Sunday, November 6, 2011

NP a R t 2

There was a recent announcement that NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED co-host, Michele Norris, will be off the broadcast for awhile because her husband is joining the Obama campaign. The same thing happened back in 2008.

I think the policy is ridiculous.

First: as one the host of the show (they rotate three co-hosts among two chairs on a weekly basis), I don't know exactly why they think it's going to matter whether she's there or not. This isn't the BBC during World War II: do you think she's going to sneak code words into the broadcast to help Democratic activists in the field? "Hey! She said 'snipe hunt.' Send out that mass-mailing to the poor neighborhood telling them that Mit Romney has a list of names and mass deportations will begin the day after he takes the oath!

People may charge that she could help bias the newscast in the Democrats' favor.

1. They're doing that already

2. Even though I'm cynical, I do believe most journalists really do try to be fair (even with #1 above)

3. The Republicans are their own worst enemies

Seriously--a newscast is a massive group effort of multiple layers of reporters, producers, technicians and beaurocrats of all sorts. I don't think one person, even an anchor, is really going to make that much difference. That's like having a rogue at Mission Control during a space flight. There are too many things going on for one person to subtly shift things in a way that others won't notice.

And I'm not kidding about #3. It often seems that they'll have a story and someone from the left side of the aisle makes a statement, and then they say, "we asked Congressman Smith (R) to come on, but his office declined." And this not on the gotcha journalism, but on the mundane stuff. OR they'll end up getting some boob who can't speak his own name if it's not on a position paper written by his staff. The result is you end up with a procession of Democrats who often come off, even if they're touching the brim with bullshit, as articulate and thoughtful, and the Republicans as stuffy, dull-witted, or too timid to trust their own ability to connect two coherent thoughts.

Some people will say that #1 is the reason for that, but I don't think so. I've listened to various NPR shows for 20 years. I do think it's mildly biased in its own ways, but I don't think they're Macciavellian in their handling and presentation.

So taking Michele Norris off the broadcast is just pointless. But like Congress, it gives them the opportunity to appear to be doing something.

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