NPR: No Such Thing as Unbiased

The thing about bias is that 1) we’re all biased; 2) we often have a hard time identifying when those of similar bias are being biased; 3) we can identify bias, but probably overstate it because of our own bias! Thus, when NPR’s Steve Inskeep defends the unbiasness of NPR, well, my own bias leads me to conclude he’s biased.

[L]et’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.

I know it’s my bias showing, but conservatives can walk and chew gum at the same time. Hence, they can listen to conservative “talk radio” and still get their hard news from NPR. Frankly, I think that the news from NPR is perfectly fine. It’s all the other stuff–the feature piece selections, the lifestyle/culture talk shows, seemingly all the editorializing (when it is done)–that tilts it leftward. (A locally notable exception is WRNI’s Political Roundtable, which is a balanced affair). You see, it’s not that we expect NPR to be unbiased, just be balanced…and fair (couldn’t resist!). You know, show a few different sides of a political story instead of the one emanating from the Minnesota Prairie, for instance.

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13 years ago

An NPR interview I heard last year began by asking their guest (some liberal economist), “Do you believe that the President’s stimulus program has worked, or do you think the true effect remains to be seen?” The economist answered matter-of-factly, “Both. I think it has already worked by shortening the recession, but the real benefits will be seen over the next few years.”
It’s that sort of thing that makes me simply roll my eyes at NPR and turn the dial. The human interest stories on “undocumented workers” from “Mejico” are insufficient comic relief to interrupt the steady stream of excruciatingly elitist cultural pieces, liberal guests, and loaded interviews.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
13 years ago

Although things may have chnaged, for many years all surveys of news media people showed them to be about 85% registered Democrats. Some bias would seem inevitable.
I don’t think the news stories are actually “re-written” (although interview responses may be “cut”), it is more along the lines of what news is “important” enough to merit time in our 5, or 20, minute broadcast. If they don’t “like” the news, it doesn’t make the cut. It thus becomes non-news.

13 years ago

After listening to NPR news for decades, I stopped after realizing that their news was as objective as that from the New York Times.

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