A Brief History of Bias Accusations Against NPR

Friday, September 14, 2012


In this rebroadcast of our investigation into whether NPR has a liberal bias, Brooke looks at the recent history of NPR scandals, and the consistent drumbeat by conservative lawmakers to defund public broadcasting.

Jun Miyake - Lillies in the Valley (from the Pina soundtrack) 


Frank Mankiewicz

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [115]

Eric from United States

The fact that NPR is willing to investigate it's own biases is exactly the reason it's one of the least bias news sources. How many other news organizations would similarly examine their own biases?

Sep. 13 2015 10:31 AM

Thanks for the info. Does anyone know where I can find a blank withholding support form to fill out?

Jul. 25 2015 01:42 AM

The sun comes up, the sun goes down. Now let me answer this debate. The sun comes up, NPR is liberally bias, the sun goes down.

When you see a rock, you call it a rock. Or you can do all kinds of studies and write all kinds of articles or author all kinds of books, and interview all kinds of book authors and the senior porlifitarian chairman of the international panel of scientific determinationers of geomaticlismic object identifications at the wesley wales university of cambridge, jersualem and tell us that its a rock alright, but not really a rock, rock like we think of rock. BS propaganda to hide the truth that is obvious.

Jun. 17 2014 05:59 AM
Steve Butler

Audio is only the first 5:11 ... is this intentional?

The way it ends on "and that brings us to this hour ..." suggests that it's a segment instead of the full show.

Oct. 01 2013 04:39 PM
Douglas from Queens

Does NPR have a liberal bias? How can you possibly call yourselves journalists when you don't have any guests on with the opposing viewpoint? This was so pathetic?

And as for measuring. Indeed you can measure the actual bias such as the number of negative stories that were run about George Bush or Mitt Romney. But how do you measure the bias of omission. Of not mentioning points that are valid and positive toward the Republican conservative side.

But how do you have a discussion on your own bias and not have anyone there to counter the ridiculous self righteous beliefs of those who work at NPR?

I am in shock.

Apr. 03 2013 08:06 PM
Frank Durham from Iowa City

Thank you to the On the Media staff for this wonderful program. I am adapting Ira Glass's challenge to my journalism course here at the University of Iowa on media framing in the conservative (and by default liberal) media.

I will also play the Red State-Blue state program on the first class day as a way to open up the unmentionable topic of partisanship and related polarization.

I have taught a version of the class before, but your work has inspired me to go deeper by putting my juniors and seniors much more in contact with their own importance as critical consumers of journalism.

Many thanks,

Frank Durham, Ph.D.

Nov. 29 2012 11:35 AM
Cindy Walsh from Baltimore, Md

As a fiscal progressive facing a now corporate NPR on steroids one can see the Republicans being made happy as the fiscal progressives, which by the way make up most minorities, labor, environmentalists, and many youth.....we are talking a large number of people, are now out of the loop on public media. So, we are seeing the Liberal bias from the other direction now. It is strong to overwhelming as Wall Street hits us at all prime time hours.

It is happening of course just as everyone, even Republicans hate corporations/government/wealth which was part of the wealth inequity plan. I think we'll reign this free-market globalization lion in soon enough.

Nov. 01 2012 02:04 PM
Brian Denning from Portland Oregon

NPR is, as was said early in the episode, mainstream media. And NPR shows a clear bias, much as the MSM oft repeats: a pro-government and pro-power bias, and the sins of huge historical omissions. This shows heavily when reporting on foreign policy and intelligence agencies.

So Pinochet's death becomes an opportunity to tout his "free market miracle"- little or no mention of the US coup that put him in power; nor the thousands of political prisoners he killed while enjoying the praise and backing of the US government. Iran's nuclear ambitions are reported as fact, despite a number of US intelligence estimates that concluded they had ceased any work towards such a goal. Years of uncritically repeating Israeli government officials, claiming that Iran would have a nuclear weapon in 1 to 3 years; the same claim Israel has been repeating for 20 years.

Intelligence officials and government officials are recorded giving official government propaganda, the reporter repeats the spin, maybe a think tank rep says the same thing, end of segment.

This doesn't even get into NPR's unwillingness to refer to torture as torture when committed by the US. If reporting on waterboarding performed by the Khmer Rouge- that's torture. When the US did it, it was "enhanced interrogation", or "harsh interrogation".

NPR can improve its journalistic standards, like much of the MSM. That may start with not spending so much effort attempting to look unbiased by having majority Right interviews and guests for the news segments NPR produces; that's NPR letting itself be gamed by 30 years of Right-wing spin. But it goes much deeper than that: some journalism that rejects functionary faux-reporting. The powerful do not need an amplification system, press releases do not bear repeating; and stories do need historical context.

Sep. 21 2012 11:33 PM
Walter Zagieboylo

Is this a cynical attempt for NPR to establish plausible denial? Or possibly they have started to experiment with the big lie, denying it loudly and persistently, until it is accepted. In any case, anyone who denies the liberal bias of NPR, especially on social issues, has lost their integrity. Just one creepy example - the other day I heard a long piece by an avowed homosexual talking about the "science" of identifying homosexuals when they are very young in order to make their transition easier. Only an organization with a flaming homosexual bias would consider airing this kind of information.

Sep. 21 2012 02:07 PM
Therese Z from Chicago

The bias of the station has become astounding over the years. Especially in terms of sexual morality. For instance, same-sex attraction.

You can play a dangerous drinking game by waiting for the mention of an interviewee's gayness and then doing a shot. It doesn't matter what topic the interview is about, it's going to come up. War? Music? Education? Finances? Poetry? Here comes teh ghey!

Not every one of us wants to view aspects of life through a gay lens. Every so often, fine, even praiseworthy, but every other time? I don't think so.

And the religion coverage? Show me one episode listening to a happy, fulfilled, orthodox believer of any stripe, Christian, Jew, Hindu....

I have dwindled down to listening to the Car Guys. I give to my local college NPR outlet because of their local programming, I can't bring myself to give to the national one. And I LOVE radio!

Sep. 21 2012 10:15 AM
StewartIII from Ft Wash, MD, USA

NewsBusters: 'Mature, Confident' NPR Still Angry At Their 'Pussies' In Charge

Sep. 20 2012 09:00 PM

You (or at least Ira Glass) asked for examples of bias in NPR news shows. I've got one for you. It was from Tuesday's Morning Edition, and the reporter was Mara Liasson. Here's the excerpt.

"INSKEEP: Well, Romney was being rather specific here with his 47 percent and he's standing by it. So let's try to figure it out. Who are the 47 percent?

LIASSON: Well, they're actually about 46 percent, according to a study. They don't pay income tax for a variety of reasons. Some of them are too poor to pay income tax. They're working poor, but they get tax credits. Some of them are elderly. Now, these people do pay plenty of tax. They pay payroll tax and sales tax and property taxes, but that's who he was talking about."

Can you spot the bias?

Sep. 20 2012 06:33 PM
David Rosenthal

I'm only half-way through this episode, and I'm finding it fascinating.

What I find most interesting is how much we hear from the right how horrible it is that the left is dictating how we should all interact with each other by imposing this draconian political correctness on the country. If only (they say) the left would worry less about offending small minorities and worry more about doing what's right (as they see it) for our country. In short, political correctness is destroying our country.

But what's the result of the conservatives' claim that NPR has a liberal bias? The result is that NPR is now hurtling down a rabbit hole of political correctness by looking not only at the content of their coverage but in the subtext as seen by conservatives who think the attitude demonstrates a bias. Or at least that's what I'm hearing so far on your show. :D I look forward to my commute tonight so I can finish it.

Sep. 20 2012 12:59 PM
Bill Paine from Plainfield, Vermont

I'm ambivalent that you addressed this issue. While I think it's important to respond to these critics, as Ira Glass would have you (and the rest of NPR) do, I don't think it recognizes an important issue. For the most part, I think that the people and organizations that accuse NPR (and most media outlets) of bias do so not because they really believe in that bias. Only in the cases when they're arguing for the demise of the CPB (as you covered) are they really pushing the bias argument.

My own thoughts after observing Fox News, Hannity, Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan, etc. goes something like this... The bias itself is most often a distraction. They're not really talking to NPR or the media that they criticize. These critics are trying to get three primary (and sometimes contradictory) messages to their audience; that their audience is a "silent majority" - they have power, that they're being persecuted by a more powerful and organized "liberal elite" (or commies, socialists, nazis, whatever...) and that they can only trust the conservative voices that are recommended. It's a time honored way of controlling information to an audience - "We're not like the others - We're your friends. We'll tell you the truth."

So in addressing bias, NPR and OTN should recognize the motivations of the accusers as part of its analysis. My own frustration with NPR or PRI or PBS Newshour is when they overlook truth (as opposed to accuracy) in the name of "balance" - or some false equivalency - in what I see as a nod to those who would accuse them of bias. That being said, that frustration comes up a lot less often on the above than it does on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, or local sources.

Brooke's interview with Gov. Sununu was well played. Being persistent with the questions rather than going down his rabbit hole of bias was the way to go, especially when he decided to persist on his rant. Truthiness won. I kept wanting you to make some snide remark about his accusations of bias, but you were right not to address it. Bravo.

Thank you for a consistently great show. -Bill

Sep. 20 2012 11:34 AM
William Makit

Assuming that OTM's analysis of possible bias at NPR was a genuine quest for self-awareness and truth, I believe the entire experiment was ill-executed and off the mark. There were at least a couple of allusions to whether NPR reporting was accurate

Accuracy has little to do with bias; Michael Moore has made a career--and millions of dollars--off that fact. One can be 100% accurate yet still be biased. Also, the use of a study from an admitted left-wing organization about the percentage of Republican guests on news shows versus the percentage of Democrats is similarly irrelevant. Having a guest of a particular persuasion on one's show does not mean that the show, its hosts, or its producers share that guest's viewpoint.

But OTM's most obvious failure in this broadcast--and this is certainly not a trait of OTM or NPR only--was in not analyzing the most common form of bias: deciding what is and is not newsworthy, and deciding the angle to be taken for a given news story.

For example, when Mitt Romney this summer completed his visit to Europe, the evening news on NPR focused solely on what "gaffes" he may have made, and playing a recording of reporters trying to ask him about those gaffes. There was no reporting of what Mr. Romney talked about with the Europeans, which is significantly more important than any purported gaffes he may have made. I don't recall a single instance of NPR focusing on Barack Obama's gaffes--and, yes, there have been many--instead of on what Mr. Obama was doing or saying. Similarly, the intense focus on whether Mr. Romney's initial comments about the recent overseas attacks on U.S. citizens, embassies, and consulates were appropriate, while neglecting to investigate whether the administration's preparedness and intelligence were up to snuff (not to mention Mr. Obama's decision to attend a fundraiser in Las Vegas that very day--image if that had been a Republican!) is clearly an example of "choosing an angle".

