NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard admitted that the $1.8 million from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations may have damaged the credibility of the network at a critical time:
If you think of credibility as money in the bank, NPR’s account is healthy and robust – at least among its audience.
But the organization made a judgment last fall that taps into that credibility account. The decision was to take $1.8 million from the Open Society Foundations. It’s funded by left-leaning billionaire financier-philanthropist George Soros, who made his fortune in hedge funds and currency speculation.
The money is for a worthy purpose.
That worthy purpose is to fund NPR”s Impact of Government project for the next two years which will add public radio reporters in every state to keep tabs on state government issues, which she says are woefully under-reported by the media.
This has occurred because newspapers trimmed statehouse coverage as the recession took hold and the Internet made it easier for the public to access news.
Whether or not NPR should be the source of that coverage is the question, especially since the funding is coming from George Soros.
Shepard also found evidence that some people in the newsroom were a little uneasy after NPR accepted the grant:
Since that time, a deep current of concern has run through the newsroom about taking money from someone with a well-known, documented political agenda supporting Democrats and Democratic causes. Soros has been increasingly partisan since he announced his determination to defeat then-President George W. Bush in 2004.
“I do have problems with it precisely because he is so left-wing and were he on the other side I would still have problems with it,” said a long-time NPR producer. “I don’t have a problem with people supporting particular causes but I do have a problem when obvious partisanship spills over into your support of those causes.”
If only that feeling were more widespread at NPR.
Shepard, though, couldn’t resist taking a shot at conservatives whom she wrote have “demonized” Soros and pointed to Dan Gainor of the Media Research Center as an example;
Pickens may be well-known on the right but he certainly isn’t funding conservative groups to the same degree that Soros is on the left, and the MRC doesn’t receive taxpayer support like NPR does.
If NPR is concerned about their credibility and the perception that they are a liberal, taxpayer supported network, they need to either return the money from Soros or, as Shepard said, release the names of other donors to the Impact of Government project for the sake of transparency.