15 Comments

It's funny, I just got done reading Alicia Montgomery's piece (which I thought was great) right before you sent this out. One quote in particular I thought summed up the problem with NPR and all these legacy media institutions: "NPR culture encouraged an editorial fixation on finding the exact middle point of the elite political and social thought, planting a flag there, and calling it objectivity." Time and time and time again, we see bad actors exploit this loophole to muddy the waters. These organizations are so paralyzed at the thought of being called biased that they are more concerned about it then drawing a conclusion that may be unfavorable to conservatives--and they're still accused of bias anyway!

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One thing that that's surprised me in the commentary around Berliner's piece is a lack of any discussion (that I've seen) about how NPR is viewed on the left. And not just people who consider themselves leftists, but pretty mainstream liberals. I mean, we've all known for years that people on the right think NPR has a liberal bias. But NPR is a lot like the NYT, terrified of being called liberal, so as you say with the quote, they prioritize this faux balance and call it objectivity. They still do a lot of great pieces, but the top line political coverage has driven a lot of us away on the left side of center.

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I agree - I find NPR’s political coverage often both-sides to a fault. I listen to the Politics Podcast, and sometimes I want to scream at the way they cover this election as if it were “normal.” They don’t push back vigorously on right-wingers who come on to spread their talking points, even if they’re lies. Some correspondents are tough, like Mary Louise Kelly. Others let the lies go without a challenge.

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Apr 17·edited Apr 17

I still remember how, after the death of Howard Zinn, NPR decided the perfect person to discuss Zinn's life and work was David Horowitz. My one consolation is that people will be reading Zinn long after they're saying "David HoroWHO?"

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I hope NPR has learned this lesson in the past 8 years. For the majority that shout bias, few would be happy unless they hear exactly what they want to hear. It's a game for them and the prize is muddying the waters just as you said.

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Apr 17·edited Apr 17

Spectrum News had a story about a local fire department that had a higher-than-average representation of women on its staff, and was celebrating its first all-woman paramedic team. This progress in diversity, equity and inclusion was treated as an undeniably good thing and nobody was brought on to argue counterpoint.

Can you call that bias? You can, but I'd say it's just an example of how any healthy society works, that we have debates, but eventually certain questions are settled and we move on. You can do a news report on climate change now without feeling obligated to book a climate denier for "balance" because we already had that debate and it's over, and now we're moving on to debating what to do about it.

One of Berliner's complaints was that NPR treated the existence of institutional racism as a question beyond dispute, that they weren't booking contrary voices to argue that institutional racism did not, in fact, exist. If that's true, then good for them, I'll take it as a sign of progress that we've moved on from "Does racism exist?" to "What should we do about racism?"

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I mostly stopped listening to the NPR mothership during my commute around 2016/7 so that I wouldn't have to hear soundbytes of TFG but still listened to some of the podcasts (Code Switch, Sam Sanders etc). It feels so much like the NY Times and the Atlantic where I have to chose how much of the institutional bullshit I can tolerate to support writers I like and it was actually very easy to drop All Things Considered and Morning Edition from my life given the tradeoff.

I just don't see how someone like me who has made a very clear jump from liberal to leftist in my views would get back into NPR again. It would feel like watching an old West Wing episode, a lot of play acting signifying nothing.

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Same here, but it's funny that the loss of listeners like you and me isn't seen as some kind of "crisis" for NPR leadership, as a warning sign that they've "lost America's trust." It's only when conservatives stop listening that it's perceived as a problem, because, as we all know conservatives ARE America.

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::It would feel like watching an old West Wing episode::

Ah, but does NPR have women "adorably" sending e-mails they only intended to send to one person on blast to everybody in the White House, Congress, and the Media? Uh...oopsie? 🙄

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This conversation is so old and I am shocked that this has gotten so much traction considering the lack of evidence Ari provided. It does seem there was alterior motivation and I wonder how that well flesh out in the months to come? Possibly a conservative media tour? There's more money in selling out - am I being too cynical?

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founding

Assuming a conservative media tour after an appearance on Weiss's site doesn't seem like an overly cynical bet to me

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Yes, he's now resigned, expect the full cash-in tour to commence soon.

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Apr 17·edited Apr 17

Not sure what "Lost America's Trust" is supposed to mean, unless it's that conservatives don't like NPR. Is it a problem for NPR if conservatives don't like them?

I mean, I don't like NPR either, but I don't see how that's been a problem for them.

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Nice Polite Republicans.

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Wow thanks for this. Alicia's article was really great and I think she hit the nail on the head.

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