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NPR CEO Schiller Apologizes For How Juan Williams Firing Was Handled

Five days after NPR terminated news analyst Juan Williams and set off a media firestorm (albeit a somewhat gleeful one of the part of Fox News) of criticism, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller has apologized to her NPR colleagues for the manner in which Williams’ abrupt departure was handled.

I want to apologize for not doing a better job of handling the termination of our relationship with news analyst Juan Williams. While we stand firmly behind that decision, I regret that we did not take the time to prepare our program partners and provide you with the tools to cope with the fallout from this episode. I know you all felt the reverberations and are on the front lines every day responding to your listeners and talking to the public.

It’s important to note that Schiller did not apologize for the fact that Williams had been fired, simply the manner in which it was undertaken.

I stand by my decision to end NPR’s relationship with Juan Williams, but deeply regret the way I handled and explained it. You have my pledge that the NPR team and I will reflect on all aspects of our actions, and strive to improve them in the future.

Schiller also reflected on the changing nature of news coverage, but unlike a number of critics who felt NPR’s firing of Williams was a measure of how NPR’s refusal to adjust to the new media landscape, Schiller asserts it’s NPR’s responsibility to hold their ground.

The news and media world is changing swiftly and radically; traditional standards and practices are under siege. This requires us to redouble our attention to how we interpret and live up to our values and standards.

You can read the full statement below, via Politico. On a related note, Schiller has additionally come under some fire for apologizing to member stations for the bad timing of this firing, coming as it does during NPR’s pledge week. But one of NPR’s main roles is to support member stations. Here is how Schiller explained it to me in an interview shortly after she took over at NPR:

NPR is a central organization. We are a news gathering and news reporting, producing and distribution organization. We have 36 bureaus around the world. We produce programs, we also license and distribute programs. We also provide services to the stations in all manner of technology, lobbying — you name it. But each station is run autonomously, so they’re not really affiliates. They are members, which is a nuance…So we enable them and they provide it.

Meanwhile, thus far NPR member stations are reportedly meeting or exceeding pledge drive goals. Full Schiller statement below.

Dear Program Colleagues,

I want to apologize for not doing a better job of handling the termination of our relationship with news analyst Juan Williams. While we stand firmly behind that decision, I regret that we did not take the time to prepare our program partners and provide you with the tools to cope with the fallout from this episode. I know you all felt the reverberations and are on the front lines every day responding to your listeners and talking to the public

This was a decision of principle, made to protect NPR’s integrity and values as a news organization. Juan Williams’ comments on Fox News last Monday were the latest in a series of deeply troubling incidents over several years. In each of those instances, he was contacted and the incident was discussed with him. He was explicitly and repeatedly asked to respect NPR’s standards and to avoid expressing strong personal opinions on controversial subjects in public settings, as that is inconsistent with his role as an NPR news analyst. After this latest incident, we felt compelled to act. I acknowledge that reasonable people can disagree about timing: whether NPR should have ended its relationship with Juan Williams earlier, on the occasion of other incidents; or whether this final episode warranted immediate termination of his contract.

In any event, the process that followed the decision was unfortunate – including not meeting with Juan Williams in person – and I take full responsibility for that. We have already begun a thorough review of all aspects of our performance in this instance, a process that will continue in the coming days and weeks. We will also review and re-articulate our written ethics guidelines to make them as clear and relevant as possible for our acquired show partners, our staff, Member stations and the public.

The news and media world is changing swiftly and radically; traditional standards and practices are under siege. This requires us to redouble our attention to how we interpret and live up to our values and standards. We are confident that NPR’s integrity and dedication to the highest values in journalism and our commitment to serving as a national forum for the respectful discussion of diverse ideas will continue to earn the support of a growing audience.

I stand by my decision to end NPR’s relationship with Juan Williams, but deeply regret the way I handled and explained it. You have my pledge that the NPR team and I will reflect on all aspects of our actions, and strive to improve them in the future.

Please feel free to share your concerns and suggestions.

Respectfully,

Vivian Schiller

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