Former NPR CEO Spends Year in Red America. Here’s What He Discovered

It’s not often we hear anyone admit how skewed right the media narrative truly is. To take it a step further, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone from the media actually admit how biased the media machine is toward the liberal audience.

Well, this week, former CEO of NPR, Ken Stern wrote an op-ed for the New York Post, detailing the year he spent immersing himself in the southern republican culture that is so pigeon-holed by the mainstream media and consequently half of the United States of America. Now, he’s speaking out about the false narrative, detailing his experiences from the year he spent in the Heartland of America.

“When you are liberal, and everyone else around you is as well, it is easy to fall into groupthink on what stories are important, what sources are legitimate and what the narrative of the day will be.”

Stern noted in his op-ed that the media is in fact a self-perpetuating machine of positive reinforcement. Writers come up with clever angles on seemingly unbiased stories to help spark polarizing headlines and eye-grabbing thumbnails on Facebook. Managers, co-workers and readers alike feed the click-reliant media machines, and on-goes the turbine, spinning like a vortex and growing like a snowball as it tears through the cultural fabric of an undoubtedly once more “United” States of America.

“For an entire year, I embedded myself with the other side, standing in pit row at a NASCAR race, hanging out at Tea Party meetings and sitting in on Steve Bannon’s radio show. I found an America far different from the one depicted in the press and imagined by presidents (“cling to guns or religion”) and presidential candidates (“basket of deplorables”) alike.”

Media is all about capturing attention. Attention drives advertising dollars. Advertising markets products. Products end up under your Christmas tree. But without clearly defined personas, marketing doesn’t work. Without crafting identities for advertisers to “understand” their audiences, agencies have no jobs and marketers make no money. So they create identities for everyone. You do it too. You picture every liberal woman as Rachel Madeow and Rachel Madeow pictures every male Trump supporter looking like the guy from Duck Dynasty.

Well, according to Stern, we’re both wrong. He continues:

“Early this year, I drove west from Houston to Gonzales, Texas, to try my hand at pig hunting. It was my first time with a gun, and the noticeably concerned owner of the ranch at first banished me to a solitary spot on the grounds. Here, he said, the pigs would come to me and I could not pose a danger to anyone else. It was a nice spot indeed but did not make for much of a story, so I wandered off into the woods, hopefully protected by my Day-Glo hunting vest.

I eventually joined up with a family from Georgia. The group included the grandfather, Paps, and the father, CJ, but it was young Isaac, all of 8 years old, who took on the task of tutoring me in the ways of the hunt. He did a fine job, but we encountered few pigs (and killed none) in our morning walkabout. In the afternoon, with the Georgians heading home, I linked up with a group of friends from Houston who belied the demographic stereotyping of the hunt; collectively we were the equivalent of a bad bar joke: a Hispanic ex-soldier, a young black family man, a Serbian immigrant and a Jew from DC.

None of my new hunting partners fit the lazy caricature of the angry NRA member. Rather, they saw guns as both a shared sport and as a necessary means to protect their families during uncertain times. In truth, the only one who was even modestly angry was me, and that only had to do with my terrible ineptness as a hunter. In the end, though, I did bag a pig, or at least my new friends were willing to award me a kill, so that we could all glory together in the fraternity of the hunt.”

What Stern found instead of the unapproachable redneck culture created by the biased media was instead a culture of community, like you would find anywhere else. Instead of family trips to the beach, they hunted. But the hunt wasn’t about killing animals; it was about comradery and learning from one another. He found that they created and valued real relationships like anyone else. And they too shared the same feelings during sweet embrace of love or the agony of loss, defeat.

“I also spent time in depressed areas of Kentucky and Ohio with workers who felt that their concerns had long fallen on deaf ears and were looking for every opportunity to protest a government and political and media establishment that had left them behind. I drank late into the night at the Royal Oaks Bar in Youngstown and met workers who had been out of the mills for almost two decades and had suffered the interlocking plagues of unemployment, opioid addiction and declining health.

They mourned the passing of the old days, when factory jobs were plentiful, lucrative and honored and lamented the destruction and decay of their communities, their livelihoods and their families. To a man (and sometimes a woman), they looked at media and saw stories that did not reflect the world that they knew or the fears that they had.”

I know good and well that even if the Huffington Post wrote up this op-ed, no liberal would believe the story and nothing would change their tainted minds. But if there’s anyone out there listening, remember that not every liberal woman is Hillary Clinton and not every Republican male is Donald Trump. We share similar values and, while we certainly have our differences, we’re all just human beings who want to be loved.

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