National Public Radio has come as close as it can possibly get to admitting that it’s a biased news organization and that it must take steps to remedy this situation. It’s a welcome acknowledgment, one we must charitably accept even if NPR made it under duress after coming under withering criticism for firing veteran journalist Juan Williams.
Hopefully, NPR did not take this step to stave off congressional attempts to withdraw its public funding. Its mea culpa does not change one iota the need for Congress to defund this anachronism.
The admission, such as it was, came in two decisions announced yesterday by the NPR Board of Directors after a long “review into the facts and circumstances leading to the termination of NPR’s contract with senior news analyst Juan Williams.”
The first was the dismissal of Ellen Weiss, the Senior Vice President for News who fired Mr. Williams back in October—a woman Williams yesterday called NPR’s “enforcer of liberal orthodoxy.”
The second, and more important one, was a Board recommendation that NPR “ensure that its practices encourage a broad range of viewpoints to assist its decision-making, support its mission, and reflect the diversity of its national audiences. The Human Resources Committee of the Board is working in conjunction with key members of NPR management on this issue.”
Not exactly a mandate to hire at least one conservative journalist, but at least acceptance that “a broad range of viewpoints” is sorely lacking at NPR.
Williams, you may remember, was let go last October after saying on FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly show that he felt unease when he saw people in Muslim garb at airports. The firing was not just abrupt but especially unceremonious for a journalist of a decade’s standing at NPR—and despite the fact that Williams (a well-known liberal) went on to say that his misgivings were wrong. The firing kicked off a groundswell of disgust at the leftist bias of NPR reporters and commentators and at the network’s mind-numbing political correctness.
Of course, the Board’s call for including a “broad range of viewpoints” was buried amid a handful of other handwringing over whether NPR journalists should be able to express their views on opinion shows. These proposals miss the mark. The solution to NPR’s stultifying uniformity of liberal opinions is not to make these less transparent. It’s the opposite—to identify them as liberal views and, as the recommendation above makes clear, to make sure that conservative voices are also included in the news room.
For how and why NPR got this way, we have no less an authority than Williams himself, who said last night on FOX:
“The institution has been there since the early 70’s and the people that came were from college campuses, and they thought they were alternative radio and all that, and they’ve grown into a mainstream media operation, 30 plus million listeners. And yet, they think that somehow they don’t have to operate by the rules of the world. They don’t have to hear everybody’s opinion, because you’re not in the club.”
Williams does not exactly hold out hope that Weiss’ dismissal (she officially resigned) will fix much at NPR. He went on:
“My fear is that they just bring someone else in from what was an inbred incestuous culture to again perpetuate what’s been there because they have this mistaken idea that that’s what NPR is.”
And indeed, only yesterday NPR’s health policy journalist had an unbelievably biased piece once again on ObamaCare, which was then praised by one of her colleagues for its “accuracy.” This was followed only a few minutes later by praise for another liberal piece of legislation, the Frank-Dodd financial “reform” bill.
But how (and if) it remodels itself is NPR’s problem. The American people’s problem is that they are forced to pay for a percentage of this public radio network through their taxes. This is especially frustrating to the millions of Americans who disagree with the liberal/progressive views of NPR’s reporters. More importantly, however, it galls the many more who think that it is dangerous for government to fund journalism.
So while NPR’s admission that it lacks “a broad range of viewpoints” is welcome, it does nothing to alter the fundamental issue of its funding. A nation looking for savings can start here.
You can follow Mike Gonzalez on Twitter @Gundisalvus