Ideological Bias at Non-Profit News Organizations

Friday, July 29, 2011


Dozens of non-profit news organizations have cropped up in just the last 5 or 6 years, touted by some as the solution to for-profit papers closing across the country. The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism recently examined 39 of these non-profits to see how they’re doing. Study co-author Amy Mitchell tells Bob that many of the sites appear to reflect the ideological leanings of their funders.

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Comments [18]

Mort Moore from The Great Blogosphere

Thanks for the clarification--and the link, for what it's worth.
By your standards, this doesn't show anything. You said that NPR described Lott as a "criminal." That is, of course, not what took place at all. In fact, the partisan article to which you link says that the former Globe reporter "Puts Trent Lott in a Darth Vader Suit."

They don't mention that, in fact, the interviewee is quoting someone as saying "that he considered (the MS political machine--not Lott per se) the dark side of the Force." So there's one bit of slant that neither you nor the NewsBusters article admits to.

The NB article says "Wilkie didn’t talk about Dickie’s Democrat (sic) friends." But the transcript not only mentions Senator James Eastland, a Democrat (from the time when Democrats were the conservatives in MS; Lott himself worked for a Dem early in his career); it also says "Scruggs had ties to leading Democrats and Republicans."

So, in summary: nobody called Lott a "criminal." You'd be hard pressed to support your charge of borderline libel. And the NB article you link to doesn't come close to supporting your assertions.

It's hard to conduct a rational discussion with someone who moves the goalposts at every turn. I'm done with you.

Aug. 06 2011 09:36 AM

@Mort Moore:

Sorry, Trent Lott, not John Lott (the Yale statistician). And yes, Majority Leader.

He actually wasn't convicted, though he was accused (but never indicted) of nepotism regarding a judge appointee.

There was a huge amount of hearsay (some bordering on libel) on NPR that was never challenged nor corrected.

Soros was convicted, yet that is never mentioned.

Considering that we're in a debt crisis that threatened to devalue the US dollar, the fact that Soros engaged in short sales of USD's is certainly pertinent.

Aug. 06 2011 01:26 AM
Mort Moore from The Great Blogosphere

"Except when talking about former Speaker John Lott, of course."

Who? was never Speaker of the House. And I'm not aware of his conviction of any crimes.

Maybe you're referring to Trent Lott, who was Majority Leader of the Senate--not Speaker of the House. He also was not convicted of anything.

I guess it's possible that you're thinking of Tom DeLay, who was *also* never Speaker. But he was in a leadership position, and he was convicted of I guess that's close enough.

It's clear to me that you didn't conduct a search to prove out your assertion. It's hard to understand why you'd persist in a discussion without doing the minimal work to verify your debating points.

Well, let me help (again). A search of the NPR Archives for "convicted criminal tom delay" turns up...guess what it turns up?

So, after all this back-and-forth, you have not proved anything. You have nothing.

Brooke & Bob: What's this exchange tell you? It may tell you that some critics will insist that NPR has a rampant left-wing bias, and no amount of evidence will convince them that the bias is entirely in their heads.

Aug. 05 2011 11:43 AM

@Mort Moore:

"If you do such searches, and others, you'll find that it's not NPR's practice to identify public figures as "Convicted criminal Charles Colson" or "Convicted felon Nelson Mandela." That's the kind of phraseology best left to the NY Post and Bill O'Reilly; NPR's standards, in this case, do not prove bias."

Except when talking about former Speaker John Lott, of course.

Aug. 05 2011 12:17 AM
Mort Moore from The Great Blogosphere

philipBZ :

"I just searched for 'Soros criminal' and not one hit involved criminal describing Soros."

The syntax of the quoted sentence is tortured, perhaps to the point where it will say whatever you want it to say. I'll interpret it to mean "I found not one hit which described Soros as a 'criminal.'"

If that's what you meant, then this is an example of Confirmation Bias. That is, you have a belief (that NPR is a left-wing institution which carries the water of comsymps such as George Soros), so you do a simplistic analysis and...voila! Your belief is thereby confirmed!

