Former NPR president and CEO of NPR Vivian Schiller told MarketWatch’s Jon Friedman that she’s still a fan of the network despite being forced out of her job recently.
“I’m still a fan of NPR,” she told me by phone. “I was always a fan and I’ll always be a fan.” Schiller chuckled, “I listened to ‘Morning Edition’ all morning,” referring to one of NPR’s most popular programs.
Friedman defended Schiller by asking his readers to find a chief executive with a spotless record, but did fault her for her handling of the Juan Williams affair last year which opened the door to further criticism of NPR by conservatives.
After that fiasco Schiller was put on the defensive to defend taxpayer funding of NPR, which took on a more urgent tone after the sweeping Republican congressional victory in November.
Things turned from bad to worse when James O’Keefe released a video showing NPR executive Ron Schiller (no relation) making disparaging remarks about the Tea Party and saying that NPR would be just fine without government funding.
Schiller told Friedman that she was shocked by the things Ron Schiller said, and didn’t realize at the time that his remarks would come back to bite her as well.
“Honestly, that was the farthest thing from my mind,” she said. “I went into crisis-management mode.”
Part of crisis management is to evaluate all possible outcomes and take responsibility and swift action to limit the damage.
While Ron Schiller resigned immediately, Vivian, still in a fog, apparently decided to hang on thinking that this wasn’t her fault. After all she was only the CEO and president and having Ron fall on his sword was going to satisfy the critics.
But Schiller badly miscalculated her value to NPR in the wake of both the Williams and Ron Schiller incidents and the board decided that she had to go if NPR was going to have a fighting chance of keeping its funding.
As NPR Ombudsman Lisa Shepard told Washington Post readers just two weeks ago about why Schiller lost her job after surviving the Williams fiasco:
“[Schiller] also hired Ron Schiller. And the board decided, according to its chair, Dave Edwards, that she had become a distraction. And NPR has the fight of its life on its hands.”
Friedman thinks Schiller got a raw deal from the media. But frankly, she got what she deserved.