More accurately he denies NPR has a liberal bias, and challenges On the Media to prove it.
IRA GLASS: Yes, all the conversations about defunding public radio. If you look at the lobbying effort that public radio and public TV have mounted - they had this campaign called 170 Million, and there’s a website, and it’s all about how 170 million Americans each month listen to public radio or watch public TV, and we're all in this together, and that includes a lot of conservatives. And I feel like it completely sidesteps the actual substance of the main attack on public radio, and that is the attack that we have a left-wing liberal bias.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Okay so, Ira, what’s your beef then, really? Is it that public radio itself is not willing to take this on, because about 25 years ago I was asked to do a piece, is NPR biased to the left, and I couldn't find a metric to apply to the question in order to answer it.
IRA GLASS: I don't know the methodology that somebody would use, but I feel like public radio should address this directly, because I think anybody who listens to our stations understands that what they're hearing is mainstream media reporting. We have nothing to fear from a discussion of what is the news coverage we're doing.
As somebody who works in public radio, it is killing me that people on the right are going around trying to basically rebrand us, saying that it’s biased news, it’s - it’s, you know, it’s left wing news, when I feel like anybody who listens to the shows knows that it’s not. And we are not fighting back. We're not saying anything back. I find it completely annoying and [LAUGHS], and I don't understand it.
BOB GARFIELD: Okay, so this gets back to not only Brooke’s problem finding a metric to report on this story, but it’s especially difficult when you and I both know that if you were to somehow poll the political orientation of everybody in the NPR news organization and at all of the member stations, you would find an overwhelmingly progressive, liberal crowd, not uniformly, but overwhelmingly.
IRA GLASS: Journalism, in general, reporters tend to be Democrats and tend to be more liberal than the public as a whole, sure. But that doesn't change what is going out over the air. And I feel like, well, let's measure the product. And, and you’re saying what’s the metric that we can measure the product on.
I would say go through, you know, this morning’s Morning Edition and find me even a sentence that smells like political bias to you. Like, like, find one.
Of course we know what the result will be. NPR will look at their news coverage and declare it to be non-biased by any measure they can dream up. Shows like Diane Riehm or Tavis Smiley will be dismissed as a) Opinion, and b) Produced by member stations and there fore not the responsibility of NPR itself. It’s the same game that they play with Fox News only in reverse. Fox is accused of bias because of the content of shows like Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck. The fact that they are opinion / entertainment shows is completely irrelevant, at least in the minds of the left.
On the Media says they will report back in a week, but I say why bother – The outcome is pre-ordained:
IRA GLASS: Well, On the Media, you are the perfect vehicle for this.
You were made for this purpose, to measure the political bias of public radio. It needs to be done. You are the only ones.
You are the ones best positioned of everyone in the country, in the public radio system in the world, to do this mission. And I hand it to you. It’s an urgent mission and it needs to be done, and done beautifully.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: What if the answer is, yes, NPR has a left wing bias?
IRA GLASS: It’s not gonna be yes.