What other searches did you do to check your hypothesis? For instance, did you search on "Charles Colson criminal?" Or "Gordon Liddy criminal?" Or "Caspar Weinberger criminal?"

If you do such searches, and others, you'll find that it's not NPR's practice to identify public figures as "Convicted criminal Charles Colson" or "Convicted felon Nelson Mandela." That's the kind of phraseology best left to the NY Post and Bill O'Reilly; NPR's standards, in this case, do not prove bias.
Still no cookie for you.

Aug. 04 2011 08:41 AM

@Mort Moore:

"No cookie for you."

It being a radio network, I'm counting only pieces heard on the air.

Aug. 04 2011 01:42 AM
Mort Moore from The Great Blogosphere

As a follow-up, I decided to check into the other legs of your theory that NPR conspiratorially whitewashes the dark demons of their Lord and Master, George Soros.
A search of the NPR website on "Soros currency" turns up about 92 results, many of which are directly on point. The top hit is .

Note that the $1.8 million grant from Soros' foundation pales in comparison to the >$250 million bequest from Joan Kroc. It's tough to reconcile those numbers with your contention that 99% of NPR's funding may be from some shadowy puppet-master.

Searching on "Soros dollar" turns up 43 hits, one of the first being an opinion piece by National Review, lambasting Soros and others for holding gold and bailing on the dollar.

I'm even more bemused by your contention that "I've looked, and I couldn't find a single (NPR story about these items about Soros)." Looked...*where???*

It hardly matters that, in the story I quoted, they were quoting Eric Cantor or anyone else. You asked if I could find "a single instance that makes mention of" these issues.
I could. Easily. You failed to do your homework before making your accusation.
No cookie for you.

Aug. 03 2011 03:52 PM

@Mort Moore:

"It took me no more than 30 seconds to find this."

And if you spent another 30 seconds reading the transcript, then you'd know that this was a quote of Rep. Cantor calling Soros that... with no discussion of the context.

Apparently Soros' life is off-limits for NPR to scrutinize.

I just searched for "Soros criminal" and not one hit involved criminal describing Soros.

The only time they're used in the same sentence, is when they're quoting someone else, like Beck or Cantor.

It's not a matter of debate or opinion whether Soros is a criminal or not: he was convicted in a French court, and his appeal was not successful.

Aug. 03 2011 12:20 PM
Mort Moore from The Great Blogosphere

How hard did you look?
I searched for "soros france conviction," and found the following:
"George Soros Discusses Efforts to Spread Democracy
May 09, 2005 ... it. Representative ERIC CANTOR (Republican): Mr. Soros was convicted in a French court for insider trading. INSKEEP ... By Steve Inskeep"
It took me no more than 30 seconds to find this.

Now...again...what was your point?

By the way: I largely agree with your response to "Anonymous." NPR can't do its job properly without frequently calling upon experts, which would include retired FBI and CIA employees. And while I'm no fan of the WSJ, I have no problem with their giving airtime to some WSJ writers.

Aug. 03 2011 08:32 AM


It's not about it being a "liberal" environment. It's about not burying your head in the sand.

"They've had CIA and FBI on staff for at least a decade."

If there was an author, an elected official, a public servant, etc. whose statements or actions I wanted to clarify, then I too would have them on the air whether I agreed with them or not. Indeed, more like if I disagreed with them, since I would want to draw public scrutiny to them.

"They've had Wall Street Journal writers and editors on their airwaves for years now."

So? It's an outstanding newspaper. It was before the acquisition, and it will continue to be so for a long time to come. The "News Corp" brand includes a variety of newspapers.

The GM brand isn't just "Chevy Aveo", it's also "Cadillac STS".

Aug. 03 2011 01:15 AM

You are so wrong about NPR. It is NOT the NPR of 20 years ago. This current form, so desperate for cash, has started to sell itself out. This NPR is WAY more right wing than anything I want to listen to.
It is a right leaning leftist station, or left leaning rightist station, depending on the day.
NPR made me sick with some of their rah rah crap during Bush's War. They've had CIA and FBI on staff for at least a decade. They've had Wall Street Journal writers and editors on their airwaves for years now.
That last one is the most telling. It exposes your folly. A right wing, corporate, Murdoch paper, and NPR has them on all the time (and they continue to show up). In what "liberal" environment do you think this happens?

