In response to this week's shameful exposure of bias at NPR, a couple of its hosts on Friday had an on air discussion about whether or not the radio network does indeed have a political leaning.
Shortly after "On the Media" host Bob Garfield said, "If you were to somehow poll the political orientation of everybody in the NPR news organization and all of the member stations, you would find an overwhelmingly progressive, liberal crowd," Ira Glass of "The American Life" maintained the outlet had no left-wing bias whatsoever (audio follows with partial transcript and commentary):
BROOKE GLADSTONE, ‘ON THE MEDIA’ CO-HOST, NPR: About 25 years ago, I was asked to do a piece, “Is NPR Biased to the Left?” And I couldn’t find a metric to apply to the question in order to answer it.
IRA GLASS, ‘THE AMERICAN LIFE’ HOST, NPR: I don’t know the methodology somebody would use, but I feel like public radio should address this directly, because I think anybody who listens to our stations knows that what they’re hearing is mainstream media reporting. We have nothing to fear from a discussion of what is the news coverage we’re doing.
I couldn’t find a metric. I don’t know the methodology somebody would use.
Maybe that's part of the problem - these so-called journalists don't know how to determine bias in reporting.
How about first taking a look at a week's worth of programming and simply adding up the number of real conservative and liberal guests as well as Republican and Democrat guests? The qualifier "real" means that folks like New York Times columnist David Brooks and former CNN contributor Kathleen Parker don't count because they are by no means conservative.
Despite there being far more ways to measure bias, this would at least be a good start if NPR was serious about doing such an examination.
But the best was yet to come as another host made quite an admission moments later:
GLASS: As somebody who works in public radio, it is killing me that people on the right are going around trying to basically rebrand us saying that it’s biased news, you know, it’s left-wing news, when I feel like anybody who listens to the shows knows that it’s not, and we are not fighting back. We’re not saying anything back. I find it completely annoying, and, and I don’t understand it.
BOB GARFIELD, ‘ON THE MEDIA’ CO-HOST, NPR: Okay, so this gets back to not only Brooke’s problem, finding a metric to report on this story, but it’s especially difficult when you and I both know that if you were to somehow poll the political orientation of everybody in the NPR news organization and all of the member stations, you would find an overwhelmingly progressive, liberal crowd. Not uniformly, but overwhelmingly.
So, according to Garfield, the landscape of all the people that work for and are affiliated with NPR is overwhelmingly liberal. This didn't seem to phase Glass in the slightest:
GLASS: Journalism in general, reporters tend to be Democrats and tend to be more liberal than the public as a whole. Sure. But that doesn’t change what is going out over the air, and I feel like let’s measure the product.
That bears repeating: "[R]eporters tend to be Democrats and tend to be more liberal than the public as a whole...But that doesn’t change what is going out over the air."
Isn't it amazing that liberal media members almost universally believe this fallacy? Despite their political views, who they vote for, and what issues they support, they think they're totally impartial in their reporting.
GLASS: And you’re saying what’s the metric that we can measure the product on? I’d say, go through this morning’s “Morning Edition” and find me even a sentence that smells like political bias to you. Like, like find one.
Looking at only one program on only one day to determine if an entire radio network is biased is of course absurd, but that wasn't the last inanity uttered by Glass.
After he challenged Garfield and Gladstone to take on the mission of identifying once and for all whether or not NPR is slanted in its reporting, Gladstone marvelously asked, “What if the answer is ‘Yes, NPR has a left-wing bias?’”
Glass quickly responded, “It’s not going to be ‘Yes.’”
Any bias there, Ira?
Ironically, as the segment continued, Gladstone wondered if the answer was "No," would anybody believe it.
And therein lies the rub, for if NPR really wants to seriously make such a determination, it should hire an outside, neutral entity that knows what metrics to use to come to a valid conclusion. Just as importantly, it shouldn't be done by folks that were "overwhelmingly liberal."
Color me very unsurprised this trio didn't think it absurd for an organization filled with liberals to examine itself for liberal bias.
That's akin to the White House doing its own investigation for wrongdoing or impropriety rather than appointing an independent counsel.
Oh. That's right. Liberals do that, too.
(H/T NB reader Carter Wood)