October 31, 2010
SCREW QUALITY, WE WANT OUR OWN EMOTIONS ECHOED! (via Kevin Whited:
Rural Radio and the Juan Williams Controversy (Matthew Schmitz, 10/29/10, First Things)
One of the stranger responses to the controversy over Juan Williams’ firing was National Review’s attack on public radio for rural America. They singled out for scorn the idea of “coastal liberalism” being broadcast in Ogallalla, Nebraska. They might as well have said O’Neill, my home town in the same state.
O’Neill is a small town, though the largest in the area at about 3,500 people. Each year seventy students graduate high school and, for the most part, leave. For the eighteen years they’re there they listen to one of three stations. One station begins the day by playing “The Star Spangled Banner,” features a daily devotional led by a member of the ministerial association, and also carries a “Pro-Life Update” from National Right to Life. That’s the country station. There’s also a Christian one.
And then there is NPR. When just a few years ago I worked in the summers as an apprentice electrician I would tune in every day at four o’clock for a stream of remarkably calm, far-ranging reporting would carry me to the end of the work day. In a media environment that often blurs the line between information and provocation, article and advert, public radio provided a welcome respite.
I knew other NPR listeners in rural Nebraska: electrical journeymen, shop keepers, school teachers. They noticed NPR’s political and religious blind spots. But they appreciated its consistent effort to put policy before personality and substance before scandal. I am not sure if these virtues are conservative, but the people who valued them were.
Attempts to spot and highlight media bias have, I think, caused us to overestimate its importance in media coverage. Say one station is biased but offers otherwise excellent content while another is unbiased but does spotty and shoddy reporting. Any person willing to expend a little effort in listening can simply ignore the bias and take in the good content, though he may find it necessary to occasionally shake his fist at the radio. Rural Americans are no more susceptible to being buffaloed by liberal bias than their suburban or urban counterparts.
Why would conservative Eastern elites be expected to grasp America any better than liberal Eastern elites? Posted by Orrin Judd at October 31, 2010 12:32 PM