Conclusions on NPR's Liberal Bias

Friday, September 14, 2012


The final installment of our exploration into the question: Does NPR have a liberal bias? In this segment we hear from conservative listeners Sam Negus and Kevin Putt. Then FAIR's Steve Rendall provides his take on our endeavor. PEW's Tom Rosenstiel reports his findings in examining NPR's coverage for bias. And finally, Ira Glass returns to discuss what he learned from our coverage.


Ira Glass, Sam Negus, Kevin Putt, Steve Rendall and Tom Rosenstiel

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [50]

ymous anon from usa

In the past 15 years, npr has been increasingly underwritten by coporations including builders of heavy military weaponry. Today indy media, community radio, listener funded networks like Pacifica make npr seem a conservative celebration. NPR may have "liberal" lifestyle arts and entertainment but it is no longer a peoples network. And that is why i hat npr more than fox. At best npr is "a liberal complaint vs a factual radical analysis" as Dr. Michael Parenti so well put it. In this time of the wealth gap is as large as 1900, closer to ww3 than the cuban missle crisis, the privitization of traditional public institutions, globalization making life worse for the workers and poor in the third world, money printing that benefits the O.5% and makes life tenuous for the rest of us, etc. An economic crisis the worst ever seen in human history is not if but win. no more bankster bailouts-the banks must be nationalized and so do to vital industries. If not you will have civil unrest in the US across the world. My hope is that when the military is called in the rank and file will join the people in the revolution and not shoot at us, but at out sociopathic police shooting at us.


Apr. 23 2015 08:44 PM
R McDonough from NH

I love NPR and listen daily. For my listen NPR has a DEMOCRAT party bias, not so much liberal. Compare to Democracy NOW for instance, which is more liberal than NPR. Should a government fund a media organization that favors one party?

Dec. 31 2014 07:26 PM
William Alexander

True that most media has some bias, however media has not always had a political agenda as obvious and reproducible as that of NPR.
I HAVE BEEN A DAILY LISTENER SINCE 1975 - I know whereof I speak.

Mar. 31 2013 08:42 AM

All media is biased by virtue of the fact that it's produced by humans. Sometimes that bias is left leaning, sometimes it's right leaning. End of story.

Jan. 18 2013 02:06 PM
Kyle from Downtherabbithole.

It's all just you're imagination. Media cannot possibly have any sort of bias as they are a gift from God and are pure of heart.

Jan. 17 2013 07:45 PM
Heather from Dracut, Ma

There is no liberal bias? I think the perfect example that shows there is occured during Obama's first election.......

Anyone remember the media's response to Palin saying she could see Russia from her house? They made fun of her for weeks about that comment.

Now does anyone remember Obama saying he campaigned in 57 states? What was the media response to that comment? They said he mis-spoke, they said he must be tired from so much campaigning.

Totally different responses! With Palin they attacked and made her look foolish, with Obama they explained and justified why he made the comment.

But, hey! There is no bias!

Jan. 11 2013 05:45 PM
Georgie from Phoenix, AZ

I'm an independent and swing my votes to those I feel are mostly aligned with what I think is important at the time. I find NPR to be left leaning most of the time. However, NPR is a commentary radio station, so when radio or TV stations are dominated by left or right leaning staff, then you tend to get politically leaning commentary, otherwise known as political bias. I've driven around the state and there's some smaller local talk radio stations and they are also left or right leaning. Certain shows on MSNBC, FOX, CNN, and other channels of the like, are no different. It's up to the individual to educate themselves on the facts and not the commentary. It's takes a lot of homework to weed out the fluff and get down to the facts. Many people are just too lazy for that kind of effort; they just don't understand politics; or, they lack the research skills to dig up the facts. Viewers and listeners should do their own homework and not take commentary as scripture. Unfortunately, these days, that's exactly what is going on, on both sides of the fence. Too many individuals have just decided to take someone else's word for it. This is where both mainstream and social media has made their negative influence on the populace. My aunt is far right and my friend is far left, and it's absolutely rediculous the things that these two people believe in. They are rarely correctly informed, both get their primary information from one or more of the stations or channels I referred to. I don't have cable, so I don't watch any of them, and for that, I'm grateful. I do listen to talk radio often, but I take what is said with a grain of salt, and then go do some homework.

Dec. 28 2012 03:00 PM

People make media. I know, that's obvious and redundant.

To have an equal conservative/liberal bias, you must have an equal number of conservatives and liberals on staff. Ideally - die-hards from both sides, rampant extremists. NPR has more liberals on staff, and therefore, a 'liberal bias'. Hire more conservatives, NPR.

Nov. 19 2012 09:00 PM
clare from Los Angeles

I think it's a bit ridiculous to ask the very people who create the programming whether it's biased or not. How could they possibly know, given that we all see the world through our own worldview and therefore don't see our own biases.

As a conservative, I routinely see how biased NPR is and I do not believe it's fair or reasonable to use my tax dollars to fund politically programming.

Nov. 18 2012 09:19 PM
Cindy Walsh from Baltimore, Md

As a fiscal progressive I can report that there was a takeover of public media, whether American Public Media or National Public Radio who both went completely corporate a few years ago with the new Newsweek CEO and a CNN format.....all Wall Street all the time....To think we have to discuss this is ridiculous.

With Third Way corporate think tanks as Democratic policy comment matching a free-market corporate/wealth counter from a Republican is a clear violation of fair and balanced. Will a Brookings Institute E J Dionne comment to the failures of globalization and the devastation of Clinton's Third Way caucus policies regarding the Glass Steagall wall and mega-corporations? NO. Yet, these are the pressing issues of the day.

