This all began when Ira Glass challenged Brooke and Bob to answer the question of liberal bias. So, this week, we invited Ira on to discuss the findings and the lessons learned.
Why doesn't NPR carry "Democracy Now!"?
That's an impersonation of Ira Glass, it's not actually him.
In case anyone is still unconvinced, here's a bit more transcript:
TR: The fox is a smart animal. So why do we have these dodos and birdbrains? O'Reilly----- Hannity----- Palin----- where'd they come from? I've got to get to New York and straighten these people out. Who are you?
TR: Then I'm going to put you in charge of Fox News. Get out there and tell those people to start telling the truth.
And yes, "TR" is Mr. Glass in this script.
No, certainly no bias here:
TR (APPROACHES, VOICE OF IRA): This is really just sort of unbelievable. Gotta call up Glenn Beck and get him straightened out on this whole Tea Party thing. Cutting taxes on the top 2 percent while you take away people's health care ---- that's just not right. My people are way out of line on all of that.
Way to go, On the Media... investigating bias at NPR... and pulling a Horatio Nelson, lifting that spyglass to your blind eye...
It annoys me how much conservatives have managed to slant the debate to apolitical, non-partisan things, or (and this just drives me up the wall) perceived tones without actual evidence, as "proof" of a bias. Things that should by all means be statements of fact like "Global warming exists" or "trickle down economics is a failed policy" or "Tom Delay is a criminal" have become twists into political opinions with no right or wrong answer, just a "bias". In all the times I've been listening to NPR, I have NEVER ONCE heard an openly expressed political opinion from any reporter. Never, ever. But one time they asked a standard question to a CEO, or failed to take offense from a Christian POV at someone of non-traditional faith, so I guess they're "liberal" now. Just because the American Right has become more radically conservative does not mean, via the Overton Window, that previously Centrist and Non-Partisan organizations are suddenly left of center.
"Repubs just want everyone thinking the way they do, whether their thinking is based in reality or not."
Except that NPR refusing to change despite decades of accusation of being left-leaning is the most plausible explanation, if one considers that liberals might want everyone thinking the way that they do, whether their thinking is based in reality or not.
Think about statistics, bell curves, and standard deviation: if you're doing a 'fair', and 'objective' job of reporting, then everyone is going to disagree with you at least part of the time. That is, if you're right down the middle.
But as you point out, liberals largely like NPR reporting... which means it's not down the center, it's biased toward their opinions.
If NPR were impartial, liberals and conservatives alike would find disagreement with it at the same rate.
Curious that those who seem dislike NPR the most are listening to it so often. As to Michelle Norris's question "Can we afford it?", why is it biased to ask when that's EXACTLY what politicians should be asking regarding the deficit? Perhaps what we are really dealing with here is "confirmation bias" i. e., listeners are straining out ideas or concepts that don't support or confirm their current beliefs as "biased".
@Cindy A Williams:
"My question to you is, do you pay for cable TV, or for Direct TV or some other satellite company so that you can watch TV?"
I'm hoping, Ms. Williams, that you realize that the problem with an apples-to-oranges comparison is, well, you're comparing apples-to-oranges. That is, disparate things.
Comparing a non-broadcast service to a broadcast service is inherently incongruent.
I like Mr. Husby's formulation "journalism is essentially a liberal activity" and find it true which may explain why I even tune in Fox occasionally, just for the facts - when they choose to air them.
Meanwhile, while NPR is getting all the play here, when I check the Internet to find out when WNPR has moved OTM on its weekend schedule (on Saturday they said on air during Wait, Wait that it would be on at 4pm that day, falsely) the website I go to is Connecticut's PBS site which then sends one on to CPTV or WNPR.
Now, you've gone a couple of weeks with only cursory attention to the most important story on the planet; the Fu*k-y*u-shima-Daichi meltdowns! When ANY medium starts to treat this crisis with the seriousness with which they all treated the Gulf Oil Deluge, I might consider them progressive. So far corporate interests, facing the destruction of the world's 3rd largest economy and poisoning us all for 2,500 years, they distract us with war or navel staring, like this.