Until you understand that what you decide to report and from what angle you approach a story reveals your biases, you won't understand how people can quite easily detect those biases--and you won't understand how you might escape them in your reporting, should you genuinely desire to do so.

Sep. 19 2012 01:25 PM
Phoebe from Exton, PA

Dear on the Media:
I have taken a keen interest on listening to your program every weekend. It is very informative analytical. I just wanted to point out 2 things that the press have completely ignored even though it makes so much sense to discuss. Please do address this. I will come out and let you know that my political views are center left.

Republican are pro-life. which means that you do not agree to abortion period, but some may allow it under certain circumstances, others simply dont allow it. I get that.

However, when liberal say that they are "Pro Choice" I believe that it means that the decision for an abortion is left to the woman to make. So why on earth are do liberals not make it clear the pro-choice encapsulates pro-choice. Do they ot realize that liberals are pro-life too....but leave the decision to the woman to make?

Secondly, the Romney secret video unearth one obvious issue that no media outlets are talking about. The fact that Romney states that he will not have to do anything to the economy ; means that he has no plan whatsoever. How one earth has no one picked up on this?

Sep. 19 2012 11:41 AM
Sanpete from Utah

Oops, said KUER, our local NPR affiliate, when I meant NPR. (Not that the same doesn't apply to both.)

Sep. 19 2012 12:21 AM
Sanpete from Utah

Interesting discussion. I'm among the liberals who think NPR has a plain liberal bias. I think NPR spends so much effort focusing on the finer points of bias, the ones hard to evaluate and prove, that they fail to address the more obvious points we already know about, such as that KUER's personnel skew overwhelmingly liberal. That by itself is a problem, for the same reasons it would be a problem if they were overwhelmingly white and male. And I think it requires a similar solution. I expanded on that in an earlier comment. Since some people doubt there are any, I want to add an example of bias. Usually the effects of bias are minor, but once in a while they're striking. (There are many kinds of bias; being factual doesn't imply lack of bias.)

An example that Ira Glass's participation in this series brought to mind was the time in late 2005 that he closed his show with a political editorial excoriating the Bush administration. Glass's tone was arresting. As he saw it, "the Goliath of this administration keeps stomping around shouting this nonsense"--the theme of the show was David and Goliath--"I want to add our voices to those saying that it is, in fact, nonsense." Dick Cheney had been denying that the administration, and President Bush in particular, intentionally misled the country about the intelligence that led to war in Iraq. Glass gave a brief rundown of false claims the administration continued to make long after the evidence for them had been discredited. He concluded, "Their version of history is like this giant that would just not fall to the ground. It just keeps shouting; it just won't shut up. Some slingshots do nothing."

Many liberals hearing that not-so-smooth stone of a commentary zing by wouldn't have detected any bias in it, because it gave factual evidence, and they agreed with it anyway. But it was also strident and one-sided, and it was opinion in that it didn't prove the central point, that the misleading was intentional, which is what Cheney was denying. (By all appearances Bush, Cheney, et al said what they believed, even if all reasonable foundation for it had long been undermined. They didn't trust the entrenched intelligence apparatus, or Joseph Wilson, and gave way too much credence to their own sources who were telling them what they wanted to hear.)

I never heard any other outburst quite like it on the show. All evidence of that editorial has disappeared from This American Life's website, including the podcast, stream, and transcript, but there's a transcript here:


Sep. 18 2012 09:37 PM
Katherine from Florida

I was so frustrated listening to the conversation between the man with the slight British accent, Ira, and Brooke. They finally got him in a hot spot when he admitted that yes, the coverage on NPR is accurate but he simply does not like what he is hearing. This is the crux of the argument about liberal bias. The news being delivered is correct and without bias, conservatives just don't like that people don't want conservative values and policies based on failed policies and OPINIONS (rather than facts), so they scream bias. Brooke and Ira should have seized this opportunity to call him out on his expectations that his news be biased. He WANTS biased news, but only when it puts a smile on his face and tells him what he wants to hear.

Sep. 18 2012 09:05 PM
jamis macniven from Woodside CA

NPR slants left because reality slants left. Global warming, women's rights, evolution - all left wing conspiracies so any cred tossed that way is evidence of a communist conspiracy.

Sep. 18 2012 05:57 PM
Jim Glose

A Democrat, an Independent, and a Republican walk into a bar. They order identical drinks and food. Afterward, one of them said they had enjoyed the experience. Another thought it was OK. Another didn’t like the experience.
When the three people finally went home, the bar owner closed up shop, same as always, and opened up the next day, same as always.

What is the political affiliation of the bar owner?

Sep. 18 2012 03:06 PM

Second, one does wonder just who the center-right producers are at OTM. And the reason one wonders is:

Because the Journolist story – a story it would be easy for OTM to have covered since regular OTM contributors (like Jeffrey Toobin) were involved) – was never covered. Completely ignored. Hmmm.

And just a couple of weeks ago, you had Jake Tapper saying he “thought the media helped tip the scales” for Obama, Mark Halperin tells the “Today” show "The media is very susceptible to doing what the Obama campaign wants, which is to focus on (Mitt Romney’s tax returns)," Chuck Todd, discloses that VP Joe Biden’s staff was trying to edit the press pool reports to cover for his lack of rhetorical command, Keith Koffler said that he Administration was dictating interview topics to local TV reporters in battleground states, and Yahoo News' Washington bureau chief has to be fired for exposing his bias… all in the 10-day period.

But no coverage on this obvious bias-wave. Forget NPR's bias, OTM doesn't seem to want to see or cover the rest of the media's bias, either.


Sep. 18 2012 02:01 PM

Two points:

Galatianman from IL is correct. For instance, just this week we learn that Eric Holder's justice department was passing emails onto Media Matters so that the story on the New Black Panther Party would come out a certain way. Now this was discovered through FOIA requests, and OTM covered the Bush Administration's push-back or disregard of FOIA requests… but Holder's pushback… not so much!



As Galatianman has mentioned, this program was all over John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzalez, on issues like Valerie Plame (whom we were told "outing" could endanger her life), and the firing of judges. With Fast and Furious, real live Mexicans die… and OTM has no interest.

Now here is a media-specific story on how Holder is using an ideologically-friendly media outlet to spin a story…


…and we'll see if we get it covered.

Sep. 18 2012 01:13 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

OTM's willingness to address this issue - perhaps the most contentious issue in journalism - is attractive.

Someone perusing the thread who didn't have an ideological axe to grind would note that (a) defenders of NPR invariably give away their own political biases toward the 'left', frequently mentioning Fox News, a leftist bete noire; (b) some fans of NPR nevertheless concede a 'liberal' bias in its news selection and framing; (c) no 'conservatives' cop to defending NPR against charges of bias.

It shouldn't be suprising that journalists - tending a lot more than the average to be urban-oriented, middle-class, secular-minded - reflect the culture of their environment. There is an assumed 'listener' to NPR to whom the reporters are speaking, and an assumed store of knowledge/references, and narrative of American politics. Very seldom does that narrative deviate from the 'liberal' interpretation of American history and politics. NPR is not reliably pro-Democratic, but it is, like the professors who taught its editors and reporters, like the large news organizations who set the tone for American journalism (most obviously, The New York Times, whose most recent ombudsman in his valedictory conceded the liberal-left editorial mission of the paper's journalism), reliably anti-Republican. It's a cultural thing. NPR's defenders kind of say 'no, NPR is not tilted to the Left', then move on to saying something like 'well, what's wrong with that'?

Sep. 18 2012 12:57 PM
Stu from Virginia Beach

I've long felt that NPR doesn't really have a bias in their reporting but rather are perceived of having a bias by virtue of the cultural content of the shows. Whether it's jazz or world music segues, interviews with novelists or poets, or detailed historical perspectives like the various stories yesterday related to the 150th Antietam anniversary, NPR runs a lot of content the many on the right find, well, a little bit icky.

Sep. 18 2012 11:20 AM
Erin from Salisbury, NC

And then there's this:


Sep. 18 2012 09:42 AM
L from Cambridge, MA

I'm glad you re-aired this because I thought a lot about it since you aired it. I'm a huge NPR fan, life long liberal and I listen to your show and This American Life religiously every weekend.
I also think NPR has a liberal bias. I don't necessarily mind but I can think of several stories where I happened to know more than the general public about the topic and I've found the bias came through most not in the items that were mentioned but the items that weren't.
I found Ira Glass's defense of NPR the most interesting because his show has some of the strongest liberal bias of any show I listen to on NPR. I feel Mr. Glass would defend his show saying that it's an opinion program and not a news program. And that may very well be true. However some of the shows could easily be mistaken for reporting and the other side is never presented. And I'm not talking about something like global warming where there is overwelming scientific fact. The example that comes to mind is the story about state funding problems that barely mentions the pension expense. This is ludicrous and the figures presented to hire an additional worker didn't include this pension expense that is threatening to bankrupt many cities and states. Anyone who follows this issue knows this so why was it so glaringly left out of a story other than it didn't fit the message? There are many more examples.

Sep. 18 2012 07:27 AM

As galatianman from Antioch, IL expertly demonstrates, the perceived liberal bias in the media is often just caused by conservatives who have watched Fox News so long they are ingrained with an entire false set of facts. For those viewers a mainstream media presenting actual facts must sound incredibly biased. We have, unfortunately, reached the point where it is no longer possible to have a debate with many conservatives without first establishing that many of the facts they are sure are true are nothing more than an elaborate misinformation campaign. It is getting so bad that even Republican politicians now believe their own spin. This accounts for the shocked reactions when, for instance, Senator Rand Paul found out that government employment declined under Obama or when Eric Cantor found out that Ronald Reagan raised taxes (http://www.pri.org/stories/politics-society/video-republican-eric-cantor-bristles-when-confronted-with-reagan-s-tax-increase-7764.html)

Sep. 17 2012 05:02 PM
Debra from New Haven, Connecticut

I agree with Celine Grenier from Capitola, CA

NPR avoided asking both the real left and the real right fundamental questions about what we are doing and why, who benefits and who gets hurt, what the common good might be, etc. For the reasons I write below, I think there should be a followup on bias in the anchor news political and policy reporting.

NPR, on the whole leans left. Thank you! However, the anchor news shows (Morning and Weekend Editions and All Things Considered)lean right of center and sometimes further in important political and policy reporting. Hence, lumping the whole of NPR into the bias argument is silly. CPB, quit stooping when bullies call you names. Liberal and progressive are the energies that will keep this country's light from fading into darkness.

On the anchor-news broadcasts, many more conservatives (think tank or Congresspersons) get to comment after anything the President says, but rarely is a Republican comment (even a distortion) rebutted. This is neither reporting nor analysis although much chest-thumping is made of the two during fundraisers. We are living in interesting times and we need serious news that incorporates the wisdom, integrity and courage of past anchors like Murrow; the backbone and determination of the middle, and the fairness and quest for social justice and the idealism that we have instill in our children.