The primary revenue resource for the debt reduction is recovery of trillions of dollars in corporate fraud over just this past decade. It is an economic stimulus plan that hires millions of unemployed workers to bring business fraud back to government coffers all using no taxpayer money as it is financed by the recovered fraud. This would give the people the demands for accountability and shared expense everybody wants. Will you hear this on a Third Way Corporate discussion with a Republican counterpoint? NO.

We know 80% of Americans want to reverse income inequity. We know that 80% of Americans want accountability in government/corporations. We know that 80% of the Democratic base see corporate power and globalization as bad for democratic constituents. Yet, we have for the past two years heard nothing about that.

We know that 80% of Americans do not trust and in fact see Wall Street as predatory and criminal. These include most of the professionals and academics who follow this stuff. So this fact means the news coverage would reflect how America is going to restore Rule of Law. The primary issue here is downsizing corporate structure to regional players. It is clear. Will you hear that with a Third Way Corporate/global think tank policy commentator? No.

Nov. 10 2012 11:58 AM

Ken Rickman from Salisbury, NC writes

I listen to NPR and the BBC, and I honestly cannot find an overall bias."

i invite you to stack up the number of negative stories about Christianity, heterosexuals or anglos against the number of negatives about minorities or atheists/psuedochristian unitarians or gays. because they don't use sarcasm or extremist language i guess it's more difficult to discern if you are liberal.

i listen to npr every day and when they are just reporting news or interest stories really find that i learn something about the subject. but social issues are completely slanted left and i find myself tuning out at that point. it's understandable because the majority of listeners are liberal.

just look at the language used by most of these commenters "far right zealots" "lunatic-fringe-right-wing media" "The right wing is more voracious and vicious than any time I can remember"

surely they realize that this is stereotyping with extremist language?

those who cannot hear the obvious are those who are liberal to begin with.

Nov. 07 2012 01:12 AM
Ken Rickman from Salisbury, NC

I think there's a telling and unintentional comment here, and I want to point it out:

"And could someone tell Brooke to try to find some stupid Democratic attack ads to make fun of to alternate with the republican rebuttals every week?"

Try to find them, the comment says. That's the point, one has to try. Finding a "conservative" (I use quotations intentionally, since the only conservative thing about the Republican parts is the descriptor) misleading political ad is as easy as turning on the TV. I cannot get away from them, except by turning the thing off. Does it make the medial "liberal" if they point out that one side in particular has lost all connection with reality?

My response to those who like to talk about the "liberal media" is that Republicans have reached the point that you're either with them or against them. Anything or anyone who does not swallow their propaganda is a liberal and a socialist and anti-American and evil and who knows what else. Based on that standard, reality does indeed have a well known liberal bias.

I listen to NPR and the BBC, and I honestly cannot find an overall bias. Individual stories, shows, or people do occasionally have an apparent bias one way or the other, but as a whole I find it generally fair. simply reporting on the news, rather than focusing on a few overblown and unimportant issues (Obama is a Muslim, birth certificates, etc.), goes a long way in my opinion toward making NPR fairly unbiased. Thanks, and keep up the good work.

Oct. 30 2012 09:28 AM
John from Boston

Reading the comments section was interesting to see what some people considered liberal bias. Who knew that hypenated names are proof of liberal bias? I had no idea that that socialist Lynne Rossetto Kasper has been conspiring to make me eat liberal foods.

Oct. 23 2012 03:43 PM

On "Media Scrutiny Theater" - the liberal bias of Brooke is obvious. 8 of last 10 stories since sept 2012 just before the election have all been biased against republicans. Worse, they act as Democratic ads directly rebutting the republicans paid for by public funds... THE DIRECT CHARGE THAT HAS BEEN MADE. and just before an election? UUUGH.

I love NPR. But Brooke's sarcasm and honest emotion can be heard. Unnerving for me. The media scrutiny skits have make me question her (and Bob's) ability to ignore personal feelings. Are facts not making stories because of her natural feelings and her frame of thought? after hearing her off the cuff, less scripted remarks on "Media Scrutiny Theater", i cant see how she can be unbiased.

Please delete those skits... I love NPR but the editorials are dangerous to NPR's reputation.

And could someone tell Brooke to try to find some stupid Democratic attack ads to make fun of to alternate with the republican rebuttals every week?

But it may be like asking a Redsox fan to ump a Redsox / Yankees game in Fenway Park.

Oct. 22 2012 12:23 AM
Harvey Kravetz from WSHU/WNYC

I have listened to NPR since its inception. I think that "On the Media" is on of the best program anywhere.
As far as NPR being bias. Besides obviously bending over backward to air conservative views the reason NPR is seen/heard as liberal is because conservatives hear the truth as liberal propaganda!

Oct. 13 2012 07:39 PM
Larry Morris from Annapolis MD

I listened to your show examining NPR’s Liberal Bias with great interest.
As I am one of the people who hear the described mythical bias in NPR programming that no one from NPR can hear (Ira Glass) I am glad you explored the subject in depth.

I found it very humorous to listen to Ira twist himself into knots trying to identify liberal bias in NPR reporting/programming. It made me laugh out loud. Of course he doesn’t hear it. He is viewing it from the same frame of reference from which the story is produced. This is not bad. This is NORMAL. We are ALL biased and influenced by our own unique experiences and knowledge that brought us to any particular position. This is the beauty of the human condition and to deny it is intellectually dishonest and strains creditability. I am always suspicious of the person who proclaims to be unbiased. Human nature tells us this is an impossibility, and frankly it’s insulting.

