free ad-space for Intel's interests. He was given the opportunity to respond to the question, from which point it is up to the listener to decide how he or she feels. I applaud Ms. Norris and hope she would pose the same type of question during any interview.

Mar. 30 2011 09:15 PM
Tom from San Diego, CA

Does NPR have a bias? It took me about a minute to unscientifically answer the question. A search of finds:
"Tea Party" - 2080 hits;
"Republican" - 1600 hits;
"Democratic" - 1030 hits;
"Green Party" - 202 hits.
Sounds pretty biased to me.

Mar. 30 2011 07:15 PM
Edward C. Greenberg from NYC, NY

Mr. Muir:

Perhaps I was not clear enough. I set forth the essential factors used by publishers, advertisers, ad agencies, media buyers, political candidates, photographers, modeling agents and related businesses in valuing or assessing air time and/or print space. The people who do this for a living (see Ad Age, Ad Week or any of their competitors) whether selling or buying time or space, use the factors enumerated in my post.

No mention of the usual, standard criteria routinely employed when evaluating air time was even referenced by the media commentators/experts whose observations or studies were referenced in the OTM piece. Now since I am actively involved in such business transactions on a daily, real life basis, I simply pointed out that the use of numbers and so on is irrelevant and not employed by those persons whose income is dependent upon accurate media analysis.

The Pelosi reference was made up by me to demonstrate that the "experts" did not track or reference any such incidents or lack thereof demonstrating how or by whom how much air time was filled. A buyer or seller of air time would want to know who fills what air time and during what part(s) of what days of the week. That's routine. Interns know that. These researchers used "data" which led them nowhere because they used meaningless and irrelevant "data" that professionals don't employ.

I hope this sharpens my rather direct observation to the effect that the experts tapped for their expertise were at best amateurish in their approach and thus their work yielded nothing usable. If there is a next time, OTM ought tap the talents of the professionals who make these assessments every day rather than those who purport to issue accurate studies from a comfortable distance.

Mar. 30 2011 03:09 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Mik - Dan Rather is the best example of a biased "reporter" ignoring obvious warning signs of a forgery because he was so sure that he was right. It's amazing that he still holds his head up in public. But I guess many feel his "motives" were pure.

As to the Reagan docudrama - good luck in finding "The Kennedys", which was jerked from The History Channel and relegated to Reelz and will air on Sunday.

Mar. 30 2011 02:33 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Mutt Noir - Thank you for the Ombudsman recommendation. Very decent of you. You are not in the group calling the opposition "morons" and "two year olds".

Mar. 30 2011 02:29 PM
sara walker from manchester CT

C'mon you guys let this bias thing go and realize that no matter what you do there are always people who will not like you. Who cares what the haters think? You will never convince them to open their minds. It's like trying to win a moron debate with a two year old. Eventually the toddler will cover his ears and say "I'm not listening". I refuse to take the bait and instead focus on receiving thourough and quality information from the most unbiased news source I know. This is NPR

Mar. 30 2011 01:50 PM

William Kristol admitted in the '90s that the idea of the "liberal media" was a myth propagated by the right for one purpose: to "work the refs". It has had continued success over the years, as one organization after another has backed down in the face of orchestrated conservative complaints. Two notable examples: CBS appointing a stacked in-house panel to provide an excuse to terminate Dan Rather; CBS withdrawing a docudrama about Ronald Reagan that did apparently portrayed him as a human being rather than a saint.

Mar. 30 2011 01:40 PM
Diogenes from Newport, RI

To John (216), I must express my appreciation for your exquisite use of sarcasm. It's probably wasted on the average reader here, as their minds have built-in filters which are tuned to pass through only those thoughts that conform to "correct" content.
For Judy Bell (218) - Do you have any reaction at all to Charles (148), who disclosed some of the (literally) intimate connections between the stars of NPR and professional liberal operatives? Do you really believe that diversity of thought can thrive amongst these personnel? And if there is not diversity of thought, how can there be diversity of presentation?

Mar. 30 2011 01:16 PM
Judy Bell from San Rafael, CA

So, let me get this straight. All of these people listen to NPR and there are no facts to support the claim of bias, so we're left calling it "tone". It's unbelievable they've managed to make this a story. Thank you, Ira, for finally saying something. And NPR, let's man up here: Say it loud, I'm NPR and I'm proud.

Mar. 30 2011 11:45 AM
Ed Quipper from Edwardsville, IL

NC Boy - NPR routinely takes the more biased statements made on the air and fixes them (without acknowledging the change) in the print version. They know there is bias in what is being said, but they try to cover it up as much as possible.

Mar. 30 2011 10:13 AM
John from NC

In the Oct. 20, 2010 article, "Thomas' Wife Reignites Anita Hill Scandal", Nina Totenberg displays her journalistic skills.
The on air interview is better because it's more personal. When asked why Mrs Thomas would make such a call, Nina uses her analyst/reporter techniques to speculate and then proceed to a discussion of Mrs Thomas' conservative and Tea Party connections, donations, and conflict of interest.
The line "one can imagine that she was sitting there early in the morning stewing", certainly is "straight shooting".

Mar. 30 2011 10:13 AM
Mutt Moir from NY State

NC Boy, I encourage you to report this to the NPR Ombudsman. Her contact info is at, near the bottom of the page.

Mar. 30 2011 09:58 AM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Mutt Moir - I'll wager that Wal-Mart could "trot out" 5 more female success stories, if you really believe that would be meaningful. The question of "false equivalence" is whether 6 women's stories can represent 1.5 million others. As we all know, the trial lawyers are the primary beneficiaries of class action lawsuits. That's how John Edwards got rich.

The larger issue here is that NPR editors altered a Nina Totenberg quote. That opens up a lot of interesting questions. Why was this change made? What was Ms Totenberg's involvement in the change? Is it ethical to alter a direct quote in a so-called "transcript"?

Mar. 30 2011 08:19 AM
Mutt Moir from The Blogosphere

Edward C. Greenberg:
"Is one solid hour of just Nancy Pelosi alone less important than 4 freshman Republican members of Congress who get 3 minutes each?"
Well, if you could actually find such an example, you might have a point. But since there is no such egregious disparity, it's tough to understand why you'd pose such an irrelevant question. When Pelosi's on, she gets a couple of minutes, as do Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, and the various freshman Republicans that you're thinking of.
Your mention of "positioning" brings up an observation. Listening to Nina Totenberg last night, re. the Wal-Mart sex discrimination case, she was reporting on the arguments before the Supremes. Who did she give the last word on the subject? Why, it was Antonin Scalia! She must therefore be a conservative, carrying water for Wal-Mart. Right?
Re. NC Boy's observation of Nina Totenberg's term: "trotting out" is indeed a poor word choice. But when I was listening, I noticed that she failed to mention that the example of Wal-Mart's VP was one anecdote, which is practically meaningless against the face of the plaintiffs' overwhelming data. That seemed to me to be an example of the bias of a false equivalency. That is, in an effort to present both sides, she gave undue weight to the defendant's data-challenged case. Advantage: Wal-Mart. Your "liberal media" at work!

Mar. 30 2011 06:37 AM
Edward C. Greenberg from NYC, NY

So we are left with, "the data does not reveal bias". That is because the "data" used by these gentlemen is useless.

Consider the number of references to the "number" of stories, "number of guests", "number of (fill in the blank). The word "number" is irrelevant. Time, emphasis, length of articles, positioning and even advertising/promotion of stories is what counts. So in the print media referenced (Time, WSJ, Newsweek)a single front page story on anybody or anything is more important than 20 stories on pages 35 -125.
On radiio, air TIME and hour of day when broadcast are the key factors not the number of times somebody or something has been covered. None of these experts even referenced such terms as "drive time", "cover stories" or "filler".

Is one solid hour of just Nancy Pelosi alone less important than 4 freshman Republican members of Congress who get 3 minutes each? Is that a 4:1, Republicans win?

In demographics the percentage of listeners by age is far less important than the amount of time given age groups listen to a given program and at what time(s) of day they listen. Your experts made no reference to the fact that older listeners listen for longer periods of TIME and are far less likely to be diverted to other stations or media than teens or 20 somethings. A fact ignored by your experts but relied on by the people in advertising whose living depends on such things.

Permit a sports analogy: David Wright of the Mets is mentioned every single day during the baseball season in the newspapers and on talk radio. Barry Bonds who is no longer playing, is in the papers and on radio now only when his felony trial is being mentioned. Barry has countless front pages, David maybe one. David beats Barry in number of stories. Barry kills David in importance, emphasis and consumes infinitely more journalistic resources. Numbers vs. emphasis.

With a tip of the hat to Groucho, "Who are you gonna believe these experts or your own ears"?

Mar. 29 2011 11:11 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Further to Terry Moore's point about "word choice", this morning Nina Totenberg made her bias quite obvious regarding the Wal-Mart sex discrimination case. I heard her say that "Wal-Mart 'trots out' its vice president for human resources" (a woman who has obviously worked her way to the top management levels of the company). In order to quote this accurately, I reviewed the transcript and was shocked (well, surprised) to find that the phrase "trots out" had been changed to "presented". So, some copy editor cleaned up after her, and said it the way any "non-biased" reporter should have.

You can hear what Ms Totenberg said on the air at 3:25 in the recording.

Mar. 29 2011 08:52 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

Fourth, Lee Atwater on his deathbed apologized for saying that he would 'strip the bark off the little b-----d' for the statement's 'naked cruelty'. That's not the same as saying that it was unfair to attack Dukakis' handling of the issue. It had already been raised by Al Gore in the '88 priimaries; The Berkshire Eagle had won a Pulitzer Prize for its series on the debacle; 'Reader's Digest' ran a story in June or July of 1988 on the case. All before Lee Atwater ever heard of Willie Horton. Ex-Mayor Cisneros of San Antonio once dismissed the idea that criticism of Dukakis on criminal justice issues was illegitimate, and the fact that it wounded Dukakis so much confirms how far out his defense of the policy was.

Finally, I typed in 'Willie Horton' on NPR's search engine and found 81 'mentions', dating to as recently as last November. I typed in 'Ricky Ray Rector', and was informed that the search engine found 'no documents to match your data request'. NPR may, as you allege, have reported 'vigorously' on the Rector case at the time, but my search confirms it has fallen down NPR's memory hole, while obsession with Horton is with NPR still. Nothing could illustrate the double standard to which the two candidates and campaigns were, and are, held. Clinton was much more cynical.

Mar. 29 2011 06:12 PM
Terry Moore from Silver Spring, MD

When people accuse Fox News of conservative bias, they are not just speaking of their news shows. They are speaking of Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, etc. When other people accuse NPR of liberal bias, they are not just speaking of ME and ATC. They are speaking of Wait Wait..., Fresh Air, and the like. This second group also either confuses NPR programs with programs by PRI, APM and PRX or they consider those liberal leaning too. But this is par for the course, since most NPR supporters don't know the difference either, or do worse can confuse NPR with CPB-post 9 claims NPR distributes money to LRSs and wouldn't that be a shock to those same LRS. Without comparing those other programs, any study just misses the point of what people mean when they say Fox News leans conservative and NPR leans liberal.

Did any of those studies examine word choice? For example, in last week's show Ira described one side as "pro-choice" and one side as "anti-abortion". But most "anti-abortionists" choose "pro-life" to describe their side. That was a clear example of bias. Does that make Ira a bleeding heart liberal? No. But he had a choice of words and made that choice. That one time. It is one sample. With many more, over time, I would be able to, with some measure of confidence, predict Ira's bias on that issue (provided I have a good enough population to compare to). Such a study would be less subjective (i.e., was that interview positive or negative to one side?) and better mathematical science.

Mar. 29 2011 06:04 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

To Mutt Moir, first, my post was about the Democrats' reaction to the Horton case, not about the case itself. Whether you like it or not, the Democrats worked very hard by 1992 to show that Bill Clinton was not Michael Dukakis in his attitude toward criminal justice issues.

Second, the program to give unsupervised furloughs to convicted first-degree murderers was not, as you assert, common in 1988. Massachusetts was the only state to have such a program.

Third, Reagan's California had a work-release program, but not for convicted first-degree murderers. In any event, by 1988 a lot of illusions about such programs had been destroyed - no effects on recidivism rates, and some vicious outcomes - and Massachusetts remained distinctively far left in relation to the country on the issue. Embarrassed Massachusetts legislators promptly outlawed the practice. (Cont'd)

Mar. 29 2011 06:03 PM
Rongel Redmond from California

Did any notice everyone who was asked was white and male?

NPR is trying to appeal to right wingers, well get your money from them.

Also. maybe if you had a more diversity on your shows, more other than whites would give money.

I stop giving to NPR for their bais against teachers.

Mar. 29 2011 05:29 PM
Peter from Philadelphia

Regarding the "can we afford it" comment, no way is this bias. Whether you are talking about tax cuts or tax increases, can we afford it is exactly the right question. And to say that a tax cut doesn't cost anything is such a farce. It is like me saying that I'm going to quit my job so I have more free time. Can you afford it? would be the first and most logical question anyone could ask.

NPR is now having to ask whether it can afford to forgo federal funding. Again, it is a logical question. Unfortunately, this is a silly dare put forward by the opposition. It is like taunting someone by calling them "Chicken". Decline funding, you lose; continue getting funding, you lose. Don't take the bait.

Mar. 29 2011 03:38 PM

"On The Media" seems to really lack any self-awareness. I really enjoy public radio but "On the media" is among the most left leaning of any of the shows on NPR. Don't get me wrong, NPR as a whole is decidedly left of center and there is nothing wrong with that. You still get good information (usually) from NPR, it's just that most of the journalists and commentators (and their commentary and tone) at NPR are on the left of the American ideological political spectrum. That this would be a question or surprising to anyone at NPR (let alone On the Media!) is a little odd.

Mar. 29 2011 03:29 PM
Wotan from Newton, MA

Well, I'm sure the former Romney campaign exec. who now is a VP at the leading PBS and NPR affiliate in Boston would find it humorous that he's being labeled a "liberal" solely because he happens to work at the foundation and I'm sure the in-house unions whom the VP has been battling of late would also find much humor at the thought that the VP in question is an "affirmative action" case who got in fulfill a quota despite lesser qualifications. I'm also sure all the devout Catholic pro-lifers who work at the foundation would find much humor in being typecast as suffering a "mental disorder" due to their employment at the foundation.

But better to treat people with complex and deep layered belief systems as flat, cardboard cutout caricatures when ranting about liberal bias this, liberal bias that while beating a strawman to death.

Mar. 29 2011 02:02 PM
John from NC

Lowrie Beacham, As far as I can tell, the " overwhelming " liberal, and progressive makeup of NPR is a point conceded by Ira, Nina, Vivian, and others. Obviously, NPR wants to be judged on the "product" and point out that it's a "perceptual" problem caused in large part to hostile, conservative media forces. NPR wants to be perceived as a "mainstream" news organization and not " rebranded " as having liberal bias. NPR seems to be saying, " trust us, we're professional, we know what we're doing, and even though we all belong to the same political party, our journalistic ethics assure you the consumer, of an untainted product". It's a dilemma for NPR and for those of us who want to trust them.

Mar. 29 2011 12:53 PM
Henry from Chicago

I think the problem with determining whether a news outlet has a political bias is almost impossible to determine. It seems like most of the studies I'm hearing about on this program assume that any difference of opinion is due to a left or right slant. This is similar to a problem we have elsewhere in American culture where we assume that everyone holds certain opinions largely based on what color their county is on electoral maps.

Mar. 29 2011 12:41 PM
M Stone-Richard from VA Beach

@ Sark

"It would be interesting to know if any of those posting here are being paid for making their post as with those that are paid to call in to radio shows. I know to not expect an honest answer but it would be interesting to know if any posting here are hired posters."

If that really is happening, how can I get a piece of the action? I'm an equal opportunity target; I get flack from the right -- and the left -- for merely speaking the truth by citing credible sources and fact-based evidence.

Mar. 29 2011 12:39 PM
Lowrie Beacham from North Carolina

I did indeed misspeak in saying the Pew study was yearly; later in my note it is clear that the most recent such was 2002. Even Homer nodded.

Mik, I did not suggest a political litmus test for journalists. What I do suggest is that our politics influence our perceptions, and therefore in evaluating a report it is useful to know the reporter's predilections.

I think this is borne out by summing up the near-200 responses to this story: As a whole, the conservative writers see NPR as leftist; the liberal writers see NPR as middle of the road. Where we stand inevitably influences what we see.

