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« The Classical Saturday Morning Coffee Break & Prayer Revival | Main | Gardening, Puttering and Adventure Thread, April 13 »
April 13, 2024

It's been a long week for NPR's new CEO

U Local New Hampshire eclipse.jpg

u-local New Hampshire

Was the eclipse a sign?

On Tuesday, the day after the eclipse, The Free Press published a piece by Uri Berliner: I've Been at NPR for 25 Years. Here's How We Lost America's Trust.

Mr. Berliner, a senior editor at National Public Radio, apparently waited for a change in CEOs before staking out this position, which is extraordinarily brave for someone still working at the organization. The new CEO has only been in her position for 3 weeks or so. It was really unexpected for a senior editor to claim that NPR has gone off the rails. I'm not so sure it's unexpected for the new CEO to issue a warped response suggesting that she doesn't really understand what he wrote.


Iowahawk reassured her (and other Friends of NPR) earlier in the week that NPR's audience has not disappeared. Doesn't seem to have helped her:

NPR trust is still at an all-time high in many key American demographic segments:


- Birdwatchers

- Unitarians

- Patrons of Vermont farmers markets

- Adminstrators of Vermont private colleges who enjoy birdwatching and Unitarian farmers markets

- people who list things they believe on yard signs

- Ben

- Jerry

- Subaru owners

- listeners like you

- that really annoying lady from HR

- middle school staff psychologists

- the white grad students who came up with "Latinx"

- sufferers of insomnia

- cat moms

- Vermont organic dairy cows who enjoy soothing NPR monotone during the milking experience

- people who tell you they're into astrology but then claim it's only an ironic thing when you ask them why

- people who have life tenure as the result of getting four plagiarized papers presented at MLA conventions

- people who still wear covid mask while bicycling

- people who won their 4th grade class poster contest

- people who have emotional service animals with counterfeit vests

- people concerned about the lack of diversity in the Vermont quilting scene

*

The Free Press piece is an interesting view into another world. It is quite detailed. Mr. Berliner describes himself as pretty much the typical "NPR type", describing the liberal newsroom in mostly positive terms until:

Like many unfortunate things, the rise of advocacy took off with Donald Trump. As in many newsrooms, his election in 2016 was greeted at NPR with a mixture of disbelief, anger, and despair. (Just to note, I eagerly voted against Trump twice but felt we were obliged to cover him fairly.) But what began as tough, straightforward coverage of a belligerent, truth-impaired president veered toward efforts to damage or topple Trump's presidency.

Persistent rumors that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia over the election became the catnip that drove reporting. At NPR, we hitched our wagon to Trump's most visible antagonist, Representative Adam Schiff.

Schiff, who was the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, became NPR's guiding hand, its ever-present muse. By my count, NPR hosts interviewed Schiff 25 times about Trump and Russia. During many of those conversations, Schiff alluded to purported evidence of collusion. The Schiff talking points became the drumbeat of NPR news reports.

But when the Mueller report found no credible evidence of collusion, NPR's coverage was notably sparse. Russiagate quietly faded from our programming.

It is one thing to swing and miss on a major story. Unfortunately, it happens. You follow the wrong leads, you get misled by sources you trusted, you're emotionally invested in a narrative, and bits of circumstantial evidence never add up. It's bad to blow a big story.

What's worse is to pretend it never happened. . .

You can get into a lot of difficulty with Adam Schiff as your Muse.

But Ed Morrissey pointed out that the corruption didn't start with Schiff and Russia collusion. He notes cases going back to 2010 from a cursory search of their records.

And its scummy alliance with Schiff started before Trump won the election, too. John Sexton reported in May 2016 about how NPR lied about canceling an interview with a critic of Barack Obama's Iran deal, in part because of Schiff's influence on its editorial board. .

Wonder what NPR's coverage of Schiff's current senate campaign is like?

*

Steven Hayward has also noted his difficulties when asked to appear on NPR in the past. And he linked a 30 year old piece, How Do I Hate NPR? Let Me Count the Ways Heh.

