National Public Radio hired a new “Public Editor” or ombudsman. It’s Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute, which counts PolitiFact as one of its projects. This is more of a merger than a straight-up hiring. McBride will maintain her position as a senior vice president at Poynter, and use Poynter staff to address the concerns of NPR listeners.
In the press release, NPR president John Lansing talked in high-minded language about “rigorous, fact-based and context-rich journalism,” but this is an ideological arrangement between liberals. NB's Joseph Vazquez noted that Lansing donated to two Democrat Senate campaigns right before he came on board at NPR, and NPR Foundation CEO John McGinn donated the maximum to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
NPR has been a fixture on the Left since its founding in 1970. Poynter is best known among conservatives for compiling a list of “Un-News” websites for people to avoid in 2019, which included a number of top conservative media organizations, including us at the Media Research Center. They quickly scrapped it, but it sort of undercuts the idea that this outfit has the very highest research standards.
In his news report, NPR media reporter David Folkenflik ran this gush from the CEO, which implies they'd like a little more PolitiFact bias in their product:
"Our journalism has always been great. But it's never been more important than ever that we get the truth out to the people that need the facts, that we fact-check government officials," he added. "Literally, lives are in the balance, based on people having the right information. And having a public editor of the quality of Kelly McBride will help support that effort in a very meaningful way."
The problem is NPR and Poynter don't find fact-check government officials to be an urgent matter when the officials are Democrats. Folkenflik suggested McBride's portfolio of assignments would include "why some listeners say they feel alienated from the network's news coverage on the basis of their demographic, geographic or ideological backgrounds." McBride could always start with Folkenflik's reporting on Fox News Channel.
NPR has used McBride as a "media ethics" expert over the years. In 2011, McBride objected to CNN airing Rep. Michele Bachmann's Tea Party response to Obama's State of the Union address. "I can't figure how you can partner with a political action committee and claim to be neutral," McBride lamented.
Let's hope she takes now has the integrity to take a second look at NPR taking money from the Ploughshares Fund, a lobbying arm for the Iran arms deal....for coverage of the Iran arms deal. The Fund, a lot like NPR, claimed to be a nonpartisan player in a hyper-partisan climate.
NPR deserves some credit for still maintaining a position for “public editor.” As they underlined, other liberal media outlets have dumped theirs, even as they pose righteously in the Trump era as the people who bring accountability and transparency to powerful institutions – just not theirs.