Mar. 29 2011 12:08 PM
Ed Quipper from Edwardsville, IL

Mik - I disagree that Lowrie's comment is hogwash. I believe that many at NPR wish to be balanced (but not everyone). However, I get the sense that there is no one there who understands the conservative view well enough to cover it. They really do believe that man-made global warming is settled science because there is no one there who is skeptical of it (even though the majority of Americans are).

It would be great if they hired a white male evangelical Christian to gain a little perspective.

Mar. 29 2011 11:50 AM
Rich Perez from NY

Well done! That piece clearly showed how nuanced the topic is and how difficult it is to measure something so subjective.

For what it's worth, I believe that NPR has no measurable slant toward any side.

Mar. 29 2011 11:18 AM
BDS from Brookyn, NY

So after 3 weeks of abject self-reflection we've really found out nothing new--conservatives think NPR leans liberal and liberals think it leans conservative. This all might have been worth a segment but in the meantime I've missed what it is I tune in to OTM to hear: on the media coverage of the crises in Japan, Libya, Bahrain, where reporters are risking their lives to report, on the terrible dearth of US correspondents in Japan--why does every worthwhile report come with a British accent? Instead I get a lot of tedious semantic parsing which in the end comes down to the fact that you can't please all the people all the time. No one ever saved their jobs by polling all the people they work with to prove their value.

Mar. 29 2011 11:13 AM
Sark from NC

Concerning Lowrie Beacham's post and the Pew Center data; I would highly recommend that one go to the Pew Center site and read the information there for yourself. Also, the study noted is done every ten years, not yearly. I think that real journalist may tend "left" because they are better informed on the facts and deal with facts as opposed to opinions and beliefs.
Thank you Mik for the excellent post.

Mar. 29 2011 10:50 AM

Hogwash, Lowrie Beacham! The private affiliation of journalists is quite irrelevant. What counts is whether they report accurately. I'm sure (especially if the statistics you quote are valid) that there are liberals working at Fox News. What really determines the kind of material that goes out over the air is ultimately a management decision.

I believe that people's inner feelings guide them in aspiring to one career rather than another. I can imagine that journalism would attract people with liberal leanings; equally I can imagine that a corporate business career will attract conservatives. Are you suggesting that there should be a political litmus test for journalists on hiring? If so, why not a litmus test for corporate executives, who have more power over our lives than journalists.

Mar. 29 2011 10:26 AM
Lowrie Beacham from North Carolina

I'm a lifelong listener to NPR, but am at least mildly irritated a good portion of that time. Like the joke about the cowboy who was going to town and complained that he would lose all his money in a crooked card game. When asked why he played if he knew it was rigged, he shrugged and said, "It's the only card game in town." What else am I going to listen to, if I want to get some notion of what is going on? Not the wild men of talk radio; they are mostly in it for the shock effect, will say anything--and interrupt every two minutes with a string of commercials. So I listen to NPR by default.

I could have saved OTM their contortions, seeking to deny liberal bias. The Pew Center for Excellence in Journalism does a survey every year, not of the content, but of the self-declared political affiliation of the nation's journalists. In the most recent survey, 40% of journalists described themselves as being on the left side of the political spectrum. Middle of the road was 33%; leaning right 25%. That same year (2002) only 17% of the public characterized themselves as leaning leftward, and 41% identified themselves as tilting to the right. In other words, journalists were more than twice as likely to lean leftward as the population overall. Likewise, 36% of the journalists said they were Democrats, 18% Republicans. The general public by contrast was evenly divided, about a third Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

Next time you want to address this issue, just poll your journalists at NPR, and see whom they voted for in the last Presidential election, and compare that with the overall electorate. You'll have a quick and I predict, very clear answer. I also predict you won't like to broadcast it.

Mar. 29 2011 09:55 AM
Sark from NC

It would be interesting to know if any of those posting here are being paid for making their post as with those that are paid to call in to radio shows. I know to not expect an honest answer but it would be interesting to know if any posting here are hired posters.

Mar. 29 2011 09:10 AM
Mutt Moir from The Blogosphere

Mark Richard,
Your Willie Horton example is pretty weak, for a couple of reasons.
First, you conveniently ignore the fact that the release program which allowed Horton temporarily out of prison was common nationwide. Indeed, it had been enthusiastically supported by Reagan while he was California's governor. So painting it as some kind of far-left program by a MassachusettsLibrul was and is misleading.
Second, if that attack on Dukakis was fair, why did Lee Atwater, its architect, later apologize for the "naked cruelty" of the campaign?
Finally, you're doing what critics of the "liberalmedia" too often do: you take your perceptions and try to turn them into reality, when the facts are actually at odds with what you remember. In fact, the press--including NPR--reported quite vigorously on Clinton's approval of the Rector execution.

Mar. 29 2011 06:46 AM
M Stone-Richard from VA Beach

". . . your absurd use of ad hominem ciriticism in the name of cautioning against ad hominem criticism could only come from a liberal mind."
- Diogenes of Newport on Alan G

And that folks, is a fine example of "dicto simpliciter," or in plain Englsih, the sweeping generalization fallacy.

Mar. 29 2011 12:56 AM
Michael Brooks from Portland, OR

I believe the attack against NPR, is an consevative discomfort with "Liberty, and Justice for All. It's good for them to wince, and we can afford it, at this time in our 21st Century.

Mar. 28 2011 11:59 PM

I'm shocked they didn't cover the clear left-lane bias of that bastion of NPR, Car Talk.

Mar. 28 2011 11:56 PM
Diogenes from Newport, RI

On NPR, one often hears content and tone of presentation that is reminiscent of "thoughtful" religions, like Christian Science.
This is entirely consistent with its liberal bias. Liberalism reveals itself as more of a religion than a set of logically-derived values in many ways, such as seen in the many emotionally-charged defensive comments in these postings.
But one of the most telling attributes of the liberal repertoire is the use of dirty tricks. That is, any tactic is good, even noble, in furthering the Liberal Cause.
So it is not all that surprising that we find Alan G (181) identifying himself as a Republican with the intent of somehow shaming-into-silence two conservatives posters making to-the-point rebuttals of raging liberals.
Nice try, Liberal Al, but your lack of cogent thought as well as your absurd use of ad hominem ciriticism in the name of cautioning against ad hominem criticism could only come from a liberal mind.

Mar. 28 2011 11:18 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Mitzi Allen wrote, "Without Public Radio, a whole lot of people wouldn't have stations."

Could you please clarify that statement? I have been in 48 states, in some very rural and remote areas, and I have never found NPR to be the only broadcast service I could receive.

Mar. 28 2011 10:15 PM
Mitzi Allen from Washington State

Whenever you hear something you don't agree with it always "biased". That's the nice thing about TV. You only have to listen to what you want to hear!

You're really lucky if you're a very right wing Conservative--you can only watch Fox news, and never get upset.

Strange comment from another person that he/she listens to NPR all the time but won't donate to it because once in a while a speaker says something he doesn't like. What about all the rest of the time?

Public radio is now paid for by advertising from big corporations, but by donations by the general public--getting only like 10 percent from the government. Without Public Radio, a whole lot of people wouldn't have stations.

Mar. 28 2011 09:55 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Mark Richard said it nicely, "I expect NPR will re-think some of its story selection, framing, and vocabulary, because it has clearly lost credibility with the half of the country that votes Republican. "

This is really a practical matter. NPR has a stated vision and goals that simply can't be attained unless they expand their horizons. As some have pointed out, a great help in this would be to foster diversity in the NPR culture by adopting the hiring practices that are now common in corporate America. This can be as simple as expanding the candidate pool, and then making new hires feel welcome and accepted even though they may not share the prevailing philosophies.

NPR Vision - 1st bullet
"NPR, with its network of independent member stations, is America's pre-eminent news institution. "

NPR High Level Goals - 1st bullet
"Make NPR the most relevant, trusted and consumed news source in the U.S."

Mar. 28 2011 09:27 PM
Carol Tienken from Medford, MA

I thought Brooke did a fabulous job in this last segment; the only one I heard on NH PR while driving home. I studied journalism in grad school and bias was never on the table... ethicism was. It was understood if you were doing hard news, it was your job to seek out all angles. If you were doing a feature, or a column, your opinion could shine. But never under other circumstances. For one of your interviewees to say that people do not listen to radio to change their opinions... shame on him! For there to be a suggested bias because NPR did a story on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire... again, shame on him. I'd like to believe that I choose NPR because it is in depth.I don't know what the topic du jour is going to be. But maybe I will get more information. Maybe I will learn something. And maybe that learning will allow me to formulate or alter opinions. If you don't listen to talk radio to learn, they why? I had never heard of the fire. I am not pro-union. But I understand their history and the value that they had in history. How can anyone offer simple solutions or pat soundbites to complicated questions? And is it bias when a medium looks for an angle that will be interesting to its audience and break through the clutter of competition? When is it bias and when is it good marketing?
Excellent segment. Congratulations.

Mar. 28 2011 09:10 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

I predict NPR will react to this controversy the way the Democrats reacted to 'Willie Horton' in 1988. If you remember, they denounced the very idea that Dukakis' handling of the case indicated an attitude toward violent criminals that was, shall we say, out of the mainstream. But four years later, Bill Clinton stopped campaigning specifically to go back to Arkansas to highlight his support of capital punishment by being in-state for the execution of Ricky Ray Rector. Needless to say, the response of the press was . . . muted. NPR and Democrats still talk about 'Willie Horton' as a metaphor, but the name Ricky Ray Rector has gone down the memory hole.

The political moral of the story is that the Democrats knew that Dukakis was, in fact, too far out of the mainstream on this issue, while protesting publicly that there was nothing to see here, folks, just move along. In a similar fashion, I expect NPR will re-think some of its story selection, framing, and vocabulary, because it has clearly lost credibility with the half of the country that votes Republican. Today, 'All Things Considered' did a tough story on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the effect on the recession of the collapse of those two institutions. A couple of years overdue, but still, a change of pace in taking on two institutions dear to the hearts of Barney Frank and the Democrats. What has been lacking in NPR is not so much overt unfairness to 'conservative' ideas and personalities and institutions, but a lack of resources devoted to critical scrutiny of the 'liberal' counterparts.

Mar. 28 2011 08:57 PM
M Stone-Richard from VA Beach

@Alan G

"It's a little disheartening, though, to see the high number of ad hominem, content-free rebuttals in the comments."

As a "Progmatic" -- my own term, meaning a practical progressive, willing to compromise -- I agree wholeheartedly. There will always be a certain number of people (on both sides of the political spectrum), posting in a comments section, that employ ad hominem and other fallacies in their arguments. Whatever fallacy they use, it only reveals their own weaknesses, not those of the people they're disparaging.

I've been the target of ad hominem attacks from both the left and the right, depending on the issue. It's annoying.

Mar. 28 2011 08:57 PM
Alan G from Los Angeles, CA

It's clear that a if a conservative interviewee is asked a pointed question, that "indicates liberal bias," and if a liberal interviewee is asked a pointed question, it "indicates a conservative bias." In both cases, the bias is in the ear of the listener. Those with a relatively unsupportable (by pesky facts, statistics, and such) political ideology tend to be constantly on the defensive, and will read bias into any attempt to find an alternative point of view. Realists are branded left- or right-biased according to topic, and who's doing the branding.

It's a little disheartening, though, to see the high number of ad hominem, content-free rebuttals in the comments. (Diogenes, Harold, I'm talking to you, because you both make me embarrassed to be a Republican.)

Mar. 28 2011 07:37 PM
Dave from WI

All people (including reporters) have biases and preferences for political parties, policies, religion, and social issues.

With a tax funded network like public radio, not just the stories and questions should be evenly balanced, the hiring of reporters, producers and program directors should be also. It is likely that 90% of the employees of public radio have voted for the left side 90% of the time.

Everyone's bias occasionally come through when they speak, even when they are trying to be fair and even. It is in tone or leading questions like "But don't you think . . . ?" or "Isn't it . . . ?" It is especially evident in live shows on local networks where it doesn't get edited out.

Mar. 28 2011 07:00 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

CrimsonZ wrote, "I hear a lot of people talk about how TAL is liberal. I've been trying to figure out what a conservative version would be like. What kind of stories would they do?"

My first candidate for a story on "conservative TAL" would be hearing from Arizona border ranch families about the fear they live in on a daily basis.

Of course there's nothing stopping Ira Glass from doing this story - except ideology.

Mar. 28 2011 06:45 PM
Barbara from New Haven, CT

The conservative listener who objected that the question “Can we afford this?” about a tax holiday was a "liberal" question, only succeeded in demonstrating why people who get their information from conservative news sources are reliably worse informed than anyone else.

Mar. 28 2011 06:27 PM
Bruce Patterson from Springfield, Il.

I listen to NPR alot; I like listening to most of the programs that are on NPR. That said, I can not believe that professionals like Tom Rosenstiel can see the liberal bias, particularly in stroey selection. Perhaps he was hampered by a focus on news showes or by the division between liberal and conservative. I believe NPR has a peace bias similar to the one that was discussed the first week concerning the Pennsylvania station. I think you also have a "make the listeners see the other side" bias. An example of this would be the show that had on two gay guys who had adopted a child and written a book. Many of my friends would perhaps think that showed a liberal bias (because only liberals are interested in what two gay guys who wrote a book have to say", but I think it is a make the listener see what's over the fence and outside of their normal interactions. Another example would be the program that Sam Negus commented on in the first week - about the "Christian who doesn't believe in the resurection". Sam saw liberalism but I think maybe such story selection comes not from pure liberalism but rather from "let's have peace, let's show that we can all live together and extend a place at the table to every point of view".
If you and the other professionals can't see at least this kind of bias at NPR there is very little hope of finding agreement and blameing bias on the "ear of the beholder" is a copout.

Mar. 28 2011 05:26 PM
Harold from New York

Robert Riversong, have you noticed how you and your liberal brethren have such high opinions of yourselves and your views? It is precisely this self-righteous notion that all of liberalism is just and fair and anyone who has another idea is not enlightened, from the darkside, selfish, and greedy that underlies the culture of bias at NPR. Talk about living in a world without counter-balance. Oh wait, liberals don't need counterbalance because they are already enlightened and therefore get everything right.

Mar. 28 2011 04:27 PM
Jason from Portland, Oregon

Broke forgot to ask Tom Rosenstiel an all-important question toward the end: Does his data show that Fox News is biased? Sean Hannity? Can his data show any bias?

He refused to answer the question about NPR, but seems like the answer might lie in comparing how different news organizations scored.

Mar. 28 2011 03:54 PM
Mutt Moir from NY State

"How many times have I heard on NPR that lowering taxes, or forgoing a tax increase, is 'giving' money away that rightly belongs to the Government?"
You don't answer this question, so I'll take a wild stab.
I'm guessing "never."
You may want to come up with a different answer, some number greater than zero. In that case, I suggest that you come up with some examples. I'm betting that there precious few such examples. But you're so very sure that you heard it, apparently many times. So finding an example should be easy.
Many past shows are available, free, online--not only the audio, but the transcript. So you have the tools to do your research. Go to it!

Mar. 28 2011 03:10 PM
Mutt Moir from NY State

Harold quotes:
"Said of Ellen Weiss, SVP of news at NPR: 'She had an executioner's knife for anybody who didn't abide by her way of thinking,...'"
Yeah. And who said that of her?
Juan Williams. The guy who'd just been dismissed.
I'm sure his perception at the time was entirely unbiased.

You need better sourcing if you have a point to make.

Mar. 28 2011 02:48 PM
Mutt Moir from NY State

NC Boy:
"If the play was titled 'The Koran' and took a similar approach to the subject, NPR would...denounce the overt 'Islamaphobia'..."
You don't know that. You can't know that.
In fact, in 2005, a Danish newspaper published a bunch of provocative cartoons about the prophet Muhammed. This was quite the international cause celebre for a few months, with death threats from prominent Islamic leaders.
How did NPR cover it?
Fairly. Accurately. NPR did *not* "denounce the overt 'Islamaphobia.'"
So, when you're so certain that NPR would do so in the hypothetical case that you describe, I submit that you don't have any grounds at all on which to make such an assertion.
This indicates that, in fact, your perception of NPRBias (it's all one word now, you know) is without foundation.

Mar. 28 2011 02:46 PM
CrimsonZ from Seattle

Also, I hear a lot of people talk about how TAL is liberal. I've been trying to figure out what a conservative version would be like. What kind of stories would they do?

Mar. 28 2011 02:19 PM
CrimsonZ from Seattle

I think everyone posting on this should step back for a second and consider this discussion thread. This is by far one of the most civil discussion I have ever seen on such a volatile subject. Especially considering it's a forum on a national news site. I think that, in and of itself, proves how amazingly important NPR is.