I am loyal listener NPR programming and I acknowledge and accept the frame of reference by which the stories are produced. Why? Because they are good stories and interesting opinions that challenge my frame of reference and I find that intellectually stimulating.

Please keep up the great work.

Larry Morris, Annapolis MD

Oct. 02 2012 12:18 AM


Does NPR help to produce a single regularly broadcast radio show about the BENEFITS of labor union membership? I sometimes hear people from American Enterprise Institute talking about how unions are bad on NPR, but I never hear from labor union leaders on a regularly broadcast show.

As best as I can tell from what I have heard NPR is against unions and for corporations. Proving this out is the contrast between the weekly total hours devoted to capital -- business and the stock market -- versus the total hours devoted to labor -- unions. In most radio markets, on weekdays, there are three 10 minute business reports in the morning, three 10 minute business reports in the evening, and a half-hour stock market show. On the weekend, there one or two one hour investing shows. 570 minutes devoted business and the stock market per week. ZERO minutes are devoted to labor reporting, nearly every week. That's biased AGAINST labor, as far as I see it.

Much of the Right's propaganda has been aimed at "working the refs" by claiming there's a liberal media bias. NPR has listened to the Right and has responded by having more and more corporate spokesmen and women and very, very few labor union officials.

Please prove me wrong. Please let me know that NPR already has a regular show about the BENEFITS of labor unions. I have searched over the internet and over the NPR website and have found none

Sep. 22 2012 05:02 PM
Monica Williams-Mitchell from Ohio

A hyphenated name is EXTREME? In what way? How is someone's name possibly an affront to anyone or to their values? Yes, this IS incomprehensible to logical thinkers.

Sep. 20 2012 11:41 AM
Bob Cranmer from Brentwood, PA

As an added note to my previous comment, there is in fact one local news personality who use a hyphen - and she is with our local NPR station!

Sep. 19 2012 02:36 PM
Bob Cranmer from Brentwood, PA

NPR is so filled with those of liberal bent they can't comprehend how they are being heard, for NPR such positions are the "norm" with no contrast. It's the insulated world they all live in and play off one another. There is little concept that their “normal” isn't normal to all.

For example, I recently comment to my wife how there seems to be an abnormal abundance of female reporters with NPR who hyphenate their last names. In our mind this is an extremely “non-traditional” practice but obviously is completely normal for them. We tried to think of anyone we know who uses a hyphen and we really couldn't, and then tried to think of any local news personalities who use hyphens and again we knew of none. But in the liberal world of NPR this what I found: Karen Grigsby Bates, Barbara Bradley Hagerty, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Nancy Marshall-Genzer, Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, Tanya Ballard Brown, Dina Temple-Raston. To NPR our paying even slight notice to this fact is (I’m certain) incomprehensible.

I rest my case, accept what you are and we conservative NPR listeners will have to live with it and adjust. I do value NPR.

Sep. 19 2012 02:16 PM
Richard W from Indiana

This discussion has been incomplete at best. Missing from the conversation was any discussion on whether the actual facts support more liberal arguments. I've always thought, for example, that any politician will lie when he/she needs to, but that right now the left wing doesn't need to as much. The facts seem to support arguments for the bailout, against some of what Ryan and Romney are saying from the stump, etc. Therefore, when an objective person points that out, they look liberal.

Sep. 19 2012 11:02 AM
Kevin from FL

So this was just about whether or not NPR has a bias and not the media as a whole?

Some thing that I found wasn't discussed is the number of times certain stories are covered.

A few examples:

The last few years of the Bush administration we heard nightly on the news about two things: 1) Number of soldiers killed in the Middle East 2) $4 Gas

We still have had those things for the last few years yet we don't hear about it nearly as much as maybe it reflects badly on the sitting president.

Isn't bias also a part of what stories are covered vs. how they are covered?

Sep. 19 2012 07:07 AM
Kevin from Dallas

This episode, and the fact that NPR has to constantly defend themselves, is the best reasons to defund NPR. How many man-hours were wasted on this episode defending NPR's use of public funds? By the hosts own admissions, no one's minds will be changed.

Sep. 18 2012 04:26 PM
Richard H from Milwaukee (WUWM &/or WHAD—I heard parts of 3 broadcasts)

I strongly agree that there is no liberal bias on NPR. Of course, one reason the bias is perceived (as others have noted) is that the right has shifted so far to the right that the old moderate is to the left of the new middle. But here are some further thoughts on that.

Here is my take on why people on the right of the political spectrum feel that the more moderate media are biased. When one side (in this case, the right) lives in a fantasy world, and it hears information that would jar it out of that world, it would naturally blame the neutral reporter/commentator/analyst of bias.

When I wrote “fantasy world” above, I was not really off-base. See, for example, the survey undertaken by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and Knowledge Networks in Sep.-Oct. 2004. It found that a large percentage of supporters of President Bush had mistaken perceptions of many of the relevant facts in the 2004 election. It was presumably because of this erroneous knowledge that they supported him. NPR and others who would inform the public of the facts are simply rejected out-of-hand. Yes, everyone is entitled to his own opinions; but not his own FACTS.

PIPA’s own Web site doesn’t have this report anymore, but see these Web sites, among others:

In short--keep up the good work, NPR! The public and voters need to hear what you have to say.

