NPR ombud: Soros money bothers newsroom staffers

NPR.org
NPR is using a $1.8 million grant from the George Soros-funded Open Society Foundations for its Impact on Government project, which will have public radio reporters in every state keeping tabs on state issues. NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard says “a deep current of concern has run through the newsroom” about taking money from Soros. A longtime producer tells her:

I do have problems with it precisely because he is so left wing and were he on the other side I would still have problems with it. I don’t have a problem with people supporting particular causes but I do have a problem when obvious partisanship spills over into your support of those causes.

NPR staffers don’t question the need for tighter scrutiny of statehouses, as planned by the Impact of Government project, but “they just privately wish the money hadn’t come from Soros,” writes Shepard. “A few do note that NPR takes money from lots of foundations and are not bothered.” The ombud explains why she waited seven months to question the money from Soros:

Until now, I have stayed away from this topic because I wanted to see if NPR’s audience and staff were concerned about the grant. What I have found is that people keep asking me about the Open Society donation. The other day, a Wall Street Journal reporter asked me about it, in a whispered, concerned “is-this-alright?” tone that I often hear.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/bradleyfikes Bradley J. Fikes

    “I’ve gone off plenty on, for example, Pacifica Radio, which, though only
    a tiny fraction of the size and reach of Fox News, is actually even
    worse, story for story, in terms of skewing the actual news.”

    I provided a link to where I criticized right-wing bias in the news — it was also linked on Facebook, BTW. Where’s you’re link?

    “But of course, there is no gargantuan propaganda machine on the left, so
    there’s little point in assailing what little left-wing media there is.”

    That’s the bias I was talking about. You don’t see the propaganda because it accords with your views. You probably think it’s just regular unbiased journalism.

    “But again, you’re operating from the assumption that everyone is an ideological simpleton pursuing a political agenda.”

    No, that’s you putting words in my mouth I never said.

    “I admitted no “bias,” because I have none.”

    Tell me again how bad the right is, O Unbiased One.

    “By the way, your profile is linked to your Facebook page. If
    clicking on it is “stalking” to you, maybe you should create a separate
    account.

    Point taken.

    “You yourself have made your fanhood for such intellectual
    heavyweights as Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin easily accessible. No
    searching needed.”

    No bias, huh?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1033806645 John Parker

    NPR, this a plea from your nonpartisan listeners, web visitors, etc. Please do not allow yourselves to be run over again by a Right-wing political attack. You are professionals. You can recognize a partisan ploy by any party (political or otherwise) to sway your coverage. Just keep basing your decisions on professional news standards. History and citizens starving for unadulterated truth are depending on you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlie-Foxtrot/100001699765651 Charlie Foxtrot

    Would you feel the same way if Bibi Netanyahu were contributing money to Fox News?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504633504 Dan Mitchell

    But my examples were about NPR. That was the subject at hand. Oh, never mind. 

    I’ve gone off plenty on, for example, Pacifica Radio, which, though only a tiny fraction of the size and reach of Fox News, is actually even worse, story for story, in terms of skewing the actual news. But of course, there is no gargantuan propaganda machine on the left, so there’s little point in assailing what little left-wing media there is. But you and the pod people at Pacifica are the same in my book. Part of The Problem.

    But again, you’re operating from the assumption that everyone is an ideological simpleton pursuing a political agenda. Most people aren’t. I’m not. I admitted no “bias,” because I have none. I have no interest in pursuing general political goals via journalism. I’m just not in your little club, and I have no interest in joining it — so stop trying to draft me.

    By the way, your profile is linked to your Facebook page. If clicking on it is “stalking” to you, maybe you should create a separate account. You yourself have made your fanhood for such intellectual heavyweights as Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin easily accessible. No searching needed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504633504 Dan Mitchell

    Yep. I see you’ve been sucked even further into parrotland, Gerard, which is a real shame because while you always used to try to make trouble for its own sake, at least you once had your own personality. Any actual examples of left wing bias showing up in NPR News stories? Why is it that I always have to ask and ask and ask before anyone even attempts to present an example?

