Oh, that liberal public radio

It is an article of faith among certain conservative commentators that National Public Radio is staffed by a cabal of Volvo-driving Bolsheviks who, when taking a break from attending gay marriage ceremonies, are working round the clock to ban Christmas, foment the Iraqi insurgency and give all your money to public school teachers.

More than anything, this particular media-crit debate, which is now in its second decade, is tiresome. Yes, the majority of reporters for NPR--and many of the country's top news outlets--are left of the American Center on a host of issues. It's safe to say there aren't a lot of Toby Keith listeners working at NPR HQ. On a per capita basis, reporters and executives are probably below-average in the flag flying department.

But personal beliefs are just one component of any bias analysis; after all, actual work product does bear some consideration. And from the looks of that, NPR's reporters seem to compensate mightily for any partisan inclinations.

How else to explain NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin's numerical breakdown of think tanks whose experts have appeared on NPR in the course of 2005? By Dvorkin's count, NPR quoted right-leaning think tanks 239 times over the year; experts from the left-leaning think tanks were quoted a mere 149 times.

Does this imbalance entirely innoculate NPR against charges of liberal bias (or, as some lefty critics would have it, conservative bias?) Probably not. But it does raise another important issue: the media's over-reliance on self-proclaimed experts and insiders who, more often than not, simply pimp partisan causes in the guise of even-tempered analysis.

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