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  • Unless they are attributed to someone else, the opinions posted on this blog are Jeff Weintraub's (the blog's creator and sole proprietor, pictured above) and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer, clients, family, friends or anyone else who might even be remotely associated with him, wittingly or unwittingly. In short, don't blame others for Jeff's crazy ideas, which he conjures up on his own.

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Dr. Richard L. Benkin

How's this for a different perspective? Do I think there is a bias on NPR? Yes, and that's no doubt one big perceptual difference. It reminds me of one famous New Yorker's (magazine) comment after the 1972 election. She was nonplussed at how Nixon could have won--and in a landslide yet--because "nobody I know voted for him." The perceptual difference was also on display when Bernie Goldberg asked Dan Rather where he thought the NY Times editorial page was politically. "Middle of the road," he responded. (At least it was not as embarrassing as when the long time CBS anchor and supposed knowledgeable news source was taping a segment from Jerusalem and, pointing to the Dome of the Rock, asked his producer, "What's that building?"

But back on point. We could argue that back and forth, but for me it works like this. When the economic crisis hit, a lot of businesses and families had to re-orient their sense of what was a worthy expenditure. They cut out a lot of stuff that they once spent on with ease. I am close to a lot of big and small companies and saw how many choices they had to make--and did. Productivity is at an all-time high right now, and that is one way businesses survived.

Some might find NPR a worthy enterprise--and I do not begrudge them that finding. Truth be told, this conservative listens to it from time to time. But the question really is whether or not it is a worthwhile expenditure of taxpayer dollars. And how we understand that has to be different now that it was a few years ago and certainly a few decades ago.

I travel to Asia and know where our deficit and debt is taking this country, and it is not pretty. It's ethnocentric at best for us to believe that those peoples do not understand what holding all that debt means for them and their ability to dictate actions.

It is not a question of whether to cut, but a question of which elements and how deep. Obama's bi-partisan commission said that, too. We cannot keep raising the debt ceiling hoping that one day, it will all go away; and we cannot default on our obligations. Cutting spending is one big element. I like Trump's ideas about raising revenue--actually have suggested some of them myself. And, of course, we need to cut not only marginally needed programs like NPR, foreign aid that gets us nothing, and such; but waste in the defense budget, and most importantly entitlements.

We have to learn a new dynamic in this country, recognizes that just being a nice idea or good group does not make something worthy of federal government support. (I've been struggling with my human rights work for years without any government support, and I like things that way.)

It's just like the Rolling Stones told us years back: "You can't always get what you want; but if you try some time, you just might find, you get what you need."

Marc Gunther

Jeff, I am (sort of) a liberal and (unequivocally) a big fan of NPR. I just sent WAMY a nice donation. But I have to disagree with you. I think NPR is guilty of a liberal bias and ought not to be given government support.

First, bias. How many right of center voices do you hear on NPR? Cokie Roberts does her weekly (mostly conventional wisdom) analysis, on Monday a.m., as I recall. Jim Fallows, who is much smarter, is a regular on the weekends, but not a conservative. (He was a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter.) Then you have on Fridays E.J. Dionne (definitely left of center) and David Brooks (who I really like but who is also every liberals' favorite conservative, and he voted for Obama). Try this thought experiment: Can you imagine Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Cal Thomas, Pat Buchanan, Mike Huckabee or for that matter Dick Cheney or Tom DeLay being given a regular slot on NPR? I can't. That may be because the powers that be at NPR think they are considered either not highbrow enough, or not serious enough, or not smart enough. But they are legitimate voices from the right. The fact that we can't even imagine them being NPR regulars to me is evidence of liberal bias. It's not just commentary either--when was the last time you heard a story on NPR about a government program that is wasteful or not working well? (Setting aside wars.)

Second, federal funding. My question is, why? Especially in a time of deep deficits. Why NPR and not my blog or yours or the Post or NY Times or Montgomery County Gazette. All are in the public interest, or at least they deem themselves to be. In a world where there are thousands of sources of information on the Internet, dozens of really educational and informative podcasts, CSPAN and the like, I can't see why the govt singles out NPR, PBS, and their stations as worthy of support.

Having said that...I really really like NPR! I listen a lot. I'd hate it if NPR went away. Even without govt funding, I don't think it will. Too many of us value it too much to let it die.

