Nobody is quite sure yet what comedian Jon Stewart's Oct. 30 "Rally to Restore Sanity" is all about — but it's already stirring up controversy. NPR this week told staffers not to participate in Stewart's event — or fellow Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert's companion rally, the "March to Keep Fear Alive" — to avoid appearing politically biased. ABC News, CBS News, AP, Politico, and The New York Times made similar statements. Are these organizations doing the right thing? (Watch a Russia Today discussion about media outlets and the rally)
NPR is just trying to mask its bias: NPR's liberal "editorial bias" is obvious even when it pretends to be evenhanded, says William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection. It didn't have to issue such a warning to staffers about staying away from Glenn Beck's recent rally, because no NPR lefty would have been caught dead there. And NPR really tips its hand by arguing Beck's rally was more overtly political, given that Stewart's whole purpose is "to shore up Democratic voters or at least wake them up."
"Of course NPR didn't have to warn its staff about attending Beck's rally"
Reporters who stay away are shirking their duty: It is "ludicrous" to equate Stewart's "nonpartisan sanity" with Beck's "partisan madness," says Arianna Huffington at The Huffington Post. News outlets are so afraid of being called biased they are retreating to the sidelines, just as they "did during the run-up to the Iraq War" and the financial crisis. But real journalists should be shining a light on the extremist insanity that is tearing this country apart — that's "neither right nor left. It's reasonable."
"Choking on its contrived objectivity, the media refuse to take a stand on sanity"
NPR is merely being ethical: "NPR is just doing what all media outlets should be doing — upholding some semblance of journalistic integrity," says Karl Frisch at Media Matters for America. It is Journalism 101 that reporters should not participate in political events concerning issues they cover. It's too bad Fox News doesn't live "by such high standards" — without Fox's cheerleading, the Tea Party movement would never have existed.
"NPR bars staff from attending Stewart/Colbert rally"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- How U2 became the new Nickelback
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- The secret to handling pressure like astronauts, Navy SEALs, and samurai
- Save the world... by changing how you pee
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
Subscribe to the Week