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Uri Berliner resigns from NPR News

First, to get it out of the way, I'm a Leadership Circle member of my local NPR affiliate, WBEZ. I listen to Morning Edition every weekday, and Weekend Edition every weekend day. I have high confidence in the NPR News team. And though I do chuckle sometimes at their editorial choices, I think the network's only "skew" simply follows Krugman's Law: "Facts have a well-known liberal bias."

Apparently Senior Business Editor Uri Berliner, who resigned from the network yesterday, feels differently:

It’s true NPR has always had a liberal bent, but during most of my tenure here, an open-minded, curious culture prevailed. We were nerdy, but not knee-jerk, activist, or scolding.

In recent years, however, that has changed. Today, those who listen to NPR or read its coverage online find something different: the distilled worldview of a very small segment of the U.S. population.

Back in 2011, although NPR’s audience tilted a bit to the left, it still bore a resemblance to America at large. Twenty-six percent of listeners described themselves as conservative, 23 percent as middle of the road, and 37 percent as liberal.

By 2023, the picture was completely different: only 11 percent described themselves as very or somewhat conservative, 21 percent as middle of the road, and 67 percent of listeners said they were very or somewhat liberal. We weren’t just losing conservatives; we were also losing moderates and traditional liberals.

An open-minded spirit no longer exists within NPR, and now, predictably, we don’t have an audience that reflects America.

Yeah... I think NPR may have drifted a few millimeters to the left in the last 15 years while a large segment of America drifted off the right-wing precipice. But that rightward shift does create the perception, in some people, that moderate-left opinions have shifted left. They haven't.

Berliner's essay did what I'm absolutely certain he intended: it made him a pariah in the newsroom, and "proved" that his colleagues wanted to squash conservative voices, because what other reason would they have for getting pissed off at him? Other than, you know, doing unto NPR what he claimed NPR was doing unto him, as Steve Inskeep explained:

If Uri wanted to start a discussion about journalism at NPR, he succeeded, though maybe not in the way he intended. His colleagues have had a rich dialogue about his mistakes. The errors do make NPR look bad, because it’s embarrassing that an NPR journalist would make so many.

This article needed a better editor. I don’t know who, if anyone, edited Uri’s story, but they let him publish an article that discredited itself.

I discussed one example on stage in San Antonio. The article made headlines for Uri’s claim that he “looked at voter registration for our newsroom” in Washington, D.C., and found his “editorial” colleagues were unanimously registered Democrats—87 Democrats, 0 Republicans.

I am a prominent member of the newsroom in Washington. If Uri told the truth, then I could only be a registered Democrat. I held up a screenshot of my voter registration showing I am registered with “no party.” Some in the crowd gasped. Uri had misled them.

Is there a “larger point” that too many elite journalists share similar backgrounds, and think the same way in assigning and shaping stories? Yes, I think so, but it’s a subtle issue that has more to do with people’s educations, experiences and associations than with partisan registration. There’s less of a headline in that. And it’s an issue that NPR has tried to address with some of the people it has promoted, and by leaning more heavily on reports from our local stations across America.

The Post added further context, establishing links between Berliner and trolls like Chris Rufo, who spends a lot of time trying to get prominent women fired from their jobs:

On its face, [Berliner's essay] seemed to confirm the worst suspicions held by NPR’s critics on the right: that the legendary media organization had an ideological, progressive agenda that dictates its journalism. The Free Press is an online publication started by journalist Bari Weiss, whose own resignation from the New York Times in 2020 was used by conservative politicians as evidence that the Times stifled certain ideas and ideologies; Weiss accused the Times of catering to a rigid, politically left-leaning worldview and of refusing to defend her against online “bullies” when she expressed views to the contrary. Berliner’s essay was accompanied by several glossy portraits and a nearly hour-long podcast interview with Weiss. He also went on NewsNation, where the host Chris Cuomo — who had been cast out from CNN for crossing ethical lines to help his governor-brother — called Berliner a “whistleblower.”

NPR is known to have a very collegial culture, and the manner in which Berliner aired his criticism — perhaps even more than the substance of it — is what upset so many of his co-workers, according to one staffer.

This week conservative activist Christopher Rufo — who rose to fame for targeting “critical race theory,” and whose scrutiny of Harvard President Claudine Gay preceded her resignation — set his sights on Maher, surfacing old social media posts she wrote before she joined the news organization. In one 2020 tweet, she referred to Trump as a “deranged racist.” Others posts show her wearing a Biden hat, or wistfully daydreaming about hanging out with Kamala D. Harris. Rufo has called for Maher’s resignation.

What a schmendrick. I don't know what burr got into Berliner's boxers for him to air his grievances with his employer like this. It would have helped had he actually committed journalism in his essay instead.

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