NPR’s woke turn has destroyed its credibility

A veteran editor has been suspended for speaking out against its identitarian bias.

Jenny Holland

Topics Identity Politics USA

Want to read spiked ad-free? Become a spiked supporter.

For a large portion of my adult life, I was a regular, even devout, listener to America’s National Public Radio. Funded by taxpayers and donors large and small, NPR has been a cornerstone of US liberal culture since it was founded in 1970. The NPR tote bag, given out to listeners who make a donation, has long been a staple in every bien pensant neighbourhood from Boston to Brooklyn to Berkeley.

Sadly, NPR’s transformation from broadcaster for the broadminded, quirky and intellectually curious – hallmarks of the American liberalism of yore – into purveyor of state propaganda is now beyond doubt. In this, it reflects the views of its audience. Today, the American liberal is little more than a faithful Democratic Party hack – closed-minded, dogmatic and terrified of any truth that challenges their worldview.

Last week, veteran NPR editor Uri Berliner published an essay in the Free Press confirming from the inside what had long been blindingly obvious to any outsider. ‘An open-minded spirit no longer exists within NPR’, Berliner writes. Its journalism has become ‘knee-jerk, activist and scolding’. ‘And now, predictably, we don’t have an audience that reflects America.’

The newsroom itself certainly does not reflect America, as Berliner notes. He surveyed the voter registration of his colleagues in Washington, DC: ‘I found 87 registered Democrats working in editorial positions and zero Republicans. None.’

In his article, Berliner places a lot of the blame for the wokeification of NPR on its former CEO, John Lansing. NPR CEOs would once stick to managing the station’s staff and fundraising, taking a hands-off approach to editorial matters. But Lansing quickly became the station’s activist-in-chief after the death of George Floyd in 2020. Abandoning all pretence of journalistic objectivity, Lansing called on his staff to be ‘agents of change’. ‘We must commit ourselves – body and soul – to profound changes in ourselves and our institutions’, Berliner quotes him as saying.

Berliner ends his essay on a hopeful note about NPR’s new CEO, Katherine Maher. ‘I’m rooting for her’, he even writes. I wonder how he is feeling about that now, given the announcement this week of his suspension by NPR. Berliner faces five days without pay for writing the Free Press essay (supposedly for the crime of failing ‘to secure approval for outside work’). Maher also personally described Berliner’s article as ‘profoundly disrespectful, hurtful and demeaning’.

In truth, Berliner’s optimism was always misplaced. Old tweets have since resurfaced showing Maher to be the ultimate exemplar of an impeccably credentialed woke white woman. She is the kind of person who dreams about sampling nuts with Kamala Harris and tweets about ‘rejecting binary gender frameworks’. Despite her recent ascent to one of the top jobs in American media, Maher has no background in journalism, having instead worked at a veritable who’s who of globalist organisations like HSBC and the World Bank.

I suppose going from corporate boardrooms to a woke newsroom won’t be that much of a jump. After all, 20 years ago, NPR was the recipient of what it described as ‘the largest monetary gift ever received by an American cultural institution’. It came from Joan Kroc, the widow of the founder of McDonald’s. NPR, for all its pretence of being ‘independent’ and ‘democratic’, is as dependent on corporate largesse as any other news organisation.

In his article last week, Berliner attributed the rise in newsroom activism to the election of Donald Trump in 2016. But I started noticing a distinct change in NPR’s coverage in the years before that. Every story suddenly seemed to be about racism and / or transphobia. The articles retained NPR’s signature cutesy tone, but the content was increasingly doctrinaire. The new wokeified NPR now regularly publishes articles like ‘Can we talk about whiteness?’ and ‘A new children’s album celebrates kids who are transgender and nonbinary’. It has become little more than a 21st-century version of the Works Progress Administration for otherwise unemployable woke college grads.

Nothing in Berliner’s insider’s tale shocked me. Why? Because nothing could ever shock me more than NPR’s stunning journalistic malfeasance over the Hunter Biden laptop story. In late October 2020, on the cusp of a hotly contested presidential election, NPR’s managing editor for news defended its decision to ignore the New York Post’s bombshell allegations of the Biden family’s corruption on the grounds that ‘we don’t waste our time on stories that are not really stories’. The Post’s reporting has since been vindicated, which other liberal outlets like the New York Times have been forced to acknowledge. For NPR to dismiss the story out of hand was pure journalistic malpractice. Indeed, it is possible to even make the case that the mainstream media’s refusal to cover this true story had an impact on the 2020 election. The blatant bias we saw back then sticks in the craw to this day.

Good for Berliner for being brave enough to publicly air his concerns about NPR. He is certainly paying a heavy price for it. But truth be told, he is merely the latest in an ever-growing line of media whistleblowers telling the same sorry tale of liberal newsrooms being devoured by woke activism. If there is any evidence of these exposés prompting change or even reflection in these newsrooms, I have yet to see it. America’s liberal media are beyond saving.

Jenny Holland is a former newspaper reporter and speechwriter. Visit her Substack here.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Identity Politics USA


Want to join the conversation?

Only spiked supporters and patrons, who donate regularly to us, can comment on our articles.

Join today