Tim Drake is an award-winning writer and former journalist and radio host with the National Catholic Register/EWTN. He currently serves as New Evangelization Coordinator for the Holdingford Area Catholic Community in the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota. He resides with his wife and five children in St. Joseph, Minn.
All of the controversy surrounding reporter Juan Williams’ inexcusable firing from NPR reminds me of an experience I had with the network a few years ago.
An NPR reporter was doing a story on what provokes people to switch from voting for candidates in the political party of their parents to voting for candidates in a different party. I submitted something to the station via email. They were interested, so they sent a reporter to my home with her digital recording equipment.
We sat at the dining room table as I explained how I had not abandoned the political party of my parents, but that it had abandoned me. I also explained how that decision for me was a personal one, spurred largely by the party’s acceptance of abortion, and I shared how I, myself, had been threatened in the womb by abortion, and how I could not in good conscience support a political party that stood in opposition to my own existence.
As soon as I mentioned the word abortion, I could see something pass in the female reporter’s eyes. It was, as Juan Williams has explained, as if I had “crossed a line.” The opinion I had expressed was not an NPR-endorsed opinion. I knew, then and there, that the interview would never air.
Needless to say, the reporter wrapped up the interview quite soon after that. I waited over the next several days to hear back from the reporter. In the end, when the story eventually aired, none of my comments were used at all.
When I inquired as to why, the reporter explained, via email, that the producer had decided to make the story humorous.
Humorous, or not, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the network wasn’t practicing a type of censorship, by refusing to air an opinion which it did not agree with. I wondered about the network’s bias. Anyone who spends any time listening to the programs and interviews - even “Prairie Home Companion” - would have to admit that the network certainly has a particular agenda.
It’s clear to me that there are many voices that NPR doesn’t want to hear, and that it doesn’t want its listeners to hear. Foremost among them are the voices of the least among us, the unborn. But it’s also hesitant to have us hear from conservative Americans, faithful and faith-filled Catholics, those who oppose the culture’s mad rush towards the cliff. NPR is hardly an unbiased network that represents the various constituents it purports to serve.
Juan Williams isn’t alone. He’s in good company. He was fired for expressing a feeling which runs counter to the agenda of our country’s largest taxpayer funded public radio network.
We, as the real “owners” of public radio, have every right to not only express our outrage, but also to question how our public dollars are being used, and to demand better of the network. We can “vote” by not supporting the network, either with our own individual donations, or through our taxes. We can let our publicly elected officials know that we’re tired of the bias from a station that allows only one particular point of view. If it’s truly a network that each and every one of us “owns”, then it’s a network that should give each and every one of us a place to voice our opinions.
Update: NewBusters has this fascinating look at the makeup of NPR’s boards. Not surprisingly, they’re predominantly abortion-supporting.