Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal arguing that NPR is not liberally biased, no matter what James O’Keefe’s and his copy of Final Cut say. Aside from pointing out questionable edits in O’Keefe’s video, Inskeep cites the diversity of the public radio audience as proof that the low end of the dial isn’t a bastion of liberal propaganda.
I’ve met an incredible variety of listeners in my travels. The audience includes students, peace activists, and American soldiers I met in Iraq. They’re among many people in the military who rely on NPR’s international coverage. When I was NPR’s Pentagon correspondent, I discovered that it’s a prize beat, because on every base you meet people who already know who you are. Many other Americans are listening in places like Indiana, my home state, or Kentucky, where I first worked in public radio. Not much of the media pays attention to the middle of the country, but NPR and its local stations do. Many NPR stations have added news staff as local newspapers have declined.
Members of Congress listen too: A few months ago I was interviewing a Republican lawmaker who quoted an NPR story he’d heard that morning. And there are people like the woman I met at a Sarah Palin debate party in 2008, in rural western Virginia. She said she listened during long drives required by her job with a railroad. The same programs she hears in Virginia have also reached an audience abroad. In Egypt last week, a young man told me he so admires the quirky reporting of my colleague Robert Krulwich that he plans to translate it into Arabic.
On a related note, On the Media has accepted Ira Glass’s challenge to prove whether public radio is, in fact, biased. Last week’s show was largely dedicated to this topic. It ended with co-host Bob Garfield interviewing O’Keefe for twelve contentious minutes.