Sep. 18 2012 03:01 PM
JC Harris from Seattle

My feeling is that OTM did a shiny penny trick in this story. When -most- people talk about 'NPR Bias' they do -not- mean strictly the News shows: ATC or Morning Edition. Those shows -are- as neutral as any news show out there.

What most people think of when they think 'NPR' is the NPR -Family-... all the shows that are distributed by NPR, plus the local stations.

The shows distributed by NPR are -all- blatantly left-leaning. No one can deny that Fresh Air, Tavis, even Garrison Keillor are liberal. In fact, there isn't one show NPR is involved with that could be remotely labelled as 'right-leaning' in any fashion.

Further, every NPR -station- I've ever listened to has also had a left-leaning slant. These are often stations run by the local Universities with a traditionally progressive view.

The 'hard news' shows may be neutral, but if every other program in 'the family' is progressive, then it's disingenuous to argue that people's perception is incorrect. People's perception is NOT incorrect.

I support public radio. I'm relatively 'left' leaning. But in closing I find it -galling- that Ira Glass, or even yourself can act so shocked (Shocked!) that the outside world views NPR that way. You can't have a roster of shows like This American Life or Tavis Smiley or Prairie Home and then plead 'neutrality'. The totality of the NPR family just is -not- 'value neutral'. And you should no better than to cherry pick one aspect of that family to buttress your case.

Sep. 18 2012 03:03 AM
Bill Hastings from San Diego

Here's something that struck me as needing more discussion:

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Let's listen to that.
PAUL OTELLINI: Anyone that wants to build a, a new factory in this country, whether it’s a American firm or a foreign firm, why don't we give them a, a five-year tax holiday? It doesn't cost anything, right? You’re just deferring the tax revenues that you would ordinary get, but meanwhile you get a factory and you get jobs, and everybody wins.
MICHELE NORRIS: Can this country afford that right now?
PAUL OTELLINI: Well, it doesn’t cost anything.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Let me tell you what I just heard.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: As a reporter, I heard a reporter asking a very natural follow-up question that you would ask anybody.
KEVIN PUTT: Right. Well, to me it sounded like a presumption that foregoing any tax revenue right now is a bad policy idea. And that is associated, from my perspective, with a liberal point of view.

Sometimes bias, you know, shows up very subtly in, in the buried premise of a narrative. That’s what I think was happening with Michele.

What I heard is Michele Norris tossing Paul Otellini a softball of a question that allowed him to repeat his main point VERBATIM and drive his point home even more strongly.

I like the idea and it seems like something worth trying. But I don't ever need a remedial, 'let's say that again s-l-o-w-l-y moment' a la Oprah Winfrey targeting daytime TV watchers on too much Xanax.

Sep. 17 2012 07:56 PM
Susan from New Jersey

Jeff David from Grand Rapids: Thank you! I couldn't have said it any better. Those exact examples were in my mind as well.

Sep. 17 2012 04:27 PM
david Antebi from Highland Park /NJ

It seems the right wing always attacks the "liberalMedia' or NPR. And the liberal media jumps to examen itself.Yet it is doing this all along as a responsible public agent. May be the liberal media should expose the biases and lies of the right media such as Fox News and its commentators so there is a public examination for people to make a intelligent choice. The current attack is obviously politically motivated particularly during this election time period to undermine the credibility of the "liberal Press". As you pursued the examination liberal biases of NPPR I think the same scrutiny should be to examine the right wing bias of say Fox News.

Sep. 17 2012 03:37 PM
Jeff Wegerson from Edgewater, Chicago

Overton Window. It is a concept that is relevant to this discussion. I do not see it mentioned here so I introduce it. I did not see a transcript of the show and did not have the opportunity to hear it all so I do not know if the concept was introduced in the show.

In brief the window has been moved so far in one direction that previously so-called moderate beliefs now fall outside of acceptable discourse.

Sep. 17 2012 12:23 PM

People see what they want or are told... the question of bias is a big Rorschach test. 90% of the Media in the US is controlled by seven mega-corporations beholden to their advertisers.

Sep. 17 2012 10:28 AM

I generally see NPR as having a slight left bias, but maybe I've been fooled into that view by the Right's pervasive campaigning. My thoughts on the episode are that:

* Some of the conservative complaints (on the podcast) came across as rather weak and laughable examples of bias. I couldn't help but think that, in ambiguous cases, NPR was like a kind of Rorschach test where they kept *perceiving* NPR as liberally biased. I also thought the conservative's statement about perceiving NPR journalists as "happy" when the Democrats took control of the House - well, assuming this is true, I couldn't help but wonder how this reporting was resulting in creating a biased listener. Is the conservative merely unhappy that the reporters seemed to be happy about the Democratic win, or is he actually arguing that NPR is pushing its listeners to the left with left-leaning bias? It seemed like the former rather than the latter, which made the conservative come-off as oversensitive.

* Whether NPR has more left-leaning than right-leaning journalists and then concluding that NPR must be biased seemed like a speculative leap. Sure, political bias can creep into the reporting even when you're trying to avoid it, but if an organization and the reporters are aiming at balanced reporting, then that bias can be toned-down a lot. In contrast, if a news organization and reporters make no effort at balance and see their role as playing to one political party, you end up with very biased news. In both situations, the reporters might have a bias, but the results are vastly different.

* I know people who think that FOX News is unbiased. If someone thinks that FOX is unbiased, there's no way you're ever going to convince them that actual unbiased reporting is "unbiased". Unbiased news is always going to be "to the left" of their position (which they regard as "the truth"), so there's no way to win. Either you give unbiased news (and they'll say you're promoting a liberal agenda) or you give right-wing biased news (and they'll call you unbiased).

