I last reviewed Morning Edition not quite five years ago. The format of this 4 AM to 9 AM program hasn't changed, the first two hours basically just the national NPR feed and a little local weather. And what I wrote then largely applies today. But there was one big change: quality, as in down. Let me give you a few examples.
One story told of a study of Gulf area victims of the BP oil spill. They were stressed and anxious, clearly needing professional mental health professionals to help them. Not mentioned was that many of these residents are out of work from an arbitrary Presidential order, in defiance of a court order in fact. That the economy hasn't responded in general to the President's economic agenda was also not mentioned. They need jobs, not grief counselors.
Another story about the Congressional battle over spending cuts focused almost entirely on closing tax loopholes (more revenue) and defense cuts. What a surprise - not! A later related story of President Obama's proposal to limit the charity deduction for high income filers pointed out that people also worried that Reagan's tax changes would depress giving, which it didn't. The apple and orange detail overlooked was that Reagan was cutting taxes, with the top rates falling into the 28-31% range. Yes, this reduced the net deduction, but you still paid less tax. You could afford to be more generous and many were. Under Obama's proposal, you'll simply have less cash, and no marginal discount on big donations. Some discussion of the Alternative Minimum Tax should also have been included.
A feature on some Australian island claimed that Man-Made Global Warming (MMGW) would eventually put it under water, MMGW being unchallenged "settled science" to this reporter. A later story claimed that storms increased in intensity the past 10 years, and that "thousands of computer simulations" ... "linked this to [MMGW]." This is dishonest reporting, especially given the recent scandal of faked data. The claim of increased intensity is also suspect in that no prior such claim has been found to have any basis in fact. (That phrase "thousands of computer simulations" is very telling even from a journalism perspective. Where's the editor / gatekeeper?)
Speaking of what BIll Kling called "credible, accurate news coverage," that fourth Borders store to be closed is in Maple Grove, not Maplewood. Google it!
The story of Florida walking away from one of President Obama's high speed rail projects had a tone of "What's Wrong with Kansas" incredulity throughout. Why, even some Republicans were in shock when the Governor Scott said no! It was a slap in Obama's face!
I'll stop here, but I noted three more examples like the above, in just this one day. "No rant, no slant!" claims host Cathy Wurzer. "No clue, all skew" would be closer to the truth. And there's another problem I noticed after listening to a detailed report on the Egyptian situation. Yes, it was a bit naive about the role and future of the Muslim Brotherhood whom they portrayed like a college fraternity. But otherwise, it was a good, comprehensive report. The problem? It was stale - old news, all of it a good three days old. I learned nothing. In my 2006 review I noted this as well, that after reading the newspaper, Morning Edition adds very little more to what you read, the least of the other morning news/talk programs I reviewed then.
Nothing showed this better than the fracas in Wisconsin. On Feb 17th, Morning Edition had nothing but a headline until the 7 am hour, and they didn't get the story right until near the end of the show at 9 am. Mostly this was Cathy Wurzer trying to adlib around the pre-recorded story and the pledge week activity. Even her headlines were not consistent on this story. As in 2006, I again find Cathy Wurzer just not good enough for radio, even public radio.
Compare these two 4.5 minute segments with what Bob Davis provided the next morning. He had sparkling, informative interviews with a Milwaukee newspaper editorial writer (11 minutes) and a Milwaukee talk radio host (and former teacher) (9 minutes). Tom Emmer and callers (some liberal) added still more insight. The MPR focus was on the protests, which Davis correctly notes always seems to obsess the media, from Cairo to Madison. KTLK looked at the whole issue: the history, current situation, and the numbers themselves. MPR did "he said, she said" reporting from the protest. Davis and guests read the bill.
I truly was expecting better. But all I heard was an operation going through the motions, thinking that their calm delivery of thin stories is enough. My grade this year: an unqualified F.