ACTION ALERT: NPR’s One-Sided “Liberal Media” Debate

National Public Radio’s Morning Edition recently devoted two segments (3/20/02, 3/21/02) to allegations of media bias. Morning Edition host Bob Edwards explained that “one of the most common complaints about major news media, including NPR, is that they’re not objective– that they either lean too far to the right or too far to the left.” Though the program cited a poll suggesting that both complaints are believed by substantial numbers of Americans (36 percent see a rightward slant, vs. 46 percent who see a tilt to the left), only one of those points of view got a full hearing on NPR.

March 25, 2002

National Public Radio’s Morning Edition recently devoted two segments (3/20/02, 3/21/02) to allegations of media bias. Morning Edition host Bob Edwards explained that “one of the most common complaints about major news media, including NPR, is that they’re not objective– that they either lean too far to the right or too far to the left.” Though the program cited a poll suggesting that both complaints are believed by substantial numbers of Americans (36 percent see a rightward slant, vs. 46 percent who see a tilt to the left), only one of those points of view got a full hearing on NPR.

In the first installment, NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams interviewed conservative authors Bernard Goldberg and William McGowan, former journalists who argue that media tilt to the left. For the second part of the series, rather than featuring progressive media critics with an opposing view, NPR instead chose to interview two media veterans– former Time magazine editor and columnist Jack White and former CBS News producer and executive Ed Fouhy– who were introduced with the observation that “most journalists reject the idea that their reporting is biased in any direction.”

Goldberg and McGowan offered examples from their books (Goldberg’s “Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News” and McGowan’s “Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism”). McGowan argues that efforts to increase diversity in the newsroom have led “to racial and ethnic and gender hypersensitivity and to a kind of narrow political orthodoxy,” while Goldberg offered his claim that mainstream media tend to label conservatives more often than liberals.

The following day, White and Fouhy were asked to respond to Goldberg and McGowan’s charges. But Fouhy’s first statements suggested that he believed there was some truth to the conservative critique, offering his recollection of a staffer at CBS News who referred to gun owners as “right-wing nuts.” While the experience and insight of long-time journalists is valuable, neither guest presented what would be described as a progressive alternative to the previous day’s conservative voices.

White explained that public opinion about affirmative action was much more complicated than simple “pro” and “con” labels often assigned by the media, while Fouhy recalled that over the last 30 years, “the most controversial issue was abortion, and it was generally seen as either a pro-choice or a pro-life point of view. The fact is, of course, that many Americans are profoundly troubled by either point of view, but I never heard that expressed in the newsroom.”

These recollections do little to answer the claims of liberal media bias offered by McGowan and Goldberg. At one point, White did offer the beginnings of a progressive media critique when he explained that the main media bias “is toward the status quo. It tends to downplay the complaints made by people who are seen as being on the fringe of the political spectrum, especially those on the left.” Unfortunately, National Public Radio’s truncated debate over media bias was a good example of that problem.

ACTION: Please contact National Public Radio and ask them to balance conservative critics of media with progressive critics of media.

CONTACT
Morning Edition
National Public Radio
635 Massachusetts Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
Phone: (202) 513-2000
Fax: (202) 513-3329
mailto:morning@npr.org

As always, please remember that your comments are taken more seriously if you maintain a polite tone. Please cc fair@fair.org with your correspondence.

For more background, please see: —
FAIR’s “Examining the ‘Liberal Media’ Claim” report:
http://www.fair.org/reports/journalist-survey.html

— “‘Bias’ isn’t supported– because it’s not true”
?http://www.fair.org/articles/bias-op-ed.html

Author: FAIR

News Service: Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting

URL: http://www.fair.org