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NPR Insider BOMBSHELL: We Lost Public Trust by Lurching Leftward, Refusing to Correct

by | Apr 10, 2024

By Tim Graham

There’s a blockbuster article at Bari Weiss’s website The Free Press today, headlined “I’ve Been at NPR for 25 Years. Here’s How We Lost America’s Trust.” Will the writer still be at NPR after this article makes the rounds?

It’s Uri Berliner, a Senior Business Editor for the “public” radio giant. He begins by establishing that he’s a standard NPR-type liberal, but he’s concerned about the current tilt of NPR’s audience:

Back in 2011, although NPR’s audience tilted a bit to the left, it still bore a resemblance to America at large. Twenty-six percent of listeners described themselves as conservative, 23 percent as middle of the road, and 37 percent as liberal.

 

By 2023, the picture was completely different: only 11 percent described themselves as very or somewhat conservative, 21 percent as middle of the road, and 67 percent of listeners said they were very or somewhat liberal. We weren’t just losing conservatives; we were also losing moderates and traditional liberals. 

Berliner thinks NPR used to be more balanced (we’ll agree to disagree), but it all went awry with Trump, and collusion:

Schiff, who was the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, became NPR’s guiding hand, its ever-present muse. By my count, NPR hosts interviewed Schiff 25 times about Trump and Russia. During many of those conversations, Schiff alluded to purported evidence of collusion. The Schiff talking points became the drumbeat of NPR news reports.

But when the Mueller report found no credible evidence of collusion, NPR’s coverage was notably sparse. Russiagate quietly faded from our programming.

Berliner also found this never-admit-error tendency with the Hunter Biden laptop (a “pure distraction“) and the Covid lab-leak theory, which had too much “Wuhan flu” energy. One colleague on NPR’s Science Desk “compared it to the Bush administration’s unfounded argument that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, apparently meaning we won’t get fooled again.”

But it gets really interesting when he turns to NPR CEO John Lansing and how he reacted after George Floyd’s death in police custody in 2020:

“When it comes to identifying and ending systemic racism,” Lansing wrote in a companywide article, “we can be agents of change. Listening and deep reflection are necessary but not enough. They must be followed by constructive and meaningful steps forward. I will hold myself accountable for this.”

 

And we were told that NPR itself was part of the problem. In confessional language he said the leaders of public media, “starting with me—must be aware of how we ourselves have benefited from white privilege in our careers. We must understand the unconscious bias we bring to our work and interactions. And we must commit ourselves—body and soul—to profound changes in ourselves and our institutions.”

DEI broke out at NPR, complete with “affinity groups” for employees by race and sexuality, and the DEI lingo police:

In a document called NPR Transgender Coverage Guidance—disseminated by news management—we’re asked to avoid the term biological sex. (The editorial guidance was prepared with the help of a former staffer of the National Center for Transgender Equality.) The mindset animates bizarre stories—on how The Beatles and bird names are racially problematic, and others that are alarmingly divisive; justifying looting, with claims that fears about crime are racist; and suggesting that Asian Americans who oppose affirmative action have been manipulated by white conservatives.

Berliner thought NPR didn’t have enough fairness and balance of viewpoints. “Concerned by the lack of viewpoint diversity, I looked at voter registration for our newsroom. In D.C., where NPR is headquartered and many of us live, I found 87 registered Democrats working in editorial positions and zero Republicans. None.” Click on how Berliner decided to crusade a little inside NPR:

So on May 3, 2021, I presented the findings at an all-hands editorial staff meeting. When I suggested we had a diversity problem with a score of 87 Democrats and zero Republicans, the response wasn’t hostile. It was worse. It was met with profound indifference. I got a few messages from surprised, curious colleagues. But the messages were of the “oh wow, that’s weird” variety, as if the lopsided tally was a random anomaly rather than a critical failure of our diversity North Star. 

 

In a follow-up email exchange, a top NPR news executive told me that she had been “skewered” for bringing up diversity of thought when she arrived at NPR. So, she said, “I want to be careful how we discuss this publicly.”

 

For years, I have been persistent. When I believe our coverage has gone off the rails, I have written regular emails to top news leaders, sometimes even having one-on-one sessions with them. On March 10, 2022, I wrote to a top news executive about the numerous times we described the controversial education bill in Florida as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill when it didn’t even use the word gay. I pushed to set the record straight, and wrote another time to ask why we keep using that word that many Hispanics hate—Latinx. On March 31, 2022, I was invited to a managers’ meeting to present my observations.

 

Throughout these exchanges, no one has ever trashed me. That’s not the NPR way. People are polite. But nothing changes. So I’ve become a visible wrong-thinker at a place I love. It’s uncomfortable, sometimes heartbreaking.

 

Even so, out of frustration, on November 6, 2022, I wrote to the captain of ship North Star—CEO John Lansing—about the lack of viewpoint diversity and asked if we could have a conversation about it. I got no response, so I followed up four days later. He said he would appreciate hearing my perspective and copied his assistant to set up a meeting. On December 15, the morning of the meeting, Lansing’s assistant wrote back to cancel our conversation because he was under the weather. She said he was looking forward to chatting and a new meeting invitation would be sent. But it never came.

 

I won’t speculate about why our meeting never happened. Being CEO of NPR is a demanding job with lots of constituents and headaches to deal with. But what’s indisputable is that no one in a C-suite or upper management position has chosen to deal with the lack of viewpoint diversity at NPR and how that affects our journalism.

Berliner is holding out hope now that Lansing stepped down as CEO and NPR selected Katharine Maher (not a journalist) as the new CEO. Most of us have no optimism about a Chris Licht-ian move toward fairness.

Editor’s note. This appeared at Newsbusters [https://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/tim-graham/2024/04/09/npr-insider-bombshell-we-lost-public-trust-lurching-leftward] and reposted with permission.

Categories: Media Bias