No Unapproved Thoughts Considered: NPR Retaliates Against Whistleblower

Townhall Media

NPR: How dare people suggest that we don't tolerate a broad range of viewpoints on our taxpayer-supported platform!

Also NPR: All dissenters will be punished. NPR media reporter David Folkenflik somewhat courageously reveals that his employer has suspended veteran editor Uri Berliner for pointing out the obvious about their coverage, credibility, and shrinking trust with the public:

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NPR has formally punished Uri Berliner, the senior editor who publicly argued a week ago that the network had "lost America's trust" by approaching news stories with a rigidly progressive mindset.

Berliner's five-day suspension without pay, which began last Friday, has not been previously reported.

Berliner's column at the Free Press ran a week ago, (I commented here and here on it.) Despite the fact that most of Berliner's criticisms involved previous management, current CEO Katherine Maher lashed out publicly at Berliner's criticisms, only to have a long string of her extreme and partisan tweets dissected by a number of conservative figures and publications. Maher insisted that viewpoint didn't matter, and as late as yesterday was still declaring that NPR valued independent thought.

Folkenflik notes this, while leaving the irony for the reader to discover and enjoy:

Conservative activist Christopher Rufo is among those now targeting NPR's new chief executive, Katherine Maher, for messages she posted to social media years before joining the network. Among others, those posts include a 2020 tweet that called Trump racist and another that appeared to minimize rioting during social justice protests that year. Maher took the job at NPR last month — her first at a news organization.

In a statement Monday about the messages she had posted, Maher praised the integrity of NPR's journalists and underscored the independence of their reporting.

"In America everyone is entitled to free speech as a private citizen," she said. "What matters is NPR's work and my commitment as its CEO: public service, editorial independence, and the mission to serve all of the American public. NPR is independent, beholden to no party, and without commercial interests."

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And what better way to demonstrate a commitment to independent thought and free speech than to suspend anyone who uses either to point out the obvious at NPR?

Has NPR transformed itself into a Terran Empire version of the Babylon Bee?

Ever since the Free Press published Berliner's essay, Maher and NPR have engaged in a substance-free meltdown that failed to address any of Berliner's specific and obvious examples of NPR's bias. On Friday, all Maher could manage was to complain that Berliner's criticisms were "profoundly disrespectful, hurtful, and demeaning,” as though this were a kindergarten class. Berliner wrote professionally about a multitude of stories that NPR got wrong because it was blinded by its ideological and/or partisan bias, such as:

  • The Hunter Biden laptop story, which NPR explicitly declared a waste of its time in the fall of 2020
  • RussiaGate and its collaboration with Adam Schiff, who turned out to be lying about evidence of collusion
  • The COVID lab-leak question
  • The coverage of the current Hamas war on Israel
  • The coverage of the transgender and sex-change industry
  • The explicit push to frame stories through identity politics under previous management after the George Floyd riots, and the directive to be "agents of change" as a priority
  • Identity groups having editorial control of content

Rather than respond to Berliner's substantive complaints, Maher has issued a "final warning" to Berliner to stop talking about them:

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In presenting Berliner's suspension Thursday afternoon, the organization told the editor he had failed to secure its approval for outside work for other news outlets, as is required of NPR journalists. It called the letter a "final warning," saying Berliner would be fired if he violated NPR's policy again. Berliner is a dues-paying member of NPR's newsroom union but says he is not appealing the punishment. ... 

Berliner says he did not get permission from NPR to speak with me for this story but that he was not worried about the consequences: "Talking to an NPR journalist and being fired for that would be extraordinary, I think."

Yes, that would be "extraordinary" indeed, and I wonder what Maher will have in mind for Folkenflik after reading this gutsy exposé. But let's talk about the union too, because Berliner had a few things to say about it in his Free Press column. Berliner shouldn't need to file a complaint over this suspension; any union of actual value to its members would immediately confront management for this suspension over whistleblowing. But Berliner argues that the union has been just as corrupted by ideological and partisan politics, and is essentially in bed with management on message control at NPR:

But the role and standing of affinity groups, including those outside NPR, were more than that. They became a priority for NPR’s union, SAG-AFTRA—an item in collective bargaining. The current contract, in a section on DEI, requires NPR management to “keep up to date with current language and style guidance from journalism affinity groups” and to inform employees if language differs from the diktats of those groups. In such a case, the dispute could go before the DEI Accountability Committee.

In essence, this means the NPR union, of which I am a dues-paying member, has ensured that advocacy groups are given a seat at the table in determining the terms and vocabulary of our news coverage. 

Conflicts between workers and bosses, between labor and management, are common in workplaces. NPR has had its share. But what’s notable is the extent to which people at every level of NPR have comfortably coalesced around the progressive worldview.

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If we don't hear a peep from Berliner's union over Maher's retaliation for his whistleblowing, it's because they're just as ideologically corrupt as management. 

As I argued last week, it's already long past time to strip NPR of all government funding and tax subsidies, and force them to compete on an equal footing with other media outlets:

If that funding is as negligible to NPR as its defenders pretend, it won't matter. Their consistent and organized opposition to defunding efforts -- Trump proposed defunding in each of his first three budget proposals -- tells the real story of NPR's reliance on taxpayer funding. And even if one embraces Berliner's claim that reform has to come from within, it's time to strike down the public-funding struts that buffer NPR from the consequences of its corrupt operations and propaganda production.

Maher's retaliation against a whistleblower makes defunding even more urgent. Taxpayers should not have to fund a media outlet at all, but especially not one that's mainly posing as journalists whilst conducting an ongoing struggle session and punishing heretics.  

NPR and its management represents the worst of the Protection Racket Media -- a platform funded by the DC Blob to serve its interests, disseminate its propaganda, and fortify their bubble that locks out the views and values of ordinary Americans. We need independent voices that can't be silenced to keep speech and debate both free and robust. Many of our readers have joined the fight as part of our VIP and VIP Gold membership, and they have been crucial to our operations as an independent platform and the ability to debate all of the issues honestly. 

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Join us in the fight. Become a HotAir VIP member today and use promo code FAKENEWS to receive a 50% discount on your membership.

Fittingly, Andrew Malcolm and I discuss NPR's meltdown in today's episode of The Ed Morrissey Show podcast, although we recorded it yesterday Today's show features:



  •  Titanic, and NPR Hits an Iceberg: On the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, Andrew Malcolm recalls one remarkable story from a career full of interesting tales.
  •  We discuss how he came across the story, and why such human-interest stories grab us. We also discuss the film Titanic and why that resonates for similar reasons. 
  • Plus, Andrew gives his thoughts on the credibility meltdown at NPR, and why it has lost its way.  

The Ed Morrissey Show is now a fully downloadable and streamable show at  Spotify, Apple Podcasts, the TEMS Podcast YouTube channel, and on Rumble and our own in-house portal at the #TEMS page!

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Dennis Prager 12:00 AM | May 22, 2024
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