Luther Jett

I'm a card-carrying Contrarian, and even so, NPR is one of my primary sources of news. I agree with you, Jeff, that most of the reporting is informed and informative.I like that NPR gets inside a sotry and provides reaspnably deep analysis.

And yet, I have to agree with Marc -- NPR's perspective is slanted toward what I call the Liberal Orthodoxy. It is grounded in a certain set of assumptions about the way the world is. No dishonour -- as you say, Jeff, it's a matter of taste (or perspective).

I would also be saddened if NPR went away -- but why should my tax dollars go to fund NPR and not, say, the Washington Post (to which I subscribe) or the New York Times?

NPR does fill a market-niche after all. Enough people would pay for its product that I think it would survive. At least, I *hope* so!

Jeff Weintraub

Richard, Marc, Luther. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Where to begin?

First, I think the discussion about whether or not any of our media should be publicly funded is a fair one to have. Reasonable minds can definitely disagree on that question.

But, of course, that's not really what the discussion was about the other day on the floor of the House of Representatives, was it? It wasn't an opportunity to carefully weigh whether or how we should unwind long-term federal funding from such are large and complex institution. That would be a bit like the government building a new building and then suddenly deciding its not going to pay for any of the operating and maintenance costs. The debate in the House was thrown together quickly without any real deliberation or thought. It was all about sending signals to constituents - many of whom I suspect were not happy with the vote.

Again, reasonable minds can disagree on this, but here's my argument FOR public funding for media like NPR (I'm not as strong an advocate for PBS, which has fewer quality offerings). It's plain to see that American media organizations are in serious trouble financially and, consequently, the quality of their news gathering capabilities has suffered. The list of notable exceptions is getting smaller and smaller, and they, too, are even having a tough time making ends meet. A strong and well-functioning press is something I think we can all agree is critical to America's well being. Can one argue, then, that some form of government support for high-quality, independent journalism is in the public interest? Now, if you want, then, to extend funding beyond just public broadcasting, that would consistent with what I'm saying. But I'm not suggesting that because I don't see any practical way to accomplish that right now - or whether it's a good idea.

If, philosophically, you still feel that it makes no sense anymore (if it ever did) for the federal government to fund public broadcasting, okay. Again, it's as valid a view as mine. But we have to come up with an exit strategy that does not suddenly doom the hundreds of stations and the national public broadcasting content providers and distributors. They have to have a chance to adapt for the future. Otherwise, they will be hard pressed to survive.

I agree, Richard, with your point that "just being a nice idea or good group does not make something worthy of federal government support." But I think NPR is much more, and if you listen, too, I suspect you agree.

On the liberal bias thing, again, I don't really see it. Are there some voices who express opinions that one can classify as "liberal"? Absolutely. Are there others that one can classify as "conservative"? Absolutely. But those are the voices of guests, commentators and others NPR seeks out for quotes in stories - just as most balanced (a relative term, I know) journalism does.

Marc, to your point about trying to imagine some of the conservatives you named being featured on NPR, most of the names on that list are so way out -- Beck, Limbaugh, Buchanan -- that I don't even think responsible conservative media would want them (but they do, because these guys make a lot of money for them). If I could think of any similarly extreme voices at the left end of the political spectrum (the only prominent name that comes to mind is Michael Moore, who makes me crazy, but I don't doubt there are others), I would not want them to represent "liberalism" on NPR either.

Huckabee is an interesting choice. I disagree pretty profoundly with much of what he says, but I think he has something important to say and should be heard in places like NPR. Oh, by the way, here's a link to a feature NPR did on Huckabee a couple of years ago: And if you put his name in the NPR search engine, you can see they've given him a lot of attention. And I know I've heard him occasionally on NPR on air. Huckabee is only one example of many "conservative" voices NPR that are thoughtful and important for all of us to hear.

Cheney would also be an interesting choice. If he would appear. I would listen. DeLay? Well, what does he really have to say?

(I don't think of Cokie Roberts as an ideologue, and I really don't think she adds a lot in her weekly spot, where she just repeats stuff that she heard on the Sunday morning talk shows.)

My bias blindness, by the way, doesn't extend to all public radio. When I last paid attention to it (it has been a while), Pacifica Radio struck me as unmistakeably and quite proudly NPR is not Pacifica.

Thanks, guys. This is a very complicated issue and worthy of thoughtful examination. Would that our current political debates treat it that way.

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