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Wall St.Journal: Liberal Bias at NPR?
Surveys show that millions of conservatives choose NPR, even with powerful conservative alternatives on the radio.
March 24, 2011- On the day NPR chief executive Vivian Schiller lost her job, I was reporting from Egypt. That evening, I had dinner with employees from NPR's Cairo bureau. I wasn't eager to talk shop, but I didn't have to. The conversation barely touched on news from home.
Instead we spoke of Egypt's revolution. And we talked over the logistics of supplying our colleagues in nearby Libya with body armor.
When I had time to think about it, I noticed a contrast between the news that NPR reports from the Arab world and the news NPR has lately made at home. Each news story revealed the values of the people reporting it.
Here the story was reality TV. A video editor created a faux organization, set up a meeting, and secretly recorded the bone-headed remarks of an NPR executive. The editor, activist James O'Keefe, spliced together clips to suggest that NPR was prepared to take money from an Islamist group allegedly founded by members of the "Muslim Brotherhood in America."
Emails show that NPR refused the money, and the conservative website The Blaze discovered that the executive's remarks were repeatedly lifted out of context. Nevertheless, the executive and his CEO were dismissed.
I congratulate Mr. O'Keefe for upholding his values: faith in the power of video to mislead. As columnist Michael Gerson noted in the Washington Post, by selectively misquoting the executive's words, rearranging events, and other devices, Mr. O'Keefe made him sound sympathetic to Islamic radicals and unfairly tarnished NPR with "an elaborate, alluring lie."
At the same time, my NPR colleagues in the Arab world were reporting on the actual Muslim Brotherhood and many other players involved in the uprisings. My colleagues' reporting technique demonstrates their values. Suppose you're NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, one of the first reporters into Libya after its rebellion began. You need to know if the rebels are advancing. The only way to find out is to drive toward the front lines until the artillery shells exploding around you make it clear that they're not. Next, you figure out how to get back alive. Then you try to rest, because you'll do it again tomorrow.
With those values in mind, let's consider the fundamental question: the accusation of "liberal bias" at NPR, which drives many critics calling to eliminate its federal funding. It's not my job as a reporter to address the funding question. But I can point out that the recent tempests over "perceived bias" have nothing to do with what NPR puts on the air.
The facts show that NPR attracts a politically diverse audience of 33.7 million weekly listeners to its member stations on-air. In surveys by GfK MRI, most listeners consistently identify themselves as "middle of the road" or "conservative." Millions of conservatives choose NPR, even with powerful conservative alternatives on the radio.