Friday, January 7, 2011

More fallout at NPR

An independent review of Ellen Weiss' decision to jettison Juan Williams by phone from NPR has resulted in her resignation

Weiss spoke to James Rainey in the LA Times:

Weiss stressed that she did not make the decision to fire Williams alone. She acted after the comentator [sic] went on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" and described his occasional discomfort flying with people in "Muslim garb." NPR Chief Executive Vivian Schiller, who remains in her job, approved the firing. "What I would say is that the decision to terminate the Juan Williams contract by NPR, of which I was a participant, was based on the highest journalistic standards," Weiss said Thursday. Meeting with a small group of confidantes inside the network Thursday, Weiss said she previously had advised others that any organization had to prepare for the loss of the boss. "If you get hit by a bus, you want to make sure you have the right people in place, you want to make sure it doesn't end," Weiss said. "I feel I have an incredible newsroom in place, with fantastic leadership and unbelievably courageous reporters. I am glad I followed my own advice. Because the bus came, and I am gone."  "It was extremely hard," she said of her decision, finalized with NPR chief Schiller on Thursday. "It was not the hardest decision I ever made in my life but certainly one of the hardest."
Why Ms. Weiss didn't also push the button that activates Mara Liasson's ejection seat remains a mystery.


caheidelberger said...

I get uneasy with all this talk of things journalists aren't allowed to do. My blogging has led me to believe that I might prefer to hav a journalist actively engaged in all manner of civic discourse than one whose only public statements come from behind the mic of her/his employer. If Juan Williams spouts off about his feelings at the airport and perhaps expresses sympathy with some conservative views, we at least have his opinions on the record, and we can view his reporting on other issues with those opinions in mind. We know Keith Olbermann donates to Democratic candidates: if he does any reporting (does he any more? or is he pure commentary? infotainment?), we can better decide how many grains of salt we need to take with his words. Journalists should tell us more, not less, about what they believe. They should also be visibly active in civic affairs, not just because it gives us information about their views, but because it is their right to do so and because it grounds their reporting in their community and their civic concerns.

I'm not convinced that Mara Liasson's appearances on Fox News indict the quality of her reporting on NPR. Perhaps she feels she can reach a different audience in that venue and bring reasoned reporting and commentary to them as well as the NPR crowd.

larry kurtz said...

As a recipient of public dollars NPR had a duty to address Williams' comments as likely discriminatory; MSNBC isn't subject to those constraints.

Williams was a serial offender...still is, working as an independent contractor otherwise I'd support your concerns vociferously, Cory.

Weiss was found within her legal purview though the phone firing is reason enough to embarrass too many people for a really long time and maybe provide recourse for punitive damages to Williams.

Are you saying Mara is too big to fail?