Aug. 02 2011 09:38 PM
Matt from Iowa

If corporate news was unbiased, then there'd be no need for alternates.
The NYT, CNN, NPR (etc) should- - wishful thinking- - stop being about advertising and making money, and start being about informing people.
Talk to a "reporter" from a major news outlet, and they rarely talk of informing the public or performing some social service. They usually talk about "illuminating" a subject, "disseminating" news, bringing the consumer "the opinions that matter" or the stories the want to read/hear about. Those are all forms of spin language.
I don't know if the news was ever about Truth, but it seems that Truth is now dead. Much like every toothpaste ad claiming that 9 out of 10 dentists recommend their product (math is hard, I guess, or dentists are just really agreeable), there seems to be a counter-story to every angle, but everyone claims that theirs is the truth.

Aug. 02 2011 09:26 PM

@Mort Moore:

Tell you what... Let's see if you can find a single instance on the NPR website that makes mention of George Soros' criminal conviction in France, or mentions him as a currency speculator, or that he actively sought to devalue the dollar and short sell billions.

I've looked, and I couldn't find a single thing.

Aug. 02 2011 11:23 AM

@Mort Moore:

"Listen for a moment to the underwriting credits for just about any NPR show, and you'll hear a wide variety of funding sources."

Actually, you'll hear a partial list of funding sources. For whatever reason, some sources ask not to be listed (which in itself is suspect, since NPR claims to be the paragon of transparency).

You'll also not hear the amounts. It could well be that 99% of the funding comes from a single source, even an unnamed one, but you'd never know it.

Aug. 01 2011 12:38 PM
Mort Moore from The Great Blogosphere

Charles and Philip,
That's a silly question.
In the segment, they clearly differentiated between news orgs that get funding from a host of sources (which have not shown significant bias), and those which get funding primarily from one source. Listen for a moment to the underwriting credits for just about any NPR show, and you'll hear a wide variety of funding sources. So...the fact that Soros' foundation (which, in contrast to the Kochs' activities, is easily tracked) funds a tiny fraction of NPR's reporting cannot be used to claim that this study "proves" bias at NPR.
In short, to answer your silly question: No.

Aug. 01 2011 08:46 AM

GARFIELD: [...] I have to ask you whether this study misses the point.

No, I think OTM misses the point.

The worry isn't deliberately partisan reporting from "Reason" or "The Nation", which are known to be partisan.

The concern is the insidious but subtle bias that creeps in from organizations such as NPR that tout themselves as objective--and perhaps due to conceit or ideological blindsides even believe this--and as a consequence manage to convince their audience who might be less-than-discerning that this is actually true, subsequently accepting all they report without question.

I was listening to PBS's "Newshour" where Boehner was described as "weak", "ineffectual", and even "dishonest" for being able to "control" his party.

That members were putting principle before party was never considered, nor that the same sorts of strains of having a "big tent" as the Democrats like to remind us might also occasionally be a problem even for the supposed "narrow ranks" of the GOP.

Most shockingly was that the fact that many freshman representatives with large Tea Party constituencies were actually delivering on what their campaign promises of strict fiscal conservatism had been was instead implied to be partisan obstructionism.

When in 2003 many senate Democrats voted against funding the troops in Iraq this was seen as "taking a stand on principle" and being faithful to their anti-war constituents.

Why aren't house Republicans being painted in the same virtuous light by PBS? Because it goes against the PBS narrative.

It's not "The Nation" or "Reason" that should come with a disclaimer. It's clearly PBS and NPR.

Jul. 31 2011 07:33 PM


So is NPR one of the 'left-leaning, Soros-funded, non-profit news outlets'?

Asked and answered.

Jul. 31 2011 06:20 PM

So is NPR one of the 'left-leaning, Soros-funded, non-profit news outlets'?

Jul. 30 2011 10:12 PM

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