Over 11 years, John Felton has reviewed more than 4,000 NPR stories related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in quarterly reports that form an extraordinary study of American journalism. This is his last one. His summation: some flaws, but that the critics who charge bias really want bias for their side.
Fairness & Accuracy
Reviewing NPR stories for their factual accuracy and relevant context. Grapple with us on the judgment calls. Fairness is our guiding principle, however subjective.
NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson is also a contributor to Fox News. Some listeners complain that she has a conservative bias. A review of her work through the contentious political fighting over Syria, the government shutdown, debt default, and health care reform, finds otherwise. She's a remarkably cold-eyed analyst.
A six year study of NPR's coverage finds that Washington sure enough leads, but there is more national dispersal than imagined. Editors and many of us want still more. See if your state is being dissed. Someone seems to be messing with Texas in particular (and Florida).
An independent review of NPR's Mideast coverage by former foreign editor John Felton. He found the coverage to be generally accurate and balanced, but chided NPR for relying too much on Washington-based experts to explain events in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Many listeners complain that for the last month NPR has been "all Catholic radio, all the time." Our review finds that the story count has indeed been overwhelming. But in a comparison among religions and denominations, Catholicism is unique in size, institutional organization and global influence. Now that we have Pope Francis, however, a news break might be nice.
A newscast report designed to give a break to the papal coverage instead offended Hindu listeners. The complaints underscored the danger of being tempted by exoticism. The sirens here were naked Nepalese ascetics smoking weed.
Psychologists find that in experiencing a news story on a divisive issue, we all hear the arguments supporting the other side more than our own. We thus tend to see bias, often wrongly. Was this the case in a story about a Palestinian documentary filmmaker working near Israeli settlements on the West Bank?
An independent review of NPR's Mideast coverage by former foreign editor John Felton found NPR to be generally accurate, balanced and commendably cautious. However, much of the coverage failed to provide enough context. Questions like "Why is this happening now?" and "What does this mean for the future of the Middle East?" should have been asked more frequently.
Pushed by social media mores, we demand to know ever more about reporters online. But when Morning Edition went mainstream with innocent revelation, including a reporter's lack of information, listener complaints underlined the perils of the practice. We have no guidelines for a rapidly changing media world.