Thursday, March 24, 2011


The Wall Street Journal allowed NPR's Steve Inskeep to defend the network today in an op-ed, and Jeff Bercovici has now taken to his Forbes blog to tell us how appalled he is by Inskeep's deceitful remarks -- even though Inskeep actually isn't being deceitful, and Bercovici is:

NPR Uses Fuzzy Math to Fight Liberal Bias Claim

Did you know that NPR's audience actually skews conservative? I sure didn't, and I was shocked to read it in The Wall Street Journal this morning, in an op-ed by "Morning Edition" co-host Steve Inskeep. "In surveys by GfK MRI, most listeners consistently identify themselves as 'middle of the road' or 'conservative,'" Inskeep writes.

It turns out there was a reason I was shocked: It's not true. Or, rather, what Inskeep says is true in the narrowest, most literal sense, but he uses it to lead readers to a conclusion that is the opposite of the truth.

Here are the actual numbers from the research firm GfK MRI, provided to me upon request by an NPR spokeswoman:
28% of the NPR audience identify themselves as conservative or very conservative

25% identify themselves as middle of the road

37% identify themselves as liberal or very liberal
So, yes, it's accurate to say that 53 percent of NPR listeners -- ie. "most" listeners -- are either self-described conservatives of middle-of-the-roaders....

You know what, Jeff? This is simple grade-school math. There's no nuance here: either the numbers Inskeep says add up to a majority actually do add up to a majority or they don't. And -- as you acknowledge -- they do.

And yet you say of Inskeep's assertion, "It's not true." It is true. You say his reading of the statistics is meant to "lead readers to a conclusion that is the opposite of the truth." But it isn't "the opposite of the truth" -- it's the truth. Your assertion that it's the opposite of the truth is an untruth.

And your lead sentences are utterly deceitful, Jeff. Nowhere does Inskeep say, or imply, that "NPR's audience actually skews conservative." He says conservative and moderate. That's true.

Right-wingers regularly whine and complain a couple of different ways that are germane here. Sometimes they complain that, as right-wingers, they're sneered at and abused by the "liberal media." Your point (that most NPR listeners are either centrists or lefties -- that combination adds up to 62%) is relevant to that.

But at other times, right-wingers assert that NPR is dogmatically liberal and that America is a "center-right nation." Well, Inskeep has demonstrated unambiguously that NPR's audience is not dogmatically liberal and is in fact, majority center-plus-right.

Even though you say you're an NPR fan, Jeff, by accusing Inskeep of a lie he hasn't uttered, you've handed a big fat bullet point to the right, which it's already using as a weapon. Which is appropriate, I guess -- righties have never been in the habit of worrying whether their attacks on liberals are truthful, have they?

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