*

What does race have to do with the new lack of trust in NPR?

Mr. Berliner describes the NPR approaches to Russiagate, Hunter Biden's laptop and COVID as examples of stories where their reporting was untrustworthy. But then he mentions another factor:

You need to start with former CEO John Lansing. Lansing came to NPR in 2019 from the federally funded agency that oversees Voice of America. Like others who have served in the top job at NPR, he was hired primarily to raise money and to ensure good working relations with hundreds of member stations that acquire NPR's programming.

After working mostly behind the scenes, Lansing became a more visible and forceful figure after the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. . .

And we were told that NPR itself was part of the problem. In confessional language he said the leaders of public media, "starting with me--must be aware of how we ourselves have benefited from white privilege in our careers. We must understand the unconscious bias we bring to our work and interactions. And we must commit ourselves--body and soul--to profound changes in ourselves and our institutions."

He declared that diversity--on our staff and in our audience--was the overriding mission, the "North Star" of the organization. Phrases like "that's part of the North Star" became part of meetings and more casual conversation.

Race and identity became paramount in nearly every aspect of the workplace. Journalists were required to ask everyone we interviewed their race, gender, and ethnicity (among other questions), and had to enter it in a centralized tracking system. We were given unconscious bias training sessions. A growing DEI staff offered regular meetings imploring us to "start talking about race." Monthly dialogues were offered for "women of color" and "men of color." Nonbinary people of color were included, too.

There's an unspoken consensus about the stories we should pursue and how they should be framed. It's frictionless--one story after another about instances of supposed racism, transphobia, signs of the climate apocalypse, Israel doing something bad, and the dire threat of Republican policies. It's almost like an assembly line.

The mindset prevails in choices about language. In a document called NPR Transgender Coverage Guidance -- disseminated by news management -- we're asked to avoid the term biological sex. . .

More recently, we have approached the Israel-Hamas war and its spillover onto streets and campuses through the "intersectional" lens that has jumped from the faculty lounge to newsrooms. . .

And more . . . That's how you get justifications of looting on NPR.

Concerned by the lack of viewpoint diversity, I looked at voter registration for our newsroom. In D.C., where NPR is headquartered and many of us live, I found 87 registered Democrats working in editorial positions and zero Republicans. None.

* * * * *

The Empire Strikes Back

*

Bonchie:

Former NPR CEO John Lansing, who resigned a month prior to this writing, defended his tenure this way.
"The philosophy is: Do you want to serve all of America and make sure it sounds like all of America, or not?" Lansing, who stepped down last month, says in response to Berliner's piece. "I'd welcome the argument against that."

Sure, I'll provide the argument against that. DEI does not "make sure it sounds like all of America" because left-wing ideologies are naturally self-selective. In practice, diversity quotas as produced by organizations like NPR create bubbles where only those who agree with DEI in the first place have their opinions heard and published. Thus, you get the insane bias and censorship demonstrated by NPR.

Oddly, the new CEO at NPR brags about attracting some new young people, but only in the digital part of their programming - not in broadcasting. So maybe "sounding like America" isn't working out so well.

The new CEO responded yesterday: Thoughts on our mission and our work

They haz sadz:

Dear all,

This has been a long week. I'll apologize in advance for the length of this note, and for it being the first way so many of you hear from me on more substantive issues. Thanks for bearing with me, as there's a lot that should be said.

I joined this organization because public media is essential for an informed public. At its best, our work can help shape and illuminate the very sense of what it means to have a shared public identity as fellow Americans in this sprawling and enduringly complex nation.

She wants to shape and illuminate your very sense of what it means to have a shared identity as fellow Americans. All those DEI training meetings help.

NPR's service to this aspirational mission was called in question this week, in two distinct ways. The first was a critique of the quality of our editorial process and the integrity of our journalists. The second was a criticism of our people on the basis of who we are.

Asking a question about whether we're living up to our mission should always be fair game: after all, journalism is nothing if not hard questions. Questioning whether our people are serving our mission with integrity, based on little more than the recognition of their identity, is profoundly disrespectful, hurtful, and demeaning.