I think this topic was lean in content and actual debate. NPR leans to the left in local programming, but I believe the anchor news shows tilt (uncomfortably for me) close to the right in political reporting that we hear all over the country. I can't help but sense Liasson and Inskpeep and others are conservative and Republican in their reporting and what they choose to cover. Their politics are their business but I feel cheated when they don't offer challenges to absurd comments.

I am a long-time listener and am aware that claims and studies of conservative bias, as opposed to liberal bias has been conducted and found true at NPR. But, again, this seems to be related to the anchor news shows.

Conservatives have a plethora of news programs to peruse while I have to search feverishly for very liberal and progressive talk. I do believe the CPB continues to exhibit a fear of starvation (hence the fundraisers and numerous corporate-commercials)that deduct from the investigative and informative reporting of the early years.

There is much work to be done in returning to a form that informs the public and it should remain within this format of public-supported broadcasting. I hope NPR anchor news' original mission and hunger for news that is thorough and muckraked returns soon, otherwise I'll only have The Newsroom, Daily Show and Colbert for my news-junkie fix after a day of canvassing for voters.

Sep. 16 2012 10:51 PM

Sep. 17 2012 04:10 PM
Thomas Yeutter from Mason, Michigan

The moderator seems to think that NPRs funding model is a separate issue. Federal Government intrusion into the press by funding NPR is objectionable in and of itself. Then when that government funded press is biased it is objectionable. MSNBC or CBS or the New Republic could say the say things NPR says and I would not object. The fact that NPR takes the Kings coin means it has a special obligation to studiously avoid bias.

Sep. 17 2012 03:57 PM
galatianman from Antioch, IL

I listened to the show yesterday. I think Brooke and the other guests believed what they said and were sincere. The problem is how they measured bias. As others have pointed out, much of media bias is: 1. the choosing of "what is news" 2. choosing which stories to "hype". 3. following up when your conclusions are proved wrong, thereby fixing the damage you have done (commonly refered to as "drive by" reporting).

A classic example of this was the "Valerie Plame" story. This story was covered endlessly on NPR. It was a non-story. Nobody died. Plame's identity was not compromised. Scooter Libby had nothing to do with it. Once the media found out that it was a career liberal diplomat from the State Dept. named Richard Armitage who "leaked" her name the story was suddenly a non-story. It was even learned that leaking her name was not a crime after all (which is why Armitage was never charged) since she was not actually an under-cover CIA agent. The whole story was a made-up attempt to get Dick Cheney. But the media, and especially NPR, covered this story with gusto and a lot of air time.

Compare the Plame story with the Obama administration's "Fast and Furious". This is a story where hundreds of people have died from gun smuggling to mexican drug cartels from the US into Mexico, including an American Border Patrol agent. The smuggled guns were done so by orders from the Justice dept. and possibly with the knowledge of Obama himself. There are agents in the ATF who have testified against the government's accounts and we have accusations that Holder has lied to Congress under oath. Holder refuses to release documents to Congress, and is currently "in contempt." This is NEWS no matter which side you are on, and yet, because the mainstream news media ignored it, NPR followed along and ignored the story as well. This is a disgrace.

If "On the Media" wants to REALLY analize NPR bias, then calculate exactly how much air time was spent on "Plame" and how much on "Fast and Furious". I don't think "On the Media" will not take this challenge, because they already know the answer.

Sep. 17 2012 02:08 PM
Susan from New Jersey

As someone in the media, it's not difficult to understand how a bias is formed. It's driven by editors who create an agenda. It's driven by corporate donors and funding sources, and goodness knows that it's not always top-of-the-hour news if a donor does something not so good. But mostly it's driven by reporters, editors, and management who tend to stick within their own circles and don't really search for news outside their bubble (Think LeShow, where there are whole segments dedicated to the ills of "Nice Corp" and the Catholic Church, but nothing dedicated to other networks or religions, which apparently never sin). It's an easy trap to fall into because it's comfortable to look in your own space for things that interest you. That's cool if you're an opinion show, like LeShow, but realize that's part of the NPR lineup for some stations and that other shows that may be of interest for conservatives may not be available in their market or even known about.

Sep. 17 2012 01:52 PM
Jan from Alexandria, VA

I listened with great interest to the discussion of bias in the recent "On the Media" program. For me the obvious point that was not made was that of NPR staff voting records. Bias is of course only visible to others. But if you ask NPR staffers how they voted in the last election and compare that to the general population, the result would surely be persuasive as to the existence or not of any bias. I watch the PBS newshour and it is as plain as the nose on your face that all of the main presenters: Judy Woodruff, Gwen Ifel, Ray Suarez, etc. are Democrat voters. Perhaps only Paul Salomon (spelling?) I would guess is a Republican. Perhaps Ms Gladstone would oblige us with a quick survey for the next edition.

Sep. 17 2012 12:59 PM
Alex from Alaska

NPR bends over backwards to avoid any appearance of liberal bias which often results in conservative bias. But as the guests in your story clearly point out no matter what you do they will still claim you have a liberal bias. At this point conservatives have no identity outside their own perceptions as an oppressed minority so even when they have control of government and most of media, including their own network, they still think everyone is against them.

Sep. 17 2012 12:20 PM
Daniel C. Hudson from Ridgefield, CT

If I say something that is black is black, and someone else says it is white,that does not make it gray. If thousands of conservatives say President Obama is a socialist and a few extreme Leftists say the Right is fascist that does not lead to a conclusion simply that both sides have their irrational extremists. Hillary Clinton called it a vast Right Wing conspiracy and it is. NPR along with the rest of our responsible media simply do not know how to deal with it and have been intimidated by it. How about sticking with relentless truth no matter what.

Sep. 17 2012 10:16 AM
Randy Garbin from Philadelphia, PA

Of course NPR is biased to the left, but not for the reasons people think.

It has nothing to do with the actual coverage. Generally, reporting is about as good as it gets. Economic reporting, however, is about as biased as it gets.

It IS BIASED in the way it chooses which stories to cover. When the economy is going well, NPR ramps up coverage of the people left behind. RARELY does NPR run a story about a success. When the economy is bad, well, it covers people who are unemployed.

When the government moved to get people off the welfare roles, it covered those who were going to get less money and wonder how they'd make it. It did not cover those who got pushed off the roles and did better. In other words, NPR is always looking for what is broken, never (or rarely) for what gets fixed, especially if it's the result of a more conservative or libertarian policy.

Sep. 17 2012 09:15 AM
Jack Whidden from San Diego

I find NPR near neutral, as the Project for Excellence in Journalism research indicates, and from time to time a bit biased as some conservatives contend. I find it superior to the so-called “major networks” (NBC, CBS, ABC, etc.) and far better than most cable networks news outlets (CNN, MSNBC, and some of the more recent defunct outlets like Air America —except for Fox News Network who, in nearly every case, offers a rebuttal guest. And this is also what makes Fox News better than NPR, a network that often fails to balance the opinionated spokespersons with counter-balanced remarks by equally credible spokespersons for the opposing side — it also seems that PBS people at The News Hour and Washington Week in Review attempt to do this more than NPR (except you and Bob, of course).

Sep. 17 2012 04:22 AM
MotherLodeBeth from San Andreas California

Sometimes I think many folks in the media, NPR included, live amongst and work amongst like minded folks that tend to be more liberal and that over time one starts to think one is mainstream and or even moderate.

Add in the fact that NPR gets any money from the government makes some of us ask, if you have PUBLIC in your title maybe you should make more of an effort to have all PUBLIC views in equal balance.

Have been thinking a lot about how I hear folks on NPR and other media say that Mitt Romney hasn't allowed people to get to know him. Yet common sense tells me that its the media that is editing what they want viewers/listeners to see/hear. So if you only edit to show negatives why be surprised that he is seen in a negative light? Literate conservatives, sincere conservative Christians don't seem to get fair play either and that saddens me.

The rare exception to me is KQED FM out of San Francisco which has an excellent FORUM show daily where the host strives to have BOTH sides on to discuss whatever issue is being discussed.

By the way I do donate yearly to NPR, and I listen to NPR a lot since we don't have a tv set, and dislike regular AM talk radio.

Sep. 17 2012 02:34 AM
Alex from Alaska

NPR clearly has a pro-corporate and pro-establishment bias. We never hear from labor leaders but hear the corporate viewpoint constantly.

Sep. 17 2012 01:59 AM
Celine Grenier from Capitola, CA

How dare the Philadelphia Inquirer (was it?) be biased towards peace! War is the answer!

At least no one would dare imply that American lives lost in the endless war are not infinitely more important than foreign lives, or that anyone should be held accountable for an illegal war of aggression or for the domestic and international crime of torture, or that it hasn't been brilliant of us to lose almost 6,000 American soldiers' lives to make sure we never lose nearly 3,000 American lives again.

I don't think media people should have any critical thinking abilities or moral philosophies at all. Only the conscienceless need apply. NOT.

In my opinion, NPR avoids asking both the real left and the real right fundamental questions about what we are doing and why, who benefits and who gets hurt, what the common good might be, etc., but given that it's still found biased to the left by some, I suppose it would be dangerous to let those basic questions be raised. Maybe someday.....

Sep. 16 2012 10:51 PM

The questions NPR journalists ask conservative guests make me cringe and worry I've drunk the Kool-Aid.
The questions are generally basic and show no regard for the conservative/liberal divide that any regular listener is aware of. The guest is being asked to answer a question that we all know the answer to - the listener feels let down and the guest used as a talking box by the 'liberal media'.
This episode gave a perfect example - the guest was asked a question about an issue that is divide among party lines - making the question rhetorical, and his time wasted.
If you don't consider your guest or listener then don't bother asking questions.

Sep. 16 2012 10:03 PM

What a wonderful and open discussion you had about the accusations of NPR's "liberal bias" today. I loved hearing the issue discussed on the air.Bravo!!!
Regretfully I think you missed the real elephant in the room by buying into the critic's "frame". The real issue is not a "liberal" or "conservative" journalistic bias in my opinion, but rather that NPR strives in its journalism to present the facts and convey the truth. The so called conservative or Republican or right wing perspective on most public issues is so devoid of fact based decision making it looks more and more like propaganda. As a physician I was pained during the health reform debates about the opponents' heartless and soulless criticism about health reform while uninsured and impoverished patients cried and suffered in my office. NPR's reporting was admirable in working to redress that omission and show the human side of health reform. Keep up the good work.

In my opinion it is just fine that fundamentalist Christians can lead a good life based on faith based solutions. I think matters of pblic policy for all of us should be decided on the basis of actual facts.

Sep. 16 2012 09:52 PM
John Konc from Aurora, IL

It is refreshing to see this discussion! I think that Sanpete expressed many of the sentiments that I share and did so eloquently. I have a few additional thoughts. First, I believe that NPR has an amazing opportunity. A chance to truly be a source of news in information for the whole public, independent of a prevailing ideological mission.