I will content that the analysis performed is a bit misleading, thereby having little or no true answer to the question of libral bias at NPR. Analyzing the shows ATC, TOTN and Morning Edition and their respective stories doesn't mean that NPR is without bias. It simply means, the straight news shows are "straight". Well duh. Outside of the poor language choice (see Nina Totentberg) or poor wording of questions (see examples above)... the real question is - is NPR (the broader NPR) lean decidedly left? Listen to Diane Rehm, Fresh Air (aka Terry Gross), Wait, Wait... Don't tell me, Prarie Home Companion and you will hear a decidedly left leaning bias. But, those shows were not analyzed. Why? I assume for many reasons, some having to do with the difficulty of measuring specific aspects, etc. But I am also sure that because those shows are clearly left leaning. Just think of the last time you heard a balanced WWDTM, Diane Rehm or Fresh Air. Hell, those shows can't even book a balanced show. It is usually 2-3 left, 1 center (maybe slightly right). Is it so hard to get someone like Nick Gillespie from Reason magazine? I mean, screw hard left or hard right. Let's get more centrist libertarians on the programs.
This would be a lot less preposterous if Mr. Glass hadn't appeared last November on "A Prairie Home Companion" on the Guy Noir skit calling the folks at Fox News "bird-brains and dodo's" along with other ad hominems, explicit and implied.
Mr. Glass's vehemence to the supposed "camp" Fox News is in only explains itself with the understanding that Mr. Glass himself is in a different camp.
If Mr Glass were above the fray, then he'd be a lot more disinterested, which clearly he's not.
I listen to NPR aaaalllll day long. OH, except when Michael Savage and the Savage Nation comes on for three hours in the afternoon. I'm liberal in most aspects and conservative in others. I listen to him in fascination and enjoyment. He makes me wince at times and occassionally I will have to turn it off. I am crucified by my fellow liberal colleagues and friends for listening to the Savage Nation but actually have some admiration for someone so completely unabashed and unafraid to simply put their personal views out there for all the world to critique. My only complaint is that he occassionally does get a liberal caller/challenger ready for an intellegent debate which I hunger for and he readily and unceremoniously gets rid of them. I KNOW where he is coming from. I still listen. I have never heard anything that I personally would consider biased from NPR and have listened to many intelligent and well-considered interviews with conservatives on varied programs on the station. I always felt that the conservative viewpoint was fairly considered and that the politicians (conservative or liberal) were appreciative of the opportunity to access the tried and true interviewers of NPR. I would be heartbroken to lose ANY of the programs offered by NPR. I would also miss Savage if his program was to be diminished. Beat me up if you must...
Julie Cason - You wrote, "That may also be how they justify listening without donating". Your statement indicates that you aren't aware of the FACT that we all "donate" involuntarily, through our taxes.
If NPR gets its nose out of the public trough I will be far more likely to voluntarily donate.
Yesterday's 'Morning Edition' had Nina Totenberg, in a report on the lawsuit against Walmart for 'sex discrimination', speaking of the company 'trotting out' a female executive to dispute the accusations of the plaintiff and her trial lawyer. Now, you 'trot out' a pony purely for reasons of 'show'; the language was clearly biased and patronizing of the women at Walmart who oppose this latest trial-lawyer greed-fest. NPR itself changed the wording on its transcript to saying the company 'presented' the female executive, so there is no doubt that even NPR knew the language was biased against the company.
That's just a snapshot. Critics of NPR could compile an anthology of such examples, yet some defenders on these threads continue to express blind denial. Even as I write, one of NPR's pages giving a 'Timeline of the Battle Against AIDS' repeats the lie that Reagan was silent on the subject of AIDS until 1987. Dan Savage repeated it on Terry Gross show last week. I knew the allegation, which appears graven on the brains of Reagan-haters, was untrue, and, curious, I looked it up on NPR. Sure enough, NPR's policy of being truthful does not extend this far. Again, these examples could be are not that uncommon - I've just heard them in the past week or so.
