Essay Blasting NPR Triggers Turbulence Within Company: REPORT

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Nicole Silverio Media Reporter
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Former National Public Radio (NPR) editor Uri Berliner’s essay blasting the outlet caused turbulence within the company, The New York Times reported late Thursday.

Berliner, a 25-year veteran at NPR, accused the outlet of attempting to take down former President Donald Trump with the “Russiagate” allegations, and how the outlet prioritized diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and lacked “viewpoint diversity.” He further criticized the outlet for failing to cover the Hunter Biden laptop story ahead of the 2020 presidential election and blindly following the words of Dr. Anthony Fauci and other government officials.

The essay reportedly caused upheaval among executives and higher-up employees, according to The New York Times. The hosts of “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered” reportedly attended a meet-and-greet with NPR chief executive Katherine Maher, where she told the hosts that she did not want Berliner to become a “martyr.”

A producer for “Morning Edition” criticized Berliner’s criticisms of NPR’s leadership, according to the Times. Tony Cavin, NPR’s managing editor of standards and practices, rejected all of Berliner’s arguments about the outlet being unfair by leaning dramatically to the left.

“The next time one of our people calls up a Republican congressman or something and tries to get an answer from them, they may well say, ‘Oh, I read these stories, you guys aren’t fair, so I’m not going to talk to you,’” Mr. Cavin said.

Staffers discussed the essay amongst themselves in Slack messages, where one group disputed Berliner’s claims that the outlet lacks diversity of ideas and viewpoints and argued hiring more people of color would benefit the outlet, The New York Times reported.

Some NPR journalists, including former ombudsman Jeffrey A. Dvorkin, defended Berliner’s accusations, with Dvorkin claiming he is “not wrong,” according to the Times. Former NPR managing editor Chuck Holmes called Berliner’s essay “brave.”

NPR editor-in-chief Edith Chapin defended its strive to being “inclusion” to the newsroom  in a staff email Tuesday, and said leadership is “proud to stand behind the exceptional work” produced by the outlets’ staff. (RELATED: Let’s Not Pretend The Woke Newsroom Breakdown Was Only At NPR) 

“We’re proud to stand behind the exceptional work that our desks and shows do to cover a wide range of challenging stories,” Edith Chapin, the organization’s editor in chief, said in an email to staff on Tuesday. “We believe that inclusion — among our staff, with our sourcing, and in our overall coverage — is critical to telling the nuanced stories of this country and our world.”

Berliner argued identity became “paramount” following the police-involved death of George Floyd in May 2020.

“We were given unconscious bias training sessions,” Berliner wrote. “A growing DEI staff offered regular meetings imploring us to ‘start talking about race.’ Monthly dialogues were offered for ‘women of color’ and ‘men of color.’ Nonbinary people of color were included, too. These initiatives, bolstered by a $1 million grant from the NPR Foundation, came from management, from the top down.”

“Crucially, they were in sync culturally with what was happening at the grassroots—among producers, reporters, and other staffers. Most visible was a burgeoning number of employee resource (or affinity) groups based on identity,” he added.

He further argued NPR took great strides to increase a more diverse audience, but said the plans failed miserably.

“In 2023, according to our demographic research, 6 percent of our news audience was black, far short of the overall U.S. adult population, which is 14.4 percent black,” he wrote. “And Hispanics were only 7 percent, compared to the overall Hispanic adult population, around 19 percent. Our news audience doesn’t come close to reflecting America. It’s overwhelmingly white and progressive, and clustered around coastal cities and college towns.”

He stated the now-discredited Russia collusion allegations become “the catnip that drove reporting” in order to became Trump’s “most visible antagonist.”