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What is NPR’s Bias?

By · Sep 10, 2023 · 9 min read

What is NPR’s Bias?

National Public Radio (NPR) was founded in 1970, three years after the passage of the Public Broadcasting Act, which sought to provide the U.S. with public radio services. Today NPR consists of hundreds of public radio stations and receives an average of 81 million monthly visits.    

NPR is a quality news organization known for its highly factual reporting. Therefore, the question of whether NPR is biased demands close examination. According to Reuters Institute, NPR is the ninth most trusted news source in the U.S., falling behind local news, ABC, CBS, and a few others.  

United States of America

                                                                      Source: Reuters

In this article, we will analyze NPR’s coverage and editorial decisions to determine if there is a discernible political bias in their reporting. Through our analysis, we hope to provide a comprehensive answer to whether NPR is biased and shed light on the factors that contribute to media bias in general.

How Does Biasly Rate News Sources?

Biasly’s algorithms produce bias ratings to help provide multiple perspectives on given articles. Biasly has analyzed 200,000+ news articles from more than 3,200 news sources through our A.I. technology and team of political analysts to find the most factual, unbiased news stories.

Biasly determines the degree of political bias in news sources by using Biasly’s Bias Meter Rating, in which Biasly’s team analyzes media sources’ reliability and bias and produces three scores, a Reliability Score that measures the accuracy of media sources; an A.I. Bias Score, evaluated by A.I.; and an Analyst Bias Score evaluated by political analysts. These scores are rated based on seven rating metrics including Tone, Tendency, Diction, Author Check, Selection/Omission, Expediency Bias, and Accuracy. These metrics help our analysts to determine the political attitude of the article.

Our A.I. machine-learning system employs natural language processing and entity-specific sentiment analysis to examine individual articles and determine their bias levels. By analyzing the key terms in an article such as policies, biased phrases, political terminologies, politicians, and their nicknames, the algorithms can rate the attitude of the text.  Bias scores range from -100% to 100%, with higher negative scores being more liberal and higher positive scores being more conservative, and 0% being neutral. 

Is NPR Politically Biased?

NPR has received criticism from all sides of the political spectrum regarding its bias; however, the most common critique is of a liberal bias. Here are a few examples of viewer complaints:

  • “I am writing to see why, objectively, there is a clear anti-Trump, liberal-oriented bias against President Trump? I thought that NPR is a public-based radio organization that is supposed to present itself as objective…”
  • “On what basis does NPR assert that a Democratic filibuster ‘forces’ Republicans to change Senate rules? They have any number of other options… Please leave language like this out of your political coverage, or else clearly label it as op-ed content.”
  • “It is clear that NPR’s nationally syndicated shows, and in particular, Morning Edition, continue to push a conservative viewpoint and no longer provide any counter-balance of progressive views. What happened to NPR?????”

Biasly’s ratings for NPR are based on two scores, one from its computer algorithms which are based on AI, and one from its Analysts. Biasly rated NPR with a Computer bias score of Somewhat Liberal and an Analyst bias score of Moderately liberal, which means, overall, NPR provides political coverage from an American liberal political perspective. Analyst scores are based on an average of at least 15 articles with each being reviewed by one liberal, moderate, and conservative analyst. The more articles rated by Biasly’s analyst team for a particular source indicate a more accurate analyst score. As Biasly rates more articles, the scores will become more accurate. Praise for liberal politicians and policies as well as dislike toward Republican policies and politicians contribute to this rating. Biasly’s scores closely align with determinations by other third-party bias research agencies. 

Readers like you are more likely to have a strong opinion of NPR based on your political leaning because of their tendency to favor liberal causes and people as represented by Biasly’s “Moderately Liberal” rating. In the remainder of this article, we’ll talk about ways to identify this bias so you can separate the opinions from the facts and become a more informed consumer of news.  

