If you’re not sick to death of discussing NPR, here are a couple of smart takes on NPR’s role in journalism.
James Fallows points out why NPR is one of the few remaining media outlets that cares about reporting, the truth and getting it right:
NPR, whatever its failings, is one of the few current inheritors of the tradition of the ambitious, first-rate news organization. When people talk about the “decline of the press,” in practice they mean that fewer and fewer newspapers, news magazine, and broadcast networks can afford to try to gather information. The LA Times, the Washington Post, CBS News — they once had people stationed all around the world. Now they work mainly from headquarters — last year the Post closed all its domestic bureaus outside Washington — and let’s not even think about poor Newsweek and US News.[…]It has reporters at state houses and in war zones. At last count, it has something like 17 foreign bureaus and 16 domestic. In much of the country, especially away from the coasts, it’s a major source of local information and news. It claims that its total audience is some 27 million people a week; with all allowances for counting differences, it reaches a lot more people than Fox does. (Eg, a recent report put O’Reilly’s usual audience at around 3.3 million.) […]
And Jay Rosen looks more closely at NPR’s straitjacket definition of “news analyst”, using Cokie Roberts as an example.
Analysis as Cokie Roberts practices it means performing this savvy script upon the week’s events. She speculates on what voters are likely to do, or seem to be saying. (Listen to a typical example.) She discerns political motive in statements that pretend to be about public purpose. She calls upon Washington history to show us how we’ve heard it all before. She chuckles at the openly inauthentic. She serves up audible eyerolls when someone says that it’s time to get the country moving again or the money out of politics. Hundreds of sentences of hers start with, “Well, if you believe the polls….”
That’s a little too much voice for “straight reporting,” as professional journalists understand it. But it’s a lot less voice than Look: here’s what I, Cokie Roberts, establishment Democrat, Washington insider and amateur feminist historian think… The idea is to give her enough room to permit crap detection without losing the political protection that the View From Nowhere affords NPR.