On the front of Thursday's Style section, Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi relayed the good news that National Public Radio hasn't suffered financially from its banishment of analyst Juan Williams. The headline was "For NPR stations, a sigh of relief." It seemed inconceivable to the Post that NPR fired Williams to please its left-wing "base" audience.
My first sentence on the firing was "It shouldn't be shocking that as many NPR stations are conducting pledge drives of their liberal audiences, NPR has found a pretext to fire its longtime analyst Juan Williams for an appearance on Fox News.' But conservatives weren't interviewed by the Post. Only public radio people were. This story read like an end-zone dance. Farhi began:
A funny thing happened to NPR stations after the worst publicity fiasco in NPR's history: almost nothing at all.
Public radio outlets across the country braced for the worst from their listeners after NPR fired commentator Juan Williams for remarks he made on a Fox News program in late October.
Instead, contributions poured in:
New Hampshire Public Radio, for example, raised $473,000 during its fall drive, a record amount for the nonprofit organization that runs a statewide chain of stations. The number of people who called or e-mailed saying they would no longer support the organization "wasn't significant," says Betsy Gardella, NHPR's president and chief executive.
Adds Gardella: "I think our takeaway is that our audience is very loyal and really values what we do."
The story is almost the same at WMFE (90.7 FM), the NPR affiliate in Orlando. The station is amid a fund drive this week, and contributions are running "above target," says Jose Fajardo, its chief executive.
Fajardo says he occasionally hears criticism of the Williams episode from people around the city, but that he's heard nothing from state legislators in Tallahassee - a sign, he says, that state funding for Florida's public broadcasters isn't in immediate jeopardy.
Washington's leading NPR affiliate, WAMU (88.5 FM), also received a record amount of pledge dollars in its fall campaign, some $1.7 million. The figure topped the proceeding fall's fundraising drive by about $400,000 and came from about 14,000 contributors, another record for the station.
NPR station executives told Farhi they suspected that people calling in to complain about Williams aren't their "regular contributors" -- which suggests they certainly knew that their core financial supporters would love to see Juan gone. (Of course, this assumes that conservatives aren't "regular contributors" through involuntary government means.)
WAMU got approximately 200 e-mails about Williams in the days after the story broke, says spokeswoman Kay Summers, but then "it dropped down and trickled off" - especially after WAMU host Diane Rehm devoted an hour of her NPR-syndicated program to an interview with Williams.
Several station managers say the angriest responses have been from people who appeared not to be regular contributors, based on their cross-referencing caller and e-mailers' names with databases of donors.
Doesn't this "nothing at all" happy news leave out what might happen in the next Congress? The Post arrived at that idea late in the story, but underlined that station executives always utilize their own taxpayer-subsidized resources to fight hard and fight rough (think Big Bird barbecue analogies) to keep their tax money:
For many years, attempts to cut off federal money to public broadcasting has met extremely stiff resistance. Virtually every congressional district has one or more public stations, and public broadcasters have been adept at rousing their viewers and listeners to support continued funding.
A Republican-backed measure to cut all federal funding for NPR failed in the House in mid-November on an almost straight party vote, 239 to 171. The measure's sponsor, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), has said that NPR has a "liberal bias" and that it is "a luxury we can no longer afford, if we ever could." ["Has said"
Several dozen public TV and radio stations and organizations have teamed on a campaign to rally public support for continued funding. The coalition, which includes NPR, Arlington-based PBS and TV-station operator Maryland Public Television, this week launched a new Web site, 170millionamericans.org, that touts the benefits of continued funding. The Web site's name refers to the estimated number of people who "interact" with public media each month.
That number is comically high if you're talking about regular viewership on PBS or listenership on NPR. (They boast 27.2 million NPR listeners each week, but they're ahem, not about the ratings.) But that 170 million number might be more correct if it considers the total number of American taxpayers robbed to pay for this liberal sandbox. The website (as usual, a project of the lobbying group America's Public Television Stations) just blatantly lies with claims like this:
The rapidly changing media environment is making public broadcasting more and more vital as a source of unbiased news, local cultural programming, and non-commercial educational programs designed to enhance the quality of life of our local communities.