Also, the fact that it's very difficult to prove the bias of NPR is a good sign. Whether it is biased one way or another, it's fairly apparent that it's not an extreme bias. I think that shows that they are at least trying. That's much more than can be said about a lot of other news sources.

NPR may not be perfect, but I think it's one of the best news sources we have. The fact that they are even exploring this issue speaks volumes.

Oh, and their ability to not have commercials is not an unfair advantage. All the other news organizations could follow the same format as NPR and rely on donations. But they are much more interested in making money. And I really don't think greed is the right type of motivation for the presentation of accurate information.

Mar. 28 2011 02:16 PM
M Stone-Richard from VA Beach


I have a credible source that, on average, public radio employees earn much less than their commercial radio counterparts. In 2009, I enrolled in Washtenaw Community College's Broadcast Arts Program; all my instructors had worked in radio, some still actively. Of my 40 some broadcast arts classmates, I was the only one pursuing a career in public radio. I heard over-and-over, from both my instructors, and classmates that also worked in radio, that commercial pay was much higher.

I know this is only anecdotal evidence, but you also hear many public radio personalities expressing this view. Of course, the "stars" will make more, but there just isn't the potential for, say, a Rush Limbaugh-like salary, or even that of the stars of the "Morning Rush" programs that are so ubiquitous all over the country. Also, the opportunities for advancement are much greater in commercial radio.

Mar. 28 2011 01:58 PM

Want an example of liberal media bias by NPR? Listen/read this segment on Tell Me More last Monday:

Teachers Voice Concern Over Budget Cuts

Sounds more like a 20 minute commercial for teachers.

Mar. 28 2011 01:50 PM
Dan from New York

I often listen to NPR defend itself from bias by citing various studies and surveys, but it seems this is limited to NPR news. It's the rest of your programming that I find extremely biased to the left. I find your news program to be just as biased as the New York Times, NBC, CBS, ABC, and CNN. Which is to say it's left biased, but it's average.

It's your other programs, seemingly all hosted by very liberal democrats, and which air all day and all night, that are extremely biased. I venture to say that you do not have a single Republican that hosts any of your regularly aired programming. All Things Considered, Diane Rehm, On the Media, On Point, State of the Union, Talk of the Nation, Tell Me More, and even Wait Wait are hosted by Democrats/liberals/left-leaning hosts. It is this that outrages me about NPR getting my tax dollar for financing.

Mar. 28 2011 01:34 PM
Charles from Michigan

SophieBlue: So what happened to Air America?

I thought it extremely funny; that "Democracy Now!" was a program that was syndicated on both some Air America stations (when Air America was in existence) and also some public radio stations.

It actually made perfect sense; "Democracy Now!" fit in quite well into both formats. What was funny was how close public radio was, to Air America. I always thought that it was ironic, how Air America's staff were the perfect exemplars of NPR producers and listeners. But in fact, NPR sucked all the air out of that room. Air America couldn't compete with NPR, because they both did pretty much the same thing. Without state sponsorship and free licenses for public radio stations, Air America might have gotten a foothold in the market for left-wing talk radio.

Mar. 28 2011 11:29 AM
Charles from Michigan

M Stone-Richard: As you know, as a former Ann Arbor area resident, you will be in an unusually rich neighborhood of public radio choices. I count seven public radio networks (virtually all of them are licensees of state universities or other public shools -- add that to the governmental involvement in public radio) that you might be able to tune into.

The business of whether no Conservative would work for "peanuts" in public radio is probably not a serious argument. I suspect that if we looked at the tax returns for Steve Innskeep, Nina Totenberg, Diane Rehm, Terry Gross, Ira Glass, Ellen Weiss (before she was fired) and Vivian Schiller (before she was fired), we'd find that none of them were working for "peanuts."

But I have to say, I think you are on to something, and you are making a great point whether or not you realize it. My suspicion is that the fact that there are no "viewpoint" voices on public radio that are conservatives is that station managers are afraid that such voices will turn off listeners and donors. And that the reason for that, is that public radio, with years of left-leaning newstalk, has self-selected its audience. Radio stations are very effective at dividing up demographic groups.

Mar. 28 2011 11:22 AM
Richard Johnston from Manhattan upper west side

Charles, don't delude yourself that everybody is obsessing over Fox News. Not watching TV at all means I am excluded from that pleasure. From what I hear those who rely on it are already converted to their point of view, so FN is irrelevant to the discussion of the value of NPR seeing events and facts from an unbiased perspective. As a strong supporter of free enterprise and the power of the profit motive I say "more power to 'em."

Mar. 28 2011 11:15 AM
SophieBlue from Montana

1) As a progressive, I would note that there is a CONSERVATIVE bias by NPR's lack of coverage of topics that are important to the left.
2) I have been offended numerous times by what I see as Neal Conan's rightward leaning on Talk of the Nation (Sotomayor coverage comes to mind).
3) If the right wants a right-leaning program, a la WFB's Firing Line of yore on PBS, then it should produce one. Our local public radio station responds to listener requests (except for the request to include Democracy Now, which it deems too "biased").

Mar. 28 2011 10:55 AM
Charles from Michigan

More and more complaints about Fox News, and how NPR is needed, to do ideological battle with Fox News...

It is such a comprehensively losing argument for public radio.

First, because Fox News is such an unreliable 'straw man' for Conservatism. A far better single-source media barometer for the right would be the Wall Street Journal, and the Wall Street Journal editorial page. But as the quoted reports suggested, the Journal's news staff is remarkably fair and balanced, and the Journal itself is closer to the centrists in Congress than the left-leaning New York Times.

The second reason that "battling Fox" is such a rotten and self-defeating argument for public radio is that it reduces public radio to nothing more than a broadcast version of Media Matters or And no one in their right mind would suggest that the government ought to fund one media veiwpoint in order to counter another media viewpoint.

Remember, this isn't really a critical debate about the admirable qualities of public radio. It is a debate over governmental funding. Public radio bears the heavy burden of proof in satisfying the nation and Congress that it is fair and balanced and worth its funding.

Mar. 28 2011 10:49 AM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Joshua Bennett - Thanks for an interesting, and new, viewpoint in this discussion. Now prepare yourself for the onslaught of the elitists who will inform you that only liberals are smart enough, talented enough, intellectually curious enough, open-minded enough to be top notch journalists.

Mar. 28 2011 10:40 AM
Joshua Bennett from Evanston, IL

The entire public discussion on whether media coverage is biased tends to be off target.

Most large corporations pursue having diverse viewpoints. I based this on personal experience in several multinationals at a leading business school. Companies try to recruit a workforce with diverse of backgrounds and views. The presumption is that if you have a group with diverse life experience and views then you will receive better insights, debates, and decisions.

The media takes a different approach: recruit a group of people who hold highly similar viewpoints and then expect them to report the views of all sides. The goal is laudable, the method is ludicrous. The public debate about this is ineffectual.

I'd love to see OTM do a follow-up on the barriers to recruiting a diverse newsroom. What are the experiences of a conservative reporter in apredominantly liberal newsroom and vice versa? Are there enough aspiring conservative reporters to hire? Are major media outlets even trying?

Mar. 28 2011 10:28 AM
Diogenes from Newport, RI

Ed Q (159) proposes a great test for evaluating what NPR-defenders see as its "honest journalism" (156) which "questions dogma" (151). Has NPR ever interviewed a qualified critic of "greenhouse gas climate change" or ever referred to this unproven theory as other than proven fact? Answers: No, and No!
Frankly, I doubt that any one of NPR's staff could bring themselves to face a critic of this Holy Liberal Dogma. Hearing actual facts about the absorption spectra of CO2, cloud albedo, etc, would make their heads spin around and elicit the need for an exorcism by High Priest James Hansen!

Mar. 28 2011 10:24 AM
Bort from Syracuse

This piece does a good job of proving that NPR's conservative listeners are biased.

Mar. 28 2011 10:23 AM
Ed Quipper from Edwardsville, IL

If NPR really wanted to look at its bias (which I doubt it does), it should take its coverage of climate change to a variety of scientists with relevant expertise, but who have steered clear of the politics of climate change (here's a hint: anyone who emphasizes consensus over facts is more into the politics than the science). I fully expect that they would label NPR's coverage as one-sided and simplistic.

Mar. 28 2011 09:18 AM
jc smith from middle georgia

I've been a paying member of public radio for years and feel it is the only intelligent radio that is broad-minded. I'm annoyed when conservatives accuse NPR of bias because it conflicts with their narrow perspective, similar to FOX News' demagogic viewpoint that purports to
be "fair and balanced".
Bias takes many forms, not only political. I must admit, however, that NPR has been biased in that it has never broadcast a program on the chiropractic profession. Does NPR have a bias against chiropractic?Indeed, there is more to spine care than drugs, shots, and disc surgery, but the public would never know this if it only listened to NPR.
Should this be considered "medical bias" by the omission of the third-largest health physician-level profession in the country?
Recently the North Carolina BC/BS announced it would no longer pay for spinal fusion with the sole indication of herniated or degenerated disc. This is a huge tipping point that went unnoticed by the mass media. Is this an example of medical bias or what?
I love public radio, even though it has a bias in certain areas. No one is perfect, but it sure beats commercial radio.

Mar. 28 2011 08:49 AM
M Stone-Richard from VA Beach


BTW, where in Michigan are you? I'll be moving back to the Ann Arbor area in a few months after a year in VA Beach.

Anyway . . . back to the debate. You wrote:

"Let us suppose that a public radio station wanted to respond to conservative listeners, by scheduling a news and current events "viewpoint" program that was as far to the right as Terry Gross, Ira Glass, OTM, Studio 360 and Democracy Now! are to the left.

What nationally-available public radio program(s) would that be? From any of the usual public radio-production suspects (PRI, APR, Pacifica, WHYY, WGBH, WNYC, WAMU; you name it)?"

I see a fatal flaw in your argument. Why would any self-respecting right-wing Capitalist want to work for peanuts at a public radio station, when they can make much a small fortune at a commercial radio station? And therein may lie the answer to this whole issue.

Mar. 28 2011 08:38 AM
Kevin McKague from Davison, MI

For every example along the lines of Michelle Norris' question about proposed tax holidays there are 15 examples of Fox News and right wing radio hosts accusing the president of promoting Soylent Green factories built with George Soros' money so Indionesian abortionists can kill our children and grandparents.
NPR is biased towards good, honest journalism. Enough of this self-doubt. Get back to work.

Mar. 28 2011 08:03 AM
Chris from Chicago


NPR has never referred to someone as anti-choice. They use pro abortion rights or anti abortion rights.

Mar. 28 2011 02:55 AM
William Sterner from Chicago

The primary difficulty with the entire discussion, which was impressive in its serious attempt to ask questions, were in the hidden presuppositions. It has become the default stance of people questioning the "liberal bias" of some media source to indicate the mere detectability of some "bias" necessitates a failure to to be "objective." This is an extremely cynical and calculated stance at root akin to asking someone when did they stop beating their spouse. It accuses the source of having a bias as if eliminating a bias in topics of debate were possible, when in fact one must have a stance in order to participate in a debate or discussion productively. The consequence then is the complete stoppage of genuine debate and public policy development. It is simply a very arch way of eliminating any need to make a positive contribution or compromise, while appearing righteous.

Mar. 28 2011 02:41 AM

this station seriously wants to pretend that it doesn't lean to the left. well, next time they describe a republican as "anti-choice" or "against abortion rights" rather than "pro-life" just know, that right there, that's leaning to the left.

Mar. 28 2011 12:14 AM

NPR is more than generous to conservatives because it's scared to be seen as biased to the left. The spectrum of discussion goes from slightly left of center to far-right. Contrast wall-to-wall coverage of the tea party events to the under-reporting of much more sustained pro-labor activity in Wisconsin. When you so dominate the opinion media, why do you conservatives throw fits over NPR contributing to the free marketplace of ideas that you claim to revere – scared of a bit of truth, perhaps? If you were really confident that your ideas would stand up to scrutiny compared with others, surely you wouldn’t care.

If NPR really had a liberal bias, when reporting about the sole air traffic controller who fell asleep at an understaffed tower, it would have mentioned the irony that it occurred at the airport named after the president who broke the air traffic controllers’ union. It didn’t, of course.

Ah yes, taxpayers funding NPR. The first mass communications medium was the Post Office. It was public. Printed matter postage was highly subsidized, deliberately, to help create an informed, educated and entertained populace; in doing so it promoted authors and publishers that enriched the national life. That’s also why we have public schools and universities, public museums and galleries, public parks and more recently, the GI Bill which opened up higher education to millions who could not otherwise have afforded it, and so created great American middle class - you know, the parents and grandparents of you whiners who don't want to pay taxes for anything that won't benefit you personally, because you feel you owe nothing to the society that made your way of life possible.

You might just contemplate what kind of country earlier generations of Americans would have left you if they had been as self-centered and anti-community as you.

Mar. 28 2011 12:08 AM

A liberal is anyone who questions everything instead of sticking to dogma.

The reason conservatives believe asking "can we afford it?" to the proposal to not tax new businesses is it questions dogma or, as in this case, authority, the business leader calling for no taxes.

But the lack of any follow on questions shows the powerful conservative influence which serves to shutdown questions.

The follow on question that wasn't asked was "is it fair to existing businesses to make them pay to support the new business that is not taxed?"

If Intel builds a factory where AMD or Motorola has paid, and continues to pay, taxes to build the water treatment plant, the roads and bridges, the schools and police stations, is it fair to give Intel a free ride on the taxes of its competitors so Intel can charge lower prices or earn higher profits thanks to its special tax breaks?

Mar. 28 2011 12:02 AM
Charles from Michigan

Angie Black wrote: "I am shocked that the conservative listeners interviewed on the program equate a reporter's follow up questions with the reporter's own opinion."

Angie shouldn't be so shocked. Personally, it's not just one question from Michele Norris that makes her own opinion a subject of scrutiny. And the fact that Michele Norris might have some private political opinions is surely not a crime or even a surprise.

What is noteworthy (again, not surprising) is that Michele Norris is part of the cadre of NPR insiders whose lives rather closely parallel the Democratic Party and liberal interest groups.

Michele Norris' husband is Broderick Johnson, a Democratic Party lawyer/lobbyist who worked in the Clinton Administration. He was a senior advisor to the Kerry Edwards campaign in 2004, and he was enough of an informal advisor to the Obama Campaign in 2008, that Michele Norris stayed away from NPR's coverage of campaign stories, in order to avoid any appearance of a conflict.

It's just not that uncommon at NPR. Brooke Gladstone's husband is the virulent Bush critic Fred Kaplan, a defense/military writer at Linda Wertheimer's husband Fred is the former President of Common Cause. The intersections of ruling liberal elites and NPR in Washington is an extensive catalog.

And I cannot think of one single case study in which any NPR insider intersects with the Republican party, other than asking hostile questions on-air.

Mar. 28 2011 12:01 AM
John from Los Angeles

I am a fiscal conservative and I think the question regarding if we can afford the proposed 5 year tax holiday for manufacturing is fair. I support tax credit for corporations willing to setup manufacturing facility in the US, but I also worry about further erosion of out tax base. I feel assured by the intel's answer. Manufacturing plants are expensive capital investments that creates jobs and increases our tax base. A 5 year tax credit for a manufacturing plant is not unreasonable and I thought it was a borderline softball question. As pointed out by the segment, the perceived bias varies depending on the sensitivity of the listener.

Mar. 27 2011 11:46 PM
John from Austin


These conservatives really have to strrrrrrrretch to the highly abstract when trying to justify their allegations of bias.

Contrast that stretch any time with the blatant examples of bias oozing out of rightwing radio/tv!

...and the vast majority of these people argue all over the internet that rightwing programming is unbiased and NPR is far left!

With such compromised credibility, why does anyone at all worry about what rightwingers claim is biased?!!!!

Public radio would be so much better off without having to heed conservative rantings.
I've already donated a second helping of my usual yearly contribution to counter this recent absurdity with a dollars vote of confidence for Public radio... I hope enough others do the same in order to save the smaller stations in the system.

Mar. 27 2011 11:45 PM
Kevin Cronin from Davis, Illinois


A liberal question that demonstrates liberal skepticism?

Her [Michele Norris] question--which isn't unreasonable--her question was: Can the country afford that right now?

let's listen to that…

[Paul Otellini] ...anyone who wants to build a new factory in this country--whether is's an American firm or a foreign firm--why don't we give them a five year tax holiday? It doesn't cost anything, right? It's just deferring the tax revenues you would ordinary get. But in the meanwhile you get a factory and you get jobs, and everybody wins.

[Michele Norris] Can this country afford that right now?

[Paul Otellini] Well it doesn't cost anything.