* People can find *actual* left-wing and right-wing bias in the media. Not long ago, I flipped past a right-wing talk-show where the host was arguing that Obama was never going to allow the 2012 election, that he would establish a dictatorship that would last 40 years. FOX News sees their role as making sure the Republicans win and Democrats lose. (I recommend "" to see some of the egregious news from FOX or FOX-Nation. For example this headline from FOX: "Obama Calls Libyan President to Thank Him After US Ambassador Murdered".) In the landscape of political bias, the slight liberal bias I think I see in NPR is rather insignificant.

Sep. 17 2012 03:22 AM
DPR from Canada

The fact that NPR is even undertaking this study proves that they are interested in providing the best quality professional unbiased reporting. When has FOX news ever even considered self-reflection on whether it is biased or not? Of course they wouldn't ever do that because the answer is so blatant and obvious. The conservative listener who was "keeping score" couldn't with absolute clarity identify "liberal" comments that he said were a smoking gun and could hold up in court. I am liberal, and listen to NPR because it is intellectually challenging, varied, in-depth, well-researched, eclectic, and rich in content that represents a multitude of viewpoints from across America. The problem is that there is a strong current of anti-intellectualism in the GOP today, and any reporting that questions a GOP point of view is attacked in a knee-jerk fashion. NPR is a bastion of critical thinking in reporting; it's no wonder that conservatives question it, because it challenges them to think across a spectrum they aren't used to.

Sep. 16 2012 10:10 PM
murray from Las Vegas

I bring up the ordeal of Juan Williams,fired from NPR because he voiced his concern about Muslims on an airplane.or he was a regular on Fox and somehow that was seen as a conflict,probably both. .So much for liberal tolerance.I listen to NPR to keep abreast of "liberal" thought.When 99%+ of NPR reporter and commentators admit being "progressives"you really want your listeners to believe your'e objective! How long would you survive if taxpayer funding ceased? You'd go the way of all commercial liberal radio a footnote in broadcasting history.

Sep. 16 2012 09:50 PM
Mike Richardson from Vermont

Liberal bias - The one statistic no one mentioned is how many NPR employees are liberals verses conservatives. That would be an interesting number. Maybe thats why your all looking at each other saying, we don't think we are bias.

Sep. 16 2012 08:57 PM
Barb from Okemos, MI

It would be interesting to ask some liberals to keep the same sort of diary that Sam Negus, for example, kept. I am a long-time, committed liberal, but I think Sam is right that sometimes the TONE of the NPR reporter's questions and reactions indicates a liberal bias--which is fine with me, but nonetheless a bias.

That said, I suspect that there are also many folks (including some regular listeners) who don't feel that NPR's "conservative" or "Republican" commentators speak for them. For example, I treasure the aperiodic interviews with David Wessel and the regular interviews with David Brooks, but I'd bet that they are not the sort of folks your critics are seeking. I hope/trust NPR will stick with commentators focused on the facts, and perhaps a little soul-searching of NEWS reporters about how self-revealing they are in their reactions to their interview subjects is in order.

On the other hand, Diane Rehm (for example) makes no secret of her political leanings, and her guests and panelists know that up front. I see no need for her to change her approach in any way!

Sep. 16 2012 08:30 PM
Jeff David from Grand Rapids, MI

The only radio to which I listen is NPR and have done so for the past 15 years. As an independent I am not bothered by NPR's left-wing reporting because I truly cherish NPR and the level of reporting it provides. I would've used the term "left-leaning reporting" a few years ago, but the bias I hear now on NPR has crossed the line into left-wing. And like other independent NPR fans have said, that's fine. I am ok with it. NPR is to me at times like an passionate friend with whom I do not always agree, but still love dearly.

A few examples? During the RNC, NPR each morning had a host of people that refuted most of what was said the night before. Although some of it bordered on contempt, it was acceptable since questioning a party's platform is good journalism. The following week, each morning after the DNC, not one panel was assembled to question the particulars of the speeches from the night before (a staple the week before). It appeared as if everything said by the democrats would simply be accepted at face-value. Whereas the week before not one word word was believed, the following week not one word was questioned.

Both Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Romney gave meaningful speeches. Although different in style and substance, both were to be given credit for how well they did. NPR came off as condescending when discussing Anne Romney's speech as if it was hard for the all-female panel to find the right words over the chuckles and head-shaking. The following week, NPR fawned-over Mrs. Obama's speech as if they had just heard Shakespeare.

And one last example, the day after our embassies were attacked and our people killed, NPR appeared to be far more concerned with Romney's comments about Obama's reaction rather than the actual attacks.

In closing, I suspect if you canvassed NPR's staff they would admit that in general, they tend to support left-wing policies. And again, that is absolutely fine. But one would have to suspend disbelief to suggest NPR doesn't have a liberal bias.

Sep. 16 2012 06:16 PM
V Eves from Charlotte, NC

Dear Folks,

Thank you so much for an intense, info-laden, creative program. I worked for 30 years in media, and yet I always learn something new and particularly significant from your show.

Now, on the topic of bias on NPR... NPR could allot an even number of liberal and conservative interviewees on each story AND ADVERTISE THAT IT DOES. That is about as far as it should go. I was NOT surprised to hear that NPR has actually been over-compensating by presenting more conservative speakers. I have particularly noticed it on Diane Rehm, and it drives me nuts. Now that the numbers are in, I think NPR should move back to the middle again.

