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Without any fanfare or too much notice, the proprietor of the very excellent watchdog blog NPR Check put up his final post the other day.  I was pretty disappointed, and am hoping somebody else takes up the banner.  Media Matters does a nice job of calling out misinformation in the media, but NPR Check was more narrowly focused, more willing and able to delve into details and parse specific NPR News shows and segments, in which since 2000 or so Republican talking points have frequently appeared.

I'm going to talk about Alaska, because I have been here a long time and am familiar with the political landscape -- but I hope that the illustration will be useful and apply equally to the rest of Red State America, where the gains realized in the '06 and '08 elections could be built upon to more effectively get the Democratic Party's message out there, and hopefully swing some races in '12, '14 and beyond.

There has been progress in bringing broadband to rural America [and the Alaska Bush], but for the most part public radio broadcast stations still reach more people, and most of them carry NPR's flagship programs, Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation.  The content of these programs -- to the extent they treat political issues fairly and focus on the real issues -- is just as important to us, if not more so than whatever Rush, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and others in that realm are preaching to their followers.

My published comment in NPR Check's final thread:

soooo sad to see this blog close! i have pointed many people here since finding it. literally almost 90% of my friends still listen to ME, TOTN and ATC on a daily basis. they do NOT listen critically and are happy to accept most of what is said at face value -- i think because NPR is still good at sounding professional, unbiased, impartial and thorough. hope somebody else picks up where you are leaving off. it's a soul-sucking proposition to be certain, but very badly needed.
An anonymous poster replied:
"they do NOT listen critically and are happy to accept most of what is said at face value -- i think because NPR is still good at sounding professional, unbiased, impartial and thorough."

Actually, they listen non-critically because they WANT to believe what NPR is telling them.

Liberals listen to NPR for the same reason conservatives listen to FOX: it reinforces their world view (especially American exceptionalism) and makes them feel good about themselves.

On this key point, FOX and NPR aren't really very different.

People do not like to hear that drones are killing civilians, that nuclear reactors are melting down, that people are being tortured in their name, etc.

The self-styled "liberals" and "progressives" who make up a large part of NPR's listenership are more blameworthy than the folks who listen to FOX, in my opinion.

The former claim to be opposed to torture and all the rest but in reality are little more than hypocritical phonies.

I don't quite agree -- at least, the people I was referring to are more guilty of being less inquisitive than would be ideal, and more trusting of NPR... and more likely to have it as their sole source of national political news and views, for financial and logistical reasons.

In Alaska, there are 28 radio stations statewide that carry NPR News programming and it is backed up by statewide news from the Alaska Public Radio Network.  APRN airs a nightly half hour statewide news summary and a weekday morning two hour call-in program, Talk of Alaska.  In many of the places where these programs air [Bethel, Barrow, Kotzebue, Kodiak, Nome...] there are not other radio stations.  The stations are important to locals for some critical reasons [Marine weather forecasts, community calendars and other local news and info].  I have a sense there is a Plan B, to keep this 28 station network intact in case a Republican controlled U.S. Congress ever makes good on their occasional campaigns to cut off funding to Public Broadcasting.

I'm in a long distance relationship and two or three times a month I make a drive to see my girlfriend in Homer, AK, a 220 mile road trip from Anchorage where I live.  On the way there are five or six public radio stations, on both AM and FM -- and not much else to listen to, maybe a Christian broadcasting station or oldies [both automated and no news except 5 minute headlines] for part of the way.  So I end up listening to ME, ATC and TOTN sometimes... and one can definitely notice a lot of GOP propaganda!  It drives me crazy, actually.  

I had originally planned to write a blow by blow of a typical ME or ATC broadcast, in order to illustrate what I am talking about.  I think most of you already know, in greater or lesser degree about NPR's malaise and missteps in the last decade... the sacking of Bob Edwards two months before the '04 election; the takedown of Bill Moyers on PBS by former Corporation for Public Broadcasting head Kevin Tomlinson; the James O'Keefe sting of NPR's Ron Schiller; the Juan Williams debacle; NPR's gradual drift to the right and the continuing practices of false equivalence and talking around an issue instead of directly confronting the facts.

In Anchorage, we had a liberal talk station, KUDO, from 2004 to 2010 that used to air Thom Hartmann, Mike Malloy, Randi Rhodes, Ed Shultz and some local liberal talkers too.  But that was only a single station [without even a very strong signal] in Anchorage.  [There was also a sister station in Juneau for part of that time.] Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau [where most of the people live] already have a good Democratic base -- and getting better all the time, due to changing demographics.

Many of the 28 AK stations also broadcast better programs, such as Democracy Now!, Counterspin, Alternative Radio and others -- but they typically [with the notable exception of the station in Valdez] don't place these shows front and center.  The station in Homer, KBBI airs Democracy Now! at 5:00 AM.  I sent them a $40 donation, telling them I would pay this much annually unless they got rid of ME, ATC and TOTN, in which case I would increase my annual gift to $120 or more!  I told them they should do it for the same reason that the Homer Chamber of Commerce cut its ties to the national Chamber last year -- the national organization no longer represents the local stakeholders' values and best interest.  

The way the 2010 U.S. Senate race played out was interesting.  If you care to recall, incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski was upset in the primary by Tea Partier Joe Miller, but she came back and defeated Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams in the general via a write-in campaign.  She did so by making inroads into the Alaska Bush [the only other part of Alaska with a strong Democratic base].  The Alaska Native voters took a more pragmatic view, preferring Murkowski over taking a chance on McAdams, an unknown from Sitka [though there would have been nothing wrong with sending McAdams to DC, as far as I can tell].  But there was a disconnect between the Native corporation power brokers who strongly backed Murkowski, and their constituency who were more traditionally not likely to vote Republican.

U.S. Senator Mark Begich, D-AK, who defeated Ted Stevens in '08, faces a really tough re-election bid in '14.  He will squeak through if he wins at all.  He has Blue Dog tendencies, but he is really smart, willing to listen and learn, and a master tactician.  My money is on him.  But he will need to get his message out statewide, in what has to be the toughest state in the union to cover in a campaign.  It is obvious to understand that APRN could play a key role in keeping him in the Senate.

So what do y'all think?  I would like to see MSNBC quit running so many clips of outrageous statements by Rush, Beck and their ilk and start to take on Steve Innskeep, Cokie Roberts, Neal Conan and Scott Simon -- almost as wealthy, arguably just as influential and as irresponsible.

Update... as requested in comments, ways to let people at NPR know you are unhappy.

1. The NPR Ombudsman blog.  There are open threads where you may post and discuss anything you heard on NPR News.  
Sample of a recent comment:

Why no reporting on the de-regulations of the mining industry on the same day you did a report on Black lung being addressed?
Seems you wrote a story to pretend the mining industry would get safer when that day there was no chance of those new rules being enforced?
Why No mention of it. Or no mention of the link.

How is it possible the mining industry can get a free for all declared and NPR completely misses it.
PS is that all you guys have to say about Bain?
Mittens is not a liar.?
Serious?
You repeated stories about Obama's birth certificate for two years but can't give more than two days to this ?

2. Contact NPR email form.
Poll

How do you feel about current NPR News programming?

32%23 votes
21%15 votes
1%1 votes
11%8 votes
7%5 votes
5%4 votes
19%14 votes
1%1 votes

| 71 votes | Vote | Results

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