Before we begin, we need to discuss bias. Bias is a natural function of humans, and we can express it both consciously and unconsciously. Bias is one of the most fundamental forms of pattern recognition in humans. This isn’t to lower the bar and say that “all things are biased,” but to explain the process in which we may come to trust certain news organizations that display patterns of coverage. 

On the media’s part, there is an incentive to retain audiences, encourage them to purchase subscriptions, and rate products positively. Bias is a two-way street, people want to see news stories about things they care about, and the media needs viewers to continue their operations. This creates a positive feedback loop that influences what stories are covered and from what perspective. This also explains the actions of more liberal news organizations.

Analysis of Bias in NPR Online Articles

Pew Research Center has discovered that the primary audience of NPR tends to be college-educated, knowledgeable about current events, between the ages of 40 and 64, and have a moderately high income. Given their educated and well-informed viewership base, is NPR really biased? We’ll look at some of their articles in more detail below to identify the signs. 

                                                     Source: Pew Research Center

When determining bias, some of the most common metrics used include tone, author, and diction, which are the primary metrics we’ll focus on below. Tone refers to the attitude of the writing and is related to but distinct from diction, which is the writer’s word choices. The author metric refers to the author of the article and his or her demonstrated stance on issues through past articles and social media posts. 

The first article we’ll examine is entitled, “Special counsel Jack Smith got a secret search warrant for Trump’s Twitter account” by Jaclyn Diaz. Biasly has rated this article as -40% on the Bias Meter, or “Moderately Liberal”. Part of the reason for the ‘Moderately Liberal’ label, even though the author tries to maintain neutrality, is because the tone of the article suggests that Donald Trump is in the wrong.

The tone of the article attempts to remain factual and objective; however, the framing of issues such as social media search warrants indicates a liberal tone. This is demonstrated by: “How Common are social media search warrants? Very, according to Mary Graw Leary, a former federal prosecutor”. The author embraces the normalcy of social media search warrants, which inherently discredits Trump and his counterpoints. Even though the bias in tone is slight, it clearly portrays a liberal bias.

The final two sentences of the article perfectly demonstrate biased tone and diction. It is unclear why Jaclyn Diaz abandoned objectivity in her conclusion; however, we will investigate regardless. 

“So, as for Trump’s assertions his “rights” were violated? “It’s hard to see what rights he is referring to that have been violated,” she said.”

The concluding remarks make a sharp turn from the rest of the article – overtly portraying liberal bias in selection, tone, and diction. If the quote was placed earlier in the article and balanced with a contradictory viewpoint it would not be a problem. Unfortunately, this is not the case. 

Another problem with the article is selection bias. A majority of the author’s quotes come from federal prosecutor Mary Graw Leary, who appears to dislike former president Trump. There are no sources to balance out Leary’s viewpoint, which makes the article too one-sided. 

In terms of author bias, Jaclyn Diaz’s Twitter profile reveals many of her biases and personal opinions. In Diaz’s re-tweet section, there are stories concerning left-leaning topics such as January 6th, social justice, democratic politicians, and more. It quickly becomes evident that Jacklyn Diaz leans liberal – which is in line with her article.

To sum it up, the author strives for objectivity, with the notable exception of the conclusion, and provides perspectives from selected sources that frame Donald Trump as in the wrong. The omission of sources who even somewhat agree with Trump leaves room for improvement in regard to the ideological balance of quotes. Taken altogether, the article is found to have a moderate liberal bias, which aligns with our analysis of NPR as a network with a tendency to lean ‘Somewhat Liberal’.

Even though this article falls on the left end of the spectrum, article bias can differ between articles and authors, even when they come from the same organization. This shows the importance of looking for the signs of bias — including (but not limited to) tone, diction, author, and omission bias — in any article you come across. 

