MSNBC host Chris Matthews suggested that listening to National Public Radio (NPR) would counter the conservative slant of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Matthews's advice to viewers came in the final segment of the December 5 edition of the syndicated Chris Matthews Show, which he billed as his "how-to guide for dealing with media bias."
But NPR presents primarily news content, not editorial opinion. And while Media Matters for America has documented numerous instances of conservative misinformation from the Journal's editorial page, Media Matters has also noted instances of NPR or its employees serving up conservative misinformation. Further, a June 2004 study by media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) found that NPR has consistently featured Republican guests more frequently than Democrats.
In recent months, Media Matters noted that NPR hosts and correspondents have echoed the conservative claim that President Bush has a "mandate"; adopted the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign's misrepresentation of Senator John Kerry's statement about a "global test," then presented a purported "clarification" that itself perpetuated distortions of Kerry's statement; and hosted a post-debate "News Roundup" panel that skewed to the right.
The FAIR report, titled "How Public is Public Radio?" "recorded every on-air source quoted in June 2003" on NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition Saturday and Weekend Edition Sunday, and found the following:
Despite the commonness of such claims, little evidence has ever been presented for a left bias at NPR, and FAIR's latest study gives it no support. Looking at partisan sources -- including government officials, party officials, campaign workers and consultants -- Republicans outnumbered Democrats by more than 3 to 2 (61 percent to 38 percent). A majority of Republican sources when the GOP controls the White House and Congress may not be surprising, but Republicans held a similar though slightly smaller edge (57 percent to 42 percent) in 1993, when [former President Bill] Clinton was president and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. And a lively race for the Democratic presidential nomination was beginning to heat up at the time of the 2003 study.
Republicans not only had a substantial partisan edge, individual Republicans were NPR's most popular sources overall, taking the top seven spots in frequency of appearance. George [W.] Bush led all sources for the month with 36 appearances, followed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (8) and Sen. Pat Roberts (6). Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Secretary of State Colin Powell, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and Iraq proconsul Paul Bremer all tied with five appearances each.
From the December 5 edition of the syndicated Chris Matthews Show:
MATTHEWS: I say trust your instincts. Smell bias, left or right? Then start balancing what you're getting with something else. Read the Wall Street Journal editorial page over breakfast, but listen to National Public Radio on the drive to work. Talk about whiplash. Because in this world, you have to be your own fact-checker, your own fairness doctrine.