I love NPR. I listen to it every day. I give money to my local NPR station every year. I say this to make clear that I want to see NPR succeed, rather than use the Juan Williams firing fiasco as a bludgeon to bash them with.
Now, with that behind us:
NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller, who defended the firing of Williams with reasons that are clearly untrue, should be forced to resign immediately (probably along with other top executives, though I don’t have all the facts). This public relations disaster wasn’t caused by careless line employees or contractors. NPR’s leadership is wholly responsible for a fiasco that threatens the core of the NPR brand, and they need to go.
For an organization to survive a brand-threatening crisis, it must quickly own up to the problem, make it clear that the action is contrary to its values, and take immediate remedial action. That immediate action often includes terminating the employees whose bad judgment caused the crisis.
Schiller and the others responsible for this disaster can no longer credibly hold their positions. As long as they remain, they will continue to define NPR, and will leave NPR’s enemies a powerful weapon with which to attack it. The only way NPR can fix this fiasco is to clean house at the top. If they don’t do so quickly, NPR’s reputation may never recover.
Schiller yesterday told NPR’s David Folkenflik that “our reporters, our hosts and our news analysts should not be injecting their own views about a controversial issue as part of their story.”
NPR news analysts aren’t allowed to express opinions? Why didn’t NPR fire Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr, may he rest in peace? Are they going to terminate Nina Totenberg – who is a correspondent, not even a news analyst – now too?
Schiller compounded the mistake by telling a roomful of journalists that Williams should have kept his feeling about Muslims between himself and a “his psychiatrist or his publicist”
The decision wasn’t just wrong, it was clearly made with little awareness of what the reaction would be. Clearly this was a case of the straw that broke the camel’s back. But if NPR had an ongoing problem with Juan Williams, it should have let his contract quietly expire. What were they thinking?
Media Relations Myths