There's something quite confusing about the current NPR controversy.
What's odd is that James O'Keefe's undercover crew surreptitiously recorded an NPR fundraising executive who has no role in the newsroom expressing what he explicitly labeled to be his personal opinion about Tea Party members and other current events topics. And because of that, partisans are crying foul. But if the right-wing jihad against NPR supposedly centers around the type of journalism it airs (biased!), why would anyone care what someone like Ron Schiller says in private about the Tea Party?
Shouldn't NPR be judged not by a hidden camera trick but by the actual journalism it produces?
I realize the whole claim of liberal media bias revolves around the idea that journalists are privately liberal and therefore can't contain or hide their prejudices when they report the news. So if that's the case, conservatives must be furious with the way NPR has portrayed the Tea Party movement, right?
But how could they object, for instance, to NPR reports like this from last September:
Who Is The Tea Party? There's No Short Answer
In this utterly mundane report (I mean that in a good way), NPR's Linda Wertheimer sat down with the National Journal's Jonathan Rauch and asked him these types of straight-forward questions about the movement:
Let's start with an obvious question that I guess doesn't have an easy answer. Who is the Tea Party? Is there a short answer?
Do you have any idea how big it is?
What do you know about the Tea Partier? Who is that person?
Wertheimer also made observations, like this:
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Tea Party is that it seemed to appear suddenly, that it's very modern in that it uses the Internet and apps and free conference calling, as you point out in an article in the National Journal, to do some very, very up-to-date political organizing.
The following day NPR invited two Tea Party members on the air to discuss the movement in even more detail. Again these were the types of questions posed, this time by Steve Inskeep:
Well, let me bring Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association into our discussion here from Mississippi. And Mr. Fischer, what issues have you pressed when you became involved in the Tea Party movement?
What cultural and social values are you thinking of that were embraced by the founders, as you put it?
But what kinds of discussions have you followed or been involved in on this question of how deeply involved in social issues the Tea Party movement should be?
That's an example of how NPR has treated the Tea Party movement. That's an example of the actual journalism NPR has produced with regards to the conservative movement in America.Yet in response to that respectful, professional approach, right-wing partisans essentially want NPR destroyed because of its liberal bias?
I suspect the relentless drive to defund NPR has very little to do with how the network has covered conservatives. Instead, it has much more with the conservative contempt for serious, independent journalism.