I highly recommend Jay Rosen's essay addressing the turmoil NPR has faced this week. Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, makes what should be a blindingly obvious point to those in public broadcasting: You are facing a cadre of partisan enemies who want to destroy you.
They don't want to change you, or modify the programming you produce. Instead, they want to destroy public broadcasting as an entity. To borrow that famous conservative critique of the federal government, they want to drown public broadcasting in the bathtub.
But as Rosen notes, public broadcasting's leadership doesn't seem to understand that troubling truth. Or at least they refuse to acknowledge it publicly.
Instead, the rhetoric we hear from public broadcasting, and specifically from NPR this week, is they are very sorry about the headlines and they hope the steps they've taken in the wake of the controversy will assuage their critics' concerns about the good people who work for public broadcasting. In other words, NPR is thinking in terms of stopgap measures while its critics are plotting total annihilation.
There is simply no way to placate the NPR haters, in part because their critique of the network is often nonsensical. They don't even pretend to have coherent evidence or arguments to support their hollow claims about NPR being some sort of bastions run-away liberal programming. Why not? Because that's not even the point. In truth, critics don't really care what kind of programming NPR puts on the air. They only care that NPR soon be off the air. Or at least crippled. They despise independent forms of journalism.
That's why, like Rosen, I remain perplexed by comments like this one from NPR's Vivian Schiller following her forced resignation this week [emphasis added]:
I'm hopeful that my departure from NPR will have the intended effect of easing the defunding pressure on public broadcasting.
Really? Because this was the immediate response from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a leader of the get-NPR-and-PBS crowd in Congress:
"The issue about taxpayers funding public broadcasting isn't about who gets hired or fired," DeMint said. "It's about two simple facts: We can't afford it, and they don't need it."
So much for the, we're-sorry-now-please-be-nice-to-us strategy.
NPR has been targeted for war. NPR ought to acknowledge that fact if it plans on mounting a defense.