The public editor of National Public Radio (NPR), Elizabeth Jensen, recommended that the radio news service stop conducting live interviews with conservatives that have controversial views. Although the taxpayer-funded NPR has since clarified its policy and says that live interviews of conservatives will continue, it doesn’t undo the statement made by Jensen or its suggested implications that were made prior to NPR’s damage control statement.
The statement stemmed from an interview with a member of the Breitbart news organization. Joel Pollak is a Breitbart Senior Editor and In-house Counsel. On air, he defended Breitbart’s executive chairman Stephen K. Bannon from false claims of being an anti-Semitic white nationalist. This outraged some NPR listeners that an employee from Breitbart News was given the opportunity to defend the website and its chairman. Jensen concluded that live formatting allowed Pollak to take the upper hand in the interview. Jensen went on to express her opinion that those types of interviews should not be conducted live because it is difficult to contextualize them with limited time.
Jensen argued that contextualization has worked in similar interviews with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and white nationalist Richard Spencer. Pollack responded to reject NPR’s attempt to link Bannon, and website Breitbart, with white nationalism. The recommendations made by Jensen seem very similar to a statement made as a critique of left-wing pressure group, Media Matters. The critique stated “the interview failed to contextualize the true extent of Breitbart’s extremism under Bannon’s leadership.” Bannon took a leave of absence from Breitbart after being appointed Trump campaign CEO, he is currently Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to President-elect Donald Trump.
Jensen applauded at the prospect of Bannon being described with the term “white nationalist”. Although Bannon disputes the term, Jensen linked to an internal NPR memorandum that suggested the term “white nationalist” should be used in stories on the “alt-right.”
This goes to show that many media outlets are insistent on taking things out of context to portray their desired views. So, NPR employees were upset that they failed to portray Bannon as an anti-Semitic, racist and white nationalist. They feel the need to link anything “alt-right” to white nationalism, but why? NPR considers it dangerous to allow interviewees the opportunity to express themselves fully. They wish to contextualize the content to their views, to appease their left-wing listeners. They view right-wing interviewees as their opponents and employ strategies like cutting them off mid speech to supply contrary views and control the output.
Breitbart News has supplied counter context for NPR’s move towards content control, suggesting that Congress cut off its funding and review its nonprofit status. Does it make sense that leftists shouldn’t use taxpayer money to release biased news? Sure.
On Monday, NPR clarified that it will continue to conduct live interviews of conservative guests. NPR has not changed its policy on live interviews, although recent questions and misunderstandings have arisen regarding the taping of live interviews. NPR says that Jensen’s expression was her opinion and not consistent with the views of the media outlet. Her role is to hear the public’s views and offer her judgement on them. NPR did however say that they always appreciate Jensen’s suggestions and take them seriously, although she does not set their policies.
Several subsequent commentators said that NPR would not be conducting live interviews with conservatives, which is incorrect. “Let me say in no uncertain terms, we would never apply a political litmus test to whether an interview is conducted live. Indeed, our preference is to interview news makers live. Whether an interview is done live or taped is a decision made by show producers based on the needs and logistics of their show and the availability of their guests. The most common reason to tape a news interview is simply that the guest is not available at the scheduled time. For example, Morning Edition is live from 5 a.m. – 7 a.m. Eastern. Our goal is to present the widest possible range of views to our audiences. I hope this clarifies how these decisions are made and sets the record straight.”