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Maintaining Optimism in the Face of Reality. Occasional observations on the state of the world, society, business and politics. Usually anchored by facts, always augmented by opinion.


Why George Bush and the Republicans Should Start Liking Public Radio  | e-mail post

I should state that I get the vast majority of my medium-depth news from public radio. In contrast I find the web much better for headlines and in depth research of an issue. I personally feel that if you don't listen to an NPR affiliate, you probably should. If you don't know your NPR affiliate, you can find it here. It humors most people to know that I get my sports news exclusively from public radio. Needless to say, I don't fare too well in the office NCAA pool.

Beyond the sports coverage, the main reason I like public radio is because I find it to be some of the fairest coverage of the news that I see or hear. For example, I find most news outlets seem to have a fairly negative slant on the situation in Iraq. There's no question that the situation over there is not ideal. The impression I seem to get from most major news outlets is that we shouldn't be there, the Iraqis are at best tolerating us, and that the whole situation is basically hopeless.

In contrast, NPR was the only place I learned about a British survey of the Iraqi population that basically said most Iraqis seem at least moderately positive about the U.S.-led war and the U.S. occupation. Given an either-or choice between governance by Saddam or the U.S., only 7% would take Saddam. Not to say this survey is all positive by any means, but it was interesting to actually hear about the positives. Other than other NPR listeners, no one I know had heard of this survey from July. A very brief web search showed no mention of this turning up in any mainstream American news. In fact, John Zogby had the audacity to claim in the L.A. Times and the Zogby website just a couple of days ago: "In August, I conducted the first serious public opinion survey of Iraqis since the end of the war." Maybe this was simply a barb at Zogby's competitor YouGov whom BBC Channel 4 and The Spectator commissioned for their earlier poll. I think it's more likely it reflects the fact that this news just didn't play outside of the UK and Zogby had no idea he was dead wrong when he wrote that.

And if you're thinking I heard about it on the BBC World Service, I didn't. I heard about it on All Things Considered. Even Fox News who are, you know, the "Fair and Balanced" ones, didn't even make mention of this survey in their web news anyway. (I'd encourage you to buy Al Franken's latest book just to spite Fox, by the way.)

NPR is also where nearly every day I've heard Iraqis interviewed that say they want the U.S. to stay and that they don't expect things to be better overnight or that we're doing a pretty good job. (And of course I hear Iraqis with very different sentiments as well.) Or tonight when they had two guests being interviewed on ATC who summarily regarded as absurd the idea that the situation in Iraq can reasonably be referred to as a quagmire or in any way comparable to Vietnam. Did NPR host Robert Siegel chortle, guffaw, or question the credibility of their claim? No, he simply asked, in a completely neutral manner (and I am paraphrasing here), "What would you tell people who feel it may be a quagmire to help them understand why it isn't?" Both individuals pointed out the obvious numerical differences in both duration and casualties and the interview moved on.

A final example that springs to mind is the reporting several weeks back by one of their Iraq correspondents that although power distribution in Baghdad was in worse shape, this was because power that had previously been appropriated from the outlying areas of Iraq to support Baghdad was being more fairly distributed throughout the country, and that on a national basis, power distribution was probably more equitable overall than before the war. Personally, I don't see a media filter here. If anything, it's more complete coverage.

And it's not just with their war reporting. I find their reporting to be genuinely balanced. Even listening to a recent local public radio interview program about a typical liberal cause celebre like organized labor, I was struck by the incredible neutrality of the interviewer as well as his command of the facts when dealing with both guests and callers.

Certainly there's no doubt that I find many of their commentators at times to be jaw-clenchingly liberal (or maybe it's just Daniel Schorr's voice, although I feel bad writing that). However, commentary pieces are segmented off in a manner analogous to that of a newspaper's editorial page; there is never any confusion about news versus opinion.

I guess my points are:

First, if the Bush administration really wants to get around the media filter, I think they should be going on NPR instead of (or in addition to) their focus on local media outlets.

Second, and Fox is going to hate this, if you really want fair and balanced reporting, you should tune into public radio. Oh, and if you decide you like it, don't be a free-rider; give them money; become a member.

e-mail post | Link Cosmos | [Permalink]  |  | Wednesday, October 29, 2003

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