New Republic: Why NPR Scandal Won't Change Much

Partner content from:The New Republic

NPR's Board of Directors accepted Vivian Schiller's resignation on Wednesday. i i

hide captionNPR's Board of Directors accepted Vivian Schiller's resignation on Wednesday.

Stephen Voss
NPR's Board of Directors accepted Vivian Schiller's resignation on Wednesday.

NPR's Board of Directors accepted Vivian Schiller's resignation on Wednesday.

Stephen Voss

Jonathan Chait is a senior editor at The New Republic.

I have a couple thoughts on the flap over James O'Keefe's hidden video expose of a (now-former) NPR executive. First, unlike the vast bulk of O'Keefe's career, this is a legitimate act of journalism. Executives at NPR are public figures, and I don't have a problem with journalists using false pretenses to get public figures to reveal their true beliefs. As long as NPR gets federal funding, people have a legitimate interest in the political views of its staff, even if those political beliefs color the news coverage far less than conservatives believe.

Second, despite the most recent bluster, I don't think Republicans are going to de-fund NPR. Among other things, it's not in their interest. Federal subsidies require NPR to take seriously conservative complaints about biased coverage, however spurious they may be. A few weeks ago, Tim Noah described the inevitable 9-step process that ensues every time Republicans threaten to de-fund NPR. The key parts are steps 6 through 8:

"Stage 6. Discover that NPR and PBS have developed a deep interest not merely in your conservative political views but in your entire Weltanschauung and put you on the air all the time.

Stage 7. Discover that most public broadcasting officials, no matter what their politics, would rather die than be identified publicly with liberalism and will strangle overtly left-leaning content long before you hear about it. (See Allen, Woody, squelched Nixon parody, 1972.)

Stage 8. Discover that despite their terror of anything that might be labeled left-wing propaganda, public broadcasters will, after remarkably little bullying, gladly broadcast more right-wing propaganda than even Grover Norquist can tolerate."

I suspect the last thing Republicans want is to liberate NPR from constantly placating the Republican notion of what constitutes unbiased news, a notion which runs the gamut from believing Fox News is no more biased than any other major news source to believing Fox News is uniquely unbiased. O'Keefe's story is a useful cudgel for forcing NPR to bend further backward toward the GOP, but that's about the extent of the consequences.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: