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Does Bill Moyers And Michael Winship’s Defense Of NPR Merely Add Fuel To The Fire?

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, both of whom work / have worked for Public Affairs Television, joined together to write a post for the Huffington Post, defending NPR against “another assault from the its long-time nemesis — the right-wing machine.” Unless you’ve been flying idly through the Milky Way with a goddess or two in tow, you’re likely aware of the undercover video, posted by conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe‘s Project Veritas, showing former NPR executive Ron Schiller making negative, and highly unprofessional, remarks about Tea Party members and the Republican party.

Now, that’s an interesting choice of word: “Nemesis.” To us, it insinuates that those on the right form the polar ideological opposite of NPR and its coverage… thus proving the point being made by NPR’s very vocal critics: That the partially government-funded, multi-platform media network exhibits a left-wing bias in its coverage. Also something about elitists and arugula and tote bags and whatnot. This use of divisive rhetoric when discussing NPR, whether the criticism is true or not, works to bolster “the right-wing machine’s” argument. If it’s not a “us versus them” scenario, then why use rhetoric that undermines this very position?

Later on in their article, Moyers and Winship directly address ongoing criticism that NPR leans to the left:

If you would see how this integrity is upheld, go to the NPR website and pull up any of its reporting since 2009 on the Tea Party movement. Read the transcripts or listen to its coverage — you will find it impartial and professional, a full representation of various points of view, pro and con, Further, examine how over the past few days NPR has covered the O’Keefe/Schiller contretemps and made no attempt to cover up or ignore its own failings and responsibilities.

The two also address Schiller’s comment specifically, quoting the former executive insistence that he was “taking off his NPR hat” before voicing his opinion that Tea Party members are “racist,” “xenophobic” and “gun-toting.” They also make note of the fact that Schiller was a fundraiser and, as such, did not have a say in NPR’s editorial coverage:

As the record shows, more than once he said he had taken off his “NPR hat” and was representing himself as no one other than who he is. His convictions, their expression so grossly ill advised in this instance, are his own.

Ron Schiller is a fundraiser, not a news director. NPR keeps a high, thick firewall between its successful development office and its superb news division. The “separation of church and state” — the classic division of editorial and finance — has been one of the glories of public radio as it has won a large and respectful audience as the place on the radio spectrum that is free of commercials and commercial values.

…But is this really a viable excuse? Schiller was at a business meeting, representing NPR as a whole – not merely the financial branch of the network’s operation. Schiller’s “NPR hat” is firmly in place as long as he’s representing NPR by conducting NPR-related business, especially given he thought he was addressing potential investors. Schiller’s thoughts are the thoughts of NPR as long as they are expressed within a professional context, as was the meeting between Schiller, NPR director of institutional giving Betsy Liley, the media outlet’s director of institutional giving, and the two so-called members of the fictional Muslim Education Action Center.

We have to wonder about Moyer and Winship’s ultimate goal in writing about NPR’s “right wing” critics on the left-leaning Huffington Post for a predominantly left-leaning audience… Does preaching to the choir really help the argument that NPR is a neutral, unbiased news source that merits government funding and CPB grants?

h/t The Huffington Post

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