Legal Law

NPR Editor Resigns After Suspension for Exposing Bias and Intolerance – JONATHAN TURLEY

It appears that National Public Radio has solved the problem of the intolerance for opposing views, detailed in an article by award-winning editor Uri Berliner: he is now out of NPR. Berliner resigned after NPR suspended him and various other journalists and the CEO lashed out at his discussing their political bias. For those of us in higher education, it is a chillingly familiar pattern.  Editors, journalists, and listeners at the public-supported outlet will now be able to return to the echo-chambered coverage without the distracting voice of a dissenter.

After Berliner wrote his piece in the Free Press, NPR CEO Katherine Maher attacked Berliner and made clear that NPR had no intention to change its one-sided editorial staff or its coverage. Others at NPR also went public with their criticism of him and falsely portrayed his criticism as opposed to actual racial and other diversity of the staff.

In his article, NPR’s David Folkenflik acknowledges that the Berliner criticism “angered many of his colleagues.”

Maher’s response was hardly surprising.

After years of criticism over NPR’s political bias, the search for a new CEO was viewed as an opportunity to select someone without such partisan baggage. Instead, it selected Maher, who has been criticized for controversial postings on subjects ranging from looters to Trump. Those now-deleted postings included a 2018 declaration that “Donald Trump is a racist” and a variety of political commentary.

Maher was unlikely to address the problem. She is part of the problem. Maher lashed out at Berliner, calling his criticism and call for greater diversity in the newsroom “profoundly disrespectful, hurtful, and demeaning.”

So now Berliner has resigned rather than work at a media outlet where he was shunned and denounced. In a social media post on Wednesday, Berliner published his resignation letter to NPR leadership and stated “I cannot work in a newsroom where I am disparaged by a new CEO whose divisive views confirm the very problems at NPR I cite in my Free Press essay.”

It is all-too-familiar to many of us in higher education where conservatives, libertarians, and republicans have been purged from most faculties. This is done through a mix of filling open slots with liberal academics while making life intolerable for those who remain.

For years, a conservative North Carolina professor  faced calls for termination over controversial tweets and was pushed to retire. Dr. Mike Adams, a professor of sociology and criminology, had long been a lightning rod of controversy. In 2014, we discussed his prevailing in a lawsuit that alleged discrimination due to his conservative views.  He was then targeted again after an inflammatory tweet calling North Carolina a “slave state.”  That led to his being pressured to resign with a settlement. He then committed suicide  just days before his last day as a professor.

A survey conducted by the Harvard Crimson shows that more than three-quarters of Harvard Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences faculty respondents identify as “liberal” or “very liberal.” Only 2.5% identified as “conservative,” and only 0.4% as “very conservative.”

The same is true at other schools. A study found that only nine percent of law school professors identify as conservative at the top 50 law schools. A 2017 study found only 15 percent of faculties overall were conservative. Another survey showed that 33 out of 65 departments lacked a single conservative faculty member.

Conservative or libertarian professors are often targeted or shunned on faculties. Activists target every aspect of an academic life that holds meaning for intellectuals from the denial of publications, associations, and speaking opportunities. Few want to risk such isolation and remain silent as other colleagues are hammered and harassed. I have had colleagues who have resigned in frustration. It is simply no longer fulfilling, let alone fun, to come to work. They simply leave.

The result is to achieve precisely what these journalists and academics desired: they are left with little contradiction or opposing voices. Even as revenues and audience numbers fall at NPR, editors and journalists are still personally reinforced by removing voices like Berliner’s. Their views become amplified in the absence of contradiction. At NPR where the audience is now almost 70 self-identified liberals, it is the media version of comfort food. You can now go to NPR and hear the same narratives without challenge.

Regardless of the slant, there remains the question of why all Americans should have to pay taxes to support NPR.  Maher and the company just made clear that they will not change their approach or their bias. Yet, they expect all Americans to support them in this effort.  However, they would be appalled if the government were to subsidize Fox Radio.

As I have previously written, that is the right of NPR to slant its coverage and certainly the right of listeners to use such sources for news. However, it does not have a right to public subsidy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *