Brooke parses two surveys so that you don’t have to. One from the Pew Center for People and the Press, and one from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). The findings, and her conclusions shed some light on where journalists stand in a deeply divided America. Brooke parses two surveys so that you don’t have to. One is from the Pew Center for the People and the Press, and the other is from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). The findings – and Brooke’s conclusions – shed some light on where journalists stand in a deeply divided America.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This week, two new studies turned up the heat under an old argument. One by the Pew Research Center and the Project for Excellence in Journalism surveyed local and national news outlets across all media. The other, by the liberal media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, focused exclusively on NPR. Okay, big study first: the Pew Center polled more than 500 news professionals and found that, compared to five years ago, reporters are more worried that bottom line concerns are eroding the quality of the news. They increasingly disagree with their own management, and they disagree with the public too. For example, 40 percent of Americans feel that one has to believe in God to be moral. Only ten percent of reporters do. But the headline news seems to be that more national journalists -- about a third of those polled -- now describe themselves as liberal. That's compared to about a fifth of the general population. But what does that mean? The study's authors suggest that the media are by and large more libertarian than liberal. Quote, "More journalists said they think it is more important for people to be free to pursue their goals without government interference than it is for the government to ensure that no one is in need." Perhaps the most telling finding in the Pew study is the most obvious one. The vast majority of those polled, liberals included, utterly oppose injecting ideology into news reporting. When asked to name a conservative news outlet, a healthy majority named Fox. Asked for a liberal outlet, they were hard-pressed, though the New York Times took the lead with roughly 20 percent. By the way, the poster child of media liberalism, National Public Radio, clocked in at about 3 percent, wedged in between ABC and NBC and well below the Washington Post. And that brings us to the study by FAIR, which charges NPR with an increasingly right wing tilt, because Republicans outnumber Democrats on its airwaves by 61 to 38 percent. What are we to make of this? That NPR is bending over backwards to appease its critics? Maybe. Even NPR's ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin says the findings seem about right, though he takes issue with some of FAIR's labeling. For instance, it calls the Brookings Institution a centrist think thank though many say it's liberal. Dvorkin suggests that conservatives are more apt to embrace labels than liberals, because of the stigma attached to the "L" word. The fact is, over the decades, the center has slid to the right, and so has much of the mainstream media. But the center is in perpetual motion and may soon be in for another correction. Maybe this is the wrong argument, anyway. A week doesn't go by when I'm not admonished by a self-described conservative who loathes NPR, even as he swallows it with his morning coffee, every single day. There are thousands of news sources available with the twist of a dial, the click of a mouse. Change the channel. Find a news source you can trust most of the time. Reporters struggle regularly with their employers, their biases and their consciences. They may be more liberal than America, but they reflect America nevertheless. The news media should be braver, purer, truer than the rest of us, but in a nation so deeply divided, any citizen - left, right or center - who looks into the media mirror is bound to see something they despise. [MUSIC]