Should NPR hire more conservatives?


March 15, 2011

Over at the Daily Caller, Mark Judge looks at NPR’s recent federal funding problems and offers a solution:

It’s time for affirmative action at NPR. The beleaguered liberal organization, which is on the verge of losing its federal funding, can begin to get up off the canvas if it does one simple thing: hire a few conservatives.

On several occasions in the past few months, I have noted in The Daily Caller that when people talk about liberal bias in the media, they rarely ask a crucial question: Who gets hired at NPR — and CBS and Slate and NBC — and who doesn’t? . . .

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Let me suggest a “metric” to measure this phenomenon. Do what AOL’s Patch websites are doing: have a page dedicated to information about editors and correspondents — where they went to school, what they studied, and their religious and political beliefs. Then ask to see the human resources records of the people who applied for jobs at NPR and who were rejected. That’s a good metric to uncover what causes NPR’s executives to dismiss conservatives as xenophobic mouth-breathers who can only pull themselves away from Fox News long enough to fire their guns at black children.

I’m of a couple of minds about this. I agree with Judge that NPR has its head in the sand about its liberal bias (at least in some areas) — as he describes the phenomenon in the column, “When everyone you know has a drinking problem, no one has a drinking problem.” It’s hard to recognize the tilt in your reporting when it seems to reflect what is fair and balanced about everyone you work with — and that’s true for any news outlet, not just NPR.

But I’m not as sure that NPR needs conservative hires to correct the problem. I don’t think we’ll ever see a perfectly “ideologically pure” news network — we’re humans, after all, and those biases will always creep in — but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I would much rather see news networks be open about those biases than constantly protest their objectivity (especially compared with Those Other Guys). Consumers could then at least make informed decisions about the sources they turn to for news, and the conclusions they draw from them. I still think that the things NPR does well, it does very well — and for the things it doesn’t, I can go elsewhere.

If conservative applicants have a harder time getting a fair shake when applying for jobs at places like NPR, that’s disappointing. But even if they were equally represented, the questions about federal funding would remain. Right, left, or center, government support of any news outlet is a sticky endeavor.

Or is it? Would a more balanced roster at NPR make you more likely to support federal funding of the network? Or is that a separate question that you still think is important?


  • Margaret Cabaniss

    Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at

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