Nov 30, 2010

Op-ed writers see "fake populism" in campaign to defund NPR

In a Nov. 23 online op-ed and analysis for the Guardian, media blogger and j-school professor Dan Kennedy describes the political campaign to defund NPR as part of a "culture war being waged by the right."

Kennedy examines the arguments of Republican lawmakers who are calling for an end to federal funding, including the assertion that NPR programming is "liberal," and finds that they don't hold water. Much of NPR's programming, he writes, " exudes a liberal sensibility reflected in cultural references and, to an extent, story selection. But the reporting itself is balanced and, if anything, errs on the side of caution." He finds some exceptions to this in shows that air outside of drive time, such as the "frankly liberal orientation" of On the Media, but adds: "in the main . . . , it's hard to think of a broadcast news operation that plays it straighter than NPR."

"Thus, the right's real goal is to delegitimize NPR, as it has already done with other news organizations," Kennedy writes. "In this mirror image of reality, the New York Times, the nightly network newscasts and NPR are no different from Fox News except that they are liberal. Never mind that Fox barely functions as a journalistic enterprise at all, offering entirely opinion-driven content whose voluminous falsehoods hardly need to be documented here." Kennedy discloses that he is a paid contributor to Boston's WGBH.

Editorials published by two daily newspapers this week come down against House Republicans' recent attempt to cut off NPR's federal funding:

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "The move to defund public radio is the kind of fake populism that is most threatened by the existence of NPR in the first place."

The Buffalo News: "The folks who want to cut it would do so not to . . . narrow the federal budget deficit but because they don’t like what NPR does."

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