The conservative mantra labels NPR as part of a vast “liberal media,” a view espoused vociferously by the right since the time of Reagan. But saying something loud and long enough does not automatically make it true. “The truth will out in a free marketplace of ideas,” journalism teaches the hapless communications student of today (faced with a job market that’s seen a quarter of journalists laid off in the past decade). The marketplace of ideas has itself been corporatized, with free thinkers relegated to the internet, the new opiate of the masses. The revolution will not be televised, but it will be publicized — on Facebook and YouTube (witness the uprisings in the Middle East). Were Edward R. Murrow alive today, would you have to find him on Twitter?
Legitimate conservative arguments do, however, reveal some interesting statistics, as in this post from the website NewAmerican.com:
The numbers on NPR’s audience are remarkable.
Their household income is about $90,000 annually, compared to $55,000 for the hoi polloi who listen to normal radio. As well, its audience is 86 percent white. Only 5 percent of its audience is black. And about 70 percent of its audience has a college degree, compared to 25 percent of the American population. Moreover, an NPR fact sheet brags, its listeners are three time more likely to have finished graduate school: 32 percent of NPR listeners hold graduate degrees.
Further on down the page is this admission:
But Susan Schardt, executive director of the Association of Independents in Radio, speaking at an NPR board meeting in February, also said NPR erred in targeting the white liberal elite, which is just 11 percent of the population, and should cultivate all Americans as listeners. According to Schardt:
We have to look at this because the criticisms that are coming at us — whether they’re couched in other things — do have some legitimacy. We must, as a starting point, take on board some of this criticism…. We have to own this.
Yesterday’s Taylor on Radio newsletter carried this related piece:
Worries about a commitment to diversity at NPR.
The National Association of Black Journalists says Vivian Schiller “inherited a culture that was dismissive of diversity” when she got there in 2009, and had taken steps to improve that. She’d hired Keith Woods as Vice President of Diversity, News, then Jeff Perkins as VP of Human Resources and Chief People Officer, and former Radio One executive Deborah Cowen as VP of Finance and CFO. Schiller also created the job of a senior editor to diversify the voices heard on NPR, and a diversity correspondent to cover “race, ethnicity, community and culture”, says NABJ. So that’s another challenge for whoever replaces Vivian Schiller. The last time the top NPR job came open, several commercial radio executives took a shot at it. But with all the controversy, what will the pool be like this time?
The lack of diversity has been a far greater bone of contention at local stations such as KUT in Austin (a city nearing a white minority), where a slavish attention to Arbitron numbers drives the choices made. Arbitron, which is now seeking to weather lawsuits in several states regarding its lack of diversity, leading to a systematic alteration of methodologies in collecting these numbers to address the problem.
This is particularly hypocritical given the clarion call on 170MillionAmericans.org in response to the Republican effort to defund public radio, when the spin meisters so devoutly professed to “ensure universal access to high-quality non-commercial programming that educates, informs, enlightens, and enriches the public, with a particular focus on the needs of underserved audiences, including children and minorities.”
But whatever melts your butter, right? That seems to be the norm in politics nowadays, where talk is cheap — whichever face it’s coming out of…