Breaking news—the media class is liberal: A controversy at NPR reveals the scandal of the elite media class

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
April 17, 2024

Does National Public Radio coverage skew to the left? Any conservative familiar with the self-described public radio network would be tempted to respond with another question: Is the pope Catholic? And yet, it might plausibly be argued that NPR is more liberal than the current pope is Catholic. Why are we talking about this now?

The simple reason is that Uri Berliner, a senior business editor at NPR, committed what the network considers treason by writing a massive expose of the network’s liberalism and allowing its publication at The Free Press, a major factor in the new media world. Berliner’s piece is a bombshell, and it is written with deep insider knowledge.

As Berliner acknowledged right off, “NPR has always had a liberal bent.” That’s certainly true. I have listened regularly to NPR programs and coverage since I was a conservative teenager and NPR was the new kid on the media block. In the 1970s, Americans were a bit envious of the British and their famed British Broadcasting Corporation. The BBC epitomized authoritative news broadcasting. It was truly a major force and effect of the British Empire and thus for decades the most powerful media force in the world. It was such an institution that the simple words, “From London, this is the BBC,” kept listeners around the world glued to their radios.  Under the long leadership of Sir John Reith (Lord Reith of Stonehaven, no less) in the 20th century, the BBC even helped standardize the English language through what was called “received pronunciation.” The announcers all sounded alike.

NPR was founded in 1970 as something like an American BBC, but the key difference is that the Americans, unlike the British, had already produced massive commercial broadcast networks on both radio and television. On the American scene, the government-chartered platforms were late to the game and liberal from the start. These days, both the BBC and NPR generally cater to a rather selective, highly educated, and culturally liberal milieu. Multiple studies of the NPR listenership indicate the vast majority of listeners have a lot of education and lean left. Berliner cites research indicating that 67 percent of NPR listeners identified as “very or somewhat liberal” in 2023. He checked voter registration lists and determined that the net number of Republicans working in the NPR newsroom was zero.

His indictment of NPR is catastrophic, but hardly surprising. Berliner cites NPR coverage of issues like COVID-19, the Hunter Biden laptop, LGBTQ issues, and a host of other news fronts and concludes that “what’s notable is the extent to which people at every level of NPR have comfortably coalesced around the progressive worldview.”

According to Berliner’s account, NPR was not always so liberal, but has become so in more recent years. By my account NPR has always been liberal, but not always as openly and aggressively leftist as it has become in recent years. I started listening to NPR as a conservative teenager because a very kind teacher suggested that it was the best way to understand how the media elite works. That was back in the 1970s, when NPR was new. I listened to NPR in order to learn how the other side thinks. I certainly affirm Berliner’s main point about NPR’s far more aggressive leftism in recent years. Simultaneously, NPR has become far more leftist and far less interesting.

NPR coverage now regularly references “pregnant people,” and Berliner reveals that the network’s Transgender Coverage Guidance document calls for no references to “biological sex.” The network has a MGIPOC (Marginalized Genders and Intersex People of Color) mentorship program, and a massive collective of other programs and groups driven by identity politics. Anything wayward of the ideologically leftist line can get an NPR employee into a dispute process with the DEI Accountability Committee. All this, keep in mind, underwritten by American taxpayer dollars.

Berliner points to the “absence of viewpoint diversity” as “the most damaging development at NPR.” Remember his study of voter registration rolls. The number of NPR staff in the newsroom who registered as Republican is exactly zero.

It obviously shows. The argument that NPR does not skew left is ludicrous and laughable. But the issue is not laughable, and it is deadly serious. This is a U.S. government chartered and taxpayer supported leftist cause.

Yesterday, NPR’s top news brass put Uri Berliner on five days of unpaid leave. They said the punishment was due because Berliner had not sought management permission for running his piece at another news site. The management stated clearly that Berliner would be fired if he repeated the offense. How predictable is all that?

Uri Berliner’s offense is not that he broke a rule, but that he broke the code—the code of the liberal media that is enforced by open threats and constant vigilance. Do not tell the truth about liberal bias in the newsroom (an understatement, to be sure), or get out of town. This whole picture does not tell informed Americans anything that was not easily known already, but Uri Berliner has now put the truth out there for anyone to see. The larger lesson is that the same indictment tells the truth about the worldview of the elite media class. That’s the bigger scandal at stake here.

Update: This afternoon, April 17, Uri Berliner announced his resignation from National Public Radio, stating that “I cannot work in a newsroom where I am disparaged by a new CEO whose divisive views confirm the very problems at NPR I cite in my Free Press essay.”

This article originally appeared at World Opinions on April 17, 2024.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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