It has been so intriguing to listen to this debate, as of course I don't hear the liberal bias either, Ira. But I wonder if the NPR News cannot be listened to outside of its local station context. We listen to NPR stations all over the US and it's hard not to picture many of the folks who work there as Birkenstock and hemp wearing liberals. And even when that's not even remotely the case anymore, the memory of when that was sort of the case could be a filter through which our conservative compatriots are listening. That may also be how they justify listening without donating.... (in gruff Dad voice) "I'm not giving money to those liberal crazies over at the college!"
Mr Husby's view is just the stuff that gives us Conservative, dogmatic, non-questioning types sustinance.
As a political science major back during the Cold War, I learned that conservatives can be characterized as having a basic mis-trust of government, reluctant to cede power or authority to governmental entities in preference to the individual retaining rights to decide on the manner in which they live, play, harness their labor and invest their resources. They prefer limited government and minimal regulation because conservatives question the authority of government and relentlessly doubt the alleged beneficance of those persons employed by the state and feeding at the public trough. Rights are not derived from government which is a necessary evil there only to serve the public in a limited way.
They believe in "The Marketplace of Ideas" which to my very liberal professors, means that there is a constant battle of ideas and opinions that in a true republic, never takes a breather. Like capitalism, ideas compete via their advocates who battle each other for supremacy.
We like Ayn Rand and support freedom of speech on America's campuses where speech "codes" have been born. Did Conservatives come up with them or the term PC?
Liberals on the other hand have non-dogmatic positions on: Obama, unions, abortion, taxing the rich, open borders, free medical care as a right,etc. the issues upon which ALL liberals agree. Am I right about that or am I, like you, just spouting some generalities based on not a whole lot? Rush has millions of listeners in part because there are people who believe as you do. The reason many Conservatives listen to NPR Mr. Husby, is to learn what others not of our beliefs, think. Occasionally, something is said in a convincing manner and we are swayed on an issue or two. Shocking but true. If we were 1/10 as dogmatic and unquestioning as you think we are, NPR would lose a few million listeners.
Yes, Ed Schultz, Lawrence O'Donnell, and Chris Matthews do display all those nasty characteristics. But at least Keith Olbermann is gone. Oh wait. Those are liberals. And they are on MSNBC.
re: Liberal "tone" -- Content aside and strictly looking at presentation, the OTM pieces on this topic were undeniably civil and articulate, and came across as actual positive discussions of a complex topic.
This is indeed the exact opposite of the tone of most Conservative or right-wing media, which involves people shouting, hosts interrupting guests, people talking loudly and acting generally outraged and angry.
So if Liberal bias means the former of the two, I definitely prefer that.
Thank you, Michael Husby, for the "higher analysis" we have all been waiting for. Paraphrasing you:
Conservatives are narrow, uninspired, mean, and not much fun at all.
Liberals are broad, enlightened, kind, and truly wonderful in each and every way.
Yes, you have contributed to this discussion a wonderful display of the elitism that will keep NPR (and the American Left) forever in the minority.
Conservatives and liberals have different world views that predispose them very differently towards question asking.
Conservatives, basically, seek to *conserve* the status quo. Their world view is, by definition, anti-antithetical to questioning that leads to challenge what they believe to be eternal, immutable principles. Right and wrong are discerned by drawing deductions from these. So, the 3 hour talk shows where one dogma is affirmed over and over are wildly popular with conservatives.
The 3 hour dogma format just doesn't work with liberals. Their world view just doesn't predispose them to that formal. Liberals instead are drawn to journalism, where authorities and dogmas are questioned. It is in the world view of liberals to seek empirical data for decisions, rather than some set of immutable principals.
The mistake we are making is to treat conservatives and liberals as two baseball teams, where the conservatives are complaining about the strike zone. A better analogy is that conservatives are a football team and when they wonder onto the baseball diamond, they get mad that nobody is lining up for a kickoff. It's not that the strike zone can be changed to suit them; they just wish everyone would play football. In the same way, when I (a liberal) stumble onto the a.m. dial I ask myself "how can anyone possibly find this interesting, even if you agree with it?"