To demonstrate, here’s one more article that demonstrates little to no bias throughout and also comes from NPR: “Man accused of threatening Biden shot and killed in FBI raid in Utah.” Biasly’s A.I. rating is “Center,” as the language throughout is cut-and-dry, objectively stating the facts of the matter and avoiding emotionally loaded language that influences the reader’s opinion: 

  • “A Utah man who was accused of making threats to President Biden was shot and killed in an FBI raid.”
  • “Robertson allegedly said he needed to prepare his camouflage and sniper rifle in anticipation of Biden’s trip to Utah this week. Robertson also allegedly threatened to assassinate Bragg in a parking garage.”

The only trace of bias in the article could be the author’s personal political orientation, which his Twitter indicates is slightly liberal; however, these do appear to influence the content of the article. 

Analysis of NPR Opinion Articles

Before we answer this question, we need to draw the distinction between opinion and reporting. While reporting is intended to be neutral, giving the reader the facts and quotes from primary sources to let them form their own opinion, opinions are an outlet for columnists to express their personal views on the issues of the day. While we saw elements of factual reporting in the analysis above, the NPR opinion pieces don’t seek objectivity but prioritize putting forth an opinion instead.

Consider the opinion article “Pride vs. Prejudice.” The title is loaded with liberal bias because it insinuates you either support LGBTQ+ issues or are prejudiced. No one, I think, would voluntarily identify as prejudiced. Therefore, the article creates a false dichotomy between the two in an attempt to force the reader to accept his perspective on LGBTQ+ issues. Throughout the article, LGBTQ+ issues are portrayed as under existential threat while “trans kids are being used to score bad-faith political points. Queer folk are being assaulted in the streets…[and] hateful people feel supported and emboldened”. The overtly biased title and charged tone suggest that the author does not intend to provide a fair and objective reporting of the facts. 

However, the article “The U.S. promised Ukraine cluster bombs. In Laos, they still kill civilians” has a more objective title, focusing on informing the reader rather than pushing a political agenda. Reliable articles are marked by neutral language and facts from credible sources, which this article complies with. The author gives an objective history of Laos during the Vietnam War and then provides first-hand testimony of the long-term effects of cluster bombs. While one could deduce the author’s opinion on cluster bombs, he does an excellent job of presenting the facts in a neutral manner and letting the reader come to their own conclusion. 

These articles, in addition to those above, are only a small representation of all of NPR content, but they indicate that the outlet is often characterized by plenty of facts and opinions – further underscoring the importance of knowing how to distinguish subjective writing from genuine reporting.  

Who Owns NPR?

National Public Radio (NPR) is a national nonprofit media outlet created by the federal government in 1970. NPR has hundreds of local member stations across the country that pay to license NPR content, such as ‘All Things Considered’. A majority of NPR revenue comes from corporate sponsorships; however, NPR does receive part, ~10%, of its revenue from federal, state, and local governments. John Lansing has been the president & CEO since 2019.


While NPR strives for objectivity in its reporting, complaints of liberal bias have persisted since its inception. In 2000 NPR hired a left-wing and right-wing ombudsman to watch for bias in an attempt to quell public concerns. Unfortunately, this did little to curb public sentiment, and conservative politicians as recently as Trump have attempted to defund NPR. 

How to Evaluate and Uncover Bias

It can often be difficult to tell if the news you watch is biased. If you have settled on a news channel, it’s usually because you trust the information you are gaining. Unfortunately, many trust the information they are hearing because it confirms what they already believe. This is referred to as “confirmation bias.” It is important to challenge your beliefs and get third-party verification that what you are hearing is the full story. This is why we recommend using Biasly to compare different news stories side-by-side using our bias ratings to figure out what both sides think of a political issue.

Even though NPR received a Somewhat Liberal bias rating from Biasly, keep in mind that bias varies per article, and NPR does not exclusively publish liberal opinion articles. In reality, it is known to have published material with a conservative or centrist slant in the past. Additionally, some article types will inherently have more or less bias; general news articles are known for being less biased than opinion pieces. While every article you read will be biased to some degree, certain articles stick to the facts better than others. This is why it’s so important to use Biasly’s News Check to help you determine the bias of what you read.      


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