Thanks to Menagerie for pointing me to this story – we don’t see many of these!
In a New York Post article published Saturday, former NPR CEO Ken Stern said he worked among liberals while at the network and added, “When you are liberal, and everyone else around you is as well, it is easy to fall into groupthink on what stories are important, what sources are legitimate and what the narrative of the day will be.” His essay coincides with the publication Tuesday of Republican Like Me: How I Left the Liberal Bubble and Learned to Love the Right, a book in which Stern describes a year hanging out with conservatives.
The Current article includes a snarky letter sent to them by Brian Mann, a reporter at NPR. Although its intent is to belittle Mr. Stern’s editorial, it ironically proves the points he made. It concludes:
Finally, I want to call you out on your fairly blatant cultural tourism. You’re not the first one to pull this stunt. For decades city folk have been pulling on a pair of suspenders and spending a few Sundays in church with The Conservatives and then writing books in which you declare yourself shocked — shocked! — to find that they read books and talk in complete sentences and think about race in America. But the fact that you’re not the only city slicker to “spend an entire year” with “the other side” doesn’t make what you’ve done any less ridiculous.
And the fact that you dragged NPR into your pre-chewed “How I learned to love the hicks” narrative, when public radio reporters have been telling conservative America’s story with care and knowledge and intimate, deep, factual reporting for decades? That’s even more ridiculous.
I guess when you are in the bubble, it’s hard to understand the rest of us.
Here is some of what Mr. Stern said in the New York Post:
Most reporters and editors are liberal — a now-dated Pew Research Center poll found that liberals outnumber conservatives in the media by some 5 to 1, and that comports with my own anecdotal experience at National Public Radio. When you are liberal, and everyone else around you is as well, it is easy to fall into groupthink on what stories are important, what sources are legitimate and what the narrative of the day will be.
This may seem like an unusual admission from someone who once ran NPR, but it is borne of recent experience. Spurred by a fear that red and blue America were drifting irrevocably apart, I decided to venture out from my overwhelmingly Democratic neighborhood and engage Republicans where they live, work and pray. For an entire year, I embedded myself with the other side, standing in pit row at a NASCAR race, hanging out at Tea Party meetings and sitting in on Steve Bannon’s radio show. I found an America far different from the one depicted in the press and imagined by presidents (“cling to guns or religion”) and presidential candidates (“basket of deplorables”) alike.
I spent many Sundays in evangelical churches and hung out with 15,000 evangelical youth at the Urbana conference. I wasn’t sure what to expect among thousands of college-age evangelicals, but I certainly didn’t expect the intense discussion of racial equity and refugee issues — how to help them, not how to keep them out — but that is what I got.
Mr. Stern also had a bit of a heart change on gun ownership and the NRA:
None of my new hunting partners fit the lazy caricature of the angry NRA member. Rather, they saw guns as both a shared sport and as a necessary means to protect their families during uncertain times. In truth, the only one who was even modestly angry was me, and that only had to do with my terrible ineptness as a hunter. In the end, though, I did bag a pig, or at least my new friends were willing to award me a kill, so that we could all glory together in the fraternity of the hunt.
Over the course of this past year, I have tried to consume media as they do and understand it as a partisan player. It is not so hard to do. Take guns. Gun control and gun rights is one of our most divisive issues, and there are legitimate points on both sides. But media is obsessed with the gun-control side and gives only scant, mostly negative, recognition to the gun-rights sides.
… To a man (and sometimes a woman), they looked at media and saw stories that did not reflect the world that they knew or the fears that they had.
Take, for instance, the issue of legitimate defensive gun use (DGU), which is often dismissed by the media as myth. But DGUs happen all the time — 200 times a day, according to the Department of Justice, or 5,000 times a day, according to an overly exuberant Florida State University study. But whichever study you choose to believe, DGUs happen frequently and give credence to my hunting friends who see their guns as the last line of defense for themselves and their families.
He recognizes what conservatives see when they watch the MSM, or listen to NPR:
It’s not that media is suppressing stories intentionally. [I would disagree] It’s that these stories don’t reflect their interests and beliefs.
It’s why my new friends in Youngstown, Ohio, and Pikeville, Ky., see media as hopelessly disconnected from their lives, and it is how the media has opened the door to charges of bias.
There is much, much, more in the New York Post editorial, and I encourage you to read it all. If your are interested, here is Mr. Stern’s new book: