Friday, October 29, 2010

My Thoughts on the NPR / Juan Williams Situation

For those who may have missed the story, Juan Williams was fired from NPR for stating that he feels worried when he sees people in an airport in full Islamic garb on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor. NPR claimed that by saying this he jeopardized his ability to be an objective journalist (more or less…I’m paraphrasing here). Conservatives argue that this shows NPR’s liberal bias. Here is my take –
  1. Juan Williams was giving his honest opinion, sure it could be construed as at best stereotypical and at worst bigoted but the man is human and probably (I suspect) not proud of the fact that he holds these feels but was fessing up to it nonetheless. This in no way shape or form affects his ability to be a news reporter or analyst.
  2. There is probably more going on behind the scenes between Juan and management at NPR than we are privy to and this was used as an excuse to sever ties.
  3. NPR should not have fired Williams over this situation. I understand their reasoning but I think that, if nothing else, this was a terrible P.R. (as in pubic relations) move.
  4. NPR is probably the best news organization out there today. I am talking about their news programs (Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Talk of the Nation) and not their more opinion driven programs (The Diane Rehm Show, Fresh Air). I have no doubt that the reporters and analysts at NPR do their best to be as impartial and objective as possible and that any bias that may slip into the reporting is entirely due to human flaw and not a diabolical scheme. I think the same could probably be said for the news reporters at Fox News, CNN, and every other news organization out there. Obviously there is editorial bias (Fox News being conservative, MSNBC being liberal) but that has always been the case in journalism. What sets NPR apart in their news reporting is the actual quality and in-depth nature of their stories. This is lacking in many, if not most, other major news organizations.
  5. Those on the Right have been after NPR, PBS, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for years and this debacle has done nothing but add fuel to their fire. Conservatives and Republicans seem to hate even the idea of public broadcasting. I know that they have their reasons but I’m not going to try to list them or even explain them because there is a part of me that just doesn’t understand them. IMHO there should be media outlets that are not held to the whim of the market or major corporations. These outlets are NPR and PBS and they must be protected. These are the organizations that brought us things like Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind who could argue that Mr. Rogers was a negative influence on children. Programs like Mr. Rogers, Sesame Street, This Old House, NOVA, Car Talk, and Talk of the Nation have brought a richness to this country that I don’t think could have been provided by a company that is simply worried about ratings.
Needless to say people all across the spectrum have weighed in on this story. You can find some that I thought are worth reading here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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