Is NPR biased?

Inspired by the debate on the “Pubbies try to muzzle NPR” thread on Great Debates started by a great American, I thought I’d start a thread in which people can drop by and report examples of biased reporting they’ve heard on NPR, or even non-biased reporting that demonstrates lack of bias.

A lot of what NPR reports doesn’t really lend itself to political bias, of course, the issue is, what’s out there. I figure NPR is popular enough with members of this board to develop some kind of consensus, or at least have some good discussions.

I heard two stories that leant themselves to political bias this morning. One is coverage of the trial of Lee Killen for the murder of three civil rights worker in Mississippi 40 years ago. There’s no bias I can detect … not attempt to tie what was done in Mississippi with any current group. I am kind dumfounded by all the coverage the story has gotten on NPR – they’ve been going at it all week, and after all, it’s a story about an 80-year-old man who committed his crime 40 years ago. One or two stories would have been plenty for this one, but they must have aired at least half a dozen and maybe more like a dozen stories about it. It’s a puzzler.

The other was Dick Durbin’s apology for comparing what happens to prisoners in Gitmo to Nazi and Soviet brutality. As has been demonstrated on other threads, Durbin’s actual words were fairly reasonable on the topic, nothing to take offense at, but I guess the Pubbie spin machine has been working him over pretty good over the last couple of weeks, because he was forced to do a tearful mea culpa yesterday for a very reasonable statement. The reporting on the story was neutral to the point of being neutered – I’m guessing Tomlinson’s efforts to suppress NPR have already had a “chilling effect” on NPR’s reporting. There certainly wasn’t any bias in the story I could detect … damned little reporting, either.

Feel free to add your own examples.

I love NPR and I think it’s biased. Every so often I’ll hear some slanted question or statement and gape and think “You guys better cut that out!”

The only example I can remember though…

2000 election. You may recall a certain ambiguity about the results. Finally finally finally the election was decided. You may have your own opinion about the decision or the method of deciding, but there came a day where the news to be reported was that George W. Bush would become the president. Story duly reported…transition music to next story…an orchestral version of REM’s “The End of the World As We Know It”

This is second hand from a friend of mine I talked to about this last night;
He remembers hearing the term ‘we’ when referring to Democrats during the last election on NPR. It stuck in his head, but he couldn’t remember certain details, so take it as that.
I summed up my thoughts on these topics here.
An example that follows the link;
If the pubbies want to muzzle NPR, I take that as a sign that they think NPR leans left. If the left complained that NPR leaned right, I would understand that to mean they feel the topics and discussion on the shows favored the right, but since I never hear that I’ll assume that the right has a valid arguement (since they are the ones making the stink).

Oh, and sometimes what they don’t talk about is just as important as what they **do ** talk about when making decisions regarding bias.

I don’t know that your logic holds. It might well be in the Republican interest for all news to be extremely biased. That creates a clear “us vs them schism”. Unbiased or merely critical news could be considered dangerous. Being critical of a Republican (or Democrat) is not, in and of itself, bias.

To me, the bias that NPR has seems to be mostly in the stories that they choose to cover and with some of their commentators (not so much the news people). Jim Hightower is definitely liberal, for example, although he seems to flame both Republicans and Democrats.

But I find their coverage of the Supreme Court, for example, to be fairly evenhanded, more covering what happens than whether that’s good or bad.

Of course they are, to some extent. If you think that there’s such a thing as any news outlet that’s without bias, you’re mistaken. Humans research, write, and produce the stories, and all humans have some bias.

That said, I think that NPR’s bias towards the left, while present, is kept to a bare minimum.

I love NPR.

A lot of the not-hard-news shows clearly lean left. Terry Gross is pretty up front about being liberal. I think Ira Glass is too, but politics come up less in his show. Garrison Keillor and Michael Feldman, too.

I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Daniel Shore express liberal opinions, as well. But they were definitely couched as opinions.

