This is the first issue of Extra! with a special focus on radio–a medium that too often escapes critical scrutiny. As you might expect, FAIR regularly hears complaints about the generally one-sided talk show barrage on commercial radio. What may surprise you is that we get even more complaints about National Public Radio–not because NPR is as offensive as Rush Limbaugh and company, but because people who turn to radio for serious news expect more than they are getting. And they don’t like the direction it’s heading. (See FAIR’s report on NPR news on pages 18-26.)
One figure who symbolizes the pro-establishment drift at NPR is commentator Cokie Roberts, who is also called a “cross-over success” on network TV. Roberts often displays the same Beltway biases as her peers at ABC, like regularly calling for cuts in Social Security and Medicare (“Those are the big ticket items, and we all know that,” she lectured Al Gore–Nightline, 12/10/92), while showing no such zeal for reducing the post-Cold War military budget.
Roberts also denigrates “special interests”–by which she usually means seniors, feminists, civil rights groups, etc. Roberts’ impatience with grassroots lobbying groups does not seem to extend to the corporate lobbyists who largely run Washington. Perhaps it’s a family thing; Roberts’ brother, Thomas Boggs of the firm Patton, Boggs and Blow, is one of Washington’s most powerful lobbyists. She is said to be “fiercely protective” of her brother (Lear’s, 2/93).
If you are and NPR listener bothered by the elitist Beltway bias apparent in the work of Roberts and others and NPR, let news executives there know. You can call Morning Edition’s listener comment line at 202-775-8686. Or write to NPR at 2025 M. Street NW, Washington DC 20036. Call your local station as well, since they depend on contributions from people like you.