Even Liberals Hear 'Genteel, Tea-Service Liberalism' In NPR

When liberals try to deny that National Public Radio is a taxpayer-funded media sandbox for liberals, there’s nothing like reading liberals writing about NPR to rebut it. Michael Tomasky, a leading liberal and editor-at-large of The American Prospect, recently wrote in anguished protest when WETA-FM in Washington dropped its relatively new news-talk format to return to its classical-music roots. This left him without "Weekend Edition Sunday," anchored by Liane Hansen.Tomasky writes of how NPR is always on in the background at his place on weekend mornings, and he can recognized that the tone can be soporific, the hosts can sound self-satisfied, and – "there's that air of genteel, tea-service liberalism suffusing the whole enterprise." He later added, when talking about a vice president at WETA, that "He's the kind of guy you'd like to have a (remembering the medium) chardonnay with." That's not to say he doesn't like the journalism, and he praises Daniel (he calls him "Danny") Zwerdling, who's specialized in dark-side-of-the-war-on-terror stories. In fact, Tomasky is head over heels in love with NPR. If Fox News Channel is unforgivably conservative merely because it attracts a devoted audience of conservatives, then when what can we say about NPR when a leading liberal admits this:  

Predictably enough -- who am I to try and outfox the demographers? -- I'm a National Public Radio listener. The radio presets in the house and car include an R&B station and C-SPAN radio (laugh if you wish). But the first two slots are dedicated to WAMU, the NPR affiliate that broadcasts out of American University, and WETA, the Arlington-based affiliate. Whenever I plop down in another part of our great nation, I get in the rental car, adjust the seat and mirrors, make for the airport exit lanes, and turn the dial to 90.9, because it's a good bet that almost everywhere in America, 90.9 is an NPR station of some sort. To give you an idea of the company I keep, I actually once impressed someone with this piece of recondite knowledge.

Public broadcasting is not merely a media sandbox for liberals because they dominate the work force there, and the on-air product is suffused with liberal bias. It's also because liberals adore it and really feel that they own it (however "public" it might be), that they have captured the flag of its territory. If you want a peek at how liberals within the insular bubble of public broadcasting fight with each other, see this blog post by Jeff Chester, who makes the usual liberal demands of the pubcasting system -- that it needs to devote more time and money to aggressive (liberal) investigative reporting, support "independent" filmmakers and do it all with racial quotas. Most importantly, he demands an "independent" trust fund to make grants directly to content producers. Why? Because every liberal wants the propaganda makers to be unfettered by overseers at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and especially Congress. They want all the money, and no strings attached. That's why the public broadcasters always lobby for a "trust fund" or endowment from Congress: money without strings, without having to go through any questioning by outraged conservatives on Capitol Hill (when they dare risk being attacked as Big Bird-haters). But what's fascinating in this post is the response from David Brugger, a top lobbyist for America's Public Television Stations (APTS), who complains that people like Chester always make unreasonable liberal demands at the "inopportune time" when NPR and PBS are getting their appropriations approved by Congress: "no one can deal with your issues in the midst of battle [with conservatives]." Translation: shut up and get us our money, and then we'll resolve this out of the public eye.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis