Thursday, October 21, 2010

NPR exec issues memo to correspondents, provides “guidance” on responding to Williams firing

On Megyn Kelly’s show, America Live, Fox News is reporting that they have obtained a copy of a memorandum from National Public Radio CEO Vivian Schiller giving NPR employees and correspondence “guidance” on responding to media inquiries regarding the network’s controversial firing of long-time correspondent Juan Williams.

No further details were given during the 1:00 pm “News Alert,” other than the fact that the memorandum was issued from Schiller’s handheld wireless device. There’s no link yet on Fox’s website, nor are any other news outlets reporting.

Kelly says America Live will have additional coverage of the story later in the show.

Updates as they become available, but I’m laying 13 to 5 odds that the memo consisted of this sentence, or something similar:

“Dear colleagues, if asked to comment on NPR’s termination of Mr. Williams’ contract, please just STFU.  --Viv.”

Update: Here’s the email sent to NPR stations from Schiller:

Sent: Thursday, October 21, 2010 12:05 PM Subject: Juan Williams


Thank you for all of your varying feedback on the Juan Williams situation. Let me offer some further clarification about why we terminated his contract early.

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.

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.



Vivian Schiller
President & CEO, NPR

During fundraising week? 

I think you know what to do…

Other bloggers have noted some of NPR’s correspondents, analysts, personalities, whatever using outright slurs against conservatives.  All of those are still on the air, apparently.  I’m sure those bloggers will rehash the slights and I’ll link here as updates are available.

What strikes me in watching some of the coverage on the cable networks (Fox in particular) and in scanning blogs, facebook and twitter, NPR had no idea what kind of hornets nest they were sticking their shaft in.


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