“Not go away” might be the key phrase here, and one Shepard and all at NPR should bear in mind as the network plays political piñata. The attacks are going to keep on coming. So far they seem to be successfully painting NPR into a corner. The right is assailing the network’s sliver of government funding from one side and from the other flank generating a political atmosphere so intimidating that the network is afraid of accepting donations needed to expand its valuable journalism.
It is indeed valuable work that this OSI grant would go to. Statehouse reporting is frighteningly under-resourced in this country and any initiative designed to address the gap deserves praise and support. And while it’s true that Soros is a vocal lefty and true partisan, one of the most revealing paragraphs in Shepard’s column might be this one:
The right, in particular, has demonized Soros for the money he has given to other journalism organizations focused on ethics, good journalism and transparency such the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Center for Public Integrity, ProPublica and the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Soros may hand out checks to Media Matters, but this list is hardly a lineup of partisan lefty attack dogs. It’s a group into which NPR fits nicely, and should.
NPR should be as open and honest about its funders as possible as it launches the Impact on Government project, but it should not be ashamed. Soros is many things—political polarizer being high on the list—but he is also decidedly a supporter of quality journalism. With Impact on Government he is putting his money where his mouth is and receiving no apparent oversight provisions, in keeping with his tradition of being a hands-off gifter. Meanwhile, NPR’s critics seek to starve it of funds from both private and public sources while demanding it improve its journalism to better suit their tastes.
Perception is NPR’s currency, says a concerned voice in Shepard’s column. And that’s true. But the value of that currency would get a well-needed bump if the network stopped ducking and weaving every time its critics swung, and let the work, Soros-funded or not, land a punch or two in return. For now, the perception of NPR is less that it is biased than that it is weak. Torturing yourself on the right’s cue over a grant to do good and necessary journalism doesn’t do much to change that.