NPR Reporters and Contributors Hit TV Circuit to Champion Their Network

Many of NPR's correspondents and contributors were out in force this weekend singing the praises of their taxpayer-subsidized network in the wake of an undercover video scandal that led to the ouster last week of NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller.

MRC's NewsBusters blog chronicled the various appearances over the weekend. Before providing a flavor of the commentary, NewsBusters also picked up on an item published in the March 7 edition of Current, billed as "the newspaper about public media in the United States."

In comments delivered at a February 25 NPR Board meeting (and reprinted in Current), Sue Schardt, head of the Association of Independents in Radio and a non-board member of NPR's Distribution/Interconnect Committee, seemed to concede that NPR had built a "predominantly white, liberal" audience and wondered whether this approach of serving just "11 percent" of the U.S. public does "warrent public funding, and, if so, what the rationale would be."

SUE SCHARDT, ASSOCIATION OF INDEPENDENTS IN RADIO: We unwittingly cultivated a core audience that is predominately white, liberal, highly educated, elite....One choice, at this transformational moment, is to say, "We are satisfied with what we are doing. We - in radio - are providing 11 percent of America with an extraordinary service." If this is our choice, we need to carefully consider whether we warrant public funding and, if so, what the rationale would be.

Others from the NPR universe were united in praising their network's quality and arguing on behalf of continued public funding: NPR's Nina Totenberg appeared on her usual slot on Inside Washington; NPR's Cokie Roberts popped up as a panelist on ABC's This Week; New York Times columnist David Brooks, who offers weekly commentary on both NPR and PBS, showed up on The Chris Matthews Show; and the hosts and guests on NPR's On the Media talked about their own network on the March 11 program.

Details, with links to the full articles as published on our NewsBusters blog:

# "Inside Washington," March 11. For more, go here.

NPR's NINA TOTENBERG: There is a reason that we are the only news organization, other than Fox, with a growing audience. It is because of our product which is straight-shooting, factual, and spends an enormous amount of money gathering news from all over the country and the world. Judge us by our product. The people in the newsroom were probably more mortified than Charles or anybody in the Tea Party, or any, any anybody else. I mean, we were just horrified, and not by the political incorrectness of what he said, but by the fact that he even thought this way.

MODERATOR GORDON PETERSON: Well, this plays right into the belief that you're a bunch of lefties.

TOTENBERG: I know it does, but it's not true.

# ABC's "This Week," March 13, For more, go here.

COKIE ROBERTS: We should care, because 34 million people listen every week and want to get the news that you get there, that you can't get any place else. NPR's got seventeen foreign bureaus. That's something you can't say for any other broadcast organization these days. And brings you terrific information, day in and day out, week in and week out. And the reporters who are there on the line, being shot at in North Africa at the moment are being very badly served by the management that's now gone.

# "The Chris Matthews Show," March 13. For more, go here.

KATTY KAY, BBC: I don't think actually most Republicans object so much to the sums, because as you point out they're very small. It is the idea that you are funding public broadcasting that they believe has a bias. There is an argument for public broadcasting, you have to make very sure that your news reporting is seen as objective.

DAVID BROOKS, NEW YORK TIMES: I think NPR's done a good job over the last ten years of reducing that bias. I thought it was really biased ten years ago, but now I think it's pretty straight.

# From NPR's "On the Media," March 11:

CO-HOST BOB GARFIELD: As a practical political matter, if you hired Roger Ailes himself and brought Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck in to host All Things Considered, do you think that you have the capacity to change anybody's perceptions?

NPR INTERIM PRESIDENT JOYCE SLOCUM: Well, there are hardened critics who are never going to change their perception... but the really amazing thing that happens with a lot of people who have misperceptions about NPR... is all it takes to change that perception is to turn on their local member station and listen for a couple of hours.

For more on that, go here. And on the same program:

NPR's IRA GLASS, host of THE AMERICAN LIFE: As somebody who works in public radio, it is killing me that people on the right are going around trying to basically re-brand us saying that it's biased news, you know, it's left-wing news, when I feel like anybody who listens to the shows knows that it's not, and we are not fighting back. We're not saying anything back. I find it completely annoying, and, and I don't understand it.

For more about that exchange, go here.

- Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.