[Brooke Gladstone] Let me tell you what I just heard...

Well, let me tell you what *I* just heard.

A tax holiday is *not* the equivalent of "not costing anything". It does have a cost: an elimination or temporary reduction of taxes.

You should have caught that.

K Croinin

Mar. 27 2011 11:24 PM
Kevin McKenzie from Memphis, TN

"Jack Facts" suggestion that the EEOC should mandate hiring a representative number of conservatives at NPR illustrates what I was thinking.

Where was OTM's survey of NPR staff and directors that shows how many are liberal or conservative? Despite every effort to balance coverage, can conservatives trust that they can tune to publicly funded radio and hear their voices accurately and authentically reflected -- not only as the ones answering the questions, but as those asking the questions?

Mainstream media faced a similar question when the Kerner Commission in 1968 called for more black reporters and editors. In my view, that failed because too few African American journalists were hired and promoted to reach critical mass, and because the organizations they joined successfully resisted change.

Bottom line: Affirmative action may provide the ultimate satisfaction for conservative critics of NPR.

Mar. 27 2011 11:11 PM
Diogenes from Newport, RI

Liberals attempting to deal with the weaknesses of their intellectual position typically resort to personal attacks and/or shifting the subject slightly to score (irrelevant) points against the other side. NPR often offers examples of the latter, but has better manors than to resort to the former.
Not so with Robert R (141), who flails about in search of an insult even while stretching for a relevant rebuttal to my arguments.
I confine myself to two observations:
1) If Robert finds the liberal perspectives presented in these postings to be "critical thinking", he needs to get out more (intellectually speaking).
2) I accept one word of added value: Orwell's vision (in "1984") was of a "dystopian" socialist society.
Here is a quote from Orwell, as my parting gift to the liberal elite (like Robert R), to whom NPR is so dear:
"So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don't even know that fire is hot."

Mar. 27 2011 10:53 PM
Paul Wesslund from Louisville, Kentucky

The contention that a reporter’s question offers an example of liberal tone is irrelevant to the issue of bias. Rigorous journalism might very well rattle against a listener’s world view, but that’s not bias. As long as the subject gets a chance to answer the question, there is no such thing as a biased question. The reporter could instead have asked whether the problem wasn’t taxes, but union wage and benefit demands. That would not have shown conservative bias, but proper journalism of probing of the topic from a variety of approaches, to thoroughly report all nuances of the story. A feeling about tone, and a person’s precise ideology not being included may say more about their relation to the mainstream of society rather than NPR’s bias. A lot of my opinions aren’t regularly included on NPR. That doesn’t make NPR biased against whatever size group shares my views.

Mar. 27 2011 10:39 PM
Angie Black from KUOW

Just listening to OTM. I am shocked that the conservative listeners interviewed on the program equate a reporter's follow up questions with the reporter's own opinion. A neutral reporter can use this device as a "devil's advocate" -- usually voicing the same questions that a listener or constituent would have -- and giving the interviewee the chance to clarify their position and address these concerns while still on the air. As a listener, I view this as a favor to the interview subject -- not as an attack!

Mar. 27 2011 09:55 PM
John from St. Paul, MN

As for the executive who claimed a 5-year tax holiday "...wouldn't cost anything." What is he thinking? Does he really believe that if one entity doesn't pay taxes another won't have to pay more to make up for the shortage? It'll cost some other taxpayer to make up for his getting a free ride.

Mar. 27 2011 09:40 PM
Robert Riversong from Warren, VT

Diogenes claims to "greatly enjoy intellectual honesty and critical thinking" and yet cannot bring himself to recognize it on NPR and insists on dismissing it as "liberal elitism" when others here engage in it.

"As a 40-year member of Mensa, a retired physicist", he of course is no elitist or pompous arrogant fool like the liberals – just one who thinks himself superior to all others while he demonstrates his intellectual inadequacies.

He asks "shouldn't 'intellectual honesty' compel you [referring to me] to point out that Orwell was writing about his vision of a socialist society" If this faux Diogenes had any familiarity with Orwell, he would know that the author wrote about a dystopian totalitarian society (not unlike ours today) but was a strong supporter of democratic socialism.

Diogenes says his "hypocrisy meter is starting to chirp!" And no wonder. If you read his deliberate doublespeak inversion of the discussion about taxes, all hypocrisy meters would be blaring an alarm.

Mar. 27 2011 09:22 PM
Russ from Irving, TX

Wow. I'm afraid that what the rest of the program demonstrated is that the listening audience is not only sophisticated -- it's significantly more sophisticated than the folks who are actually producing the show.

Not your finest work, folks.

Mar. 27 2011 08:20 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Chris Boese (122) wrote, "Some ideas can't be adequately presented within the space of the character limits. By restricting the characters, you are restricting the ideas presented and CENSORING ideas that are not shallow quick hits that can be expressed with the narrowness of a single Power Point slide."

I read your multiple posts. I wouldn't be looking for more characters. I would be looking for a more succinct writing style. Anyway, I did learn one thing. You really are full of yourself.

Mar. 27 2011 08:13 PM
Jeff from Grand Rapids, MI

Frankly, I am put-off when I hear NPR (and many of its listeners) refer to NPR as "intelligent radio." It became a common thread during the fund raiser last week. I find it to be in poor taste.

Mar. 27 2011 07:57 PM
Russ from Irving, TX

Does NPR have a liberal bias? YES. But the assumption that "non-bias is good" is, at best, intellectual fallacy. On the Media is missing a tremendous opportunity to ram home the point referring to basic J-school teaching, which is also backed up by pretty much any graduate liberal arts study of merit: EVERYBODY is biased, and tends to ask certain sorts of questions when approaching an issue. That's why outside observers are so valuable -- they're not framed inside the narrative-box, and therefore often catch things the "insiders" miss. The idea that one might not be biased, and more specifically, the idea that one's biases don't matter is ITSELF an ideological concept -- and therefore, a-priori evidence of (a very specific, and profoundly counterfactual) "bias."

An approach which would be far more intellectually mature, and respect the audience more, would be to discuss the functional biases (heavier international and policy coverage, etcetera), rather than make facile comparisons to known demogogues like Sean Hannity (who certainly doesn't qualify as presenting anything resembling journalism), or else bought-and-paid-for rags like Newsweek, which presents the news more or less as an excuse to engage in partisan hagiography.

Why not ask the more sophisticated questions: "in what ways does NPR cover things which are missed elsewhere (an obvious good thing), and in what ways do we tend to fall short and not realize that we're operating from a fundamentally ideological or partisan position?

Put simply, your listeners are significantly more sophisticated and media-savvy than you may think, and are perfectly capable of handling issues more sophisticated than "is there a liberal bias."

Mar. 27 2011 07:51 PM
Lora from Georgia

THIS article is very bias because they got experts in the field that did studies to prove the NPR isn’t bias but just asked a conservative listener to give his opinion. Also, her tone is very condescending and especially when she said “supposedly” bias. Is she meaning it?

Mar. 27 2011 07:42 PM
Tom Sherer from American Desert

Mr Negus took a very rational approach. But, can he also see that NPR can be heard legitimately as a voice of the conservative right?

As broad as the scope of NPR coverage might be, many listeners believe NPR is another conservative voice - just less obnoxious than the rest. Every time there is criticism of NPR by the whacko right, NPR bends over backwards FURTHER to be more conservative. In other words, NPR allows itself to be bullied, which is what the far-right does best.

Mar. 27 2011 07:33 PM

According to the survey cited in this report NPR listeners number 2/1 Liberal/Conservative. I think I have a better methodology. How many NPR listeners voted Obama/McCain compared to the rest of the country? Kerry/Bush? Gore/Bush? etc.

The problem with using terms like Liberal, Conservative, and Moderate/Independent is many folks will consider themselves Moderate/Independent, especially those who vote Democratic.

I also find it interesting that NPR doesn't think they have a problem because listeners are ONLY 2/1 Liberal/Conservative, while the NYT is 4/1 Liberal/Conservative. Both numbers are shocking when compared to the results from numerous surveys on political attitudes in the U.S.

We're also told more Liberals listen to NPR because Liberals are somehow more enlightened, but the reality is birds of a feather flock together. People listen to programming that confirms their own bias'.

Mar. 27 2011 07:23 PM
Diogenes from Newport, RI

Sorry, Nik (130), but your anti-conservative feelings have led you way wide of the mark. As a conservative, I have no need to judge women choosing abortion, nor men having boyfriends, nor single mothers. I wish them all well in life, and hope they find happiness.
But I'm fascinated that you throw in "taxes . . . as the cost of communal organization". How very telling!!
And who defines what "communal organization" is? Why, that would be your friendly all-knowing, all-judging, all-demanding liberal elite!
How many times have I heard on NPR that lowering taxes, or forgoing a tax increase, is "giving" money away that rightly belongs to the Government? That single assumptive perspective is very telling of NPR bias, and very odious to non-liberals.
But to the liberal listener, as Nik suggests, the reporter who assumes that the Government should have "first dibs" on all private money is just reporting without comment. Yikes!

Mar. 27 2011 07:22 PM

According to the National Priorities Project, over $1 trillion dollars has been spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and yet conservatives are all worked up over tax payer dollars spent on an organization that even conservatives like? I don't get it.

Mar. 27 2011 07:20 PM

Another eye roller from NPR.

So we're supposed to determine if NPR is biased or not by comparing it to the rest of the MSM? Give me a break. The baseline is already left of center. And who said there isn't liberal media bias in the news pages of the WSJ? Their editorial page is definitely right of center, but their news pages are just as biased as the rest of the MSM.

I also found using the self-proclaimed party affiliation of NPR listeners to Shaun Hannity ridiculous. Hannity is a self-admitted conservative commentator. He doesn't pretend to be a reporter or an un-biased news source. NPR does! That's the difference.

Here's one example of NPR bias that one can quantify. How many times does NPR use the term "immigration" (as in "immigration debate" or "immigration policy") in stories where the issue is really about "ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION."

Mar. 27 2011 07:02 PM
Nik Tressler from Ashtabula, Ohio

Wonderful program. I feel, however, that you missed the real reason NPR is considered liberal. That is because you do stories on the "divisive issues" without a strongly partisan tone. You just do stories. Abortion is discussed without judging the women involved and refering to the unborn life. David Sedaris talks about his boyfriend. No one points that out. Taxes are discussed as if they are the costs of communal organization. You have done stories involving families without fathers and made no commentary about how they came about.
To many conservatives, no comment is, ipso facto, liberal bias.

Mar. 27 2011 06:33 PM
James Puskar from Oakland, CA

It seems to me, not only from the folks who were interviewed on the piece but the e-mails on this board, that the only bias about NPR is in the minds of the conservative listeners. They approach everything they hear with a preconceived notion that, even if the story is presented factually, the ~tone~ is biased. This is absurd. The anti-NPR crowd will never accept that objective reporting is what they are getting. The folks who listen to NPR are intelligent consumers of news, whatever their political bent; they know that NPR is the best source for news stories and and perceptive commentary. The simple fact that NPR's programs regularly air criticism of their stories is enough for me to be convinced that NPR is the only news organization that takes its job seriously.

Mar. 27 2011 06:31 PM
jack facts from MD

NC Boy(104) and Diogenese(111), please don't be so hard on Chris. It is obvious to me that he, and his soul-mate R Riversong, are only spouting those liberal sentiments to better their chances of snagging a job with one the public radio companies so they can participate in producing the propaganda.

Mar. 27 2011 06:02 PM
Leslie from Alameda, CA

Counting opinions by assigning them to groups doesn't say anything about bias, or an issue.

Media would do well to stop assigning things or people to groups labelled liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, on and on.

Absent this categorizing, there would be nothing to say, intelligently.

Don't give up your perceived bias. Don't give up talking intelligently about news and issues.

Nothing needs to be "proved," even the truth. It exists in the ears and minds of listeners - all of them.

Mar. 27 2011 05:39 PM
Paul storm from Maui Hawaii

Another comment from the FB posting:
This is a great question. I have liberal leanings but see how NPR could be taken as showing liberal prejudice. They do exhibit a stunning degree of political correctness that might sound liberal to some ears. I also get the feeling that NPR shows a degree of hyper-sensitivity to every possible victim group that can seem liberal.

Mar. 27 2011 05:29 PM
Paul storm from Maui Hawaii

Another comment from FB:
Check how often the right winger gets the final word in an NPR story. Is it never, or just almost never?

Mar. 27 2011 05:28 PM
Paul storm from Maui Hawaii

Being a Lefty, I didn't see bias on NPR, but a lot of my friends and family are Conservatives so I shared the show on Facebook. Here are some of their comments:
Recently on All Things Considered they had a "debate" where Congressman Waxman, live, debated a series of sound clips from Republicans on teh economy. This isn't so much subtle left wing bias as deliberate partisan Democrat shilling.
On a late night program (which I don't know well), there was a round-table discussion between Robert Reich (partisan Democrat), a Think Progress (a ridiculously left wing org that NPR invariably describes as a "nonpartisan think tank"), a union spokesperson, some lefty who's intro I missed, and a Cato Institute analyst (a libertarian org that NPR never describes as a "nonpartisan think tank"). With the clearly left wing host, that puts the balance at 5 to 1 left, with 3 solid Democrats vs 0 Republicans.

Mar. 27 2011 05:27 PM
Chris from Chicago

Diogenes, I do not support affirmative action in the hypothetical cases you listed. I also do not support NPR applying an affirmative action policy to hire even more conservatives because I believe affirmative action is unconstitutional.

And I think that is a major problem with this debate. As is typical in today's news media environment, people try to lump everything into one of two teams. You either support the Red Time unconditionally or you're with the Blue Team unconditionally. The fact of the matter is, its never that simple. What if a reporter is very qualified, liberal on social issues and taxation, but conservative on crime, immigration, and foreign policy? Would that person fit your criteria for a conservative, or should they be overlooked despite an impressive resume because they are liberal on some issues?

Nothing is black and white. You simply don't have the evidence to claim liberal bias.

Just cause you feel it doesn't mean its there.

Mar. 27 2011 05:24 PM
Chris Boese from Brooklyn

And one last snark:

I also believe the CHARACTER LIMITS on this forum lead to bias!

Some ideas can't be adequately presented within the space of the character limits. By restricting the characters, you are restricting the ideas presented and CENSORING ideas that are not shallow quick hits that can be expressed with the narrowness of a single Power Point slide.

Shame on you, On the Media! Your broadcast contains more depth explanation of the issues discussed. That's why I love it. And the censorship of that kind of depth on this forum is why I probably won't be returning to this space.


Mar. 27 2011 05:19 PM
Diogenes from Newport, RI

The flames of liberal elitism are bursting forth in defense of NPR!
In #108, Robert informs us that: "What self-described conservatives cannot tolerate in public media, nor in any public discourse today, is the intellectual honesty and critical thinking that are emblematic of liberalism. In Orwellian fashion, however, they pretend they are attacking bias, when in reality they are attacking the Enlightenment which inspired the American tradition of free-thinking liberality and attacking America herself."

As a 40-year member of Mensa, a retired physicist, and a "self-described conservative", I greatly enjoy intellectual honesty and critical thinking, neither of which I find in abundance on NPR.
By the way, shouldn't "intellectual honesty" compel you to point out that Orwell was writing about his vision of a socialist society when he imagined a world where all news and comment came from government sponsored sources? I think my hypocrisy meter is starting to chirp!

Mar. 27 2011 05:17 PM
Carl from Memphis TN

I wish we'd had this discussion during the George W. Bush administration, when NPR exhibited a pervasive bias in favor of his administration, his policies, and his personal wonderfulness. One technique that drove me crazy (and is far less subtle than some of the tonal shadings discerned by our conservative friends) was that of imputing thoughts and motives to the Great Leader, as though they were privy to the inner workings of his psyche: Mr. Bush WANTS ... Mr. Bush BELIEVES... No ethical journalist makes unverifiable assertions. This is the language of state propaganda.

Mar. 27 2011 05:14 PM
Chris Boese from Brooklyn

LASTLY (my most important point on this debate, and why I think this topic is ultimately moot):

There is a deep cultural disconnect between liberals/progressives and conservatives right now, and it is a world view shift that creates cognitive dissonance.

One is a culture that values ASKING QUESTIONS, vs. a more authoritarian world view that deems the very act of asking questions, of QUESTIONING what are by definition unquestioned articles of faith, as BIAS.

Think about it. This came up for me during the Bush years. You weren't supposed to question things, or it was unpatriotic, biased, or opposed to the policy. This liberal inheritance of the Enlightenment (intellectual inquiry) is precluded out of hand by those who hold an authoritarian world view.

