Our VoiceCulture

It’s Called Transparency: NPR, The New York Times, & Media Accountability

Jill Garvey • Jul 26, 2011

On July 7, National Public Radio (NPR) welcomed on Mark Krikorian, head of anti-immigrant group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), to discuss Jose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who recently went public with his undocumented status. On its website NPR then inexplicably published an article entitled, “Why Jose Antonio Vargas Should Leave The US,” which is devoted entirely to Krikorian’s own comments.

Nowhere in its coverage did NPR inform its listeners and readers that Center for Immigration Studies was founded by a white nationalist. NPR also failed to provide any background on Mr. Krikorian’s laundry list of controversial statements - most recently he referred to Muslims as a “vicious people.” One would think that, with its dedication to inclusive and unbiased journalism, NPR would have granted their listeners and readers such a relevant level of transparency.

But that’s not the worst of it.

Surprisingly, another outlet often accused of liberal bias has been consistently relying on anti-immigrant sources for years. Throughout the divisive immigration debate, The New York Times has regularly published articles on immigration that feature groups with ties to white nationalism as sources. Similar to NPR, these articles fail to to offer readers a sense of the bigoted controversies that have followed these groups for years.

In April, the NYT ran a feature article exposing the man behind such powerful anti-immigrant organizations as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Center for Immigration Studies, and NumbersUSA as a staunchly dedicated white nationalist. It was a solid investigative piece that thoroughly explored the views of Mr. John Tanton and his permeating affiliations with today’s most powerful anti-immigrant groups.

It seemed that the NYT would now have no excuse but to properly identify any “expert” from the John Tanton Network of anti-immigrant groups whenever they entered their pieces as sources.

Less than two months after the feature ran, though, the paper was back to quoting the very groups it had so diligently exposed, all with nary a mention of their white nationalist connections. In one article, the paper quoted Kris Kobach, a lawyer with FAIR’s legal arm (also founded by white nationalist John Tanton), without ever mentioning that he worked for the anti-immigrant group.

All of this in mind, NPR and The New York Times aren’t the only folks that deem it acceptable to rely on the Center for Immigration Studies’ opinions and questionable-to-outright-fallacious data.

Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who confessed to massacring over 70 people in Norway last week, also cited Center for Immigration Studies’ data. In a document that is reported to be Behring Breivik’s manifesto, he refers to a report from the Center for Immigration Studies. Behring Breivik writes, “A new study by the Center for Immigration Studies found that illegal’s [sic] cost the taxpayer $10 billion dollars more than they contribute, [sic] each year.”

And so with right-wing extremism on the rise across Europe and the US, and with its proponents opinions so freely intermingling, informing, and meshing with one anothers’, it is increasingly and urgently vital that the mainstream media responsibly cite and transparently acknowledge the backgrounds of their sources. After all, when xenophobic organizations are able to spout and to broadcast their opinions unchecked through media outlets that listeners and readers feel they can trust, the public stands to lose so much more than the ability to construct their own informed opinions.

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