I don't think that you can satisfy everyone all the time, and I don't think you should try. In fact, one way that I believe would be an indicator that you are accomplishing the task of equitable news delivery, would be when you begin to hearing from your current, faithful followers (and contributors), with significant wincing.

I am not suggesting that the solution is simply to tick off everyone equally, but I think that you have a real opportunity to inform the public in a way, and to a degree that the name the first 2/3 of the name "National Public" suggests.

I would like to add a couple of anecdotal examples to the list. I haven't been keeping a diary but NPR is essentially my only news source. No antenna or cable at home so it is just the car rides.

One of the examples is recent, in the OTM story yesterday (9/15). Ira Glass was commenting on the bias issue and he cited a story and described it something like: "It was a typical story about abortion, it was sort of tick-tock, anti-abortion and pro-choice..."

Two things are communicated to me here. One is that the issue of abortion is tedious and boring. But the 2nd thing, the part that made me wince, is the terms used to describe ideas and the people who think they are important. I believe that if a person or organization wants to be neutral and respectful, they will refer to those people as they refer to themselves. People for whom the issue of abortion is important are for preserving the human lives that are being ended. Not against a group of people who want this practice to continue. I will admit that NPR has gotten better about this. I heard a report a few weeks ago in relation to a story on Paul Ryan and pro-life was used (twice!)to describe his stance and voting record.

Another example, also from republican convention reporting. An NPR reporter, I think it was Maura Liasson, reported on A speech that (I believe) Romney gave. The odd part is that she stopped the tape after each line and provided clarification and correction. I don't recall ever hearing this kind of "verse by verse" exegesis of an any other speech. The scrutiny was unbearable and would have been insulting if it hadn't been so amusing.

John Konc

Sep. 16 2012 09:48 PM
Thomas Vinciguerra from Weymouth,MA

I am a 30 year listener of NPR, I have a signed photo of Terry Gross on my wall. Over that time,I can't think of one show hosted by a Conservative. I was a big fan of Christopher Lydon who had a show called Connections. It appeared to me that he tried to show both sides, I perceived that Lydon started to share some Conservative lines of thought, even though he's a Liberal. All of sudden he was off the air. The show was replaced By On Point, hosted by Tom Ashbrook. Tom does a good job, however again he is a Liberal,he is backed up by a side kick Jack Beatty who makes no attempt to be anything but a Liberal. If the guest is a Liberal then the show is a love in to Liberals, if the guest is a Conservative, then the host, the side kick and the predominately Liberal callers dominate the air time.

Sep. 16 2012 09:28 PM

To all the commenters and everyone else who states that since NPR and many other reporters have personal liberal leanings therefore their reporting is biased. This is fine and dandy if they weren't trained professionals who see that their profession goes higher than their paycheck, clearly since these folks are not making the big bucks. Since they actually have the duty of informing the public it is quite easy to set aside one's bias and just report on what happens and provide analysis on the matters at hand.

There is no casting of aspersions at any one side or another. There is no overt support of one side or another. There is no covert support of one side or another. What there is, is the unbiased presentation of facts and reality. Since the people doing this ARE trained professionals who remember their training it means it doesn't matter what their personal opinions are they're there doing their job to the best of their ability. This is the reality of the situation and any thought that personal opinion matters is generally wrong.

There are news institutions that don't follow this but this is obviously left and right wing media like Mother Jones and FOX news not NPR that does manage to walk the line and present news without bias.

Sep. 16 2012 09:12 PM
Bob Laurence from San Diego, Calif.

Face it, NPR, you bend over so far backward out of a fear of being called "liberal! liberal!' by the right that you ended up being conservative.

And face this: No matter how conservative your coverage gets, the right will ALWAYS call you "liberal!" Because to them, anybody just slightly left of Fox News is obviously liberal.

Sep. 16 2012 09:02 PM

Today's episode of On the Media never mentioned NPR's Tell Me More, which is one of the eleven programs listed under News Programs on the NPR homepage and is, in my mind, the most biased program distributed by NPR and its local stations. I believe that On the Media tried to categorically exclude this show and others from consideration as opinion or editorial shows, simply not news programs, or not actually an NPR show. This exclusion simultaneously paints an incomplete, disingenuous picture of NPR's programming and misleads listeners by using language ambiguities to contrast a portion of NPR's programming with the whole of the programming by other media outlets.

Sep. 16 2012 08:49 PM
Sanpete from Utah

What makes me wince is On The Media's minimization of aspects of bias that we *can* put a finger on. Sure, it's difficult to judge bias by content studies and tone studies. But we do know the personnel at NPR skew overwhelmingly liberal, especially on social issues, and that liberals have lots of power at NPR, and conservatives very little. That matters to the content and the way the network is perceived for the same reasons it matters if the personnel are overwhelmingly male or white.

A particularly important metric that's limited enough to deal with conveniently is how many program hosts are noticeably liberal, and how many are noticeably conservative, by which I mean those who have openly self-identified one way or another or made other overt gestures, like Diane Rehm's continual micro-editorials (I recall her equation of liberal bias with open-mindedness, for example). And I mean by the standards of the US as a whole, not Democracy Now or Scandinavia. All the programs people hear on their NPR station should be considered, since they all affect the audience's view of NPR.

Here's an informal, no doubt incomplete tally based on the shows aired where I live.
---- Noticeably liberal hosts (in no particular order): Brooke Gladstone, Bob Garfield, Ira Glass, Ira Flatow, Garrison Keillor, Diane Rehm, Terry Gross, Peter Sagal, and locally we add Radio West host Doug Fabrizio. Michele Norris counts when she isn't on leave because of her husband's work on the Obama campaign.
---- Noticeably conservative hosts (in no particular order): None.

What's a conservative to make of that? Maybe the effects on content are usually small or hard to put a finger on, but that's all it takes to cause some large effects on the audience. People have outsized reactions to bias they feel uncomfortable with. And now and then the effects on content are quite striking.

One effect on the audience may be seen in NPR's own statistics. A 2-1 Democrat over Republican margin is a landslide, no matter how it compares to more skewed audiences.

NPR can't effectively fulfill its mission for the entire public as long as the personnel are so unrepresentative, and so noticeably so. It not only tends to keep conservatives from listening, but it gives crucial support to the likes of Fox and conservative talk radio, which depend heavily on liberal bias to justify their own bias ("We are the balance"). Despite all its efforts, NPR is contributing directly and indirectly to media ghettoization along partisan lines, which I think is a primary contributor to the ideological polarization that's so damaging our politics.

My own view, based on what I regard as sound liberal principles, is that NPR needs vigorous and speedy affirmative action, such as they would apply for any other diversity problem. I'm a confirmed liberal, but I think NPR sorely needs more conservatives in positions of power, and in particular as hosts.

Sep. 16 2012 08:40 PM
Eli Ship from Pittsburgh

I disagree very much with Keith Otis Edwards of Detroit in that Terry Gross really didn't interrupt Bill O'Reilly at all. In fact, she couldn't get a word in from him on his own show. I think you can fairly classify that interview with Bill O'Reilly as 'slightly antagonistic,' in that she focused too much on bad reviews of O'Reilly in the press. However, when O'Reilly would then say something dubious, and she would take him to task (which was merited, but not in the spirit of her normal interviews), the thing just spiraled out of control. Anyway, your assessment of her cutting him off over and over again is wrong (no offense).

Sep. 16 2012 08:34 PM
Paul from LAX

The question isn't "is NPR biased;" but, as every listener knows "Is NPR liberally biased?
I have been listening for a decade and there have been countless times when I become so angry when listening to NPR's version of the news after listening to the news all day from many other sources. The last guest illustrated this bias when he became very uncomfortable being asked the ultimate question of the show about being bias. He clearly didn't want to answer the question because he knew he would have to lie to himself and the person asking the question and everyone listening; so he went through a convoluted, technical dodge; however, the truth came out very clearly listening to this poor guy.

Sep. 16 2012 08:29 PM
Keith Otis Edwards from Detroit

It's amusing that you open your defense of the fairness and neutrality of NPR (& APM st al.) with a clip of a diatribe against NPR by Bill O'Reilly -- as if this proves that only the lunatic fringe would accue NPR of leftist bias.

I recall that about ten-years-age, the Rev. Dr. O'Reilly was a guest on Fresh Air. He fancies himself a historian (and as of this writing, his "Killing Lincoln" is No. 4 on the NYT Non-Fiction Best Seller List), and he went on the program to promote one of his books.

Terry Gross, however, wouldn't let him speak a word about his book, but instead she began reciting from a collection of insults and epithets which characterized O'Reilly as some sort of troglodyte or a neo-Nazi.

O'Reilly would begin to speak, and Ms. Gross would interrupt -- Wait, wait! I just want to read this. Irv Poofter of the Village Voice wrote this about you. [i]Bill O'Reilly caters to the ignorant, because he is an ignoramus. He fosters prejudice, because he is an arch-bigot . . . [/I] (I'm making these quotes up, but the actual quotes were much more severe.) He'd try to get a word in, but Ms. Gross would cut him off -- Carlo Marx of the Rheinische Zeitung wrote [i]Bill O'Reilly represents the worst of what is wrong with the unwashed Amerikan hinterland. He is the perfect voice for the unlearned. . . .[/i]

So after about ten minutes of these insults, O'Reilly simply walked out of the studio. (Wouldn't you?)

Then, OTM uses O'Reilly's voice as an example of right-wing prejudice against NPR.

Kinda ironic, ain't it?

Why don't you play <> interview? Fresh air is produced by APM, so you shouldn't have any trouble getting the rights.

Sep. 16 2012 08:10 PM

I think the straight news programs sound "fair & balanced". My local station (KPCC 89.3 fm) uses the motto, "no rant, no slant". Well...they are delightfully free of "rant". I do detect a tilt to the left, if not an outright slant. On one weekly segment, "Comedy Central", the rant comes out full force. And the Madelaine Brand show sort of oozes with the kind of "tone" you were talking about. It's an over-all kind of in-the-know snarkiness that may be trying to be more hip then left. But I'm a fan...MPR is the only refuge for us militant moderates!

Sep. 16 2012 08:01 PM
Kevin from Mission Viejo

I listen to NPR to get as little bias as possible however I feel that the majority of the biased conversation I hear is in the editorial content. Understanding that I yearn for the type of discourse that Ira and the evangelical Christian (I apologize for not caching his name). Although they didn't necessarily agree the we're able to discuss the topic of their own biases openly and with a respect for each others opinions. Too often guests come on and speak as an authority versus an equal to their peers on their panel and talk over each other or state their piece without regard for what their panel member has just said.

In short, knowing that we all have our own personal biases, I want open discord coupled with mutual respect. Like I heard from Ira and his counterpart.

