National Public Radio’s “Public Editor” Kelly McBride dismissed complaints about NPR’s coverage of the Israel-Hamas war, examining it through a liberal prism and declaring it excellent, although even NPR’s uber-liberal band of listeners offered complaints the coverage was excessively pro-Palestinian.
McBride’s November 2 opinion column, “The audience has a lot to say about coverage of the Israel-Hamas war. We’re listening,” came with the less-than-encouraging quoted subhead: ‘It’s necessary to listen to the critics, even when they are spewing venom.’
….Some NPR audience members see a bias when stories highlight a perspective they don’t agree with.
Some listeners or readers are demanding stronger descriptive language, such as saying that Hamas members should be called “terrorists” rather than “militants.”
Other audience members believe NPR is failing to put Israel’s actions in the context of war crimes.
The disparity was striking, over 2.5 to 1:
Out of 130 selected notes that came into the public editor’s inbox between Oct. 8 and Oct. 25, just over 60% directly accused NPR of an anti-Israeli bias. Roughly 24% accused NPR of being biased against Palestinians. And 15% offered a critique without leveling a charge of bias.
I’ve read every note that has come in, as well as criticism on social media. I’ve listened to or read more than 115 NPR stories. In my view, the newsroom has done a commendable job. NPR’s journalists have told exclusive stories from Israel and from Gaza…
McBride talked about asking “veteran journalist, John Felton, to analyze NPR’s Israeli-Palestinian reporting.” His last report, in 2014, came to an NPR-pleasing conclusion: “I have seen no systematic bias over the years in NPR’s coverage in favor of one side versus the other.”
Now retired, he reiterated something else he wrote in his last report. “It’s necessary to listen to the critics, even when they are spewing venom,” he said. “On some level, on some details, they might have a valid point.”
After admitting that even in 2014 most of the complaints accused NPR of an anti-Israel or anti-Jewish bias, McBride quoted Felton admitting to his own slant again: “The pro-Israel voice is much louder in this country, which is pretty obvious, and I think that’s indisputable. And so that’s the squeaky wheel that gets the attention.”
But Felton’s blunt-sounding methodology clearly missed biases of tone and labeling that even NPR’s liberal listenership was able to pick up on:
According to Felton’s last report, NPR ran 4,052 stories about the conflict over his decade-plus of analysis, from 2003 to 2013. 18% (742) of those stories reflected primarily an Israeli perspective; 17% (673) were focused on Palestinians….
Felton’s own suggestions again bespoke a pro-Palestinian tilt.
However, he detected two other shortcomings in the coverage over the years and he urged NPR to remedy them. First, he suggested that NPR had not devoted enough resources to documenting the oppressive conditions in Gaza and the West Bank and Israel’s role in creating those conditions….
McBride plugged in Felton’s old method for NPR’s 2023 coverage and found “no bias, overt or unconscious” in Israel-Hamas war coverage, then accused critics of not taking NPR’s coverage in its entirety into account:
One story is never the whole story. One podcast episode is never the whole story. One interview is never the whole story…..
Felton was even more pompous, attributing bad faith to NPR’s critics:
In Felton’s words, “What the advocates really are complaining about is that NPR is not biased in their favor. In effect, they want NPR to produce one-sided reporting that supports their positions and discredits the other side.”