So what happens when the existence of an entire FIELD (journalism) is predicated on ASKING QUESTIONS?

That was what your diary-keepers also found. They saw bias when the reporter DARED to question a source! Questioning itself is bias.

Mar. 27 2011 05:03 PM
Sark from NC

Concern the Michelle Norris (sp?) interview question as to can the country afford to give new businesses a five year tax holiday, I saw this as a conservative bias because he was then able to state that the country could afford to do this without any documentation or presentation of supportive facts.
As far as liberal or conservative bias, for several years I have thought that NPR has loss what I hold dear, the truth! I am tired of talking head opinion and views, I want the facts and the support information to back up those facts. Until last year, I was a large donation giver to NPR but I reached the point where I couldn't take it any more as NPR let conservatives express their opinions as facts and did not challenge this. TOTN did this so much that I would ask that the show be turned off if I was riding in the car with someone while the show was playing. My thinking is that NPR shows did not challenge guest and ask the difficult questions because they were trying to keep the Republicans from cutting funding.
I miss NPR and rarely listen except for the occasion when a friend will tell me I may be interested in something as with this show.

Mar. 27 2011 05:02 PM
John Hamilton from Madison, Wisconsin

Good story. The beginning was best, when Brooke Gladstone asked the question of what the terms "liberal" and "conservative" mean. There is a bias at NPR. It is the bias of the model of reality that we are told is the real one, in gross and subtle ways.

People who think they are "conservatives" conform their thinking to what they believe "conservatism" to be. The same goes for "liberals," but to a lesser degree. I think this is because there is a qualitative difference between people who are more fluid and exploring of life than those who are more constricted and forbidding.

The construct of "left" and "right" is a mental representation of social thought. It may have had a meaning and pertinence, but that time has passed. The things that "liberals" advocate are, by and large, minimums. "Right wing" positions are largely falsehoods, pretend realities that are constructed to mask great dishonesty.

A vertical approach rather than a horizontal would be a great improvement.

Mar. 27 2011 05:01 PM
Mike from Minn

Re: Michelle Norris' question: "Can the country afford it?"
Seems to me even journalists who think this is just a reasonable follow up question can see the perhaps unconscious bias in this. An unbiased question might be more along the lines "Given the current large debt and deficit how should we compensate for the loss in revenue?" Is it too much to ask reporters to self monitor this carefully? I'd say no, it is their job to at least try to remain unbiased. I don't expect perfection, everyone has opinions, but the effort comes with the territory. Vent the opinions in clearly labeled editorials.

Mar. 27 2011 04:57 PM
Chris Boese from Brooklyn

(continued from previous post)

Race and gender studies find these same reactions when minority participation in face-to-face groups and organizations (or neighborhoods) see minority presence or participation ABOVE the token levels that the dominant cultural group had deemed acceptable.

I won't go into all the details of these studies, but we have to note that our current political climate where a black man is in an office that people who only accept black people as disempowered tokens would accept, cultural groups that have accepted white cultural hegemony find so threatening about the presence of immigrants of color in the US, and so on, all indicate that these issues are an active flash point.

Mar. 27 2011 04:57 PM
Chris Boese from Brooklyn

Secondly, there are plenty of (academic, replicable, statistically quantitative) social science studies that PERCEPTION of bias does not accurately correspond to ACTUAL bias, which tends to discredit your more informal "diary" approach. Take a look at the sociolinguistic studies of gender in online forums, for instance (Susan Herring). Male participation in the forums is much higher than female participation, even in anonymous, non-gender-focused forums. As in face-to-face communications, when women's PARTICIPATION in the forum rises about the 20-some percent that women usually participate (on topics that draw them in in higher numbers), there is considerable reaction from the dominant male participants, claiming that the "feminazis" are taking over, the discourse becomes more contentious, etc. until female participation falls down to the acceptable 20-some percent.

It was the PERCEPTION of the increased participation of women (still participating much more in minority) that was key.

Mar. 27 2011 04:53 PM
John from St. Paul, MN

Let's start with the definitions. Liberal, Communist, Democrat, Socialist, Progressive, Left-
Wing are not all the same but are portrayed as such. Speaking the truth based on facts is now labeled as any or all of the above. Having compassion for one's fellow man is labeled as all of the above.
NPR is labeled as biased in an attempt to silence a voice of reason and truth. Corporations support conservative talk radio, and even headline news, because it serves their purposes. NPR does not support corporations and never should. It is an antidote to the vast majority of broadcast junk. Without it, we are dumber. They win.

Mar. 27 2011 04:53 PM
Jill Duren from Arizona/ kjzz

1st: I want to say...I consider myself a 'Conservative' (I tend to vote Republican and am registered that way, key word there is: tend) The story about Arizona
2nd: I listen to NPR on all my radios. Not the other guys talk radio. That's what it is...TALK RADIO. No news just opinion.
I do believe that Steve Rendall's numbers are suspicious comparing stories in 03 to the numbers to 93, does he take in to consideration the budget or number of reporters available to cover stories? Or to what exactly was in the headlines? I read some of the other comments above and agree with several. Go back and read them again.
3rd: I do still give what I can afford to help both PBS & NPR.
Yep...tone is part of the perception people have. Ira Glass is a genius!

Mar. 27 2011 04:52 PM
Diogenes from Newport, RI

Chris, you have the typical liberal penchant for picking a red-herring argument and proclaiming victory:
"If noone can prove the reporters are skewing the coverage, why should NPR hire potentially less qualified journalists to appease you?"
How about this corollary:
If no one can prove that the white policemen of City X are skewing their law enforcement, why should City X hire potentially less qualified (black, female, etc.) policemen to appease minority x?
So Chris, have you been taking a stand against hiring quotas for police, firemen, etc, in Chicago? That is, are you true to your "logic" when you don't like the results?

Of course, the dominant tone of liberal commentators here is de facto proof of NPR's liberal bias. Liberals generally like what they hear on NPR, because they are hearing a liberal slant.
And Katherine Boyd (#76) sees de-funding NPR as part of an attack on "liberal and progressive thought and dissent in this country". So (honest) liberals agree about the bias!

Mar. 27 2011 04:52 PM
Chris Boese from Brooklyn

OK, I've followed this (rehash of rehash going back to the Reagan years) endless discussion of public radio bias. Mostly, the folks who resurrect the bias issue seem to gain politically from constantly resurrecting it, so that to me betrays the deepest kind of bias (perennially raising the issue for direct political gain, whether there is actual bias or not).

(continued in next post)

Mar. 27 2011 04:51 PM

I'm curious as to the real reason for these shows on bias. The people that create OTM, TAL, On Point and others are not stupid; they know they lean strongly leftward on the vast majority of issues. And I suspect the great majority of listeners know this too. Is it to provide data to the Congress to to avoid the cuts? Is it to try to make conservative or more balanced listeners feel like they're welcome?

I'm more conservative than liberal. I like NPR, though on many shows I get the feeling they'd rather I disappear. I contribute, but would double it if they ever really started giving the other side a fair shake.

Mar. 27 2011 04:50 PM
Robert Riversong from Warren, VT

This whole "debate" is a smokescreen, as is most of what passes for conservative discourse today. This is really little more than a revival of Scopes Monkey Trial anti-intellectual mania that is epidemic among the right in America.

Journalist Charles Pierce not long ago wrote an essay on “Idiot America,” followed by a book of that name, in which he argued that “the rise of Idiot America today represents – for profit mainly, but also, and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power – the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good.

What self-described conservatives cannot tolerate in public media, nor in any public discourse today, is the intellectual honesty and critical thinking that are emblematic of liberalism. In Orwellian fashion, however, they pretend they are attacking bias, when in reality they are attacking the Enlightenment which inspired the American tradition of free-thinking liberality and attacking America herself.

Mar. 27 2011 04:50 PM
Susan Pizzo from Durham, NC

Responding in particular to the problem conservatives had with the Intel interview where the NPR host questioned whether we can (or should) afford a tax holiday for corporations.

The conservative bias toward market fundamentalism, not NPR's questioning of the constant tax-cut drumbeat, is the real problem. Sadly, NPR actually accepts the dominant cultural paradigm that says government and taxation are evil and must be limited. The facts and more compelling arguments are on the other side:

In fact, the cultural paradigm of the right, which has become our de facto operating system as a society, is at the root of the negative cycle we are caught in - endless wars, outsourced economies, extremes of wealth and poverty. To allow the architects of our current diasaster to prescribe the remedy can only have one result - bigger better faster disasters...

Mar. 27 2011 04:48 PM
John from North Carolina

I think NPR is as liberal bias, politically correct as you can get, BUT, I listen to NPR everyday because you hear and lean more than from anyother media. The BBC comes in second.

Mar. 27 2011 04:41 PM
John Hamilton from Madison, Wisconsin

Good story. The beginning was best, when Brooke Gladstone asked the question of what the terms "liberal" and "conservative" mean. There is a bias at NPR. It is the bias of the model of reality that we are told is the real one, in gross and subtle ways.

People who think they are "conservatives" conform their thinking to what they believe "conservatism" to be. The same goes for "liberals," but to a lesser degree. I think this is because there is a qualitative difference between people who are more fluid and exploring of life than those who are more constricted and forbidding.

The construct of "left" and "right" is a mental representation of social thought and alignment. It may have had a meaning and pertinence, but that time has passed. The things that "liberals" advocate are, by and large, minimums. "Right wing" positions are largely falsehoods, pretend realities that are constructed to mask great dishonesty.

A vertical approach rather than horizontal would be a great improvement.

Mar. 27 2011 04:39 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Chris, You purport to take the high ground, but a review of some of your statements in this thread tells a different story:

"Conservatives have just gotten too sensitive"

"These people are just being babies"

"anti-NPR right wingers want to speak mostly about fictional scenarios"

"all you have is 'I feel like its biased'" (A statement attributed to me, that I never wrote.)

"maybe you should stop whining"

The bottom line is that NPR has placed the burden of proof on themselves, through their Code of Ethics and their continued desire to feed at the public trough.

Mar. 27 2011 04:31 PM
jack facts from MD

Chris (comment 99), sorry i didn't provide a ;-) with my EEOC comment. In recent months i've heard one local pbs radio station commentator as well as Diane Rehm and one of her guests claim absolute lack of bias. I'm just saying that if they, and On The Media, claim neutrality it indicates either 1) how devious they are since some will believe their trite claims since they are nonprofit, or 2) they are clueless and therefore don't even know when their programming is biased. Having them answer the question on whether they are biased, as it turned out, was as useful as polling prison inmates as to whether they should be released.

Mar. 27 2011 04:27 PM
Angela from Central, MA

As a wincing conservative who supports 2 public radio and 1 public t.v. station, I appreciate OTM's attempt to investigate the bias of NPR. I believe that their effort was genuine but the fact that NPR was compared with other news media outlets to measure its level of liberal bias shows that they don't quite get it. Frankly, I could have told the OTM folks that NPR is no more biased than CNN, ABC, CBS, etc. These news outlets are also left-biased.

I heard a great example this week on Morning Edition during the news headlines. There was a report about the 3 day wait for abortion signed into law in SD this week. The reporting of the facts was great and if it had stopped there the news story would have been unbiased. However, the story was ended with the voice of someone against the law basically saying that this was a horrible law and that they were going to work to reverse it. There was no counter-voice that spoke positively about the law.

Mar. 27 2011 04:16 PM
Robert Riversong from Warren, VT

You might think that conservatives would value history, but they religiously ignore the fact that, with a few obvious exceptions, the Founding Fathers (and Mothers) considered themselves to be enlightened liberal thinkers who created a nation to stand in defiance of conservative political orthodoxy. George Washington called himself a liberal.

Conservatives and Liberals alike used to value a liberal arts education, since it helps to clear the mind of prejudice and bias and opens it to critical thinking. But today's so-called conservatives would silence critical reporting because they want to remake America into something it was never intended to be - a nation of ruthless unregulated competition and rampant inequality in which "justice" is banished from our lexicon.

Mar. 27 2011 03:58 PM
KadeKo from suburban northeast

---Let us suppose that a public radio station wanted to respond to conservative listeners, by scheduling a news and current events "viewpoint" program that was as far to the right---

There is always a place in a panel on NPR for Heritage, AEI, Cato, CEI. FreedomWorks and every astroturfed top down "grass roots" teabagger org are covered but NPR never leads the way debunking them.

However, it's a red-letter day when Paul Krugman or Matt Taibbi get a spot, and the half-life of their commentary (or facts) on NPR's narratives is akin to the lifespan of a fruit fly.

NPR is great at taking the Beltway Inbreds' word for everything. NPR is always behind the curve batting
down right wing political lies (including the Politifact Lie Of The Year, "Death Panels").

Why would right wingers want to change this? They get all their voices on there, they get to have Fox complain about it, and they get a public radio infrastructure that's piss-pants scared of being called liberal.

Mar. 27 2011 03:22 PM
Chris from Chicago

Jack Facts, so even though there have been no studies to prove a liberal bias on NPR's part, you want them to implement some sort of affirmative action policy where NPR has to probe their employees' political beliefs and hire more conservatives?

If noone can prove the reporters are skewing the coverage, why should NPR hire potentially less qualified journalists to appease you?

Mar. 27 2011 03:19 PM
Harold from New York

Well put Jack! ... I would only add, balance your staff or privately fund yourself like everyone else.

Mar. 27 2011 03:17 PM
Harold from New York

“Reporting truth” seems to be the accepted battle cry (and rationalization) of the media these days. Of course, reporting truth is what preachers believe they do. Claiming the need to make conclusions for listeners - to make sure they get the truth (NPR's version of the truth) - is why we will have problems of bias ongoing.

Mar. 27 2011 03:14 PM
jack facts from MD

Too bad you didn't get some communication and logic experts involved. Everyone has a bias favoring their personal point of view, i.e., we think we are right (so not biased) and measure other points of view as being left or right of our own, instead of evaluating them from truly unbiased, central perspectives. Even if one tries to be fair, we rarely can compensate for our bias. Hence, with everyone working a public radio being liberal, your macro programming and micro reports will have a liberal bias. For you to think otherwise only proves my point. So thanks for asking the question, but you were the wrong people to construct the answer. Quit pretending. The EEOC should require public radio to balance its staff with an appropriate number of conservatives.

Mar. 27 2011 03:12 PM
David Holzman from Lexington MA

Your story on bias in the media missed the bias in the NPR story by Renee Montaigne on Utah’s immigration law.

First, the story was biased because it quoted only people who favored the law: it’s author, Frank Sharry, and Alphonse Aguilar. Where was Mark Krikorian, head of the Center for Immigration Studies, or Roy Beck, head of, two of the most thoughtful people in this field, who oppose mass immigration?

Second, the story repeated the shibboleth, in a quote from the law’s author, without any refutation. Yet even the NYT, which is extremely biased on this issue, has reported actual attrition through enforcement—illegal immigrants leaving Arizona, to go back to Mexico, in this piece:

Finally, the piece repeated the notion that members of both parties think they can’t win without appealing to Hispanic voters. While some in both parties may feel that way, there are others who disagree. That disagreement is based on solid ground: even Hispanic voters oppose amnesty by a whopping 52 to 34 percent (Zogby, Feb. 2010). Most Americans oppose amnesty when given the option of attrition through enforcement.

On this issue, you might at least wonder why Capitol Hill has failed to pass amnesty the last 11 years in a row. Did it ever occur to you that it might pass if most Americans favored it? We don’t.

By the way, I have voted Democratic in every presidential election from McGovern through Obama, save 1980, when I voted for John Anderson.

You might want to question the bias of the news you are getting on immigration, which may account for your failure to see the bias in NPR’s piece on Utah. I say that partly because I love your show, and I think both of you do a terrific job. Here is a paper on the NYT’s bias in this matter, which I’m betting will surprise you.

All the best,

David Holzman
Lexington MA

Mar. 27 2011 03:00 PM
Chris from Chicago

NC Boy, "the Book of Mormon" is a play getting lots of buzz in the media right now. There is nothing biased about airing a critique of the play. It is also impossible for them to critique a fictional play about Muslims you just invented.

Just because NPR is not constantly confirming your own biases does not mean they are biased against you. If you have any proof to support your statements, I will hear you out. If all you have is "I feel like its biased" and a bunch of baseless accustations you've heard from right wing media, maybe you should stop whining and do ask yourself why you feel like a victim all the time.

Mar. 27 2011 02:55 PM
Tim from Shaker Heights

Interesting that Brooke's example was the Otellini interview. One listener correctly criticized Michele Norris for not challenging Otellini's assertion that a tax holiday costs nothing.

Otellini's unstated premise (in the story as aired, anyway) was that the tax holiday would be given only to a company that wouldn't have built a factory anyway. Obviously that's an assumption worth examining more closely and the listener was right that Norris should have done so.