It is deeply simplistic to assert that the diversity of America can be reduced to any particular set of beliefs, and faulty reasoning to infer that identity is determinative of one's thoughts or political leanings. Each of our colleagues are here because they are excellent, accomplished professionals with an intense commitment to our work: we are stronger because of the work we do together, and we owe each other our utmost respect. We fulfill our mission best when we look and sound like the country we serve.

"Aspirational mission". Hmmm. Mr. Berliner DID NOT question " whether our people are serving our mission with integrity, based on little more than the recognition of their identity". What an idiotic sentence. He did note that everyone was being trained in an ideology that FOCUSES ALL THE TIME on identity in a particular way. But that was not his entire focus.

Mr. Berliner especially did not suggest that "the diversity of America can be reduced to any particular set of beliefs," and he did not "infer that identity is determinative of one's thoughts or political leanings." He DID infer that constant DEI lecturing from management and training sessions in DEI affected people's thoughts and political leanings. And he presented a statistic demonstrating very one-sided political leanings at "diverse" NPR.

Skimming through the rest of the letter, she is still focusing on the "North Star" of the previous CEO, namely ending systemic racism. DEI Forever!

And toward the end, this depressingly utopian bit. I think Mr. Berliner is going to have to leave NPR:

Two final thoughts on our mission:

I once heard missions like ours described as asymptotic -- we can see our destination and we strive for it, but may never fully meet it. The value is in the continued effort: the challenge stretches on toward infinity and we follow, ever closer. Some people might find that exhausting. I suspect they don't work here. I suspect that you do because you find that challenge a means to constantly renew your work, and to reinfuse our mission with meaning as our audiences and world continues to change.

Though the topics are different, the utopianism reminds me of this, from Introduction: Queer Utopias, Queer Futurity, and Potentiality in Quotidian Practice.

Queerness is not yet here. Queerness is an ideality. Put another way, we are not yet queer. We may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality. We have never been queer, yet queerness exists for us as an ideality that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future. The future is queerness's domain. Queerness is a structuring and educated mode of desiring that allows us to see and feel beyond the quagmire of the present. There here and now is a prison house ... we must dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds ... Queerness is essentially about the rejection of a here and now and an insistence on potentiality for another world.

- - Jose Esteban Munoz

(The inspiring person above is a Queer Theorist, among other things.)

Although it doesn't really show in the quotes above, the new CEO at NPR is a techie. They're going to be doing a lot of audience research - getting into the brains of their potential audiences so the NPR staff can "find that challenge a means to constantly renew your work, and to reinfuse our mission with meaning".

NOT so that they can report the news fairly and accurately.

We owe it to our public interest mandate to ask ourselves: could we serve more people, from broader audiences across America? Years ago we began asking this question as part of our North Star work to earn the trust of new audiences.

They think they have a "public interest mandate" to follow that "North Star", maybe expanding that mandate in new directions, too. Are you feeling illuminated yet?

I joined this organization because public media is essential for an informed public. At its best, our work can help shape and illuminate the very sense of what it means to have a shared public identity as fellow Americans in this sprawling and enduringly complex nation.

* * * * *

Quote

Everybody feels the evil, but no one has courage or energy enough to seek the cure - Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America


* * * * *

Music

I know I have missed a lot of music, but how could THIS GUY say something like this? "Today I have a request from a Patreon member . . . I don't know anything about the artist . . This is my introduction to the band . .
(h/t Kate) Heh.

Another review from Georgia (the country) without all the interruptions. And another guy in the U.S. who had never heard them before.

*

I wonder if Mr. Berliner should consider movin' on?


* * * * *

Hope you have something nice planned for this weekend.

This is the Thread before the Gardening Thread.

Serving your mid-day open thread needs


* * * * *

Last week's thread, April 6, Real Clear Politics responds with much deliberation to accusations by the NYT

Comments are closed so you won't ban yourself by trying to comment on a week-old thread. But don't try it anyway.



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