Journal's Call on NPR Debacle Rich in Irony

November 4th, 2010 · 4 Comments · Uncategorized

By Tracy Dingmann

On Monday, Nov. 1, the Journal published an astonishingly priggish editorial about National Public Radio and the way it fired Juan Williams over comments he made on FOX news about feeling uncomfortable around some Muslims.

The editorial, called “NPR Is Still Public,” was correct in taking NPR to task for its admittedly clumsy handling of the firing of their longtime commentator.

But it was this line in the Journal’s opinion piece that stopped me cold:

Perhaps NPR would do well to remember not all average Americans are the same and that, while FOX is a private concern, public radio should be less knee-jerk and more open to all viewpoints.

Criticism of Pre-Election Coverage

A fascinating sentiment, coming from the Journal, which is – like FOX News – a privately-owned concern. (NPR, as the editorial correctly noted, is considered “public” even though NPR stations only get 10 percent or less of their funding from tax dollars.)

Like FOX, the Albuquerque Journal drew enormous criticism from many in the run-up to the mid term elections for its slavish devotion to Republican candidates and Republican talking points in both its editorial and news pages.

So forgive me if I detect a bit of defensiveness in this editorial on the part of the Journal regarding FOX News and its suggestion that public radio “be less knee-jerk and more open to all viewpoints.”

How About “More Knee-Jerk and Closed?”

Certainly, it is the Journal’s right and FOX News’ right as private corporations to be as knee-jerk and closed to all viewpoints as they want. These news outlets have every right to call certain stories news and to openly support whatever candidates they choose. These news outlets have every right to bend or break traditional rules of journalism to suit their editorial whims.

But it is also the right of Journal readers to view their local paper with much less credibility – and to stop reading or cancel their subscriptions.

Journal Readers React

And it’s happening. Last week, one very high-profile Journal reader cancelled his subscription after some 50 years of reading the paper.

Former Albuquerque Mayor Jim Baca, writing on his blog “Only In New Mexico,” told his readers he was canceling his subscription to the Journal after it endorsed a virtually all-Republican slate of candidates for federal, state and local offices.

He wrote:

“They are no longer credible. They are Fox news.”

Many other local political observers complained similarly about the Journal’s endorsements on  various social media sites, citing some of the same concerns as Baca and more.

You Decide – We’ll Opine

In the coming weeks, we’ll have a lot to say on Journal Watch about apparent changes they and other longtime readers have noticed in the paper in recent years – and compare them with our own observations.

We’ll examine claims that the paper seems to have gotten more egregious when it comes to blurring the lines between opinion and news, and we’ll discuss changes we’ve seen in editorial policies we’ve seen regarding endorsements, news coverage and other matters at New Mexico’s only “Paper of Record.”

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Jason

    Tracy, you cut the Journal too much slack when you say they were correct in taking NPR to task. Reading the Journal’s editorial, I was struck by this line: “Though clumsily stated, Williams was attempting to criticize the tendency to blame all Muslims for the horrible acts of a few.” That’s just not a reasonable characterization of Williams’ words or tone. Williams said to Bill O’Reilly “you’re right” that Muslims are a threat, and political correctness can lead to “not addressing reality.” He goes on to imply that
    Muslims who by dress and behavior identify themselves “first and foremost as Muslims” are setting themselves up to be suspects of being terrorists.

    One may or may not think what Williams said was offensive or justified his firing, but no way was he speaking in favor of tolerance, as implied by the Journal.

  • Roland

    As usual, the editors of the Journal disguise their conservative biases behind pious rhetoric, as if they are just trying to be “fair and balanced.” First, they defend Williams’ negative comment about Muslims by saying that it reflects the sentiments of many “average Americans” — as if that somehow makes it o.k.? One might add, that it reflects the sentiments of many average, biased Americans. Then the Journal adds the quip about how NPR should be more “open to all viewpoints” (codewords for “liberal bias”). Finally, the Journal throws in pious rhetoric about how Williams was really defending Muslims against being blamed “for the horrible acts of a few.” Given the Journal’s twisted editorial, you would think that NPR was criticizing Williams for defending Muslims!

  • Roland

    Concerning the point about how the Journal has become more egregious in its conservative biases over time, I’ve only lived here for 6 years so I can’t provide much time-depth for my observations. My impression is that the Journal has become more publicly biased in its editorials and endorsements since the disappearance of the ABQ Tribune. The Tribune was certainly more liberal in its views than the Journal. It served as a counterfoil, highlighting differences in endorsements when the Journal veered too far to the right. With the disappearance of the Tribune, there is little left to provide checks and balances. The Journal is now free to brazenly lurch to the extreme right, and the ABQ metro area has only the occasional blog or website to challenge them. The tragedy of this situation is that the ABQ metro area is the single largest block of voters in our state, and it is roughly evenly balanced between Democrats and Republicans. But our voters are now in the hands of an overtly biased newspaper which seems to have no qualms about carrying out a Republican agenda.

  • Tracy Dingmann

    Great comments, all. Thanks. It’s funny to be taken to task for not being cynical enough when writing about Journal editorials! Thanks for pointing out the craziness in what the Journal actually said about Williams and his statements.

    And I think you are right on, Roland, about the changes at the Journal being linked to the fact that the Tribune is no longer around.

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