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Readers Take NPR, PBS Out with the Tide

Have you ever stood at the ocean's edge, where the waves nip the beach?

As you stand there and look out to sea, the cool water rushes around your ankles and nudges you toward shore. As the water trundles back out, it tugs at you to follow.

Most likely the first couple of times this happens, you feel a bit unsteady and unsure of yourself.

After a few minutes of this tug of war, however, you look down to find your feet have settled deep into the sand. The ocean's ebb and flow has actually anchored you down and made you feel more secure about your footing.

I guess I've always felt the same way about good journalism. You need both sides to prop up the middle. Otherwise, you are ripe for a fall.

Last week in this spot I wondered why "truly non-partisan media outlets like NPR or PBS or most local newspapers were not among the choices" in a half-baked poll conducted by 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair that asked, "Which of the following do you consider to be the most trustworthy source of daily news in the United States?"

Out went my opinion, and in came the water ...

But first, in case you missed it, the choices, and the order they ranked in trustworthiness follow: 1) CNN; 2) Fox News; 3) The major broadcast networks; 4) The New York Times; 5) The Wall Street Journal; 6) The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

I thought those choices and the poll itself were limited and silly, but that's not what brought in the tide of email from readers. Instead, every single one of you who took the time to write challenged my assumption that NPR and PBS are non-partisan media outlets.

I should say that not one of you blasted me for calling most local newspapers non-partisan, but I'll guess that is because you have given up reading the things altogether ...

All but one of you told me the media (including NPR and PBS) was liberal, but none of you told me a place that wasn't, or where you found what you thought to be straight-down-the-middle reporting.

Maybe you sadly feel there is no such place. Or worse yet, maybe you just gave up looking a long time ago, and will cling to that opinion despite what might be right in front of your eyes, or ringing in your ears.

I believe we are to the point where most people simply aren't interested in hearing both sides of a story anymore. They want to go where they think people share their partisan opinions. I absolutely think the media is viewed by most as being more polarizing than ever before.

That is mostly too bad, but is no less a reality.

It's no wonder, then, so many of our politician's (in)actions these days mirror what has happened in the media and with its consumers' partisan taste for news. Maybe it's a chicken-or-the-egg thing, but I am having trouble seeing how it is healthy.

Anyway, as the water came rushing in from one direction this weekend, a couple of you were kind enough to engage in what I thought was a healthy give-and-take. I am not sure any opinions were changed, but it did get me listening to NPR ever more closely to see if maybe I had this wrong.

As of now I am still convinced NPR offers the most non-partisan and thorough news programming on the air. I promise to keep listening, but I am not hearing what so many of you are.

I'll also continue to watch, listen and read the partisan's stuff, to see if any of that might change - and will be on alert for these subliminal nods to the left so many people say they hear in the reporting coming for what is called the "mainstream media."

I really hope you'll do the same, and will let me know what it is you are reading, seeing and hearing. Maybe if we can keep this dialogue going, we will all find ourselves on more solid footing.

(Got a tip, a gripe, or some kudos? Send 'em along.)