Sep. 16 2012 07:44 PM
joel veldheer from Grand Rapids

fair and balanced? Unless you sound like the buffoons on fixed news, you will not ever be fair and balanced to the tea party crazies. I think you try to give both sides, but if you ever sounded like fixed news, I would stop giving and listening immediately like I did WOOD radio hear in GR when they went totally and completely right wing crazy. I get nauseous just listening to Limburger cheese, nastedy, beck etc.

Sep. 16 2012 07:39 PM

Reporters have a knee-jerk reaction to claims of bias. When they do that, important aspects of the goals of journalism are overlooked.

It would be beneficial if hosts and critics had first try to discover if they agreed on a definition of reporting.

Is it doing one's best to report on who, what, when, where, how and why? Or is it something else?

I think that discussion could help all media consumers become better critics of NPR and other outlets.

For what it's worth, I think NPR's POV is primarily corporate rather than hewing to a particular political philosophy.

You do music better, though, just about everyone.

Sep. 16 2012 07:36 PM
Leslie from Incline Village, NV

Why don't you do the same show on FOX (non)News?
Then the response will be clear when someone calls NPR biased! If we cannot get our news here, then where will we get it? Certainly NOT FOX. The idea that FOX is called news is whacky.
Stand up for the truth!!!! Defend yourself NPR. Do not let the other side command the language! Pleeeeeease! You now have the facts (such as they are?), but certainly, the conservatives have done nothing but create the negative hype now hit them with what you know!

Sep. 16 2012 06:41 PM
Jim Puskar from Oakland, CA

I must agree with Ira Glass. In my hearing, NPR bends over backward to respond to the unending accusations of liberal bias. The network does not need to do this; it needs to aggressively respond with statements that demand that the accusers prove their untrue accusations. The overwhelming majority of listeners know that we are receiving objective, intelligent reporting.

Sep. 16 2012 05:51 PM
Spencer from Charlotte

One thing I don't think I heard... Yes, someone mentioned that everyone is biased but no one seemed to think that that doesn't effect the outcome of the reporting in some fashion. Rush Limbaugh freely admits that he is biased in the direction of conservatism and so does Fox. NPR doesn't and neither does ABC, CBS, NBC or MSNBC. The vast majority of reporters in these organizations are biased in the direction of the left. One can't help but let ones bias bleed into a report that one is writing.

Sep. 16 2012 05:13 PM

You are letting Faux News determine your broadcast. You need to check Fox News tax reports and see how much they get in tax deductions or maybe even tax refunds. Would that dollar amount be more then NPR receives.
Fox News says the same thing about all the other news media. When I visit a friend of mine that is a Fox News and Rush fan I see Fox News and it one knife stab after another at President Obama. When I hear the right talk all I hear is talking points from Rush. Forget what Fox says they have an agenda and that is to promote the rich. You see how News Corp. operated in Great Britain and Australia.

What NPR needs to do is keep the average contributor happy not the non contributors. I wonder if Fox News would stay on the air if they had to depend on their viewers instead of ads.

Sep. 16 2012 04:40 PM
Alex from Alaska

What is the ratio of corporate representatives on NPR? 100:1, 1000:1? This is the real bias of NPR. It is the same dominant bias throughout the media. Corporate interests are dominant and labor is invisible. This is at a time when corporate profits are at a record high, CEO pay is at a record high, and productivity is increasing. Despite all this unemployment is high, wages are decling, and economic insecurity is rampant. In the face of this fundamental rewriting of the relationship between business and labor, NPR is clearly on the side of business. The entire media starts with the premise that free trade is good, entitlements have to be cut, and unions have too much power. Alternative voices that support Medicare-for-all, cuts to military spending, progressive taxation, and increased unionization are utterly and completely silenced.

Sep. 16 2012 04:28 PM
Steve Fay from Cuba, IL, USA

I was dismayed that a so-called listener was given standing in the program's discussion when this person claimed to find npr biased based on exceedingly poor listening. He apparently did not know: 1) Terry Gross's "Fresh Air" is not a news program, 2) it is a WGBH-produced program (not npr's), or 3) it appears on his local stations because HIS NEIGHBORS tell the station they support it.

He further seems to have warped expectations for such an interview program. When I listen to "Fresh Air," I know I will hear Gross interview some author, artist, or other public figure. I only expect to learn something more about what that person has to say about his or her ideas or actions. I have no expectation that Gross or the guest should agree with any of my ideas or biases, though I do expect to be given something to think about. It is NOT a news program, though Gross will ask some questions that challenge her guests. If your so-called NPR listener has heard to as many "Fresh Air" programs as he claims, then he knows full well that some of her guests have responded with anger or insult, and have even walked out of her interviews, and that some of the latter were liberals.

Furthermore, the so-called listener objected to a recent Diane Rehm "Friday News Round-up" segment because of the *tone of voice* of a single guest at one point in the program. The listener apparently was all too content with the glaring context omissions issues that gave the segment a decidedly kid-glove treatment to certain GOP campaign issues. That greatly disappointed me, but I judge the show by Ms Rehm's overall, long-term excellence, not a single segment.

The last reason I question this participant in your program today, is that he made no mention of his NPR station's locally produced news. If he is personally withholding support to NPR, that is the news reporting he is affecting the most. Of the 3 NPR stations I support in some fashion, the most rural one (and possibly least-well-funded),WIUM, has more local news about the NE Missouri, SE Iowa, and adjacent Western Illinois region than does ANY COMMERCIAL STATION in that region. WIUM even has a weekly program critiquing how news stories are being covered. (***You should have its news director in this discussion.) As someone interested in all the news, I find local news on NPR stations very important, and it is one of my chief reasons for considering offering my support.

I think the guest on your program today should have been invited instead for a program about the imperfections of human listening and how it affects judgement, because he is mainly distinguished by what he did not hear or consider. I do not think he is qualified to participate in a discussion of NPR bias. He publicly disqualified himself as knowledgeable on that topic.

With Best Wishes,

Sep. 16 2012 04:25 PM
Susan Pizzo

Proving non-left bias just got more "challenging," per Rick Santorum's comments at the Values Voters Summit: "we will never have the elite smart people on our side." If being non-left means being not-smart, that is...


Sep. 16 2012 04:24 PM
Micah from Knoxville, Tennessee

I second the suggestion that OTM should evaluate the hypothesis that public radio shows are biased to reflect the interests and views of their underwriters. Money talks, and corporate underwriters contribute a lot more of it than Uncle Sam does. What about a "sting" operation to see if an NPR executive will give assurances of "friendly" coverage to a pharmaceutical company making a large commitment to ATC?

Of course, if public radio were found innocent of selling out to the "corporate people", that would make Congress and our post-"Citizen's United" style of democratic government look bad by comparison.

Sep. 16 2012 04:10 PM
Peter Brownscombe from New York City

So Sam Niegas listens to NPR all the time but doesn't support it because he thinks it's biased. If everyone did that, then NPR would go away. What would Mr Niegas listen to then?

I don't always agree with the tone of Public Radio myself. I listen because it is the only source substantive content on the airways in the United States of America. I would be nice if market funded radio could produce something similar which could then be broadcast on the public airways to which it has free access. Clearly, it can not.

Sep. 16 2012 04:08 PM
Holly from Tucson, Arizona

Brooke and Ira, radio listeners are laughing at your comment that NPR reports the news in an unbiased manner. That you don't see the bias in your reporting is the best indication of just how far left you guys are. Don't get me wrong, I like listening to NPR, and I have been a contributing listener for 30 years. Still, I don't quote NPR as a source, but I like hearing the liberal view.

Ira, call Diane Rehm and ask her how many conservative republicans she invites to her dinner parties. Diane is downright rude to Republicans. She will cut them right off mid-sentence for fear that a conservative view may appear to have merit; but it's her show and she can do what she wants. Nevertheless, to state that NPR provides objective reporting is simply delusional. You may be kidding yourselves - but you aren't kidding us.

Sep. 16 2012 04:01 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Sometimes bias is more deep. For example, you view religion as a purely sociological and anthropolical phenomenon. You don't regard it as revealed truth, or have people on who do. This determines the kind of questions asked.

Sep. 16 2012 03:57 PM
Ed from Larchmont

One way to avoid bias is to make sure all sides get a person to present their point of view, obviously. In religious matters sometimes you're biased - as in the Jesus Seminar as noted - because the reporters simply don't know about the subject. But they should if they are reporting on it, or get someone who does.

There is also the parade of dissident Catholics who are asked for the Catholic view, which is bias.

Sep. 16 2012 03:40 PM
Ed from Larchmont

That's another issue, the selection of guests. When was the last time you had a Catholic (not a dissendent Catholic) on NPR give the Catholic view of an issue?

Sep. 16 2012 03:32 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Why is the question of President Obama's birth out of bounds if there is proof that there is a problem here?

Sep. 16 2012 03:23 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Or, for example, that the media isn't interested in President Obama's life story, even though he is the president, but is interested in Governor Romney's taxes.

Sep. 16 2012 03:11 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Let's take for example OTM's treatment of Lila Rose and Live Action. They had videotaped a crime being committed at Planned Parenthood. OTM smirked it's way through the segment, didn't even take it seriously, bad journalism.

Sep. 16 2012 03:03 PM
Alex from Alaska

If I were to keep a diary of NPR's conservative bias I would start with the fact that On The Media looks at just the question of whether NPR is too liberal. This is what statisticians call a one-tailed test, the idea that it is too conservative is not even considered. In fact, the only hard evidence provided was that NPR has far more right-wing guests that liberals. I would further argue that while people with extreme right-wing views are common, left wing views are constrained to center left. The biggest bias of news in general is the constraint on the acceptable discourse. Truly liberal views are almost completely absent. Despite widespread popularity in polls almost no one ever argues for Medicare-for-all, large defense cuts, a much more progressive tax system, or restoring unions bargaining power. We are lucky to hear one labor leader a year, on labor day while we are bombarded by corporate viewpoints daily.

Sep. 16 2012 01:22 PM
Steve MacIntyre from Beaver Dam, AZ

It is interesting that Ira Glass's Christian libertarian interlocutor hears liberal bias in The Diane Rehm Show's "Friday News Roundup". What I hear when I listen are the biases, vanities and vapidities of the inside-the-Beltway crowd. I know better than to expect to learn even a jot about real world events, but instead to get something very different, and perhaps more valuable: insight into the group think which grips the Washington insider class.

Sep. 16 2012 01:06 PM
The Dialogue Advocate from Bergen Co, NJ

Is this whole issue about "liberal" bias, or jealousy of the "extreme right", who cannot get "taxpayer" funding to spread their POV?

As another commenter wrote, The Right thinks that anyone, not agreeing with their opinion, is a "liberal".

However, what should be of more concern, is Public Broadcasting becoming too Neutral, not to protect its 2% Taxpayer support, nor placating the "Right" ... rather, due to its Corporate, and Foundation, Underwriting support.

As well-meaning as this program, NPR, PRI, and its affiliates, try to be, do the producers (probably) always have an eye, and ear, on reactions from their deep-pocketed underwriters?

