Accuracy in Media

Insiders at NPR and at other public radio stations are upset with the resignation of  NPR senior vice-president Ellen Weiss for her role in the firing of commentator Juan Williams last year.

According to the Washington Post supporters of NPR are blaming Fox News for fanning the flames of the controversy and saying that  Weiss’ resignation was nothing more than “capitulation” to the network’s conservative critics.

Peter Block a Cincinnati Public Radio board member said in an e-mail to a group of public radio station managers that “We have allowed Fox News to define the debate” and that this kind of capitulation is not good for the future of an independent press and that NPR is one of the last bastions of democracy. Bastion of democracy, really?

NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard who supported the decision to fire Williams said it was handled badly and that “the incident has become a partisan issue in Washington’s hothouse atmosphere, with Republicans (egged on by Fox News) using it as a rallying cry to demand that NPR be “defunded” by the federal government”.

The report conducted by Weil, Gotshal & Manges said that  Williams’  firing was done in accordance with NPR’s terms but questioned the speed and and handling of the situation which led the board to take remedial action and improve internal procedures. In essence the report backed NPR but thought that the network could make some changes and improvements to avoid a repeat of this in the future.

There is no doubt that conservatives were outraged at the firing but they were hoping that if NPR was going to fire anyone that it would have been CEO Vivian Schiller and not Weiss who was not even on their radar screen.

NPR had to do something to show that they were taking this matter seriously and it was inevitable that someone would lose their job over the matter.  In this case it just happened to be Weiss but the very notion that the board of directors at the liberal network capitulated to the right on this matter is preposterous.





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