What conservatives are correctly pointing out is that journalism is essentially a liberal activity. Asking tough questions and challenge authority and the status quo is essentially an extension of the liberal world view, just as public relations and messaging are intended to defend and conserve a position.
Where's the "like" button for Mulp's comment?
Ira, give it up bro, you're hopelessly liberal.
Facts are: The liberal slant and story choices often please me and sometimes annoy me.
The conservative slant or blinders that also are evident sometimes also irritate me.
I am not trying to see myself in the mirror.
The contributions I make to NPR, along with getting irritated sometimes, that's the price I pay for listening -- the payoff is a steady stream of food for thought and actions. There is no substitute for this
I loved the treatment of bias this week, and I love that Ira was on the show as my entre into NPR was TAL. I have been slowly swinging from conservative to liberal, and the more I swing the more I love NPR; of course, my subjective experience does not mean that NPR is liberal. But my question, however, is: what do we make of the fact that most of the NPR audience is of a liberal bent? Doest that not give us some information or insight on this topic? (I don't think this was thoroughly investigated on the show.)
I think this is important because it seems that if we say "no," then there is an imbedded conceit and pretention in saying "no, NPR is objective - that's why we like it." As though to say being liberal is more objective than being conservative. Is it?
I hope that make sense.
I would have emailed this comment directly but could not find out how.Please remind Brooke that the singular is "criteriON," the plural is "criteriA." Same with "phenomenON" for the singular and "phenomenA" for the plural. Even though it's Greek to a lot of us, it sounds uneducated not to use these words correctly.
Concerning Michelle Norris's question "Can we afford it?," I have no idea whether Michelle is conservative, liberal or in-between -- but wouldn't she ask that question in any case?
Listen, Ira is extremely liberal because he asks questions to which he doesn't know the answer. A conservative merely asks questions to which the standard dogma applies, and never asks questions for which dogma provides no answer.
Case in point is the reporting on the financial crisis where Ira and crew asked all the wrong questions according to conservative dogma. Instead of asking questions like "who is to blame?" where the answer if obviously "the government", Ira asked "where did the money come from?" which led to the explanation about the "giant pool of money".
But then, for Ira to ask "is there evidence NPR is biased?" proves Ira is a liberal - a conservative doesn't need to ask, because NPR has by definition a liberal bias.
I agree with you. Your dad isn't the only one who may miss NPR. I live in rural NW of Montana and am very concerned about losing one of my best sources of information. additionally, I have a hard time with reading and cannot do too much of it before I get bad headaches, so although I have access to the internet, NPR for me is easier and less painful.
My theory why republicans don't like NPR is that it is effective in educating people about reality and not more of the same GOP hypocritical rhetoric. The Religious Right, conventionally representing the GOP has it in it's interest to keep people ignorant, for their religion and policies RELY on it. Liberal listeners like NPR, because it gives us intelligent reporting, and middle of the road liberals LIKE knowledge, which is why we are. Repubs just want everyone thinking the way they do, whether their thinking is based in reality or not. Why? Because the real kingpins in the Rep. party aren't human, they're corporations
An additional comment. Massachusetts Joe noted that the language used can cause bias. For many years; most notably during the Bush 43 era, it was my observation that NRP reporters frequently used pejorative words when referring to Democrats or liberal concepts. I had to send NPR many letters calling this abuse to their attention. Over the last several years this biased practice has abated.
Michelle Norris's question was completely fair as Republicans have unrelentingly whined about the deficit. And, note that the Republican politician craftily avoided confirming what everyone knows. A "tax holiday" is tax money that will not be recovered and is purely an unearned gift of welfare to the corporation.
Oh no! Cytelica has found out about our plan to create "a monolithic media that pervasively spews dogmatic propaganda constituting a nation wide re-education camp."
Who told him or her? Now we will have to go to plan B. Release the lizards!