  • http://www.facebook.com/bradleyfikes Bradley J. Fikes

     Then what’s the problem? Nobody is forcing you to watch Fox, and it’s not government subsidized. Moreover, a lot of the shallowness you (and I) disdain is a function of  the medium. TV and journalism have a hard time getting along. That’s why I don’t get my news from TV.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bradleyfikes Bradley J. Fikes

    The poster’s name screams of Moby.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bradleyfikes Bradley J. Fikes

    David Koch does a lot of science philanthropy. He sponsors an exhibition on human origins in the Smithsonian in DC, and another about dinosaurs in the Museum of Natural History in NYC, both of which I saw earlier this month.

  • http://rightnetwork.com Van der Leun

    They probably still rent brains at Hertz. Consider signing up.

  • http://rightnetwork.com Van der Leun

     NPR: The perfect radio network for educated white pseuds.

  • http://rightnetwork.com Van der Leun

    Let’s see…. Juan Williams, the recent sting videos… and just standard common sense plus a google search on left wing bias npr… keep going keep going…. and decolonize your mind.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bradleyfikes Bradley J. Fikes

    Guess I hit a nerve. Thanks for the stalking.

    Here’s a recent example of where I condemn inaccurate right-wing reporting, that you somehow missed in your meticulous research: http://j.mp/mOLEN5

    I don’t care so much about what camp people belong to as to whether they’re honest about their motives. People like you who pretend to be unbiased while venting their biases cheapen journalism.

    I would rather read a honest lefty than a dishonest Libertarian or righty. As it so happens, most media types, like you, lean left. So I focus on their foibles.

    As for unions, I wasn’t referring to the bias at NPR, but to *your* bias. Your selective focus on corporate money reflects *your* belief — that companies are mostly right-wing and up to no good. If you ignore unions, you’re only going to write stories of corporate malfeasance. Since you’re such a professional journalist, you might try working on that.

    But thanks for admitting that you do, in fact, have a bias, and it’s not confined to just the likes of that evil Faux News. I’m looking forward to your posts condemning left-wing ideologues.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504633504 Dan Mitchell

    You’re really reaching here. NPR has plenty of its own complicated (and inevitable) problems with sponsors, no need to artificially graft PBS into it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504633504 Dan Mitchell

    Sure. It already has: of the small number of people who choose to get their news from cable TV, the majority has chosen Fox. They could have chosen MSNBC, which clumsily tries to provide a mirror of Fox, or they could have chosen CNN, which is fighting hard to become more shallow and inane than any other news outlet on the planet. But they chose Fox. The marketplace spoke. And as we all know, the majority is always right.

    Still, I think it’s telling that when actual big news happens, CNN trounces Fox. Because for all its shallowness and inanity, it still employs a lot of actual journalists and it still invests in having crews of professionals deployed around the world. Fox spends most of its money paying angry dudes to sit in a studio and be angry and lie a lot.

  • Chris Judd

    There is a fundamental flaw in the defense of taking the Soros money….
     
    Unlike Koch and oil company money for general programming or specific shows like Nova, Soros is specifically funding journalists covering state governments across the country. Paying reporters, editors, etc. All with the goal of having an Impact on Government. This is indefensible, using traditional journalism standards. And it will further damage NPR’s credibility.
     
    Maybe NPR won’t care. Maybe like NBC they’ll just say, ‘Screw it, look at FOX, let’s just drop the pretense of objectivity.’

  • Chris Judd

    There is a fundamental flaw in the defense of taking the Soros money….
     
    Unlike Koch and oil company money for general programming or specific shows like Nova, Soros is specifically funding journalists covering state governments across the country. Paying reporters, editors, etc. All with the goal of having an Impact on Government. This is indefensible, using traditional journalism standards. And it will further damage NPR’s credibility.
     
    Maybe NPR won’t care. Maybe like NBC they’ll just say, ‘Screw it, look at FOX, let’s just drop the pretense of objectivity.’