Actually, Dick Morris had publicly stated that Repubilcan strategy has been to “play the umps” – his term – by complaining that there’s a liberal bias whether they actually think there’s one there or not, in order to get stories spun more in their favor. So you can’t really just look at who’s complaining of what, because those who complain often have an agenda that goes beyond the specific complaint.

That could well be an example of bias. However, it could also be a reference to the fact that the Presidential election was so clearly affected by election-rigging and by a rather startling intervention by the Supreme Court. No matter who won, it definitely wasn’t a “business as usual” victory.

That was more or less the point I was trying to make. You’ve stated it more clearly. It’s gamesmanship, but IMO a dangerous game, since it’s purpose seems to be to create huge bias in everything and make it very hard to discern truth, such that it is.

All of NPRs stories are thought-out and seem to be pretty free of bias to me. However, their choice of stories and the aspects of various subjects they choose to investigate are definately biased. In Iraq, all the stories are about the misery and awfulness of the situation. There are no stories about the progress US forces are making in helping the Iraqis. In fact, the only time NPR shows any improvement for the Iraqis is when it’s the result of Iraqi efforts. They completely overlook anything good done by the US millitary.

So yes. They are definately biased.

Just so you know where I am coming from…I am, for all practical purposes a libertarian- unapologetic capitalist (unlike most republicans) and want the government out of my life whether that be expressed as a better tax system or leaving what happens in my bedroom up to me.

Overall NPR has a pretty clear leftist bias, but I find the news reporting itself to be less biased (one way or the other) than typical broadcast or cable news reporting.

If NPR is good enough for Karl Rove, then it’s good enough for me.

This morning’s NPR was remarkably politics-free, at least the portion I heard. They had a piece about Anneke Sorenson, new ways of doing nursing homes and a couple of other apolitical stories. Wonder if it’s coincidence or chilling effect? Since I only heard about forty-five minute’s worth, can’t say for sure.

Sometimes it is biased, but why is that bad? Other news outlets (i.e. Fox) have a conservative bias. The conservatives can watch Fox, I can listen to NPR and we should all be happy.

Yes, I do understand that since it is Public radio that everyone’s taxes are supporting the liberal coverage on NPR, but we all buy the products that advertise on Fox so we’re also all supporting conservative coverage too.

I do think NPR is biased, but not nearly to the extent that Fox News is. I view them as similar to the Washington Post. They have a stable of first class reporters and deliver excellent news coverage. They do tend to underreport conservative issues and I have found some of their language to be clearly slanted towards the left.

Last year they did have the funniest correction I have heard in a while. I will see if I can remember it as close the original as possible.

“Yesterday we reported on a seventeen year old Palestinian youth who had been held in Israeli detention without access to an attorney or his family for almost a year. We reported that he was arrested for throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers. We erred in our reporting. He was detained at the xxxxx bus station on (such and such a date) with a vest packed with explosives and a quantity of nails. We regret our error.”

This isn’t being offered as proof or evidence of anything, I just got a chuckle out of it. NPR has been accused of a pro-Palestinian slant and they didn’t win any points with that one.

During the 1996 presidential election, I heard a report that went something like this… a reporter was talking about how somewhere in the South, some preachers (or maybe it was Catholic priests) telling their (mostly poor) parishoners that they would be committing a sin if they voted for Clinton. The reporter said something to the effect of…

…which, to me, suggested that the reporter wanted us to believe that a) They were all going to vote for Clinton anyway, and/or b) that they would rather not vote at all than vote for Dole.

I listen to the 9 AM news every morning, and there are four stories. One is always about the latest Iraq bombing.

Heavy handed news in either direction is distasteful to me. I like NPR and haven’t caught any examples of tainted news after many years of listening.

i find that NPR works hard to be impartial.

I find that FOX works hard to promote a conservative agenda. It’s unfair to equate the two. A more valid comparison to FOX is Al Jazeera. Very different biases to be sure, but both are very biased and very influential in the world today.