Climate Change and NPR


I’d like to share with you a letter I wrote to National Public Radio a few days ago in response to something I heard on one of their programs that disturbed me.

Dear NPR folks,

First of all, I love NPR very much. I learn so much from it every day that my life would be diminished without it.

But yesterday I heard just the latest example of something that bothers me a great deal about NPR in recent years–a false even-handedness. During the Talk of the Nation program on apologies, a caller said, “Look at the Republicans, for God’s sake. They don’t apologize. And they say. . . ” At which point, the host cut her off with “Now, now, we’re trying to be even-handed here.”

Even-handedness is a virtue, but not when it is at the expense of the truth.  NPR should have no place for the kind of even-handedness that hands out the same sentence to the robber and the victim.

[In my letter, I didn't go into cataloguing examples of bogus even-handedness.   But NPR does this phony 'even-handed' thing a lot.  I've heard them treat climate change deniers the same as climate change warners, as if a set of beliefs held by just 3% of scientists holds just as much weight as the beliefs of 97%.  NPR helps create the false impression that scientists are evenly divided on the notion of human-caused warming of the planet.] 

In this particular instance, the caller was not unfair; she was accurate. Among the GOP’s transgressions in these times–a propos the subject of apologies–has been accusing the President of apologizing for America when he’d done no such thing. The Republicans were explicitly repudiating the idea of apologies. But even if the caller were unfair and inaccurate, since when is it the host’s job on Talk of the Nation to correct every caller who displays a bias? The host’s unseemly haste in this instance, like the various other instances of this bogus even-handedness that prompts me to write you today, bespeaks a kind of terror on the part of public broadcasting not to offend the powers on the right.

While such fear may be understandable, given NPR’s exposure to the political winds and the Right’s tendency to punish those who speak the truth about it (c.f. the Plame affair), I would rather that NPR stand on good journalistic principles, standing for the truth and let the chips fall where they may.


April Moore

4 Responses to “Climate Change and NPR”

  1. Diane Artz Furlong Says:

    Well said.

  2. sandra rose Says:

    April, You couldn’t be more right — I mean more left.

    All too often, interviewers are obsequious. That kind of interviewing gives tacit approval to what the “guest” says. I don’t find that informative at all and am always shocked when I hear NPR employing that style.

    Thanks for calling attention to that program.

  3. Katharine Layton Says:

    Good that you took the time to write what I am sure many of us are thinking.

  4. Judy Muller Says:

    Thank you for this excellent letter, April. I have noticed this more frequently than I would like, giving equal time to “fringe” ideas. If you receive a response that has any content worth sharing, perhaps you will post it.

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