Is the nature of news reporting being influenced by "Right-wing Ideology" objections, or by Underwriters?

Maybe this should be explored, objectively - if possible, and in depth? What do you think OTM ... plausible ... feasible ... or too dangerous?

Sep. 16 2012 12:45 PM
Luke J. Rheaume from O'Fallon IL (Saint Louis Metro-East)

Could it be that the Political Right has shifted so far to the right that the Political Center is sensed as being on the Political Left.

Sep. 16 2012 12:39 PM
Roman from Omaha, Ne

I listened to your program about bias on NPR, and the concern that I have was not addressed at all.
For the most part, it does not bother me, because I tend to agree with the bias that your shows display. The one glaring exception is abortion.
The problem is that in many issues, the two sides DEFINE the issue differently, which is at base the reason for the controversy, when you have two good ideals which are in conflict.
NPR consistently defines such issues according to the liberal rubric.
Gay marriage is referred to in terms of individual rights and equality, rather than as an influence on society, which I am ok with, because I agree with that.
ALSO, ABORTION is consistently referred to in terms of the rights of women, in fact the term 'ABORTION RIGHTS' is standard on NPR.
This very term is Biased, as it frames the entire discussion in the terms of one side. Those of us who oppose abortion DO NOT oppose it on the grounds of any hostility to women, or desire to deny anyone their rights.
We oppose abortion because it disenfranchises an entire category of Human Beings. We are being a voice for the innocent, the powerless and the voiceless. We oppose so-called 'Abortion rights' because it necessitates denying personhood to unborn Human Beings.
This conflict of the interests of two groups of Human Beings is what is at the heart of the controversy, and I do not see this even being acknowledged on NPR.
This issue will never go away until somehow the two sets of concerns are balanced.
But you refuse even to acknowledge the other side of the issue.

Sep. 16 2012 12:22 PM
Micah from Knoxville, Tennessee

The investigation into left vs. right media bias really misses the point. As one of those interviewed pointed out, it really comes down to a subjective question: has a listener been offended? does the listener feel that their point of view has been slighted?

What if some listeners require that their point of view to be presented without any indication of doubt or condescension, even if it has NO BASIS IN FACT? The guy who views it as biased if a dissenting point of view on Christian theology is discussed without opposing theological argument came close to this.

What is a news organization to do if its unforgivable bias, which alienates powerful political constituencies is A BIAS TOWARD VERIFIABLE FACTS AND WIDELY ACCEPTED NORMS OF REALITY? And what kind of news organization panders to those who require that it treat their fantasies and theologies AS FACT and do so without seeming biased against them?

Sep. 16 2012 12:04 PM
Leon Rogson from Los Angeles

I listened carefully to your program, here are my comments:
1. You broadcast a quote from O'Reilley concerning NPR bias. Why not invite him for an interview on the subject? Why not be interviewed by him on the subject.
2. You keep quoting intellectual, university studies when the conservatives in this country blame them for producing leftist journalist. Why not bring in Bernie Goldberg and have him give you a list of NPR's bias.
3. The last two points show one of the things wrong with your coverage. You have liberal reporters interviewing liberal and conservative people or asking liberal and "unaffiliated" experts on how you did. You hate conflict and therefore seek comfort zones rather than News.
4. If you want to be fair, you need to interview strong representatives on both sides, not strong representatives on the liberal side, and "analysts" on the right side. It is even better to have them together facing each other, as O'Reilley does. Then you would be a good counterpoint to his more conservative leanings.
I believe that is why he is Fair and Balanced (he does not hide his leanings, he compensates for them), and why your are not!

Sep. 16 2012 12:04 PM
Andrew Campbell from Putnam County, NY

I appreciate the direct approach to the issue of public radio's purported liberal/conservative bias:

What tends to be called 'liberal' is being interested in an honest, realistic, creative, constructive, new approach to some worthy, desirable future for the human race.

There is a point-of-view and a perverted conservative POV (a point-of-view distorted in an improper way). There is a point-of-view and also a perverted one (new just for the new, sensationalism...).

Appreciating and preserving what you have is worthy. Being fearful of anything new is also justified--but not as the general response. Being against anything foreign or any change is, for human beings, ultimately counter productive--disastrous. Human beings embody their own limits and we are committed to continuously trying to keep our curiosity, knowledge and creative behavior ahead of our destructive tendencies! (--The balance between boredom and excessive stimulation: alcoholism, drug addiction, obesity--and ...)

Looking for something new, including the 'other' as a proper part of the discussion, information on a broader scale, just isn't 'conservative' right now. We have been in 'Modern Times' for quite a while now but now the general population is having to face it and the first reaction of the normal human being is to deny and resist 'the new' and change...

We have the critical challenge of 'new times' and we need lots of new information and ideas--all we can get--more power to NPR!

Sep. 16 2012 11:52 AM
Dan from Olympia, Washington

The conservative critiques of NPR's "liberal bias" focus a great deal on the tone of the reporters voice as the source of bias. However, because "tone" is difficult to analyze empirically, both the critics and the bias researchers must refer to content when articulation what they perceived as bias, or, in the case of the researchers, in analyzing the data they interpret.

Evaluating if bias can be identified by the way the reporter delivers the question or in their follow up comments would be an interesting area for further research.

Sep. 16 2012 11:38 AM

I listen to NPR all the time because it's so informative and it's coverage of events and topics is both intelligent and thorough. But I think that there is merit in the listeners criticism. Lately I have noticed a change on NPR and I'm glad someone is raising their voice. I actually share the bias in point of view that the listener is questioning...but. When the reporter was interviewing someone who suggested that we give new companies a break on paying taxes for 5yrs. because they create jobs and then the reporter asks "But can we afford this" ... Well, that's rather presumptuous for a journalist. Yes that would make me wence. No matter if you lean towards the left or right, reporting should be unbiased. I like to make up my own mind. Better to have specific shows where individuals voice their point of view.

Sep. 16 2012 11:25 AM
Loren Getz from Tennessee

This is the first time I remember NPR and CPB taking a serious look at bias within their own ranks in over thirty years of listening. I identified strongly with Sam. I am a political conservative and a traditional Christian living in the South. I cringe sometimes at the way charges against Christianity and conservative positions are criticized without a response from someone who legitimately holds the view being bashed. On the other hand, I have an undergraduate and multiple graduate degrees, and I can't deal with the mindlessness of most conservative yakradio (I would except Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham both of whom present thoughtful, if occasionally over the top, conservative positions).

I appreciate Ira's openness to views that differ from his, but I don't really expect things to change. The momentum is all the other direction. From the writers to the hosts to the management, a liberal worldview is in the air at NPR. The best thing I can see to correct it is to welcome and include the viewpoints of people like Sam (or me, or thousands of others) who are politically engaged, thoughtful and conservative.

Sep. 16 2012 11:20 AM

These studies tend to assess bias by looking at percentage of dem vs. rep coverage or percentage of 'liberal' vs. 'conservative' quote usage. Context is the key. It's not what's covered but how it's covered.

Sep. 16 2012 10:59 AM

NPR is the only station on my radio, in the car and out, as I cannot
handle commercial interuptions. There is a simple way to test whether
there is a "trend" one way or the other in the opinions of NPR
commentators or producers.
I would guess that most would consider themselves "Democrats".
I am now one of the 40% covered in the recently reviewed book "The Swing

Sep. 16 2012 10:57 AM
Jeff Pappas from Dumbo

To paraphrase a quote I heard here " perhaps liberalism is more fact based"
It was correct to ask a follow up to the Republican wanting to give tax breaks to Corps who open here in usa, too bad it wasnt really follower up ie, Less tax $ in means less $ simple. The BBC is Really good about asking hard questions often and following up and Not letting the person interviewed skip the Q

Sep. 16 2012 10:55 AM
Jim from Brooklyn

PLEASE! One of the mail problems today-- paramount to everything else, what all evil springs from is personal dishonesty; especially dishonesty with yourself. I listen to NPR 7 days a week. I'm not a Dem. and certainly not a Rep. I listen to NPR because it, most times, does not broadcast a Rush Limbaugh like rant, and mostly has unbiased news. However, it certainly leans left-- far left in some cases, if you read between the lines. So what. That's NPR's identity. To deny that puts NPR in the pantheon of liars among almost every other station. NPR is, unfortunately, beginning to slip into untruthfullness more and more. It all begins with little lies, like "we don't advertise". Of course you do! I hear mini advertisements for corporations, trusts, financial dirtbags, funeral homes, etc. all day long. Be careful-- when you look into a mirror-- one day nothing will look back at you NPR. NPR's arts are absolutely wonderful, its politics and corporate creep are lately much less flattering. This latest denial of what kind of animal NPR actually is is just plain stupid headed and very ugly.

Sep. 16 2012 10:51 AM
Becky from NYC

I'm a republican who loves NPR. I also think NPR is definitely pro-Obama, sometimes leading shows with political content in a pro-left direction. However in all topics other than the presidential race coverage, I think NPR tried very hard to be unbiased and show different sides of an issue. Why not try to show both sides of the presidential race equally? I watched the RNC on public television and I was very impressed by how the liberal anchors managed to keep their commentary neutral. If you can't be neutral, at least make an effort to give republican callers more air time.

Sep. 16 2012 10:45 AM
deborah goldstein

Guests on NPR affiliates are often from conservative think tanks such as The Manhattan Institute!

Sep. 16 2012 10:20 AM
Rebecca Zilenziger from Old San Juan, PR

Everyone I know listens to NPR. The programming both from within and imported seamlessly into your programming shapes how we think and share ideas. NPR is intrinsic to our self awareness and beyond. I live on an island in the Caribbean and I don't know where I would be without WNYC. I have contributed to your station in the past but not in the last several years. I work on digital photography for hours everyday at my desk and WNYC and CSPAN (I know, dry but I enjoy it when it hits the topics I'm interested in) are on for all those long long hours. Smart Radio supplements my reduced hours of reading the news and other material. Does the argument exist within labeling WNYC as biased or are we pinpointing variants in points of view that might and hopefully encourage discussion and debate? Since when was that a bad idea? You had a man of the cloth interviewed, whose name escapes me now, he openly told WNYC and listeners he has your station on ALL the time but doesn't want to pay for it because some deeply held beliefs are threatened or challenged...is a radio station meant to play into our hands or can it beautifully captivate, raise the bar of discourse, ask us to question what we know or confirm what we believe, take us to stories in a rich and intelligent way. Do we only contribute when audio information illustrate every inner working nuance of our own individual biases? I say he's a freeloader, as I have been. I find it tremendous that you are approaching the topic of 'bias to the left' , that you are looking in upon yourselves, touted ideas, your unbelievable and varied programming all the while, clearly demonstrating what it means to be transparent. This kind of self evaluation comes from a position of strength, confidence and honesty all within balanced measure. Please don't change programming in reaction to Fox and other pundit comments. Keep your heads above the murky waters. I have only two words for WNYC, thank you.

