NPR CEO Disses ‘Distraction’ of Bias Complaints, ‘Bad Faith’ Criticism of Her Tweets

News & Politics

Wall Street Journal media reporter Alexandra Bruell secured an interview with new NPR CEO Katherine Maher, and naturally, she discovered NPR doesn’t want anyone focusing on the “distraction” of leftist tilt. They don’t want anyone disturbing their “mandate” of taking taxpayer money from Republicans and whacking them with it. The headline defined it: 

NPR Chief Defends Coverage, Accuses Critics of ‘Bad Faith Distortion’ of Her Views

Katherine Maher said controversy stemming from an editor’s essay criticizing the radio network has been a distraction

Bruell offered a sort of “poor thing” spin in how Maher’s tenure had a rocky start with the Uri Berliner expose and conservative Christopher Rufo’s unearthing of her woke tweets before joining NPR: 

Critics have scrutinized her political views and seized on past comments she made on everything from the First Amendment to misinformation to the idea that written history is tilted toward the worldview of white men. 

“All of this frankly is a bit of a distraction relative to the transformation our organization needs to undergo in order to best serve our mandate,” Maher said in an interview.

Which “mandate” is that? We aren’t told. She said NPR should be open to criticism…but clearly, she prefers internal conversations, not objections from, you know, the “public” when it comes to public radio.

“We have robust conversations across the organization, including in response to the article,” she said. “Clear and well-reasoned pieces” from reviewers, like a write-up from NPR’s public editor and Poynter executive Kelly McBride that examined coverage of Israel and Gaza, have “found that our journalism is really solid,” Maher said.

Citing McBride is especially perfect, since McBride went on Brian Stelter’s podcast and divided NPR critics as supporters (liberals) and “bad faith” critics (conservatives). McBride sounds less like a Public Editor (working on behalf of the audience) and more like a Public Cheerleader (working on behalf of company morale).

Maher’s rah-rah memo to staff (posted on NPR’s website) attacking Berliner for criticizing staffers for “who they are” instead of their on-air propaganda wasn’t enough: 

Days after Maher sent a note to staff addressing Berliner’s essay, NPR employees wrote to her urging stronger support for employees and asking her to call out factual inaccuracies in the piece “Without true leadership, resentment and discontent are festering among your staff,” the staffers wrote

In a statement, Berliner said, “I wish that the company would have addressed and taken seriously some of the points I made.” If NPR wants to foster a broad range of views, “suspending and then rebuking a staffer is not the best way to go about it,” he said.

The Journal reporter somehow didn’t get any reaction from Rufo about all the Maher tweets about “cis-White mobility privilege” and so on. Maher tried to suggest her personal opinions are set aside in her professional life: 

“There are many professions in which you set aside your own personal perspectives in order to lead in public service, and that is exactly how I have always led organizations and will continue to lead NPR,” she said.

But Maher’s attack on Berliner for his complaints about wokeness and “affinity groups” in the newsroom surely reflect her publicly-aired personal wokeness.

Maher said their internal research shows people see NPR as “accurate and intellectual,” she said. “We want to be able to speak to folks as though they were our neighbors and speak to folks as though they were our friends.” That’s not the way conservatives hear it on the radio.

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