This same exchange could be used to support a theory of conservative bias. If I had to guess, that's not what's at work any more than the supposed liberal bias. My guess is she was under time pressure and didn't think of a good way to challenge the claim in the pressure of the moment. But I thought the countervailing criticism merited a mention in your piece.

Mar. 27 2011 02:31 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Chris - Let's review the NPR Code of Ethics excerpt,
"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."

I didn't write that statement, but we should all expect NPR to live up to it, or change it.

Story selection matters. Tone matters. How many plays open on Broadway every year? How many get laudatory coverage by NPR? "All Things Considered" chose to spend almost 6 1/2 minutes on this story. Enough said.

Mar. 27 2011 02:30 PM
bruce from austin, tx

NPR certainly has a regional, cultural and class bias. Embedded in all of that is a certain political perspective. It comes through in language and attitudes, as well as programming line-up, story lines, etc.. However, in my mind, that is not the problem. It is actually useful to me, out here in fly-over-country, to hear how media folks from WNYC think (though the arrogance does tend to raise my blood pressure...). The problem is that it would be equally useful for listeners of WNYC to hear how we out here think, and that never happens. At best, NPR may broadcast the shallow (often "snarky") impressions of a reporter who may have made a day trip out here to get a story. Inevitably, the reporter plays to WNYC local audience presumptions, despite national distribution by NPR. Even that lack of symmetry would be OK, except that it is incompatible with the idea that NPR and associates deserve funding through nationally imposed taxation. Why is it accepted NPR doctrine that we out here should fund national dissemination of WNYC's presumption of its own preeminence?

Importantly, but not mentioned by On-The-Media, it is the funding debate that has caused NPR and associates to engage in this attempt to objectively measure bias and thereby "prove" non-bias. A finding of non-bias might blunt the Congressional debate over taxpayer support of NPR. However, a reality is that self-centered bias is part of human nature and, therefore, is unavoidable in any regionally dominated organization such as NPR. A particularly important reality is that NPR is dependent on government, whereas the essential democratic principle is that media should be independent. So, NPR fails first by getting too cozy with government and, second, by defensively attempting to argue the inarguable where bias is concerned. I am counting on Congress to correct the first failing. The second failing will then take care of itself in the independent media marketplace.

Mar. 27 2011 02:24 PM
Charles from Michigan

Diane, I saw the protesters outside of the Wsiconsin state capitol building using Nazi imagery too.

Anyway, we get back to this very technical (and perhaps significant) argument about distinguishing between "Fox News" and "Glenn Beck" on the one hand, and "NPR News" and "Amy Goodman" on the other hand. I am willing to abide by exacting definitions for purposes of argument, but so will NPR's promoters have to abide by equivalent rules.

As for "corporate" backers of the Fox News Channel, those coroporations are advertisers, spending money because it is in the companies' intrerest to sell goods and services to lots of willing listeners. And they all answer to shareholders. That commercial model is almost inarguably MORE transparent than NPR's oblique financial statements, in which large sums are filtered through the CPB to local public radio stations, and then back to NPR. And remember the even more opaque operations of major nonprofits (a very large part of all NPR funding), all with their own ideologoies, operating under tax-exempt status, wishing to promote a certain kind of public radio.

Mar. 27 2011 02:21 PM
Chris from Chicago

NPR gave a good review to a widely-acclaimed play about Mormons. NC Boy says this is evidence of bias because he assumes if a Broadway play were created about Muslims it would be covered differently.

And this is the problem with the debate. NPR covers reality, and anti-NPR right wingers want to speak mostly about fictional scenarios, and hypothetical instances. No facts support their arguments so they have to fall back on "I FEEL like its out to get me even though I can't prove it."

Mar. 27 2011 02:16 PM
Brian K Ray from Chicago

I am a liberal and while I have no problem admitting there are shows on NPR that are quite 'liberal' in their particular politic. Fresh Air as one example. I think that he reason main stream media is often said to have a liberal bias is not because of the political bent, but the depth to which they will often pursue a story as well the kinds of stories they tend to pursue.

There are a lots of stories on art, race, government programs, things that conservative oppose by nature. But more than that, the depth at which NPR pursues these stories seems to be more than the standard three minutes often given to stories on network news.
This American Life gives stories anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour without the corporate cover we take as a natural occurrence in American Reporting.

Mar. 27 2011 02:06 PM
Harold from New York

Diane, I think you're conflating Fox News and Glen Beck's opinion hour. As much as most liberals would like everyine to think that all conservative think and act like Glan Beck, that is not the case. If you compared the news format shows or perhaps Bret Baier's hour, I think you would see a different comparison.

Nevertheless, the "tone" issue is more insidious because of its subtlety. It is a constant message that there is a certain way we should all be thinking about the world and that way happens to align with liberalism.

Mar. 27 2011 01:59 PM
Harold from New York

William Craven, it is precisely when NPR does not demonstrate itself to be "open minded" that people object to the federal funding.

Said of Ellen Weiss, SVP of news at NPR: "She had an executioner's knife for anybody who didn't abide by her way of thinking," he said. "And I think she represented a very ingrown, incestuous culture in that institution that's not open to not only different ways of thinking but angry at the fact that [Juan Williams] would even talk or be on Fox."

And, your disgust is misplaced because no one gets NPR completely for free - we all hear the commercial advertisements.

Mar. 27 2011 01:53 PM
Diane Alberts from Rutland, VT

Jeff, Fox News DOES act incredulous when accused of bias. John Stewart did an incredibly funny segment in which Meghan Kelly was incensed that Fox was accused of using Nazi imagery. She flatly denied it ever happens. The same day Beck made such an analogy. Stewart followed this up with bit and fte of various people on Fox using Nazi imagery with abandon - the last being a guest with Kelly.
Now next to that, the "tone" on NPR seems pretty tame, doesn't it? And please remember, all, that much of the funding of NPR is from individuals, not corporations. So who best represents the people? NPR, that's who.

Mar. 27 2011 01:36 PM
Diane Alberts from Rutland, VT

I only caught part of this morning's comments by the conservative reviewer of NPR and his take on the story about how ARizona and Utah treat immigrants. His comments were yet another example of hyper-sensitivity to the feelings of those on the right. How was it offensive to say that one wouldn't expect Utah to have a more liberal position on immigration? I live in what is often characterized by the likes of Bill O'Reilly as the most liberal state in the union. Would I be shocked, hurt, and offended if someone said on NPR,'It may surprise you that liberal Vermont has a more conservative take on..."? Heck! No! I think it's important to illustrate it when a group, party, state, or administration shows that they can be open-minded, have a different take, or can understand the views of the opposition. Utah should have been proud to be characterized as flexible in solving a problem!

Mar. 27 2011 01:23 PM
David Lieberman

I think NPR does an excellent job and is as unbiased as it is possible to be.

HOWEVER, you miss the point entirely. Why don't you look at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)? CPB funds Pacifica Radio, an overtly radical left-wing collection of stations. It funds stations like KALW in San Francisco which broadcasts hours of left-wing advocacy programming (none of it from NPR). Other examples abound.

The congressional proposals are not to defund NPR, they are to defund CPB. I think they should do it and then find a way to fund NPR directly and let the local stations fend for themselves.

Mar. 27 2011 01:13 PM
William Craven from Putnam Valley, NY

This whole discussion sickens me. First, liberal quite literally means " worthy of a free man" and "open minded". Exactly what I hope for in a news organization.
The right has made this an evil in their current ideology in order to delegitimize any reporting on ideas and even facts that diverge from conservative orthodoxy. Second, the fact that these self styled free marketers hypocritically consume the product without paying for it disgusts me. I don't agree with the philosophy of any of the oil companies, and they get a lot more of my tax money than public broadcasting, but I don't feel that gives me license to steal gasoline.

Mar. 27 2011 12:50 PM
Diogenes from Newport, RI

Katherine Boyd presents a spot-on example of my point about the liberal perspective on NPR:
"Our government and conservative and corporate media like Fox and Clearwater are attacking liberal and progressive thought and dissent in this country. Congress has convinced some that funding for NPR and PBS should be cut from the national budget."
This paragraph makes it clear that she does see NPR as being part of "liberal and progressive thought", and that this is a Good Thing which deserves Government funding.

Ditto for Malcom Davis, for whom bias on NPR is just fine, so long as he doesn't notice it (and since he agrees with the liberal bias, that won't happen anytime soon!)
The liberal perspective, after all, is so very, very correct.

Mar. 27 2011 12:37 PM
Michael John Cross from Waterloo IA

In the discussion between Brooke and Ira regarding NPR bias, I particularly winced at Ira’s assertion that we [NPR] don’t need to make listeners wince. I do not listen regularly to Morning Edition and All Things Considered for reassurance but to be reminded that all is not completely right with the world. Whether it’s the perspective I infer from the questions journalists ask or from the interviewees’ answers or both that raises my hackles or deepens my blues, I certainly don’t think less of anyone for being human. No one is omnipresent enough to observe the whole of any event and no one is omniscient enough to tell the whole story. But NPR’s decision to discuss the issue of bias disturbed me the most. Evidently, even in my sixth decade, I am still naïve, since I thought the myth of objective reporting had been busted when I was still in my teens. I perceive a disproportionate amount of money and effort devoted to peddling certain perspectives vis-à-vis resources used for the nurture of critical thinking. Of course, the peddlers will claim I am biased. And I will decline to disagree.

Mar. 27 2011 12:34 PM
Harold from New York

Results matter. Why? Because NPR is, as are all of us when we are communicating, responsible for assuring that the listener understood the reporter, regardless of intentions. If we are misunderstood, then we clarify. Too often, the journalists side-step this responsibility and hide behind the statement that they do not want to allow others opinions affect how they do their job. How clear thinking and objective is a reporter who cannot separate criticisms from fact.

Mar. 27 2011 12:18 PM
Harold from New York

There is a way to test NPR for bias. Simply poll a wide spectrum of the population. Play a few of pieces chosen by liberals that demonstrate NPR's balance and a few of pieces chosen by conservatives that they find show bias. Then ask the listeners what they believe are the conclusions, if any, that the pieces make.

Mar. 27 2011 12:16 PM
Malcolm Davis

When NPR reaches anything like Fox News reporting during the 2008 campaign (and I am only slightly paraphrasing here because I don't have the exact quote at hand) "Hillary Clinton didn't pander to her base today." Then we should start worrying about bias on NPR.

It is impossible for all traces of personal viewpoint to be eliminated from any newscast. As has been mentioned even the selection of which factual story to present provides some insight into a news outlet's psyche. Nevertheless, there are certainly outlets for which bias is blatant and NPR does not fall into that category.

It is important to remember that the people leveling the charge of bias against NPR are the same people who charge scientists reporting scientific evidence of global warming of liberal bias. There is no sense in debating the issue with someone who chooses that definition of bias. For them anything that does not assume the correctness of their position is biased against them, so the word has no meaning

Mar. 27 2011 12:08 PM
Katherine Boyd from Brooklyn, NY

On the Media has done a great service to NPR listeners by addressing the question of NPR's so-called "liberal" bias, and by supplying factual data on how NPR compares with other media organizations on the conservative-to-liberal spectrum.

Philip Greene (post 16) says it best. If conservatives can only complain about the "tone" of NPR interviewers, then they really have nothing to complain about. And as Steve Rendell points out, everyone has a point of view which i, the sum of one's personal and educational experience.

Our government and conservative and corporate media like Fox and Clearwater are attacking liberal and progressive thought and dissent in this country. Congress has convinced some that funding for NPR and PBS should be cut from the national budget.

If NPR were truly liberal, it would give these voices equal attention and air time. Instead, we must always be subjected to the often misinformed opinions of conservatives in NPR's effort to be "fair and balanced."

Mar. 27 2011 12:00 PM
William J Marston LEED AP from Philadelphia

Good job, Brooke!

Mar. 27 2011 11:42 AM
Diogenes from Newport, RI

Reading the comments posted here by liberals is pungently amusing. In summary, the liberal perspective is so obviously superior in every way that anyone challenging it must be somewhat defective in their intelligence, morality, or both. To the liberal mind, NPR hosts and the NY Times have a balanced perspective, because they do, after all, mention the conservative perspective as part of "proving" its inferiority. Ditto for the entire US educational system - no bias there because the liberal perspective is the correct one!
Here's one example of liberal-mindset blindness about NPR:
If all personnel at NPR were white men, that would clearly be proof of outrageous bias because white men certainly couldn't be trusted to present fair and balanced news and perspective. BUT, when many producers and presenters on NPR are obviously liberal, and not one can be identified as obviously conservative . . . well, there's no problem at all - because, you see, liberals are so very competent.

Mar. 27 2011 11:08 AM
S. Edward Burns from Hanover, NH

NPR is bias; and the fact that they’ve selected to look at the issue relieves their biases. Programming development requires this by all media – just listen to the way they close their third installment on the topic. What a joke; once again media doing what it does best with serious issues by overly presenting a bunch of facts and stats with a bias tilt: “less-bias” more-bias” liberal-bias” conservative-bias” Blah, blah, blah; and training listeners to be tuned-out by the “data” and sweet laughter in an attempt to reach the most listeners all the time.

Mar. 27 2011 10:54 AM
F.A. Carroll from South Central Texas (member KUT Austin TX)

In my experience over the past few years, I've come to the conclusion that to the conservative mind set anything that presents both sides of an issue is liberal...& that is something that the past 3weeks have not considered.
Bias remains in the ear of the beholder....& it seems that to conservatives 'if you don't believe as I do, then not only are you wrong...but you're against me, you're liberal'. (Course far too many Liberals seem to say the same)

Mar. 27 2011 10:53 AM
Tom from new york

"Can the country afford this?" is not only a fair question, it is THE question a journalist must ask at that juncture.

And when the journalist is interviewing a politician with the opposing view, she must ask "Doesn't the country need these jobs?"

The journalist's role is adversarial. It is to challenge the often scripted "spin" the subject has brought to the interview. So "fairness" or "bias" can't be judged merely with the question "did the reporter challenge this subject?" but by asking "did the questioning of persons on both sides challenge both viewpoints?"

Mar. 27 2011 10:52 AM
Joe L. from TN

What a completely useless exercise! No conclusion. Why did you even start it?

Mar. 27 2011 10:45 AM
Doyle from Memphis, TN

A good, if anecdotal, example of the liberal point of view from which npr reports occurred during recent the health care debate. Because so many in the general public were warning that Obama's health care proposal would end up giving us a health care system similar to canada's, the report asked "so what do Canadians think of their health care system?". The report interviewed 2 or 3 "men on the street" who were totally happy with health care in canada. Then, presumably to provide balance, the report mentions in passing as the segment closed that people often cite waiting periods and rationing as a problem with the system and that yes, those exist . . . end of story.

Technically, the report acknowledged the "conservative" point of view, but it trivialized it in a way that gave the listener the impression that the goal of the report was to show that canadians love their health care system, not to provide an honest look at how such a system functions, warts and all.

Mar. 27 2011 10:42 AM
Valerie J. Zolanod from Manville, NJ

I am disgusted by these conservatives and their all-pervading double standard. They put out absurdly one-sided rants and blatant disinformation through Fox "News," Rush Limbaugh, and the like, and then whine about so-called "liberal media bias." It is hypocrisy of the basest and most reprehensible sort. There is clearly one traditional value these "conservatives" do NOT care about. It's called honor.

Mar. 27 2011 10:42 AM
BC from Vermont

Are you JOKING! We're on the verge of cutting investment in children, education, health, infrastructure, clean air and water, and public information, and you're asking whether it's biased to even mention whether we can afford to give corporations a tax holiday??

Mar. 27 2011 10:36 AM
EDC from Vermont

In order to advance the discussion on any topic in an interview, the reporter will often appear to be biased--toward the side opposite the interviewee's. That's the reporter's job.

Mar. 27 2011 10:35 AM
Ed from Larchmont, NY

Two weeks ago Brooke Gladstone did the only poor piece I've ever heard, a dismissive assessment of Lila Rose and the Live Action videos. In general, NPR didn't report on or mention the 300-400,000 person pro-march walk in Wasington on January 22nd. Not fair to the pro-life issues.

Mar. 27 2011 10:21 AM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Story selection matters. Tone matters.

NPR covered the new Broadway play, "The Book of Mormon", lauding it as, "an oddly sweet musical peppered with filthy jokes."

If the play was titled "The Koran" and took a similar approach to the subject, NPR would also cover it - but only to denounce the overt "Islamaphobia" of all those involved in the production.

