It’s a matter of principal (uh-huh, principal)

From NPR president Vivian Schiller on the firing of Juan Williams:

“First, a critical distinction has been lost in this debate. NPR News analysts have a distinctive role and set of responsibilities. This is a very different role than that of a commentator or columnist. News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that’s what’s happened in this situation. As you all well know, we offer views of all kinds on your air every day, but those views are expressed by those we interview – not our reporters and analysts.

Second, this isn’t the first time we have had serious concerns about some of Juan’s public comments. Despite many conversations and warnings over the years, Juan has continued to violate this principal. (ed. sic)

Third, these specific comments (and others made in the past), are inconsistent with NPR’s ethics code, which applies to all journalists (including contracted analysts):

“In appearing on TV or other media . . . NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not participate in shows . . . that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis.”

More fundamentally, “In appearing on TV or other media including electronic Web-based forums, NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist.”

Unfortunately, Juan’s comments on Fox violated our standards as well as our values and offended many in doing so.

We’re profoundly sorry that this happened during fundraising week. Juan’s comments were made Monday night and we did not feel it would be responsible to delay this action.

This was a tough decision and we appreciate your support.”

I’m beginning to the Juan’s sin was appearing on Fox News, not shuddering at the memory of 9/11.


  1. Randy in Richmond says:

    In the interest of disclosure I don’t listen much to NPR. I do enjoy watching the ‘Antiques Road Show’ and I did travel with a touring concert that was quasi-associated with PBS. As a result of the Juan Williams fiasco I have taken the opportunity to go back and read entries by NPR’s Ombudsman Alicia Shepard. After reading many of her opinions and conclusions on varied and assorted issues, I have concluded that Shepard is an idiot at doing her job. Please read her summary of the Williams affair linked here.

    If the rambling style and inuendo which characterize her writing style were graded by a high school teacher, she might earn a grade of ‘C ‘ . From her 3rd and 4th words, “once again” and continuing, her defense of NPR doesn’t come close to the level of competent discourse that I experience from many of you on this site. Among other things she says,

    I can only imagine how Williams, who has chronicled and championed the Civil Rights movement, would have reacted if another prominent journalist had said:

    “But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see an African American male in Dashiki with a big Afro, I get worried. I get nervous.”

    Okay, when I read this I think she’ll provide a link to where non-Muslim Africans have been blowing up (or attempting to) airplanes around the world. Of course there are none, especially to the extent there are Muslim terrorist acts. Her attempt to somehow make this iodiotic connection would be laughed off any respectable blog, left or right.

    Much of the discussion from NPR is about their “journalistic standards” and “quality of reporting”. Believe me Ms Shepard, as I don’t listen to NPR, if the twaddle coming from you is an indication of these standards, Mr. Williams should have been promoted at NPR.

    And this paragraph from Ms Shepard just has me laughing so hard I can hardly peck out these words:

    “Instead, this latest incident with Williams centers around a collision of values: NPR’s values emphasizing fact-based, objective journalism versus the tendency in some parts of the news media, notably Fox News, to promote only one side of the ideological spectrum.”

    That, in the proverbial nutshell, says it all.

  2. There’s something very peculiar about this event. He gets canned from one job and almost immediately thereafter he enters into a big fat contract with FOX (does that really happen in real life?). If I didn’t know better I’d say he said what he said in the hopes that he’d get canned. Maybe that was the only penalty-free way of getting out of his contract with NPR.

    It’s all to surreal for me. Wake me when it’s over.

  3. Randy in Richmond says:

    NPR got it partly right. Today they accepted the resignation of Ellen Weiss as Senior Vice-President of News at NPR and denied CEO Vivian Schiller her bonus for 2010. Accepting Weiss’ resigination is code for letting her resign rather than firing her. The NPR Board chose not to fire Schiller which is the part they didn’t get right. Yes, it was not Schiller who fired Williams over the telephone-it was Weiss- but her comments after the fact were not up to the standards of a reputable CEO.

    None of this changes the fact that America does not have a need for state supported media.