Sun. May 19th, 2024

Liberal media bias, at NPR and elsewhere, has a long pedigree

Samantha Parker By Samantha Parker May4,2024

You may have heard about the NPR senior editor who went public with his concerns about liberal bias at his news organization. He says this came after years of in-house conversations about the subject — conversations he felt went nowhere. Perhaps you also heard that he was just suspended for five days without pay for what he did.

Twenty-eight years ago, in March 1996, another journalist, this one a correspondent at CBS News, went public with his concerns about liberal bias at his news organization. This also came after years of in-house conversations about bias — conversations he felt went nowhere.

I have a great deal of knowledge about the CBS News correspondent, about what he did and why he did it. I was that journalist. 

Uri Berliner, the NPR editor, wrote for The Free Press that NPR “lost America’s trust” by approaching news stories with a progressive frame of mind.

Back in 1996, I wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “There are lots of reasons fewer people are watching network news, and one of them, I’m more convinced than ever, is that our viewers simply don’t trust us. And for good reason.”

I wasn’t suspended or fired. One senior executive came to my defense. And four-and-a-half years later, I left CBS News to expand on my premise in a book called “Bias,” about liberal bias in the news media.

I don’t know Uri Berliner, but I’m pretty sure we have a few things in common. He was at NPR for 25 years when he went public. I was at CBS News for 24 years when I wrote the op-ed. When he complained in-house about liberal bias, his complaints went nowhere because he was talking to journalists who have a tendency to circle the wagons when they hear the words “liberal bias.” That’s precisely what I experienced.

An NPR story about his suspension says that his essay “angered many of his colleagues … and gave fresh ammunition to conservative and partisan Republican critics of NPR.”

My op-ed in the WSJ angered many of my colleagues. I became radioactive at CBS News in Manhattan, where I was based. And my op-ed gave fresh ammunition to conservative partisans, even though back in 1996 I considered myself an old-fashioned liberal.

And even though I had never been accused of having a conservative bias in any the stories I reported for the evening news anchored by Walter Cronkite and then Dan Rather, I suddenly was the one in the crosshairs. I was called a traitor by at least one anonymous colleague. A senior Washington correspondent wondered why I would stay at CBS if I thought the place was corrupt. Who knows what Berliner’s colleagues are saying about him behind his back.

Berliner’s criticism of his news organization “led NPR leaders to announce monthly internal reviews of the network’s coverage,” according to the NPR news story about his suspension. That’s one difference between his story and mine. CBS News just went along its merry way — no internal review, no admission that perhaps there was a bias at work there — nothing!

The morning my op-ed appeared, I got a phone call on my CBS News answering machine. It was from Roger Ailes, who was eight months away from launching Fox News. “Goldberg, you’ve got balls,” he said in his voicemail message. He wanted to meet me in person, and when we did talk in his office at Fox News headquarters, he offered me a job.

I turned it down. The way I saw it, I was giving CBS News a much-needed wake up call. I was doing my colleagues a favor, even if they didn’t see it that way. I wasn’t about to quit.

Who knows what lies ahead for Uri Berliner? I hope he’s not radioactive when he goes back to work. Take it from me, it’s not a good feeling.

But I’m pretty sure that not much will come of his criticism. Journalists like to look down everybody’s throat — whether it involves the military, the political class, corporate America, even sports — and tell the world what everybody is doing wrong. But they don’t like it when someone is looking down their throat. And they really don’t like it when that someone comes from inside the tent.

I wish Uri Berliner nothing but good luck. I suspect he’s going to need it.

Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Substack page. Follow him @BernardGoldberg.

Samantha Parker

By Samantha Parker

Samantha is a seasoned journalist with a passion for uncovering the truth behind the headlines. With years of experience in investigative reporting, she has covered a wide range of topics including politics, crime, and entertainment. Her in-depth analysis and commitment to factual accuracy make her a respected voice in the field of journalism.

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2 thoughts on “Liberal media bias, at NPR and elsewhere, has a long pedigree”
  1. Do you think the issue of liberal bias in the media has improved since the incidents involving the NPR and CBS News journalists mentioned in the article?

    1. EmilySmith89, from my experience, I believe the issue of liberal bias in the media has not improved significantly since the incidents involving the NPR and CBS News journalists. Despite their efforts to bring attention to the issue, it seems like the systemic bias still prevails in many news organizations.

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