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504633504 Dan Mitchell

    Bradley, I’ve seen you comment here many times, and elsewhere, and I’ve seen your Facebook “likes,” which included all kinds of right-wing causes and personalities. I don’t mean this personally, since I don’t know anything else about you, but based on what you present to the world, you seem to be a cheap, partisan hack. It’s all you seem to care about — which “camp” someone belongs in. Which is why you can read what I wrote above as me “ranting against the right” and “railing against right-leaning corporate interests. This is so off base as to be delusional. And of course, it’s followed up by the usual false equivalence – the mention of unions. Because we know how massive and powerful they’ve become over the past couple of decades. Still if it makes you feel better, I think that if NPR were accepting tons of union money, that should be examined, too. Is NPR accepting tons of union money? If you don’t know without looking it up, why did you mention it?

    Ideologues, left and right, tend to assume everyone else is an ideologue, too. But most people simply aren’t driven by ideology. Most real journalists aren’t – because ideology in the end isn’t very interesting or useful. It is, in fact, harmful. Yes, I have political opinions, and while I’m far from being easily labeled, I guess in sum, I’m probably a moderate liberal. OK? But I also believe in free trade, just for example. I have huge problems with certain unions. I think charter schools, etc. should be explored more. But If it helps you make your way in the world to slap a simplistic label on every single person, there you have it: moderate liberal.

    So, great, now we know that. The point isn’t that we shouldn’t have political opinions, but that most of us, certainly in non-propagandist media, aren’t driven by them, or find them particularly interesting. We’re here to unearth facts and help people understand stuff, not to change their minds. If we wanted to do that, we’d work in politics. Or in the hack media.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bradleyfikes Bradley J. Fikes

    After you’ve ranted against the right, we’re expected to believe you’re *not* an lefty ideologue?

    While railing against right-leaning corporate interests, you fail to mention union interests (mostly left-wing) as worthy of investigation. Just admit your bias and drop this ridiculous pretense of fairness that your own words belie.

  • Anonymous

    Soros’ infiltration into American media should be the focus of congressional hearings. He has a track record of meddling in other countries’ political affairs, all with disatrous results for the people. He is extremely anti-American, as a websearch will quickly verify, and is using his money and influence to bring about socialism here. He spent some $25M to defeat George Bush in 2004. When Barack Obama launched his political career in the home of domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, Soros had a front row seat.

    All of Soros’ various organizations exist to promote “progressivism.” For the uninitiated who aren’t familiar with the term, it’s the Newspeak term for that failed political ideology, Socialism. Always destructive of freedom and individual rights, progressivism is nothing more than a nice sounding name for the destruction of America from within.

    Soros is building his private propaganda empire with which to misinform and confuse the American public. He should be investigated at the least, and if any of his so-called “charitable organizations” are found to be in violation of the law, they should be shut down and the principals prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The American public deserves to know exactly what he’s up to, and avoid any media outlets that have the stain of his association anywhere.

    His news outlets will not inform you, they will brainwash you.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    Any strings or conditions on the money? If not, who cares where it comes from?

    Newspapers and magazines and commercial broadcast entities all live off of advertising revenue – and take pains to keep editorial separate from advertising. I know I was never stopped or discouraged from printing things that we knew would upset advertisers.

    If NPR maintains the same separation – and from everything I’ve seen, they do – it doesn’t make any difference who throws the money at them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bradleyfikes Bradley J. Fikes

    The marketplace will decide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504633504 Dan Mitchell

    We’ve become hopelessly blinded by ideology – not only are ideologues themselves blinded by definition (see the predictable comments below), but the whole society puts so much emphasis on ideology that we miss actual problems right under our noses. So here we have some NPR employees and the ombud worried about Soros money, but no mention at all is made of the huge piles of corporate cash NPR gets.

    I used to work for NPR. I know that the overwhelming majority of journalists there aren’t partisan, certainly when it comes to their work — they are more hypercareful about this than the journalists at any other place I’ve ever worked — to a fault, even. And it shows in their work: Notice that people like to simply declare how “liberal” NPR is, but they almost never give examples of this “bias” showing up in news reports. They just say it. And when pressed, they come up with examples that aren’t examples at all. And they always compare NPR to Fox, as if they were equivalent, even though the supposed straight-news shows on Fox reveal a clear rightward bias several times a *day*, all of it well documented. I’d be shocked if someone came up with that many examples of bias in NPR News coverage in three *years.*

    And I don’t believe NPR reporters are swayed by corporate sponsorships, either. But if anyone, including NPR journalists or ombudspeople, is going to complain about money coming from someone who expresses political opinions, they should complain 10 times more vociferously about money coming from corporate interests. Because that’s a lot more potentially problematic in a far more insidious way. Just for one thing, coverage can be, and is (lord knows), examined for political bias. But it’s ultimately impossible to determine the degree to which coverage might be swayed to appease corporate sponsors – basically, you might never know when a story was passed on or softened up for this reason.