After listening to this three part inquiry it seems that Republicans scored a win. It was clearly proved that Republicans have been successful in demanding that media be biased in their favor. This bias is now so well entrenched into our society right wingers have been convinced that any thing short Beckian dogma constitutes is liberal bias. And, Republicans are pugnacious manipulators who’s compulsion to control and oppress others cannot be satiated! Surprisingly, it was Ira Glass who flinched and yielded to the impact of their “working the ref” despite several studies that confirmed Republicans have secured more favorable treatment at NPR.
We need to keep in mind that Republicans are after NPR because they have calculated they can “run the table” if they can kill or quash NPR and PBS. Republicans, their corporate overlords, and their authoritarian minions want a monolithic media that pervasively spews dogmatic propaganda constituting a nation wide re-education camp.
Why does a good news gathering organization need to defend itself?
I've learned more about the troubles in Japan and the Middle East this week because I keep my radio tuned to NPR.
My counterparts who listen to commercial talk radio get right-wing talking heads who need to be interrupted every thirteen minutes to shill the next "gold exchange option".
I could ask my friends who listen to AM talk radio to find Myanmar and they would be lost. I could ask them how they felt about union busting in Wisconsin and they would have very definitive ideas.
My point is; Why has this not been turned around? All media outlets come under attack for being too "liberal". We should we be asking why FOX News and it's corporate shills are considered fair and balanced when right wingers list them as trustworthy?
My dad is going to loose his access to NPR in his rural part of America if it is de-funded and he's not completely liberal.
He lives in Kansas.
The term bias is too charged and seems to imply reporters or editors intentionally slant coverage and mislead listeners.
Even without overt bias a news organization can drift one direction or the other politically if there is a lack of diversity of opinion in its boardroom and newsrooms.
If you read the bios of NPR senior executives and show hosts you aren't going to see representation of historically black colleges and universities, or state schools in general.
And you might be surprised to see NPR appears unaware of the existence of the west coast in hiring. This just in from NPR-the world is flat and stops at Chicago.
You also won't see reporters who have worked at newspapers or media outlets considered conservative. And few, if any, persons related by marriage to anyone who has been a conservative activist or has worked for a conservative politician, although the converse is true.
Considering this, the irony is how free of overt bias NPR actually is.
To me, its almost like Mr. Glass and company are jumping up and down screaming "We're not liberal! We're not liberal! We're not liberal! And now we are all going to hold our breath until we turn blue just to show you how unliberal we are!!!" The temper tantrum didn't work when we were children and it still doesn't hold water. If you are liberal and have a bias, geez, just say so, most people would shrug and say "Yeah, so what."
I find myself in the center on most issues, so I want to hear the different sides. To me that would be a center bias. If one questions a pro-business policy, it doesn't make for a liberal bias. I want to know what the far-reaching impact of the tax-break policy will have on the business competitors who are too small to consider relocating overseas to avoid US taxes. I agree with Mr. Cranmer that the phrasing could make the question more neutral, but I want the question asked just as I would want to question liberal spending programs.
Concerning Michelle Norris's question "Can we afford it?", I think there is an additional point that no one touched on. When I listened to her asking the question, I was reminded of situations like this that often occur on the BBC. I think one part of the problem of bias is that the way the question is scripted makes it come across as expressing the interviewer's own opinion. I would suggest that whoever scripts questions like this should use a phrasing something like "What is your response to those who raise the question 'Can we afford it?'" Such phrasing distances the content of the question from the interviewer and maintains the neutral stance of the interview. David Cranmer
The right has trumpeted NPR as liberal for so long that even NPR has bought into the lie. I question whether NPR and most of your listeners are liberal. As a “liberal” for whom questions of race, gender, sexuality and privilege are ingrained in my daily conversation, NPR often makes me wince both through what is said and what is not said. What made me wince today was the fact that you began with an assumption that you needed to disprove that NPR’s reporting has a liberal bias. This led you to completely ignore the question of whether NPR lacks a liberal bias. If you had taken this approach as well, you might have had some “liberals” record what makes them wince when listening to your programming. Your job is not to make everyone comfortable and try to satisfy all of our political views.
