NPR: And Now, for Balance, Bigots and Big Coal

Marriage equality opponent with sign: "Homosexuals Are Possessed by Demons" (cc photo: Tricky Toro)

Equal time? (cc photo: Tricky Toro)

When the law finally starts to catch up with the promise of equality for all, does one stop to wonder if anti-equality bigots feel left out?

That might not be the question you were asking in the wake of the Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. But it’s the question NPR‘s All Things Considered tried to answer (“Is There Bias in Media’s Coverage of Gay Marriage Fight?,” 6/27/13).

Here’s host Audie Cornish:

Yesterday’s decisions by the Supreme Court on gay marriage brought widespread celebration and a lot of coverage of those celebrations. But cultural conservatives who oppose same-sex marriage believe recent coverage of the issue has not fairly reflected their views. They may have a point.

Cornish mentioned that “coverage reflects a struggle to both capture multiple voices in a complex debate” before handing off the segment to NPR‘s media correspondent David Folkenflik. He interviewed ABC correspondent Terry Moran, who he said told him that “the views of people who take issue with gay marriage are not always adequately reflected.” (FAIR once did an Action Alert about Moran and other reporters reporting a proposed anti-marriage equality constitutional amendment from the point of view of opponents of marriage equality.) He also quoted arch-conservative marriage equality opponent Cal Thomas, before citing research that supposedly shows a tilt in media coverage in favor of marriage equality advocates. 

A few responses  come to mind.

For starters, FAIR has documented for over 25 years how certain entirely  legitimate points of view are marginalized in the press. (See the run up to the Iraq War for a dramatic example.) It is rare that for any part of corporate media to admit, in real-time, that they have not given adequate attention to the view that is apparently being marginalized. The fact that media figures have frequently expressed worry about not giving enough attention to the anti-marriage equality point of view (Extra!, 9/04, 5/13) suggests that media insiders think about being fair to advocates  of heterosexuals-only marriage than they do about fairness to any number of other points of view.

And in this case, it is the point of view of people who want to deny equal rights to another class of people. The idea that much time should be spent wondering about how bigots might feel is strange. It is ironic–and revealing–that this group’s feelings of being marginalized are given so much attention. (Earlier this year, the Washington Post had the same bizarre discussion about not granting bigots adequate space.)

And on a broader issue, as Jim Naureckas (FAIR Blog, 2/27/13) pointed out, this reveals a warped sensibility about the concept of “journalistic objectivity,” at least as it is understood by some reporters. Opponent of equality might believe their “traditional” marriages are threatened by gay marriage; objectively speaking, that is absurd. But “objective” coverage is supposed to treat this objectively absurd position as though it were  a reasonable point of view.

This reminded me of an NPR report  (Morning Edition, 6/26/13) after Barack Obama’s big speech on climate policy.  It was headlined “Coal Industry Concerned by Obama’s Climate Change Plans,” and that’s exactly what it was. Host Renee Montagne said the speech “has the coal industry and its supporters worried.” Then listeners heard from two Kentucky lawmakers–staunch industry supporters–and a vice president from an industry group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. There was room for another voice at the end–Vicki Arroyo of the Georgetown Climate Center.

So if you’re worried about how the coal industry feels about Obama’s climate plans, or how anti-equality crowd feels after they lose in court, NPR‘s got you covered.




About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.