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?
A few years ago, Jack Shafer, the bilious media critic for Slate, wrote that his website is top heavy with lefties because liberals are “always the best applicants.” As someone who once wanted to freelance for Slate, I know this is bunk (but hey, they hired Dave Weigel, the Journolist libertarian who — shocker! — has turned out to be a liberal). Further, it ignores what anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows: News organizations are liberal, and after years of hiring liberals, writing liberal articles, and mocking conservatives, they get reputations for being hostile to conservatives. Thus, right-wingers know they need not apply — and the ones that do get rejected. Basically, it works like this: journalists become journalists in high school because they aren’t good at sports, can’t rock and roll, and feel awkward at parties. Getting on MSNBC years later and blasting John Galt is their revenge. And no one else is going to get into their club.
At this point, the liberal media clubhouse is so insular that journalists are like the people watching their own shadows in Plato’s cave and thinking it’s the real world — although, in light of the James O’Keefe sting, they seem to finally be groping towards reality. After all its recent problems, NPR is finally getting around to admitting that it is a liberal organization. Oh, its newscasts aren’t biased, mind you; but, yes, the staff is made up largely of liberals. As Newsbusters pointed out, this was admitted by Bob Garfield, the co-host of the show “On the Media.” On Friday’s show, Brooke Gladstone, the other co-host of “On the Media,” said that she was once asked to find out if there was liberal bias at NPR. Gladstone said she “couldn’t find a metric to apply to the question to answer it.” After Ira Glass, another NPR host, agreed with this, Bob Garfield said the following:
Okay, so this gets back to not only Brooke’s problem, finding a metric to report on this story, but it’s especially difficult when you and I both know that if you were to somehow poll the political orientation of everybody in the NPR news organization and all of the member stations, you would find an overwhelmingly progressive, liberal crowd. Not uniformly, but overwhelmingly.
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.
If NPR staffers are admitting that they are all liberals, they should be able to fumble their way towards the solution: hiring a few conservatives.
Hell, I’d take a job at NPR to balance things out. I was actually on the network once. About ten years ago, I wrote a book called “If it Ain’t Got that Swing: the Re-birth of Grown-Up Culture.” It was a celebration of swing dancing and a criticism of the pornography and slavery of modern culture. I was booked on the show “Talk of the Nation” with the host Neil Conan. The theme of the show was “Young Fogies,” and there were two other guests on with me — Jedediah Purdy, the author of books about the corrosion of irony and the importance of virtue, and the filmmaker Whit Stillman. The three of us thought that America had lost some grace, sex appeal and fortitude since the 1960s. I knew exactly what was going to happen: Conan and the callers were going to accuse us of being retrograde racists.
But, truth be told, while there was some of that, Conan let the conversation go into interesting directions, and he let the three of us make our points. I remember that the people working in the booth thought it was a very interesting show, and I left the studio wondering, why don’t they do more of these? Furthermore, why did the show get tagged with the smug title “Young Fogies”? Why couldn’t they just regularly have conservatives on to talk about our books, the culture, the pro-life movement, movies, whatever?
Pope Benedict has just released the second volume of his penetrating series of books about Jesus. For us Catholics, it is a major event. But more than that, it is a way to examine the philosophy of Christianity, to pore over, and celebrate or challenge the claims it makes about the truth of the human person. Why isn’t NPR covering this?
Actually, NPR has covered it — and in that coverage one can find the metric for measuring liberal bias that eluded Brooke Gladstone. In the one story NPR ran about the pope’s new book, the focus was on the news that in “Jesus of Nazareth” the pope exonerates the Jews for the death of Jesus. This was treated as major news, even though Pope John Paul II had made a similar declaration more than 20 years ago. Here in one piece was everything that is wrong with NPR: the hyper focus on a topic that would cause embarrassment or pain to conservatives (we’re anti-Semites!); the selective choice of whom to interview, in this case a liberal journalist from the far-left National Catholic Reporter (George Weigel, one of the world’s great Catholic scholars, has an office about 15 minutes from NPR); and the absolute and total disinterest in exploring the deeper truths that religion can offer. NPR didn’t bother to comment on the pope’s writing style, which is incredibly lucid and far superior to his predecessor’s. NPR’s hosts often coo about the latest prodigy from the creative writing schools, but they seem constitutionally incapable of viewing a pope — or a conservative — as an artist or a philosopher with anything meaningful to say. And God bless ’em — I am honestly beginning to believe that half the time they really don’t realize they’re doing it.
I remember that after a particularly festive party I went to about 20 years ago with the dipsomaniacal Irish Catholic crowd I had grown up with, a friend of mine looked at me and said, “When everyone you know has a drinking problem, no one has a drinking problem.” When everyone you know, everyone you work with, everyone you socialize with, everyone you tweet with, is a liberal, then no one is a liberal. But thanks to James O’Keefe, NPR may be stumbling out of the cave.
Oh, and in case Neil Conan is reading this: I have a new book out. It may do us both good to have me on the show again, all things considered.
Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.