Friday, March 11, 2011

One Possible Take on the NPR Hoo-Hah

One take is that this is the gotcha moment where the right finally proved the liberal bias of NPR. Maybe.

But, as conservative Heather MacDonald points out:
I fail to see the relevance of an NPR employee’s off-air criticism of
the Tea Party to the question of NPR’s federal funding or its liberal
bias. Conservatives can easily prove liberal bias by analyzing the
content of the programming.
I have no doubt that there is a significant over-representation of
democrats and "liberals" among the employees  who work and report for
NPR, but that in and of itself does not imply that they are anything other than
professional and fair in their coverage of the news. In fact, on average, although there is liberal bias in the media overall, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting seems to be among the most scrupulously centrist news organizations out there, according to a study by Tim Groseclose and Jeffrey Milyo (2005, Quarterly Journal of Economics):
Our results show a strong liberal bias: all of the news outlets we
examine, except Fox News’ Special Report and the Washington Times,
received scores to the left of the average member of Congress.
Consistent with claims made by conservative critics, CBS Evening News
and the New York Times received scores far to the left of center. The
most centrist media outlets were PBS NewsHour
, CNN’s Newsnight, and
ABC’s Good Morning America; among print outlets, USA Today was closest
to the center. [Emphasis added.]
Furthermore,
Conservatives frequently list NPR as an egregious example of a liberal news outlet. However, by our estimate the outlet hardly differs from the average mainstream news outlet.
PBS NewsHour is a CPB production. So, (1) according to Ms. MacDonald personal political views of the executives shouldn't matter; (2) also according to Ms. MacDonald bias should be proven through an analysis of the content; (3) statistical analysis of the content shows little or no bias by several major public broadcasting programs. What does this mean of Mr. O'Keefe's video? One conclusion might be that it only weakens the case against NPR and CPB as "left-wing liberal media."  In fact, given the widespread (and probably correct) notion that public broadcasting mostly employs bleeding-heart liberal hippies, the fact that NPR's and PBS's content is demonstrably unbiased relative to other media (not to mention lack of influence by corporate advertisers) only strengthens the case for its continued public support.

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