I agree with the conservative speaker who felt a liberal bias from Michelle Norris's question. Certainly a valid question, but when it comes from a liberal commentator, it carries the liberal presumption of suspicion towards the business community. I am a centrist, not a hardened partisan. I listen to radio because I want to formulate my own conclusion about political issues. I'm still developing my political views. As someone who strives to learn, being able to trust the source of news is vastly more important than hearing a political perspective. I pick up on the subtleties of liberal bias, and I agree they exist at NPR, from very subtle, to less subtle. Most tellingly, I'm not sure NPR has any true conservative or moderate commentators/reporters. I think NPR, both local stations and the national entity, could enhance their credibility amongst centrists and conservatives alike by striving for more objectivity.
Yes, the readers/listeners should be better educated to discern fact from fiction in news stories.
It is a hard job to do. ALL MASS MEDIA news reporting is bias because of the BIG corporations that "sponsor" the news.
For REAL Non-fiction information about Bias in the Mass Media News read
Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press Kristina Borjesson (Author)
Or Project Censored http://www.projectcensored.org/
NPR seems, to me, to try its best to take a middle road as to not to offend. But, easily gets swayed by the winds of opinion and mass media. I offer as an example The Somali Pirates. At first NPR told the truth as to WHY the pirates were attacking (foreign countries dumping toxic waste off Somali shores). Now, they only tell the "if it bleeds it leads" head lines of the Somali Pirates.
Cindy Williams - You may have missed what this issue is about. It is about taxpayer funding for NPR. Taxpayer funding means that every taxpayer contributes whether he or she chooses to, or not. It isn't about whether we should or shouldn't "feel comfortable getting NPR for free" because we don't get NPR "for free".
Ira and Brooke
Your inherent obsession with trying to disprove NPR bias is showing bias within this process. All of the data submitted today sums up not to proving that NPR is mainstream - the sum is that you cannot prove bias looking at limited studies of perception!
All news presenters are judging the appropriateness of the story, words / script and questions used and this is inherently bias. The words matter and Ann Mass and Luciano Arcuri state "It is language that provides the key tool for communicating prejudice interpersonally and cross-generationally." (Mass, A and Arcuri, L., *Language and Stereotyping* in Stereotypes and Stereotyping, Macrae et all, eds. 1996, New York: Guilford, p 193.)
The language NPR correspondents, editors and presenters use is where the bias exists... as David Green (Asociate Professor of Political Science) from Hofstra University stated: "Changing how the public labels categories changes the associations those labels invoke in people's minds, which in turn changes their affective attitudes toward what is being described."
But Ira - I did like your story on Drug Courts today.
For the evangelical christian man who is keeping a diary to see if NPR has a liberal bias: You gave as an example for why you will not contribute to NPR, tha a person interviewed on Fresh Air offened your religious beliefs. My question to you is, do you pay for cable TV, or for Direct TV or some other satellite company so that you can watch TV? If so how do you justify that. There must be hundreds of people, programs or information that is offensive to you as an evangelical. Perhaps you just turn those programs off, but, you continue to pay for TV. Why then do you feel comfortable with getting NPR for free while having to scrutinize with a fine tooth comb each program to see if it's going to offend you. Excuse me, but it seems very hypocritcal to me.
Loved this story. It gives me hope that the images of the zoo metaphor of a donkey and elephant will become, gradually of course, antiquated and no longer helpful.
Great show but every host has tell. Bob uses the common "Newt Gingrich" cite, when a Conservative is saying something out of bounds. Brooke uses the common "even Richard Nixon" cite when she wants to convince the listener that a policy is really not that far out of the mainstream.
The worst though is the host of Tell Me More. She is in full combat mode when she interviews a Republican like Allen West, interrupting, stuttering etc. But get her with a Democrat like Jon Lewis and it's all calm, soft ball and day at the beach time.
So you have a bias or is it "so, you have a bias... hmm".
It seems a matter of presumption and assumption. Like accepting that the Earth is round like a ball when in fact it is more of an oblate spheroid in shape. Look it up.
Hey Ira-Excuse me for not being PC. But in the interest of full transparency, shouldn't you and the staff OTM reveal that you're union members?
And Ira... that you made *cough* cough* last year. Zowie!
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