On Friday, The Washington Post clearly displayed its bias in favor of liberal NPR with two supportive editorials (including one from a "conservative") and a slanted news story on Thursday's House vote on NPR. That story, by Felicia Sonmez, had a 6-to-4 tilt in quotes toward NPR advocates -- if you don't consider Republicans NPR advocates. Sonmez only found NPR lovers among the Republicans to quote, and left out all the arguments about high salaries and liberal elitism and bias. In fact, the word "liberal" doesn't appear in the article:
Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) said he appreciated some of NPR’s programming but added that “half the American people have never even heard of, much less even listened to, NPR.”
Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Fla.) argued that those watching the House debate on Thursday were likely watching it on C-SPAN, which doesn’t receive federal funding. “A lot of us like NPR,” he said, later adding: “We’re not trying to harm NPR. We’re actually trying to liberate them from federal tax dollars.”
Perhaps Republicans should be more explicit in quoting from NPR's slanted on-air product. The other two GOP quotes in the piece were defenses against Democratic charges that the Rules Committee underbaked the debate before the vote. But NPR advocates were given space to claim there wasn't a bias, just fact-based reporting and thoughtful analysis. This was the story's longest quote:
"At a time when other news organizations are cutting back and the voices of pundits are drowning out fact-based reporting and thoughtful analysis, NPR and public radio stations are delivering in-depth news and information respectfully and with civility," said Joyce Slocum, NPR's interim chief executive. "It would be a tragedy for American to lose this national treasure."
Sonmez didn't explain how a vote to take away NPR's federal subsidies, which they claim is only 2 percent of their revenues, will somehow close down this "national treasure." While Sonmez mentioned the "sting by conservative activists" captured "controversial remarks" by Ron Schiller, Democrats only said Republicans opposed NPR because "they disagree with its content." Where is the L word? It was acrobatically avoided.
On the editorial pages, former Washington Post editor Leonard Downie and his second-in-command, Robert G. Kaiser argued for NPR with this ridiculous claim: "We are two former newspaper editors who aren't comfortable advising Congress on how to vote on this or any other subject." Puh-leeze.
Downie and Kaiser tout how "NPR has built an ever-larger audience of more than 30 million listeners each week on public radio stations throughout the country for its outstanding national and international reporting," and how that should be extended to local communities, now underserved by local broadcast news outlets. There's no questioning of whether the local reporting would be as biased as their global content. Downie and Kaiser concluded with a call for more pro-NPR lobbying:
The public broadcasting community has appeared flustered by the ferocity of its critics’ attacks, some of which are ideologically motivated. But most members of Congress are sent to Washington by communities with NPR member stations, which could do a better job of selling their increasingly vital role in news reporting. Consumers of public broadcasting could raise their voices, too. Public broadcasting should be able to accept and manage a fair share of federal budget cuts, but should it be abandoned?
Perhaps more offensive to conservatives is allegedly conservative columnist Michael Gerson, clearly lobbying for more spots substituting for David Brooks on the PBS Newshour. The most offensive part wasn't Gerson's fault. It was the headline in the paper: "Editing out the truth," which implied Ron Schiller's outrageous remarks about conservatives were somehow not real. It was Gerson's fault to compare the Schiller sting (quite bizarrely) to providing drugs or prostitutes to the morally weak:
But there can be no moral duty to deceive in order to entrap a political opponent with a hidden camera. There is no ethical imperative to provide a prostitute to a weak man and then videotape the scandal, or to provide drugs to a recovering addict and then report the result — or to promise $5 million to a radio executive to get him nodding to leading questions.
Gerson doesn't like journalism that lies on a hidden camera for apparently trival purposes, but completely avoided entire hidden-camera shows like ABC's "What Would You Do?" that employ actors to make points about American bigotry and backwardness. Gerson went to the liberal Poynter Institute as the ethics experts:
There is no ethical canon or tradition that would excuse such deception on the part of a professional journalist. Robert Steele of the Poynter Institute argues that undercover journalism can only be justified on matters of “profound importance” when “all other alternatives for obtaining the same information have been exhausted.” This may excuse posing as a worker at an unsanitary meat-packing plant or as a mental patient in an abusive asylum. But it is hardly a matter of life and death to expose the conventional liberalism of a radio executive.
Does Gerson believe it's "conventional liberalism" to insist the Republican Party is dominated by weird evangelical "wouldn't call them Christians" that are "fanatically involved in people's private lives"? That's quite an indictment of conventional liberalism. Gerson also omits for readers that Steele has an important professional (and spin-control) association with NPR, chairing a panel clarifying its Ethics Code after the Juan Williams firing. The allegedly conservative Gerson also failed to discuss whether exposing Planned Parenthood or ACORN for their apparent enabling of sex traffickers would qualify by his ethical standards.
Gerson can quite clearly be accused of seeking favor with both the public-broadcasting establishment and his bosses at the Post, even as he claims others have a "thoroughly postmodern view of politics: Power means everything." Gerson, the evangelical Christian, would rather have media power than defend Christianity. He is the man now stridently arguing in the defense of NPR, the network that puts on Bible-trashing "Jesus hoax" experts on Good Friday.