Legal Law

NPR Suspends Editor Who Objected to Bias and Lack of Diversity at Company – JONATHAN TURLEY

NPR has been faced with a torrent of criticism over its bias and intolerance for opposing views in programming, including a stinging criticism from award-winning editor Uri Berliner. In response, NPR appears eager to fulfill that narrative and has suspended Berliner for speaking with the media.  It appears that Berliner’s objections to NPR’s “absence of viewpoint diversity” is a bit too much for NPR to bear.

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.”

Berliner gave Folkenflik a copy of the formal rebuke, which told Berliner that the letter was a “final warning” and Berliner would be fired if he violated NPR’s policy again. However, NPR did not cite reportedly specific appearances as violations. The letter lacks specificity on that point, but Berliner will not contest the five-day suspension.

It is clear that NPR and Maher want prior approval of any future discussions with outside media. With a whistleblower, that could present an obvious chokepoint and invite further bias.

I have criticized NPR’s editors of playing such a role in other areas.  NPR announced that reporters could participate in activities that advocate for “freedom and dignity of human beings” on social media and in real life. Reporters just need approval over what are deemed freedom or dignity enhancing causes. Presumably, that does not include pro-life or gun rights rallies.

The suspension may satisfy the anger of NPR editors and reporters over Berliner’s detailed accounts of their bias. In conjunction with Maher’s attacks, it is clear that the problem is viewed as Berliner, not the underlying bias. He is one of the few remaining “old guard” journalists at NPR who want greater balance at the outlet. Even that singular voice is too much for the staff. Again, it is reminiscent of what we have seen in higher education where faculties have been purged of conservative, libertarian, or dissenting voices.

NPR obviously has a right to be slanted and bias. It does not have a right to public funding in presenting such coverage.

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