Mar. 27 2011 09:12 AM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Geoff posted a very perceptive comment. The last paragraph fits very well with an extract I posted earlier from the NPR Code of Ethics.

"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."

It also fits with the first of five "High Level Goals" of NPR

"Make NPR the most relevant, trusted and CONSUMED news source in the U.S." (Emphasis added)

Mar. 27 2011 07:50 AM
Geoff from Ligonier, PA

Although it will present some challenges in the short term, the repeal of federal funding could be the best thing that ever happened to National Public Radio. It will remove the corrosive influence of politicians from your editorial and programming decisions. At that point your success or failure will depend entirely on the skill of your programming professionals and organizational leadership.

You could choose to be a primarily liberal media voice and no one would have any right to complain. On the other hand, bringing more conservative voices into NPR's superb coverage of the issues has the potential to double the number of potential listeners and donors.

In the past, I listened daily and contributed annually but felt increasingly shut out by the tone of so many NPR hosts and programs. (Garrison Keillor and Terri Gross-- who I had enjoyed-- are examples.)

Conservatives aren't stupid or evil. Most are well-informed, engaged in national affairs and should be given as fair a hearing as those with any other viewpoint. Be balanced, independant and thrive. It's up to you to regain my trust and support. I'm just an old friend offering advice that I hope will help you.

Mar. 26 2011 10:32 PM
Benjamin from Orlando, FL

The data presented on OTM said that NPR covers policy, not controversy. I was surprised that Brooke and Ira didn't discuss this.

Could NPR's tendency to ignore the petty partisan competitions be what is causing this perceived liberal bias?

Left / Right conflict represents the core content of the news and opinion shows on MSNBC and FOX.

And since, in this commentator's opinion, it is The Right that determines the narrative on all three cable networks plus the Sunday morning talk shows (climate change controversy, gun rights, immigration, teaching evolution, gay rights), not covering these left / right arguments mean the right wing narratives are presented less often on NPR.

Mar. 26 2011 09:50 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Media bias in story selection, including NPR? Imagine if Dick Cheney's staff had confined a reporter in a closet to prevent him from mingling with guests at a fundraiser. Yeah, we'd be hearing a lot about that. That happened with Joe Biden's staff last Wednesday and even Drudge is just now learning about it.

Mar. 26 2011 09:49 PM
Wotan from Newton, MA

I second or third the opinion that NPR is highly biased. You see, I'm over seven foot tall, am deaf in one ear, speak with a slight stutter and am a heterosexual Asian American to boot. I never hear my views on NPR!!! BIASED!!!

Mar. 26 2011 09:17 PM
Charles from Michigan

M Stone-Richard: Let us suppose that a public radio station wanted to respond to conservative listeners, by scheduling a news and current events "viewpoint" program that was as far to the right as Terry Gross, Ira Glass, OTM, Studio 360 and Democracy Now! are to the left.

What nationally-available public radio program(s) would that be? From any of the usual public radio-production suspects (PRI, APR, Pacifica, WHYY, WGBH, WNYC, WAMU; you name it)?

Mar. 26 2011 08:09 PM
M Stone-Richard from VA Beach


You wrote:

"one can analyze public radio as more broadly defined"

I accept that you were talking about public radio in general; however, generalizations don't inform. WHRV, in VA Beach ,VA, stopped carrying a show that drew complaints from its conservative listeners. I can't tell you what the show was, it was before I moved here. I heard about it during the Juan Williams controversy.

. . . and:

"One can link to all of the programs at . . ."

You're simply reading too much into the links. They provide links as a courtesy; many people assume all public radio is NPR. Only NPR programs are under the "Programs" tab at the top of the page. The complete listing of public radio shows is on it's own page with this heading and disclaimer:

"Public Radio Programs Guide
The list below includes many popular public radio programs.
If you do not see a program you are looking for, it may be produced by your local NPR station or another public radio organization."

Mar. 26 2011 07:51 PM
Dom Donders from Sacramento, CA

So blue can indeed be seen as green because the mental framework is filtering it through yellow and so what ever the media is broadcasting, the person receiving it will see the blue as green, even if facts back up the blueness of the blue, it can't seen by the yellow filterers. I have noticed that many start with the answer, such as George Soros. Question: Who is providing all the money for evil people to bring down the U.S.A.?
In this case information about George Soros will be purple, those with the yellow filter will see the information as brown. In the meantime, others are seeing purple as purple. The quest for the answer to: Is this particular venue of media biased? seems to be found in neurological processes rather than the presentation of information by one entity or another. What is perceived is what is perceived. So are we listen to media to have company as opposed aiding the thought process?

Mar. 26 2011 07:06 PM
Craig from Utah

I appreciate NPR's reporting.
If a presentation of facts in a broad sense seems to undermine your position it is time to examine your position not cry "they're picking on me". The whining we hear about liberal bias in the media is pathetic. The BBC is not anti-American. If someone disagrees with you it does not follow that they must be, stupid, biased, uninformed, heartless, or selfish.

Mar. 26 2011 06:05 PM
Augusta Prince from Hanover, NH

1. What other nationally distributed radio provides this open forum for listeners? By itself, that feature encourages balance in its programs.

2. Reference was made today (in a different program?) (Feb. 26) to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911. Reform of workplace conditions was achieved afterwards "because they voted." WHO voted? Must have been men, since women couldn't vote until 1920. Or did it take that long to enact reform?

Mar. 26 2011 05:57 PM
Tom Moertel from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

The evidence that FAIR's Steve Rendall presented – that more of NPR’s partisan guests were Republican than Democrat – does not necessarily mean what he thinks it does. An alternative hypothesis, equally supported by that evidence, is that NPR’s reporters recognize in themselves an affinity for liberal beliefs and, being good reporters, reach out more often to conservatives for balance.

To look at it another way, if NPR reporters feel confident that they can represent liberal beliefs themselves, they need not depend so much on liberal guests.

Mar. 26 2011 04:41 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Jill pointed out that the study didn't analyze Fox news as a whole. Instead, it analyzed "Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume". She then pointed out that this program is "known to be more balanced than other programs on Fox News".

She accused me of implying that "the study showed Fox News (in general) is closer to the center than NPR."

It's quite interesting that her response didn't include the fact that NPR was represented in the study ONLY by "Morning Edition". My comment was "apples-to-apples" (by proxy of two news programs). It was HER response that was misleading.

Mar. 26 2011 04:21 PM
Don Ostrowski from US

I have been an NPR listener for over 30 years, and I would have to say that NPR has a bias in favor of fair, balanced, and intelligent reporting. For the record, I don't consider myself to be either a "liberal" or a "conservative" but one who tries to decide each political issue and question on the basis of the evidence and the quality of the arguments.

Mar. 26 2011 04:13 PM
Charles from Michigan

Jill: "The study didn’t analyze Fox News as a whole; they analyzed Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume. This program is known to be more balanced than the other programs on Fox News."

Just as Morning Edition and ATC might be more balanced than other programs typically heard on many public radio stations.

And, as I have alluded to previously, there is at least some indication that longstanding complaints by conservatives might just have changed things very slightly and incrementally at NPR, with the winding-down of the "Senior News Analyst" role.

Mar. 26 2011 03:58 PM

NC Boy: “(Washington Times and Fox News) were BOTH closer to center than NPR. That is not an insignificant finding”

The study didn’t analyze Fox News as a whole; they analyzed Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume. This program is known to be more balanced than the other programs on Fox News.

I agree that Brooke Gladstone didn’t comment on those, and perhaps she should have – however your comment implied the study showed Fox News (in general) is closer to the center than NPR. It did not.

Mar. 26 2011 03:21 PM
paul wood from panama city beach

@charles...thats exactly why i'd be okay with defunding NPR. When they try to defend themselves, people think they are simply trying to protect the funding instead of their credibility. After defunding that argument goes away

Mar. 26 2011 03:17 PM
Charles from Michigan

Can I just ask...

Why is Fox News the stalking-horse for all of the NPR apologists?

NPR News has been in business for a lot longer than Fox, and NPR has been earning itself criticism for liberal bias all along. Fox News didn't invent NPR criticism, and in fact Fox quite willingly gave voice to Mara Liasson and Juan Williams as the moderate-left pundits they are.

I've been reading criticism of NPR's bias in the Weekly Standard, and in the American Spectator and the National Review, as well as Brent Bozell's Media Research Center for longer than Fox News has been a ratings hit on television.

And yet NPR-bots obsess over Fox News. There's scarcely been a single Ombudsman Column by Alicia Shpard this year, in which she hasn't railed against Fox News. I think it is all devoted to NPR funding, first and foremost. My supposition is that NPR doesn't much care about the criticism, but things get serious when the talk turns to federal and state funding. Hence the involvement of fundraiser extraordinaire Ira Glass in this "exploration." Fox News is bringing NPR criticism to a vast new audience, and at the same time, Fox News serves a fundraising hate-object for NPR.

Mar. 26 2011 02:57 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

Sorry for the typo. "two or twenty" should have read, "two of twenty". Twenty media outlets were studied and only two were found to be right-of-center.

Mar. 26 2011 02:57 PM
paul wood from panama city beach

I'm conservative enough that I don't think businesses even pay taxes in the first place - they just collect that money from the customers in the form of higher costs. Increase wheat taxes, the cost of bread goes up or the company goes out of business. Pretty much that simple.

That said, the "can the country afford it" quote wasn't biased. Taxes are collected to offset govt expense. Govt defense, roadwork, etc. costs money and a new business gets those benefits. If they don't "pay taxes" to cover that, then the money comes from somewhere else. So the question as asked makes complete sense.

She may have expanded to include the fact that govt spends that money whether a business pays or not, but I can see that some would find that even MORE "biased".

Mar. 26 2011 02:56 PM
John from NC

This battle became obvious to me during the Justice Clarence Thomas hearings and Nina Totenbergs' involvement. Nina was a hero to some and villain to others.
This episode sensitized me to the fact that politics are a dirty business, that the press is a tool, and it's downright personal.

Mar. 26 2011 02:56 PM
NC Boy from North Carolina

The Groseclose/UCLA media bias study is found here.

Ms Gladstone chose not to note that the only two (or twenty) media outlets found to be right-of-center (Washington Times and Fox News) were BOTH closer to center than NPR. That is not an insignificant finding.

From the NPR Code of Ethics, Statement of Principles.
"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."

Sounds like a very good idea.

Mar. 26 2011 02:53 PM
Ed from NYC

OTM is one of the most lefty shows on NPR so its amazing that this topic was addressed. Was it addressed well? It started out that way with the diary reportage but then we had to hear from the typical cast of characters with their studies (like the 61/38 ratio with no further information beyond the ratio) showing no bias and lo and behold we're left to belief its a wash.

Yet Ira Glass encapsulated it well by he's now aware that conservatives might "wince" at some things. I believe he got it; I also believe Brooke and OTM don't get it and basically entertained this discussion while forcefully clinging to their already set perceptions.

Mar. 26 2011 02:11 PM

Another interesting point...

I recall a study, and I wish I had kept it, that essentially concludes that the more you listen to news that supports your personal position....the more you agree with yourself...and the more you abhor the opposite view.

The same is true for friendships. If you only hang around people you agree with....the same happens. Unfortunately it's human nature to want to be with like people.

I bring up this study only to point out the caution we should all a well balanced should be your news.

To that end, and despite the devisive nature of the programming, I try to "swallow" some Fox News now and then to ensure I'm not a part of the problem. I try to find common ground in what they are saying and often do...and then they apply the extremist drama and lose me.

I keep trying and hope others will as well.

Mar. 26 2011 02:03 PM

I'm thrilled to see such an open discuss. An attempt to find truth...which may not be possible...but atleast an attempt. Refreshing compared to other media outlets who are openly biased.

Thanks to everyone for your input.

As I listened I pulled a few key points that lead to my conclusion:
1) The NPR audience is more liberal than conservative(65/35)
2) Data suggests a similarity between mainstream media outlets...or even possibly NPR as more neutral.
3) The most even spread among audience age.
4) The nation seeks NPR for the most "balanced" coverage.
5) NPR covers more international topics

Again, data. Not my opinion.

My conclusion?
More proof that liberals, and those in the center, are more interested in hearing balanced coverage as a way to find their own personal "truth". To make up their own minds. Possibly more proof that liberals want to understand the world for "what it is"...even if only from their perspective.

Conversely, conservatives are only interested in making everyone like them. Think like me, dress like me, raise your kids like me...and go to my church. They want to hear their same messages spoken back at them as self reinforcement and the "opposing team" to be villified.

I imagine I didn't win any friends with these conclusions, but it's consistent with my experience living in one of the most conservative and religiously focused areas of Michigan.

Mar. 26 2011 02:02 PM
Leo Silvestrini from Winchester, MA

Once again we have fallen for the right wing trap. They make a claim without substantiation, repeat it often so that it becomes conventional wisdom, and force the target to disprove it by proving a negative, which can not be done. They repeatedly claim that NPR is biased toward the left without proof. Then NPR is put in the position of proving that it is not. Why is there no pressure to have the right prove its claim in the first place?

Mar. 26 2011 01:52 PM
Dana Franchitto from S.WEllfleet, MA

Well, a voice like Steve Rendall's is long overdue on "public" radio(what a shame to have to say that). it's also long overdue for OTN to acknowledge the fact that many liberals take issue with the contention that NPR has a "liberal' bias. Unless of course, you let the Right define the parameters of debate as they do in the mainstream commercial media as wellas NPR. What the two scholars who conducted the "Obama" study didn't mention was that MOrn.ED. for the last decade or so has always favored corporate America with being explicit about it. Morn. Ed and other shows promote the ad industry as well as commercial television. We always hear about stack reports but I've yet to hear on any NPR news show any voices critical of the so-called"free market", Infact during the late nineties and early years of this decade ,coverage of free trade and globalization issues
offered alot of capitalist voices berating "loony liberals" with no rebuttal from any liberal critics of "free trade".Also why no socialist voices on "public" radio?
FInally ,I don't rememeber the last time ,I heard an anti-war voice on Morn. ed's war-fevered coverage of iraq and Afghanistan. Same applies to Liane Haaaaaansen and Scott Simon. Discussion of these wars has always been confimned to generals and state dept. officials or maybe "hero' stories that often degenerate into pro-war propaganda; all at the expense of any critical inquiry into the stated rationales for these wars or how they're conducted.
So just where is the "liberal bias"?

Mar. 26 2011 01:50 PM
Catherine Ono from Boston

Mister Smith beat me to the draw too. It's the shows that are biased. Most of time I am listening I am in my car so I can't keep a diary but why don't you look at the shows!

Mar. 26 2011 01:48 PM
bart caruso from 840

I thinks the terms, "liberal" & "conservative " are more and more meaningless. Or at least don't cover the whole spectrum of opinion. What about "Neo-Liberals & Neo-Conservatives" ?? They both favor Wall St.,Globalism, Corporations & more & More Foreign Wars. And they all find common ground in the Council Of Foreign Relations.Clinton & Cheney are members! Where does Obama's administration differ from Bush's ?? On nothing substantial, because they are respectively Neo-Liberal & Neo-Conservative. The same thing !!

Mar. 26 2011 01:44 PM
Bob Whittenbarger

For Mr. Smith and his ilk: I have heard/read several comments by people who say they listen to NPR , but, since they believe some of the coverage is biased, they don’t contribute to NPR’s upkeep.
I assume that those folks listen to some commercial broadcasts, I also assume that there may some of that content that they believe is biased. If so, I wonder if they are as scrupulous in their funding commercial radio they are with NPR, by not buying goods or services from the sponsors who underwrite the offending commercial stations.

Mar. 26 2011 01:30 PM
Richard Johnston from Manhattan upper west side

"We seem to have successfully killed the notion of the "NPR Senior News Analyst."

Mmm, how do the "Conservatives" (your capitalization) get credit for this, against the liberals (your lower case) who may not care?

Mar. 26 2011 12:41 PM
Charles from Michigan

One thing to be said about Conservatives' complaining about NPR News -- it is likely that we've already had an effect, on one area of programming.

We seem to have successfully killed the notion of the "NPR Senior News Analyst."

The position of "Senior News Analyst" seems to have been created for the late Daniel Schorr. NPR, in those days, seemed satisfied that the determined left-winger Schorr would instruct NPR audiences what they should think about the news 4, 5 or 6 times a week. NPR expanded the roster of "Senior News Analysts" to include Cokie Roberts, Juan Williams and (briefly) Ted Koppel.

There were never any conservative Senior News Analysts.

These days, with a rising tide of bias complaints, NPR is no longer replacing and filling those positions. Dan Schorr died, Ted Koppel resigned, Juan Williams was fired.

Even the former NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin recognized that there was a bias-perception problem with the position of Senior News Analyst. And now, quietly, NPR seems to have given it up.

Mar. 26 2011 11:52 AM
Charles from Michigan

@ MStone-Richard:

Yes, I was fully aware about the production origins of all of those public radio programs that I cited. Reading my other posts in context, I think my point was clear; one can analyze those few programs that are actually claimed by NPR News, or one can analyze public radio as more broadly defined and as it actually goes out on the airways of most public radio stations.

Incidentally, it is worth remembering this; many public radio stations used to think their mission was to broadcast classical music and jazz and opera and the other arts, with a little news in the evening. Now, public radio executives and in particular NPR executives have pushed public radio in the direction of the current newstalk format.

And let's also remember that the confusion over which programs are "NPR" and which are independently produced is cultivated by NPR. One can link to all of the programs at, and they all generally promote the mission and funding of NPR/public radio together. As we see Ira Glass doing in this case. And most importantly, the big argument about federal funding ("You'll only hurt local, rural stations if you de-fund the CPB...") goes to the public "viewpoint" shows as much as it does to NPR-proper.

Mar. 26 2011 11:41 AM
Michael Metzger

I can save NPR time and money....are you leftist leaning? The answer is yes. Now aren't you glad you didn't have to go through all that angst and time!

Mar. 26 2011 10:53 AM
Sko Hayes from Kansas

My conclusions from listening to the segment is that, no matter what NPR does, conservatives will never be satisfied.
Calling the BBC "virulently anti-Republican and anti-American", for example, shows what kind of bias you are fighting against.
Many liberals I know (as was pointed out on the show) think that NPR is biased towards conservatives.
I figure if neither side is happy, you're doing a good job of presenting both sides.

Mar. 26 2011 10:52 AM
Chris from Chicago

Jeff, you ask if Michelle Norris would have asked "Can we afford this?" to a union boss in Wisconsin regarding the collective bargaining bill. The union workers actually agreed to all the pay and benefits cuts from the outset of the debate, although many media outlets failed to mention that.

One such program was "Marketplace," which is produced by American Public Media and is aired on my local NPR station. In their coverage of the story, they completely left out important facts like the unions had agreed to all spending cuts on the table, and Walker had given expensive tax cuts. In their defense, they did read a listener's email the next day criticizing them for just that reason.

I understand that business news tends to skew to the right. To me, that's fine. While I thought they handled that story poorly, I appreciate them reading the criticism on air, and in the scope of things, I'm glad I get Marketplace on my local station, even if not every segment conforms to my ideology 100%.

Mar. 26 2011 10:42 AM
KadeKo from suburban Northeast

---Let’s look at the point that there are more conservative guests by a 61/38 margin. What can we conclude from this?---

That Republicans (right-wingers, Tea Partiers, conservatives) can always be described as one of the following:

-More popular (if you read only some polls and ignore them when they turn)
-Making news (if you train your microscope on Beltway Inbreds)
-In power (of at least one branch of Congress)

When you're NPR, seems like there's always an excuse for having more Republicans on the air.

Mar. 26 2011 10:19 AM
ed kriner from reading pa.

NPR is about as "liberal" as Obama is. Which means not at all. But keep trying to placate the tea party, astro-turfing billionaires, all the war hawks and all the bansters and fraudsters. It makes for great listening as you read George Orwell!

Mar. 26 2011 10:06 AM
Steve from Austin, TX

Someone just call the Conservatives a WAH-mbulance, they can go listen to Clear Channel and Fox which ARE funded by the taxpayers indirectly through subsidies, ads and more subsidies. Plus they tend to forget how Murdoch was put on the fast track to US citizenship by Reagan to get around ownership rules.

Mar. 26 2011 09:49 AM
Harold from New York

NPR could painstakingly balance 50/50 all topics, guests, policy sides, etc. and still exhibit bias. Those would be meaningless measurements. The bias is in tone, adjectives, and whether listeners are led to concluding one side or the other is more correct, more approved, more decent or more reasonable than the other. Such host/reporter opinion unfortunately pervades NPR (and most other media outlets), and facts and opinion are inextricably intertwined; objectivity is compromised as a result.

Mar. 26 2011 09:11 AM
Harold from New York

Let’s look at the point that there are more conservative guests by a 61/38 margin. What can we conclude from this? Nothing, really. One must look at the content of the interviews, especially how the pieces are set up, how argumentative or agreeable the interviewer was. Again, this was an example of bad reporting because the listener was led to believe that this somehow provided evidence of allowing both sides to be aired when in my experience NPR will give much time to a conservative view and then after the interview provide countervalent points without the conservative’s opportunity for rebuttal.

Mar. 26 2011 09:09 AM
Harold from New York

The example of Michelle Norris’s question “Can we afford this?” is a red herring. Brooke Gladstone unwittingly (or purposefully) took us down a path that cannot prove anything. Of course, it can lead many listeners to make an unsubstantiated conclusion that there is no bias. Instead, this was just an example of something that a person with a conservative bias could latch onto and make an unsubstantiated conclusion that there is bias. Nothing was proved one way or the other, except that one example of poor reporting was made by Ms. Gladstone.

Mar. 26 2011 09:05 AM

@ Howard and M:

In public economics, we refer to the costs of tax policies as the forgone tax revenues resulting from a change in the tax code. My understanding of the interview was that the interviewee was referring to the lack of government outlay required for the policy, while the interviewer was asking about the costs in terms of forgone tax revenues. Presumably, the interviewee understood the difference between the two definitions of "cost" (being an expert) and was being intentionally obtuse in the face of the question, even if audience members were not aware of the difference. Perhaps it was the job of the interviewer to specify what she meant by "can we afford it."

Mar. 26 2011 08:53 AM
M Stone-Richard from VA Beach


You're confusing NPR with public radio in general. The two are not the same. Public radio consists of stations all over the country, many in small towns and rural areas where no local-based commercial radio exists. These public radio stations purchase programing from a variety of sources, including NPR. The following programs, that you referred to in your non sequitur attempt to tie them to NPR, are not produced by NPR:

The Tavis Smiley Show is funded by Public Radio International.

The Michael Eric Dyson Show is produced by WEAA - Boston with funding from CPB.

Democracy Now! is funded entirely through contributions from listeners, viewers, & foundations. they do not accept advertisers, corporate underwriting, or government funding.

The Takeaway with John Hockenberry is a co-production WNYC, PRI, in collaboration with The BBC, NY Times Radio & WGBH.

Studio 360, with Kurt Anderson is a production of PRI & WNYC

The BBC . . . well, it's the BBC.

Mar. 26 2011 08:46 AM
Jeff from Grand Rapids, MI

Chris - Your comments are fair. However, would Michelle Norris have asked the Wisconsin union boss "can we afford it?" In my opinion, probably not. I love NPR and would ask that they change nothing. But just as Fox News could hardly act incredulous over the claim of conservative bias, NPR would do well to spare us thier head-scratching over the claim of liberal bias

Mar. 26 2011 08:44 AM
M Stone-Richard from VA Beach

". . . interviewee says his proposal won't cost anything. My guess is that this positioning contributes to the perception of bias."

A very astute observation.

Mar. 26 2011 08:20 AM
Philip Greene from Fairborn, OH

I've been listening for the last three weeks to the discussion of whether NPR is biased and the single, predominant accusation I have heard – in nearly every case – from the people charging bias has been “it's in the tone.”

The word “tone” is itself biased. Tone is a matter of interpretation – what one person hears as a friendly tone another hears as challenging and a third will hear as neutral. So the fact that these people cannot find any fault with the actual coverage tells me that they are the ones who are biased.

Either they are convinced that NPR is already biased and therefore, unable to find hard, factual evidence to support that bias, they allow their own bias to interpret this intangible “tone.”

When the Republican Party was in disarray in the 60s, 70s and early 80s, there was talk that they would never again be a viable party. They recovered – quite masterfully – in the Gingrich era by using a simple method. Every person who called himself or herself a Republican was required to carry the party banner without dissent or question. They were to deliver the party agenda without variance or suffer banishment. It spoke as a bloc, voted as a bloc, and marched in lockstep as a bloc – which it still does. This is why the Tea Party is so challenging to the Republican Party – it doesn't walk in lockstep and refuses to be cowed by party leadership.

But my point is that, seeing the success of this strategy, the Republicans realize they cannot allow challenge. That is why they keep going after “the media.” Except for conservative mouthpiece outlets like Fox, it challenges them to back up their statements with facts, not rhetoric or emotional diatribes. And that can be a danger.

I wonder if they have the same problem with bias supporting their views? I've never heard any conservative accuse Fox of bias after all. So the entire argument about NPR bias is irrelevant simply due to . . . well . . . bias.

Mar. 26 2011 08:15 AM
Dale Young from Detroit

Whether or not there is a "liberal" / "conservative" or "Democrat" / "Republican" bias is irrelevant.
NPR is, at best, a mouthpiece for the ruling elite. It has become just another entertainment outlet, filled with unvetted statements from government and corporate sources. Too much of NPR's unprofessional approach of academic journalists frequently shows up in infuriating mispronunciations, redundant statements, and poor grammar. It is still the only thing to turn to on the airwaves. On the Media is the best.

Mar. 26 2011 08:11 AM
Howard M Thompson

As edited, we hear Michelle Norris' question imediately after the interviewee says his proposl won't cost anything. My guess is that this positioning contributes to the perception of bias.

Mar. 26 2011 07:57 AM
Paulette from Greenwich Village

I can't resist pointing out the difference between Arizona and Utah where immigration is concerned. Arizona is on the border. I think we desperately need immigration reform and tend not to want to be a hardliner on the illegals but I don't think anyone is doing stories that help us understand what it is like to live on the border with so many illegals coming over. How about it Ira? You are good at getting at the human angle. What is it like for those folks?

Mar. 26 2011 07:50 AM
Richard Johnston from Manhattan upper west side

The best aspect of the current debate is that it appears a fair number of conservatives like "paul cook" and "Charles" who have not listened regularly or at all to NPR are now doing so, and will have a chance to evaluate its bias or lack thereof.

Mar. 26 2011 07:46 AM
Jeff Pappas from Ct.

Remember when people went to Liberal Arts Colleges, I believe the definition means a well rounded critical thinking education to produce free thinking adults who understand history and who will respect Science and Art.
And who will be skeptical of All information from All Media !

Mar. 26 2011 07:39 AM
Richard Johnston from Manhattan upper west side

It seems to me if you put 10 people in a room and tell them there is an off-odor in the air about 9 of them are going to identify it, whether or not it exists. Similarly there is no use pursuing this discussion with people who are already sensitized.

PS: "Criteria" is plural and takes the plural verb "are." "Criterion" is singlular and takes the singular verb "is."

Mar. 26 2011 07:35 AM
Chris from Chicago


Nobody can provide any clear examples of bias. If anything, the study cited in the program says NPR is biased towards stories where emotion and controversy are not the primary focus. They exist to get information out, not to rile people up.

The sad truth is, when the news has to compete in the free market they always have to sex it up, dumb it down, or go hyper partisan to keep the advertising dollars coming.

NPR takes a relatively small amount of money and distributes it all over the country, so small towns can produce local programming like elections and other things that represent their interests. The CPB gets a relatively small amount of federal money and uses it to allow non-federal views to be broadcast everywhere. Most of their funding comes from the people who use it the most and choose to donate. It is a valuable service and nobody claiming bias has produced a compelling enough argument to convince me otherwise.

Mar. 26 2011 02:35 AM
Charles from Michigan

Chris, it is true that the NPR budget is a small line item in the federal budget. It is also true that public radio, operating without commercial interruption, provides a very seductive product. Purely selfishly, I like the lack of commercials. It is a profound competitive advantage over commercial radio.

Public radio might indeed be a great and valuable (if biased) product. If indeed it is so good, and so many people from a broad spectrum all listen, why wouldn't it be able to support itself?

And really, isn't it remarkable to you, how little balance there is, with all of the programs I've mentioned previously on one side of the political ledger, and zero programs, zero program hosts and nobody at NPR News on the other?

I heard several comments about how it is probably impossible to eliminate individuals' personal viewpoints; all that good journalists can do is to adhere to professional standards. But in light of that, isn't it just amazing that nobody can think of a conservative program host or Senior News Analyst in the last 20 or 30 years at NPR?

Mar. 26 2011 12:57 AM
Chris from Chicago

Charles, would you at least agree asking "can we afford this" is a fair question? Our tax dollars are paying for this journalism, so why water it down and ask only what the interviewee wants to be asked?

I'm a liberal and I tend to vote for Democrats, but I expect NPR's journalists to ask the same kind of questions to Democrats as Republicans. If a Democrat goes on All Things Considered proposing some sort of new bill and Michelle Norris DOESN'T ask that person if we can afford it, she is not doing her job. It does not matter my political leanings, its something the public needs to know.

NPR is one of the things our government does extremely well that costs very little in the scope of things. Good journalists ask tough questions. They should keep it up for both sides. And believe me, NPR gets plenty of criticism about conservative bias from my fellow liberal NPR listeners.

Mar. 26 2011 12:20 AM
Charles from Michigan

Leonard, Fox News doesn't have to do this, because it is not taxpayer supported and it does not hold itself out as the national radio network of record. If NPR didn't rely on direct aid from the federal government, as well as a series of tax preferences for its donors, plus the state-owned infrastructure of university radio stations and public broadcast licenses, then NPR wouldn't have to do this, either.

But NPR relies on all of that. So yes, NPR alone has to do this.

Mar. 26 2011 12:07 AM
Chris from Chicago

Why is it biased journalism to ask someone proposing a tax holiday how much it costs? The 2010 election was supposed to be about fixing the budget. If that is the case, shouldn't journalists be asking that question about EVERYTHING?

Conservatives have just gotten too sensitive. Michelle Bachman came out recently and blamed the liberal media for how she got facts about US History completely wrong. The Tea Party prides itself on knowledge of US History, why shouldn't journalists report her total ignorance on the subject? Sarah Palin is supposed to be a 2012 contender and she for the most part, she only appears on right wing media, or uses Twitter or Facebook where she never has to answer policy questions to anyone.

"Can we afford this?" is a necessary question to ask. These people are just being babies. Kudos on your decision to ignore the accusations of bias, Brooke.

Mar. 25 2011 11:43 PM

The thing that keeps NPR relevant is that they would actually put the time and effort to do this report and air it. A fox news, for example, would never do this.

Mar. 25 2011 11:42 PM
Charles from Michigan

mister smith just beat me to it.

And there should be no surprise, that many other listeners will be stunned at the definitional presumption in this story. If "NPR bias" was confined to Morning Edition, ATC and TOTN, and if "normalcy" was somehow defined as ABC, NBC, CBS and the New York Times, then hell yeah, NPR might just be "mainstream."

But no one seems to have considered the standard daily schedule of most public radio newstalk formats. Those daily schedules will feature newstalk interview programs hosted by the likes of John Hockenberry, Terry Gross, Michelle Martin, Diane Rehm, Michael Eric Dyson, Tavis Smiley, Kurt Andersen and, in some cases, Amy Goodman's 'Democracy Now!' All of those shows employing producers who are like-minded with the programs' hosts. And overnight, don't forget about the virulently anti-Republican anti-American BBC World Service.

The BBC, and all of the daily "viewpoint" programming, is all liberal in orientation. There is no conservative corollary to Democracy Now!; there is no conservative Terry Gross, or Ira Glass, or Tavis Smiley, or Michael Eric Dyson. None. None, anywhere in any form on public radio.

Perhaps this was all be design on the part of OTM; to define down "NPR," to "three NPR News programs." Ignoring the bulk of other programming. And thereby gaming this entire "exploration."

Finally, I was amazed by the undefined term "talk radio," as a euphemism for "conservative talk radio." Conservative talk radio is all commercial broadcasting, of course. No one would dream of funding conservative talk radio the way that the CPB funds liberal talk radio, a/k/a "public radio."

Mar. 25 2011 11:24 PM
mister smith from Dallas

I don't question whether the news of NPR is "balanced"... to my (libertarian) ears it is. My biggest issue is all of the shows outsides of ATC, TOTN, Morning Edition. Please don't tell me Fresh Air, Diane Rehm, Wait, Wait... Don't tell me, etc. are left leaning. Just limit to the "snarky comments" and cheap shots. Maybe the stories aren't so "out of balance" but the tone, comments and overall commentary is well left of center.

That is the main reaosn... I no longer financially support public radio - even though I listen quite a bit daily.

Mar. 25 2011 08:24 PM
paul cook

Steve Rendall is a white guy...his views on fairness and racism are irrelevant, at least according to himself.

Mar. 25 2011 08:13 PM

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