When NPR does on-air campaigning for listener donations, they make much of the fact that NPR is “independent” and non-profit. They distinguish themselves from for-profit news outlets, and imply that corporate money causes news to be biased in favor of the businesses who sponsor the reporting.
It’s a common premise among the left: If a news outlet is owned by a corporate interest, or relies on advertising from corporate sponsors, you have good reason to be skeptical about the purported objectivity of their reporting.
Except, NPR could not possibly, SINCERELY, believe this to be true.
NPR itself receives money from insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, banks and auto manufacturers, to name a few. If NPR were any other news outlet, these funding sources would make anyone wary about the objectivity of their reporting on healthcare, finance, or the environment.
I’m not trying to say, “Watch out for NPR, they’re just as suspect as the private for-profit newsmedia.” All media outlets have biases. The problem is that NPR pushes the Money = Bias theory in bad faith. They could not sincerely believe that money inescapably leads to bias, or else they would refuse to take corporate money at all, the way Consumer Reports magazine doesn’t sell ad space. No, NPR isn’t worried about the effect private money will have on them.
What NPR really DOES believe is that Money = Bias, but only when the people taking the money are conservative. They’re not warning you about the for-profit newsmedia because it’s compromised by money, they’re warning you about the for-profit newsmedia because it’s run by Republicans. Their resulting message: when Good Guys like us take corporate money, you can still trust us to be objective; but when the Bad Guys (read: right-wingers) take corporate money, watch out!
“Don’t let that guy drive you home, he’s drunk! Oh, I’m drunk, too, but I’m a very good driver…”