The right wing is more voracious and vicious than any time I can remember, with the exception of the early red-baiting 50's. Anything left of fascism is going to be declared by them as being extreme left, even Communist, no matter what NPR does. So WHY bother?

My impression is that Bush/Cheney removed or ignored all the old FCC rules banning media monopolies, so the right wing could rush in and buy up nearly everything. THAT'S THE PROBLEM. We have finally arrived at 1984. What are we to do about that??? Why is there no apparent movement to break down these monopolies?

The right wing will not stop its assault of NPR and its stations until they can buy up those stations too, and eliminate the last vestige of
balanced, moderate media. I wish to God that we had some truly left wing media (Even MSNBC is moderate.). I would LOVE to hear some Communists and Socialists -- just to provide some balance to the fascism that is fairly regularly trotted out on the right. Only THEN would the general public realize what the middle truly is.

I hope that NPR will STOP trying to please these guys, by moving to the right. It will never work, and just serves their purpose. It is not at all fair the to the rest of us who are SWIMMING in right wing media bias every day. I can't even stand to listen to CNN for very long because of their right wing bias, however subtle. And online, Yahoo is incredibly biased. And all the stealth NewsMax craziness HIDING even in stories about health is really over the top. We are drowning in the right wing media! NPR is about the last little bit of moderation we have left.

Thank you again for an amazing, thoughtful program.

Sep. 16 2012 05:48 PM

What Elsa Obuchowski said. These "conservative" critics want npr (and everyone else) to see things their way. They don't really want neutral, unbiased coverage, because that wouldn't be their view.

Second, Sam Negus keeps talking about being "offended." The man from the Jesus Project was "offensive." But what he doesn't seem to get (maybe because, in part, he's apparently not American-born or -raised, given his accent), is that he is not entitled NOT to be offended by reporting!

Especially about religion. Frankly, one of our most basic freedoms is to be offensive. You can't physically harm someone, or libel them, but you (Americans) are absolutely, utterly free to OFFEND anyone you want to.

Now, if you offend your boss, he can fire you. But the government can't take action against you for being offensive. If it could, we would be Egypt and Pakistan and other middle east nations where people can be charged for offending Islam.

Sorry, if you're offended by receiving information, well, that's often the result of information. It may offend what you think you already know. Logically, hearing facts you did not know before, but which don't fit what you "knew," you should change your opinion.
Before you get to that point,of changing your opinion, you may well be offended.
I have no patience whatever with folks complaining about being offended. If you don't want to hear your religion being challenged, turn the radio off.
In particular, complaining about Fresh Air is outside the game; it's an interview show, with a point of view,that of the host, Terry Gross. It is emphatically NOT a news show. That complaint does not even belong in this discussion.

Sep. 16 2012 04:47 PM
Sam Feldman from New York

You can't be serious! This subject/programming is either a self-serving whitewash, or On the Media just doesn't understand the issue, I'm not sure which. Of course NPR does provide a platform for all points of view, including partisan points of view. That's not what bias is. Your guests said clearly data doesn't prove anything, but you ignore that and conclude "it's all in the eye of the beholder", a whitewash. Bias is when NPR goes soft on liberal issues and guests or doesn't provide any critical coverage on them at all. Bias is when news and topics are reported from a left point of view but think they are non-bias. You fail to realize that ANY reporting is biased by what it includes, excludes, tone, etc. - but you can't admit that you have it! Giving air time to many partisan points of view does not preclude bias.

Sep. 16 2012 04:19 PM
Mark from Cherry Hill, N.J.

Today's program can hardly be characterized as anything but a propaganda piece cleverly dismissing claims that NPR has a liberal bias. Personally I found much of it nauseating. Most of us will unfortunately not find out whether the conservatives interviewed in this program really had only such weak examples for their charge of liberal bias as those played on the program. I can list hundreds of examples, starting with clever ways NPR news commentators introduce or characterize political personalities in the news (dictator, extremist, terrorist for rightist figures, and general-secretary, community leader, civil rights activist for left leaning figures who are not anti-Israeli). The presentation of news stories on upcoming legislation or S.C. court decision with its apparent coverage of "both sides of the issue" most of the time ends of letting one know which side is the more "logical, sane, truthful, etc.

The results that the 3 researches give in this last segment are an example of "Soviet statistics manipulation" on American soil. Just one example. PEW's Tom Rosenstiel makes the audacious claim that NPR devoted only 1% of its news coverage directly to Pres. Obama, whereas NPR has made it a habit that EVERY major event that is reported on its hourly news reports begins with, "President Obama [reacted in whatever way] about today's [bombing, revolution, riots, killing, weather disaster, etc.]." True, this applied only to what was viewed as the most important story of the day, but there was nothing of the kind when Bush was president. Also, it is never "The Obama administration," but simply "President Obama" (does NPR consider him our American "Fuhrer?"). Can't the story be reported on its own without this imparting of the sense that Obama has his finger on the pulse of everything going in the world? Those researches also discredited themselves by comparing statistically NPR to talk shows (Hannity's, Limbaugh's); those talk shows don't even pretend to be anything but conservative, do not aim to talk about anything but the issues people bring up or are most interested in, and do not seek government support. It's like comparing apples... Why no comparison to Fox?

