‘On The Media’ Nails Jell-O To The Wall

(Fun fact to know and tell: When asked why there’s a hyphen in Jell-O, the great Fred Allen said, “That’s where the banana goes.”)

When we last left On the Media, NPR uber-personality Ira Glass had tasked the show with proving that NPR is not at all liberal.

On the Media – you are the perfect vehicle for this – you were made for this purpose: To measure the political bias of public radio.

It needs to be done – you are the only ones – you are the ones best positioned of everyone in the country, in the public radio system, in the world – to do this mission, and I hand it to you.

It’s an urgent mission and it needs to be done and done beautifully.

So this weekend’s edition took a stab at it.

You can listen to the results here.

The hardworking staff will provide transcript excerpts on Monday.

UPDATE: Here they are.

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14 Responses to ‘On The Media’ Nails Jell-O To The Wall

  1. Kyle C. says:

    I listened to the episode last night while battling the sleep that “On the Media” can so easily induce.

    I found some of its arguments to be somewhat convincing. It’s becoming clear to me that “liberal” can easily define public broadcasting’s goal: “to encourage the development of programming that involves creative risks and that addresses the needs of unserved and underserved audiences, particularly children and minorities.” Conservative and corporate viewpoints completely cover the mainstream media. Public broadcasting has an obligation to give a voice to the voiceless (as should commercial broadcasters under their public trustee obligations… but that’s a different point). If the FCC and commercial broadcasters were actually serving local communities and diverse views, perhaps NPR wouldn’t seem to skew “liberal” in its opinion and entertainment programming. As for their news programming, NPR seems to be overwhelmingly fair, investigative, and politically neutral.

    I obviously can’t address all of their arguments in a single post, but I don’t see a liberal “bias.” This isn’t the lefty equivalent to FOX News, and no one should be acting as if it is.

  2. Steve Stein says:

    Nice segment! Certainly better than the crock one of our local talking heads put together.

    I think the only way you’re going to show (or disprove) bias is by going through the exercise OTM suggested – keep a diary, and keep a skeptical and open mind. Back in the days of Goldberg and Alterman, I tried this, and it’s a lot tougher than it sounds.

    • Steve Stein says:

      Ack! WTF happened to my Amazon links? Sorry they’re so messed up, but I don’t think I did anything out of the ordinary to cause them to appear like that.

    • Campaign Outsider says:

      It’s the same as trying to prove the bias at Fox News – too nebulous to be definitive.

      • Stephen Stein says:

        It’s not the same at all. The bias at Fox News is by design and decree. You’ve got things like memos from John Moody to the news staff on how to cover things and what language to use to push the Republican party frame on things.

        Is there anything remotely comparable at NPR or at any other broadcast news operation?

      • Campaign Outsider says:

        I was talking about what they air, Steve. Believe me – I’ve tried to pin Fox News down, but it’s all too elusive to make a convincing case, Outfoxed notwithstanding.

  3. Alan Grossberg says:

    I realize that anti-intellectualism has become almost de rigueur for an unusually large swath of the country of late. Still, putting politics aside (if that’s possible), you’d have to search far and wide (and usually in vain) to find such informative, enlightening, and entertaining news/in-depth profiles/art & music reviews*, etc. as those consistently produced by NPR.

    * I might be the only person on the planet with this POV who nevertheless finds Ira Glass totally unlistenable. His tone and delivery is a uniquely annoying blend of someone on Quaaludes and meth.

    • dankennedy says:

      @Alan: You’re not alone, though I find Ira Glass to be infinitely preferable to, say, Garrison Keillor.

      • Alan Grossberg says:


        Oh. My. God.

        For fifteen years (Glass) — and 37 in the case of Keillor! — I thought I was the only one who didn’t get it.

        At long last I can come in from the cold.

    • Steve Stein says:

      Ira Glass is not really my cup of tea, but some of the stories he gets on TAL are wonderful. I particularly like Fiasco.

  4. dankennedy says:

    Listened to “On the Media” today. I absolutely loved the evangelical Christian who listens to NPR all the time, yet refuses to open his wallet because he occasionally hears something that offends him.

  5. Laurence Glavin says:

    When I heard that evangelical Christian, my first thought was to tell him his faith is completely unwarranted and misplaced and he should grow up. If any actual living, breathing person was the source of the Jesus Christ myth, he was just an ordinary man, and when he died, whether he was executed or lived out a normal lifespan for a person of his time, he reamained dead and like all actually dead people will NOT be coming back. Religious whackos remind me of Wiley Coyote in the Road Runner cartoons: he s shown chasing the Road Runner until he runs right off a cliff. As long as he doesn’t look down, but instead looks forward, right and left, then scratches his head while looking at the camera, he’s ok. If he looks down, he goes “gulp” and plummets into the canyon. Fundamentalist religionists of all stripes cannot afford to think deeply and rationally about the belief system they’ve adopted almost without really investigating whether it makes sense. There’s a quote that it’s been hard to pin down as to the source, but it goes “You can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into”.

    • Alan Grossberg says:

      Oh, great, another party pooper.
      Next thing you know he’ll be telling us that Santa Claus is a crock :>)

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