Politics | October 30, 2017 10:09 am

Ex-NPR Chief’s New Book Examines How the Internet Changed the GOP

In 'Republican Like Me,' Ken Stern details how the web has elevated extremist voices in the party.

Ken Stern writes about the online media's impact on the Republican Party.
Donald Trump Jr., left, is interviewed by host Sean Hannity on his Fox News Channel television program, in New York Tuesday, July 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Ken Stern, the former CEO of NPR, wrote about a book about leaving the Democratic party in search of the new Republican order.

In a new excerpt from Republican Like Me: How I Left the Liberal Bubble and Learned to Love the Right, published by Vanity Fair, Stern says that media has always played an important role in shaping politics. He notes that early 18th and 19th-century newspapers were created and run by political groups as a way to spread their partisan message and wield influence.

The modern news media remains a source of power and authority, especially in conservative politics, Stern adds. Talk shows hosts like Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh are prominent opinion leaders, and they effectively blur the lines between electoral politics and media.

Stern also writes that American political dialogue has always had elements that have “angry and deviant” voices, but most recently, those voice have been heard most clearly through conservative talk radio. However, radio has limitations: dial space, audience availability, signal range. The Internet has erased these limitations, Stern claims, opening a political space that is far more available to more different voices, including extremists who offer a “welter of discordant, increasingly angry views.”

Because of this, Stern writes that the Internet not only turned political provocateurs into stars, it also legitimized them.

Stern says that while he was CEO of NPR, he knew that political affiliation could affect story choice and tone, and that the network was intent on balancing coverage and showing the views of all sides. But he said that he undervalued the impact of what is covered and what is not. Stern writes that in a newsroom with mostly liberal news staff, you will get coverage “that is obsessive on mass shootings, but largely absent on the defensive use of guns.”