    I don’t think this happens at NPR, and the network has to get money from someplace, but if we’re going to worry about sponsorship, lets worry about the most problematic form of it. Financial interests are much, much stronger and more determined than purely ideological interests. And when we *do* examine money coming from partisan sources, let’s try to determine when those sources are being used as a front for corporate interests. That happens to occur much more frequently on the right than on the left, of course.

  • Anonymous

    Brevity is the soul of wit. But you’re right- amounst the witless, it’s confusing. So, here goes:

    Soros is SO left wing.  The guy pushed and continues pushing hard for SOCIALISM in Central and Eastern Europe, is a big supporter of UNDERMINING DEMOCRATIC GOVERMRNTS and FREEDOM around the world, and makes his money in finance.  In the American scheme of things, he’s a ONE WORLD GOV’T COMMUNIST, and it’s a sad statement how far LEFT the DEMOCRATIC PARTY has gone in the last 10 or 20 years that THEY’VE BEEN TAKEN OVER BY PROGRESSIVES AND COMMUNISTS.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511212030 Ken Doran

    I certainly do think that the NPR/PBS parallel is stronger for these purposes than CBS/NBC.  However, if the story were about outrage that CBS was in an arrangement  with someone as supposedly extreme as Soros, it would still be and odd gap not to mention a similar connection between NBC and Koch.

  • http://www.jt10000.com John Forrest Tomlinson

    How so?

  • Anonymous

    I really do not understand how those who are not bothered by taking money from Exxon and Cargill can get their knickers in a twist over George Soros.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504633504 Dan Mitchell

    “the parallel is strong enough”

    You’ll have to explain that one. NPR and PBS have nothing to do with each other. This is like saying there’s a “gaping hole” in the coverage of some problem with a CBS News sponsor because there was no mention of a totally different, unrelated problem with an NBC News sponsor.

  • Anonymous

    You seem to have confused the meanings of “news” and “novelty.”  

    – MrJM

  • Anonymous

    And that is non-responsive.

    – MrJM

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504633504 Dan Mitchell

    If NPR is the mirror image of Fox, does that go for presentation, too? I guess it must, because not only is NPR the opposite of loud, garish, lowbrow, moronic, and tasteless, it’s also pretty good at actually covering the news, whereas Fox is hopelessly, ridiculously, hilariously incompetent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bradleyfikes Bradley J. Fikes

    I’m all for the Soros donation. The more money Soros gives, the less NPR needs in government subsidies. And when NPR is off the government dole, not only will it be free of pressure from conservative politicians, but it can openly position itself as the left-leaning alternative to Fox News.

  • Anonymous

    That’s just ignorant.

  • Anonymous

    NOVA is a news show? Maybe for you, math and physics is new- but most folks already know a lil sumpin sumpin ’bout science. Put down the Kool-Aid, and get a clue.

  • http://www.jt10000.com John Forrest Tomlinson

    Soros is “so left wing”?  The guy pushed and continues pushing hard for democracy in Central and Eastern Europe, is a big supporter of fair elections and human rights around the world, and makes his money in finance.  In the American scheme of things, he’s a basic liberal, and it’s a sad statement how far right the U.S. has gone in the last 10 or 20 years that mainstream liberal ideology is now considered “left wing.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511212030 Ken Doran

    My sentiments exactly.  David Koch, is a high-stakes, credited funder of the PBS news show NOVA.  I am aware that NPR and PBS are different organizations, but the parallel is strong enough that failure to address the point leaves a gaping hole in this story.

  • Anonymous

    they don’t seem to care about Koch or oil company money. They shouldn’t care about Soros. The wingnuts will always go after them no matter how much money they get from right wing millionaires and corporations and how little they get from the public. The whole point is to get rid of the Soros funds.