Finally, let me share that I was a staunch opponent of the Citizen's United decision until the election season set off in full gear some two months ago. Every single day there is something in the new reporting on NPR (as well as NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS) that can easily be classified as a commercial for Obama by the reporter's subtle and not subtle tendency to put Romney or Ryan down and making Obama's statements or actions out as the most brilliant. After listening to NPR I yell out, "thank God there are the Koch brothers that make it possible for the other side to be heard by more people," why others are being brainwashed into a mindset that won't even allow the president to be honestly criticized.

Sep. 16 2012 01:29 PM
Steve Ferencik from Las Vegas

A few things stand out which make me believe NPR's news coverage is left-leaning. Your reporters appear as left-wing commentators on talk shows. Often they are regulars on these shows. Then they report straight news on NPR. It's hard to take NPR's claims of objectivity seriously when I'm listening to Mara Liason arguing against Paul Ryan's budget proposal one day, and then reporting straight news from the Republican convention the next.

The way you label people and groups. There are conservatives, right-wing and far right-wing people and groups. Listening to NPR, you'd think there are no liberals or left-wing people or groups. I would say it's 3 or 4 to 1 labeling conservatives to liberals. I would love to see a count done in a given week how many times a person or group is labeled conservative or right-wing and how many are labeled liberal or left-wing.

NPR news shows have a tendency to take the liberal view and assume it as the default. Just today, it was stated that Romney's "attack" on Obama over the changes to the welfare program was discredited. That's the liberal take on the subject. But it's not universal. So NPR adopts the liberal narrative. Taxes must be raised to solve the debt problem. That's a given on NPR, based on questions I've heard NPR reporters ask in interviews. It's not a given among a large part of the population though. NPR adopts the liberal narrative.

NPR also tends to interview only one person, from a predictable point of view, for analysis of a news story. "Up next is so-and-so from the non-partisan such-and-such group." Well, rarely is anyone non-partisan. And your analysts almost never are.

I listen to NPR daily. Mostly it's good news coverage and I enjoy the depth of reporting. But I consider it to be my liberal news source, to be balanced with coverage of the news I get from sources I consider conservative. I believe the only way to get balanced information in the current media environment is to read and listen to multiple sources. No one source is enough.

Sep. 16 2012 01:14 PM
Matt C

About 20 years ago I think you could have accused NPR of a liberal bias, but over the years the right has placed their own in positions of leadership, and with the consistent underfunding, NPR has slowly let corporate influence creep in.
From 2004 to 2008 NPR's coverage of Bush's wars, and the commentary about the leadership of the country in general, was downright right wing cheerleading. Also, there was at least one sponsorship from a giant oil corporation, which seemed to change the angle of reporting about oil (and the wars for oil) coming from NPR.
I think a good place to start is in NPR's constant reference to PRESIDENT Bush. If they said something silly like "Mr. Bush" they would immediately correct themselves by saying "President Bush" like it mattered. Now I can't count how many times I've heard our current president referred to as "Mr. Obama." Sometimes the little things can be rather illuminating.

NPR may have had a liberal bias at one point, but those days have been gone for a while (maybe it was the fiasco over Mumia Abu-Jamal that was the turning point). They are still a little left of mainstream media, but just barely. They have several contributors from The Wall Street Journal (who owns that paper?) and waste time doing the same reviews of top40 pop music that everyone else does.

I'm tired of this argument. I wish NPR was still left-wing like it used to be. Oh well, at least there's still Pacifica Radio.

Sep. 16 2012 12:05 PM
Robert from NYC

This issue is framed in a biased context, to begin with.
All of Western, or specifically -- American mainstream Media-- is biased to the Right.
Starting on the Right, there is off the charts, lunatic-fringe-right-wing media. This subtext then reaches all the way to the politics of the right-of-center;-- which is actually classified as the Left ( the Liberal media).

But, Mainstream Media never, ever introduces or permits assertive left-wing arguments in politics or in economics to be heard by the Public.

To top this framework of bias off, the Public is inundated with an unspoken, subtle, insidious indoctrination that everything that they are told by the Mainstream Media, is the objective 'Truth' at its core.

This framework permits the aggressive assertions and attacks by the Right, of a left-bias, since the whole argument has to be defended by the Liberals within just such a framework of accepted falsehoods, to begin with.

It is like when I hear Romney attack Obama for the high unemployment rate. No one introduces the obvious into this equation/argument; and that is, that it is Capitalism that inherently causes unemployment along with manic-depressive business cycles. Yet the 'Left' stands there like a deer caught in the headlights, never daring to challenge this basic inherently false accusation in this framework, to begin with.

So too, with Public Radio. The accusation that it is biased to the Left is a falsehood to begin with. It is simply a 'none-lunatic-fringe' source of information, which basically toes the indoctrinated line that a Capitalist system is the only possible, acceptable form of human association.

Once that framework is accepted, it can only play defensive within a (Right) biased field of reference.

Sep. 16 2012 12:00 PM
John Ferrari from Rochester NY

I listened to this whole Media piece and here is what I heard. With the possible understanding that Brooke and Ira cherry picked the conservative listeners and their comments to look bad- what I heard were outright childish objections to straight forward reporting. That included the Intel CEO. Call it thin skinned or sensitive, it really was difficult to fathom what their point was (had to listen several times in fact) until I applied the logic I have to use with my grandchildren. Their logic was almost cryptic but just like children, and I mean no disrespect as nearly all of us can exhibit this heels dug in strategy, they were using the "ya but" return in the conversation. Its essentially a plea to apply some "emotional understanding" to their own bias they want you to peer through. Even though the logic is straight forward, or even undeniable but most importantly necessary to the content. Tone is essentially an inference of emotional thrust. If we apply that metric to every point or nuance of an issue you might need a lot more air time and patience than would be remotely acceptable. And this is not to say without doing it you can’t have a neutral interview, hardly. Its therefore frustrating to try and level the continual carping about liberal bias. I might agree with those listeners that there are more liberal journalists, in fact I would. There are sound reasons for that, reasons I would love to discuss.