Sep. 16 2012 10:10 AM

My concern with public broadcasting is not conservative or liberal. If "only" 2% of your budget is supported by taxes, why not forget about public funding and receive all of your funding from listeners. I contend that listeners would be more inclined to contribute if they did not feel that they were already being "forced" to contribute through their taxes. I would be more inclined to contribute if it was voluntary on my part. That way, I can contribute based on the value I receive.

I happen to be more conservative but like to listen to NPR because I get more information from both sides of an issue.

Sep. 16 2012 08:37 AM

One thought popped into my mind when hearing this prog the second time. NPR is biased toward the Establishment above all. NPR goes with the cool people. Whatever is fashionable, NPR is on board.

Does NPR favor one of this year's candidates over the other? Leaving aside rhetoric as much as possible, using mainly the ACTUAL RECORDS of the candidates (Obama as pres, Romney as Mass gov) the conclusion is easy. NPR is slightly closer to Romney.

Both candidates are pro-gay and pro-abortion. Both candidates are pro-bankster and rigidly opposed to regulating the Wall Street Casino.
Both candidates favor the same national health plan, which gives an absolute monopoly to insurance companies.

NPR runs with the popular kids on those points as well.

The only real difference between the candidates is on Israel. Here I have to break my rule and compare Obama's actions with Romney's rhetoric, because a Mass gov doesn't do foreign policy.

NPR is ferociously pro-Israel, ferociously pushing to start WWIII against Persia. NPR is thus closer to Romney's warmonger rhetoric on this one point of difference.

Sep. 16 2012 08:04 AM
John from Wisconsin

I'm surprised there is even a question about this. I sat here a few weeks ago listening to the broadcast re:the abortion issue. The guest was definitely Liberal, and equally so - tho not as vocal - was the host. Many of the (rational) opposing view (Conservative) callers were cut off allowing the guest to re-iterate inane (as well as wrong) ''facts'' and opinion, few of which addressed the callers points. The host did not pursue these unanswered points, nor press on unanswered questions, nor challenge any of the "facts" presented - nor so much as ask for sources. Meanwhile - callers who agreed with the guest (and by extension the host) were allowed to ramble and make equally inane arguments. Yet, there's really a question about this? There have been other examples - but this sticks in my mind as being the most blatantly slanted example recently.

Sep. 16 2012 07:34 AM
Aaron from MD

The british "immigrant" guest on your program seemed to primarily take
umbrage because NPR coverage was not personalized to him. I acknowledge that On the Media encourages civility on your comment section, but I'm just overwhelmed by how whiny this guy is.

Sep. 16 2012 05:28 AM
kehrt from Naklo, Poland

charlie: i was with you until i got to "disparancy" and "affrontivenes"

Sep. 16 2012 12:32 AM
Chris from Philadelphia

Is there any virtue in being unbiased? If our society's politics is moving to the right should the media follow in lockstep? Invite the best conservative and liberal minds and challenge them vigorously, but respectfully. (Conversely, don't provide air time to obnoxious shills of either stripe.) Be objective, avoid over-simplification, and let the chips fall where they may.

Sep. 15 2012 08:45 PM

Thank you for all the comments we have received so far.

A number of commenters have made voiced objections to public radio's funding model. We have discussed this on the show before. You can find both sides of the argument at these two links.



The discussion in our comments section has been very interesting thus far. Just a reminder in what can be a heated discussion to please keep the conversation civil.

Alex Goldman
Producer, On the Media.

Sep. 15 2012 06:48 PM
mike ellis

Didn't the NPR Boston affiliate get caught giving there donor lists to the Democratic party a few years ago? I think NPR knows which audience they are playing to.If they all get togeather and say We are not biased 3 times,they may actually convince themselves. As Ira said the vast majority of NPR's staff is liberal. So who is going to disagree.

Sep. 15 2012 06:46 PM
Kevin J. Smith from Salt Lake City, Utah

I listen to NPR everyday on Utah's KUER. I find the overall reporting very fair, but I do detect a very slight liberal leaning. I'm a moderate, and NPR and the BBC are really the only reporting sources I trust. The very fact that NPR is intellectually and artistically driven is one of the reasons why it appeals to the liberal listener. Fox and "talk-radio" is not an option for me. Listening to both political conventions on NPR was a very pleasant experience. I doubt I would have listened to the 2012 Republican Convention had it not been on NPR. I appreciate and recognize the comments made by other listeners. I too have noticed biases in certain reporters. Remaining neutral is very difficult and reporters often step over the line. No one is perfect, but I support NPR's efforts and mindset. Thanks!

Sep. 15 2012 05:08 PM
annabelle from Cornish, NH

There are many programs that I have not listened to because the content was not of interest to me, and so I switched to something else. The Fundamentalist Christian I Gentleman listening to Terry Gross could have done the same. Instead, he decided to listen to the entire program that he found offensive to his beliefs. I find that to be a good sign, meaning that he was willing to listen to an opinion contrary to his own. I was almost afraid that he was afraid of subjecting his Christian beliefs to a test and be tempted by the unbelievers.

As for the whole hour devoted to that one topic. That is exactly what I mean by how news is reported. Complicated questions require complicated answers. And an hour seems justified in exploring the many facets of that question. The deeper and wider you dig, the more you know about that topic. News is not only facts, digits and statistics. If bias is equated with depth and breadth, then our democratic society is in big trouble.

I wish that the show on bias had begun with a simple question: what is “the news”? Because I would then have begun by taking away the “news” from “Fox news” by pointing out that what they report is not “the news” but rather “their news.” And that’s where the difference lies.

“Can the country afford allowing new businesses not to pay taxes for five years?” was cited as a biased question asked by an NPR reporter in the context of a news story on the republican idea to try that out to help businesses. The reporter was asking the republican interviewee to consider his position and to take into account all the potential scenarios that might result from that tax break.

To invoke that sort of line of questioning as liberal bias is very troubling because it is stating that the people who write and report the news should be careful not to disturb the thoughts of the interviewee for the general public to hear. The general public uses the news as a source of information to form their own political opinions and how they are going to vote in the next election. More importantly, the manner in which policymakers think when they are writing policy must be made transparent to the general public. In fact, the manner in which the news is gathered is exactly what the general public should do themselves.

Fear of reporting how policymakers think because it might be construed as biased scares me because it means that the very definition of “the news” is being tampered with. In the words of Edward R. Murrow, who knew a thing or two about reporting the news, he said about television: “This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference.”

Sep. 15 2012 05:00 PM
Thomas Yeutter from Mason, MI

I listen to NPR when driving. It is good quality left wing talk radio. I listen to it because it enrages me, and therefore keeps me alert while driving.
I like NPR, but I don't want to contribute to it. I resent the fact that my tax dollars are in any way funding it.

Sep. 15 2012 04:22 PM

I came to say, good show, now tackle whether NPR should continue to receive government funding. I scanned these comments and see others bring up the same topic. So let me second that: please do a program on whether NPR should receive government funding.

First, as a liberal NPR-lover (and OTM lover), I do notice a slight bias in tone towards the Liberal perspective. I have no problem with this, as it reflects the journalist's point of view, and I agree with Jay Rosen that the journalist never has a "view from nowhere." One guest said there were more conservatives interviewed than liberals, but the tone can be very different.

One solution would be to hire more conservative journalists, and let them all declare their political bias so we can assess the interview. Another would be the BBC method - take a hard-line oppositional stance to EVERY interview (for the news, not feature shows like yours). This is my favorite although NPR is probably too timid for either of these solutions. Third, get off the government dole. Yes, some stations may close and/or merge, but they are anyway. If NPR was just starting up, this would not work. But the network is well established and has a sterling reputation, already has "sponsors" etc. Give us an episode on it, please!

Sep. 15 2012 04:21 PM

I think that the prgram was problematic in several ways. First, Your guest conservative admits that he has nothing that he can present as factually demonstrating bias. He then goes on to state that he finds the problem to be one of tone. Its hard to argue with someone who agrees that there is nothing factual that he can present but that he doesn't like the tone other than to say that perhaps HE comes to NPR with a bias that causes him to fall back on an undefined belief that even when there is factual bias, we all know that NPR IS biased. He also, somewhat contratdictorily, gave two examples of bias; first, that a reporter asked an anti-tax lobbyist whether the country could afford to waive taxes for new businesses. (How in the world could it be considered biased to ask that question? Not to mention, how about questioning the anti-tax guy's answer that there would be no cost (stated without any apparent factual support). It has been shown time and again that such tax breaks cost more than they gain. In fact, 20-30 years ago an Ohio county that gave tax breaks to an auto plant ended up going broke because the cost of the extra government services, sewers, roads, schools, police, fire services, exceeded the county's revenues.)

Second, he complained about a Fresh Air show that interviewed a christian who did not believe in an actual physical ressurection. The guy went on and on about how the vast majority of the people alive, and everyone who ever lived, believed in the ressurection and, thus, the show should have also presented that point of view in order to acknowledge their religious beliefs. At the tail end, he modified his unsupported demographic claims by saying that he was referring to the vast majority of christians. Well, the majority of people, whether alive now or who ever existed, did or do NOT believe in an actual physical resurrection because the majority are not and were not christians. Does that mean that every time Frsh Air interviews someone professing christian beliefs, a non-christian person needs to be interviewed?

The point, of course, is that your program bent over backwards without any critical thought, to act as if it is neutral, even to the point of allowing very questionable statements to pass as genuine criticsm. But false neutrality is not the same as objectivity. Or the same as presenting an honest, fair, objective program. That brings up the real bias of NPR: NPR genuflects to people of power and influence and those people are almost always right of center and opposed to anything that presents a serious challenge to the status quo. That is exemplified by Ira Glass's final comments where he acknowledged he would probably change his show even though he did not think that there was any demonstrable bias on NPR. And that he was going to do so because of the unsupported (and perhaps peven to be wrong) objections of people who could not present any factual basis for their complaints.

Sep. 15 2012 03:17 PM
Jay Boyar

On your broadcast, you spent a lot of time comparing possible bias on NPR with possible bias in other media outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post and so on. It seems to me this misses the main point. The specific complaint from the right in this case is that TAX DOLLARS should not be used to support biased material. Those other outlets don't use tax dollars, so those comparisons aren't very useful.

Also, I found it amusing and depressing that Ira Glass swore up and down that NPR doesn't have a liberal bias in the content it broadcasts but then when someone raised the question of bias on The Diane Rehm Show, Glass tried to beg off by saying he doesn't listen much to the daytime talk shows. Just another case of Ira Glass not doing his homework before going on the air...