Sep. 16 2012 11:17 AM
JB from Germany

As a listener from Germany, I have a very different perspective on public media. Here, every citizen above 18 has to pay a compulsory fee to their local public broadcaster (of course there are exceptions for soldiers, disabled people, people out of a job etc.). That's why it's called public. Because it gets public funding. Doing what Richard proposes here, cutting off public money and relying on donations alone would result in a complete shut-down of public broadcasting, for sure. Most people do not want to pay for public media, even though it is integral (in the view of the German law) to a functioning democracy. It is exactly as mercedes said: by being publicly funded, the media outlets can be held responsible. If they show too much bias or just do shoddy reporting, citizens (and politicians) have a path for recourse. Yes, there are a lot of other flaws in the system, but it ensures that every citizen everywhere in the country has access to proper journalism. The way I see it, giving money to the individual stations, who then pay NPR is just indirect public funding of NPR (and other public media producers (e.g. PRI) etc.) and that's absolutely how it should be. If you shut down public funding, you shut down public media, there is no way around that. Now the question is whether you believe that public media is a good idea. I do and that's why I gladly pay 18€ per month for dozens of TV and radio stations.

Sep. 16 2012 11:03 AM
Librarymonkey27 from Adks

This show is the irony of ironies. You go through and analyse the NPR stories and are they bias. Covering all the attracts (I say cover, not addressing or even defending) in a way that any un-bias news station should.

Go to Fox and look for that, not during their opinion episodes, like Bill O, and I am pretty sure it is non-existent. Heck even their news just about admits they are bias. I live in a region of the country that if not for NCPR, there would be no radio station. In some area there would be a satellite station that doesn't cover local news.

The elephant in the room is not if NPR is bias (if it is, it isn't very obvious, thus not an elephant, maybe it is the amoeba in the room).

The elephant in the room is: what station in the world that doesn't have a bias. And those stations don't admit their bias.

Sep. 16 2012 10:40 AM
mercedes from cortlandt manor

--Richard,why not keep NPR on the hotseat with that 2% funding? AS long as they have it, they will be under fire from conservative (primarily) pundits and media. Perhaps, that'll keep them as honest as they can be.
--And according to anthropologists, psychologists, political scientists, NO ONE CAN BE FREE OF BIAS. We can consciously try, but it's an impossibility. So why not try to control some media with public funding?
--Actually, why not fund Fox, Glen Beck, Rush and a few others just to keep them as unbiased as possible? They could certainly temper some of their hyperbole, spin and at times, outright lying. I watch them sometimes just to make sure I'm not missing an important point. And yes, I usually give up when they blatently spin rather than report.
--Much of the opposition to NPR comes from the attempt to present information to listeners so that we can make up our own minds. So my bias??? I believe anybody who is extreme in their views and uses hyperbole and spin rather than reporting "what happened" or what was actually said, neither respects me nor wants me to have the information I need to make an intelligent decision.

Sep. 16 2012 10:31 AM
Richard from Green Bay, WI

I noticed at the beginning of the program, you laid out that public funding of NPR is "only" 2% of your budget. If it is only 2%, why not give up the 2% and report the stories any way you choose. You would not have to justify your reporting, and could be as liberal as you want. I do listen to NPR but I don't contribute because my tax money (however small it is) already is being contributed on my behalf. I don't care if you are liberal or conservative. I just don't feel that any of my tax money should go to any organisation that has private sector outlets for the same thing.

I would also contend, that public broadcasting would receive more donations if the government was not funding it. I would be more inclined to contribute if public broadcasting was not already funded by my taxes.
If I get value out of NPR, I would contribute according to the value I receive.

Sep. 16 2012 08:18 AM
Durk from San Francisco

Well, Fox is actually the most middle-of-the-road outlet that exists in America. Therefore, you are a liberal who is trying to put lipstick on a pig by slightly mentioning about MSNBC's socialist approach.

Sep. 16 2012 02:17 AM
Elsa Obuchowski from Connecticut

The problem is that for many so-called conservatives (who are, in my opinion, actually far-right zealots) any critical thinking or reliance on facts smacks of liberal bias, unless that thinking or those facts lead to far-right conclusions.

It's like a 6-year-old accusing his parents of bias because they make him get up in the morning and go to school and his 4-year-old brother gets to stay home. The fact that school is compulsory for 6-year-olds and not 4-year-olds doesn't penetrate his brain.

The nasty, sarcastic tone and strong right-wing bias of Fox News and several talk radio hosts has motivated a certain segment of the American public to adopt progressively more extreme right-wing views. As they've moved the center to the right, any media outlet that engages in critical thinking and relies on facts -- and therefore doesn't spout their "conservative" propaganda -- becomes, in their view, "liberal."

That said, I don't appreciate the nasty, sarcastic tone I often hear on MSNBC either. I agree with their conclusions a lot more often than those of Fox News, but I find their presentation unhelpful. As a news consumer, I want to learn about current events and draw my own conclusions, not see who can score the most points by insulting those on the opposite side of the political spectrum.

Sep. 15 2012 05:21 PM

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