Sep. 15 2012 02:36 PM
Jay Warner from Racine, WI - WUWM, WGTD

One factoid to add to the studies done on the subject of 'bias': When Wisconsin was going through its recall agonies, Nov. 2011 through June, 2012, My recall is that NPR, and other national news media, mostly showed up about 4 days before the final election. You probably had great difficulty finding an 'unbiased' informant, although there were a fair number of rational knowledgeable people in positions to speak real observations. Then for a complete overview, you picked a high level Republican/TEA Party wannabe, from Virginia, who was gearing up for his own campaign on questions similar to those used by our Republican Gov. Walker. The Virginian proceed to feed you the Republican Party line for the meaning of the whole recall effort & election, for which you asked no question. And no voice from any 'other side.' This is 'balanced'? This is 'unbiased'? In fact, the Virginian was actually promoting an interpretation well suited to his own campaign, and you swallowed it whole.

I only saw this one instance 'up close,' but it soured me considerable. It's like, you asked me if I love you; I have to answer now, let me think about it.

Sep. 15 2012 02:34 PM
Jay Warner from Racine, WI - WUWM, WGTD

IN the broadcast 9/15 around 1 pm, You discussed an interview in which a conservative did not like the question, "but can the country afford it [his tax reduction proposal]?" He claimed his proposal was 'no cost' and resented the question, as reflecting NPR's liberal bias. The interviewer should have known (and probably full well did know) that reducing tax revenue MUST mean a reduced budget, if the conservative interviewee seriously means to control the deficit. The interviewer should have come back pointing out that effect of his proposal. To make his proposal "no cost" means the budget will be reduced. Can the country afford to cut government by as much as he proposed? Is he willing to suggest some places where the Gov't can make cuts of this magnitude?

I realize this will get off the main topic, but surely, when you let someone claim "no cost," where there is a cost, you are letting yourself get sucked into dubious thinking. Arguably, sucked into the speaker's bias; in this case, sucked into conservative bias with slipshod thinking.

Sep. 15 2012 02:15 PM
Amanda M.

Okay. I'm 12, and I love NPR. I commented more on this on the Ira Glass post but I feel like the reason non-liberals say they have a bias is because they state opinions that are different than theirs. I hear more liberal views on NPR but that doesn't mean they are in favor of them. It's liberal media, we would have more to say in favor of that rather than Republican views. Fox News is primarily Republican, and they say negative things about Democrats, and they should be able to do that. And we should be able to have a "liberal bias" (even though we don't really.) Once again, I'm 12, terrible grasp on politics.

Sep. 15 2012 01:33 PM

Discussion of bias begs the definition of a reference point.

Is a story biased relative to a listener's point of view? Likely, given that we are all bags of bias of one type or another. Biased relative to the dynamic spectrum of American politics? Trying to titrate reporting so as to be in the "middle" of the American ideological spread is an impossible task that would require fine precision in selection of topics and facts to report, and seriously compromise the reporting.

The reference point of 'bias' in an objective sense is is whether or not there is a consistent bias relative to the fact set. Are all of the relevant facts of a story reported without interpretation? The fact set will be biased toward one interpretation, of course, but as long as the facts are presented without biased selection, reporting is fair. The unbiased fact set will please one group more than another, naturally, but that is not the concern of the reporter.

Sep. 15 2012 12:39 PM
David from South Bend, Indiana

The fundamental issue is government funding. Purported liberal bias is just a red herring that pressures public media to “balance” even statements of scientific consensus like climate change. NPR reduces the audience for local station owners and advertisers. What is probably particularly galling is that the owners and advertisers pay for this competition out of their taxes. I have enjoyed and supported my local NPR station for over 30 years. The real question is whether Americans willing to contribute even a pittance to support NPR. Oddly, many Americans seem to admire the BBC but they overlook the hefty annual fee that supports excellent public media in Europe.

A listener who regularly detected a liberal tone or bias was interviewed today. He objected to an NPR reporter asking a follow-up question whether the country could afford a 5 year tax break for new factories proposed by an Intel VP. The VP responded that it wouldn't cost anything. Logically, this would be true *only* if no factories would have been built without the tax break, which seems improbable and should have been the second follow-up question (maybe it was, but your clip ended with the VP repeating his assertion as if that settled the issue). Of course good reporting requires follow-up questions and even skepticism (egad) at times.

The same listener objected to, was seemingly offended by, a representative of the Jesus seminar who (allegedly) did not believe in Jesus' miraculous resurrection from the dead. This seminar stems from a movement of biblical scholarship, dating back several centuries, that analyzes the texts as historical documents and places them in historical context. The movement is not biased regarding miraculous aspects of stories. By separating historical analysis from religious interpretation, I think the movement actually allows appreciation of the bible and, as was the case here, the Christian message by a larger community.

Thank you for your wonderful show – always thoughtful, thought-provoking, and entertaining.

Sep. 15 2012 11:29 AM
Matt Leone

Regarding NPR bias:
I used to thing NPR had a liberal bias. I have been listening to On The Medic for a while now and I heard the full episodes that where used to make this weeks episode. I have been listening carefully to NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition since the original episodes about bias aired. I no longer think NPR has a liberal bias.

As for Michele Norris’s question about the country “being able to afford this right now” the interviewee missed an opportunity to say “Yes” and why he thought so. “Yes” was his answer anyway. But he could have given a longer clearer answer – a missed opportunity for him.

For a journalist to ask the questions that listens have in their minds is not bias, but good journalism. I assume (but obviously not everyone does) that a journalist’s question is not a point of view. It is question designed to further the discussion. I also assume they do not give away how they feel with every question. Many questions are designed to further debate but not a point of view.

I think much of the bias on NPR is imagined by listeners from both sides that want their views put forward and who do not enjoy descent.

Sep. 15 2012 11:24 AM
Rick Nestoff from Ohio

The liberal bias at NPR is often evident in story selection. Look at how the Tea Party was covered versus Occupy Wallstreet. The tone of coverage and the time devoted to the topic are vastly different. Or look at two cultural stories with legal implications, the Gay Marriage debate versus Concealed Carry laws. Some will read that last sentence and say, "Gay Marriage is the biggest civil rights question of our era, while, what's the other one? Paranoid gun nuts or something?" That's the liberal bias.

I have listened to NPR every day for decades, mostly because its commercial free. I've noticed it slipping further to the left.

I think the journalists on NPR think they are being fair, but realizing you have a bias and it needs to be corrected, is the first step. As a previous commenter mentioned, hire staff with a different perspective. It does seem that the only diversity that doesn't matter is the only one that actually counts. Diversity of opinion is critical to reliable news organization.

Sep. 15 2012 11:17 AM

Diversity always seems the obvious answer in academia or media except when it comes to political diversity.
Simply hire several more conservative commentators and with the existing "unbiased" commentators on NPR they can discuss the issues of the day, choose topics for discussion and present questions to guests.

Isn't the real reason this doesn't happen is because of money? Is the real danger not losing funding from the bureaucratic federal government but losing money from progressive institutions and individuals who may turn fickle and take their donations elsewhere if they regularly hear speech and tone they do not like?

Sep. 15 2012 09:01 AM
Terry McKenna from Dover NJ

As a moderate (an old Rockeffeller Republican) I feel now as I did originally when first broadcast - that the conservatives have a big chip on their shoulder and believe that those who don't agree with them are liberals, who hear what they believr reflected on NPR. But for many of us (probably liberals as well as moderates) we rarely hear exactly what we believe on the radio or TV. And that's ok.

I expect that reporters are generally more liberal than average (as are writers in general). But NPR and the mainstream media seem to make an effort to present issues that merit point of view analysis in fair manner. Not all issues merit point of view analysis. For example, when the Iraq war started to go bad in the early months, NPRs coverage suggested that Iraq was becoming a quagmire. Fox news, by the way (in my best recollection) presented alternate news - but as for NPRs presentation, there really was NO ALTERNATE NEWS! Yet conservatives seem miffed when the news does not go their way.

I work for a financial firm, one that periodically discusses economic issues with senior employees and managers. Truth to tell, we are not told that tax cuts will turn the US around. (We also are not told that stimulus will work). we simply hear the bad news of a stalled economy.

Often, facts have a bias of their own.

Sep. 15 2012 07:52 AM

To me, good news will always stick to the facts regardless of the political implications of those facts. It should not matter if the facts are disliked by a political faction or even if it's disliked by the majority of the world population. If the information is important then a good news organization will report the facts. The coverage should cover only the facts, and not the reporter's own judgements of those facts. It should then allow the listener to make their own judgements based on those facts.

But, there's the question of which news stories are important. What facts are worth covering? That's where the real bias can creep in. Are the stories you are covering showing something in a more positive or negative light then it is in real life? Is the coverage giving one particular viewpoint more or less credibility then is warranted by reality? If so, then your coverage is biased towards or against that viewpoint.

Now, despite all your best efforts to get everything right, your coverage may still be biased against certain viewpoints. This is because reality can be biased towards a particular viewpoint. For example, let's say that there's a movement that claims that the president was born in some foreign country. Let's say that after investigation, all facts say that the President was born in the United States.

So, you could report that according to the facts, the president was born in the United States. People who disagree with this statement can claim that you are biased against them because you are not reporting their viewpoint. They would be right. But, the news is in the business of covering the facts, and their viewpoint is not supported by the facts. In such instances, you should not be apologetic that you are biased against them. You should hold your ground because you are doing your job the way it was meant to be done, and that is with a bias towards reality.

Sep. 15 2012 01:15 AM

I detect a fairly consistent "fairness" bias, which offers two sides of an issue airtime, and then lets the listener draw his/her own conclusions. I think this is biased and it is lazy. For an issue, there is a set of interrelated facts that are germane to the topic, and the facts often lead inexorably to conclusions. When a representative of that conclusion is interviewed, the fairness-biased reporter then finds someone "on the other side", and presents "both sides" as equally tenable positions. Sometimes the facts themselves are biased.

It is lazy because a fact set sometimes can be filtered to better represent an interest. Two rival interests will select from the fact set to argue their points. Leaving the discussion there without noting the selectiveness and the omitted facts is lazy. It means that the reporter just went to find two talking heads and didn't understand the subject matter well enough to challenge the subjects on their selective use of the fact set or, as is increasingly the case, abuse of the facts.

I personally expect a good story to challenge my thinking, and am not offended when the story stacks up counter to my prior point of view. I am offended when people doing hatchet jobs are given the same respect as the facts they are abusing.

Sep. 14 2012 08:54 PM
Charlie from Portland, Oregon - A bastion of liberal bias

To defend such a blantant admission of liberal democratic bias should boggle the mind of every fan of NPR. Trying to justify or placate this far-left position by ascribing it as somehow relative to the portion of public funding represented is inexcusable.

It never ceases to amaze the rational thinking public, the disparancy between the degree of affrontiveness which sets off firestorms in the liberal camp vs. that which finally cries out to be addressed by the moderate or conservative sides of an issue.

Even this audio commentary smacks of a smugness usually reserved for a 'know-it-all-teenager' with a 'what are you going to do about it?' attitude.

Sep. 14 2012 05:34 PM

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