Open Thread: Juan Williams Review Complete; NPR Exec Resigns

Thursday, January 06, 2011

NPR announced Thursday that Senior Vice-President for News Ellen Weiss has resigned, simultaneously announcing the completion of an internal review of the October firing of Juan Williams. Williams was fired after saying on Fox:

When I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

NPR said his comments violated their standards for reporters, and let the long-time correspondent go. Weiss was thought of as the person responsible for the decision to fire Williams. Now, with the internal review -- which reads as a rebuke of the way in which NPR handled the situation -- Weiss will no longer be with the organization either.

Based on the review, NPR's Board of Directors has recommended new internal procedures for personnel decisions and disciplinary action. The board recommends that:

  • Establish a committee comprised of NPR personnel, respected journalists, and others from outside NPR to review and update NPR’s current Ethics Code (the “Code”).
  • Develop policies and procedures to ensure consistent application of and training on the Code to all employees and contractors.
  • Review and update policies/training with respect to the role of NPR journalists appearing on other media outlets to ensure that they understand the applicability of the Ethics Code to their work and to facilitate equitable and consistent application of the Code.
  • Review and define the roles of NPR journalists (including news analysts) to address a changing news environment in which such individuals have a myriad of outlets and new platforms for their talent, balancing the opportunities presented by such outlets and platforms with the potential for conflicts of interest that may compromise NPR’s mission.
  • Ensure that its practices encourage a broad range of viewpoints to assist its decision-making, support its mission, and reflect the diversity of its national audiences. The Human Resources Committee of the Board is working in conjunction with key members of NPR management on this issue.

What do you think of NPR's actions? Of Ellen Weiss's resignation? The comments thread is open - let us know!


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Comments [8]

I was no fan of Juan Williams, but if you listen to his statement in full, and in context, you see he was actually - ultimately - saying the opposite of what was excerpted. So his firing for this was inappropriate. And firing by phone is NEVER appropriate.
However, I read in the NYTimes that Weiss was a widely respected executive, so perhaps her forced resignation was excessive (much as Williams' was). So perhaps it's a case of 'two wrongs (firings) don't make a right.'
Further, it does sound like she was a 'fall-guy' for her superior.

Jan. 10 2011 12:05 PM
ani barber

I will miss Juan Williams on NPR. His firing was so poorly handled, and it is causing the continuing polarization of the airwaves. (Fox's and NPR's). Who on Fox or any similar station is interviewed or does commentary on NPR? The radio stations' managers are becoming the thought police to the listening public.... It is so disappointing.. I am however, rallied by the resignation of Ellen Weiss, and will continue my sustaining support for NPR. There are so many other fields of their reporting worth supporting.

Jan. 10 2011 09:46 AM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Hmmm...Ms. Weiss acted properly terminating an employee who had violated the terms of his contract. Mr. Williams' comments - while certainly not extreme or overtly racist - did damage his appearance of objectivity for covering any story where Muslims are a key element.

Ms. Weiss's decision was the right one but after this how likely is the next Sr VP of News to come down hard on an employee who violates their contract.

Talk about a chilling effect...

Jan. 08 2011 04:48 PM

It's always fun to watch the left turn on themselves, but sad when a good man like Juan Williams is the casualty. Thank goodness he had options.

Glad this woman had to pay the price for her pitiful decision.

Jan. 07 2011 08:32 AM

This is mighty eerie, don't you think? It reminds me a little bit of the Shirley Sherrod debacle. Of course, Shirley didn't actually say what everyone thought she said, but I think the knee-jerk reaction to dimiss after hearing something that sounds immediately offensive is definately similar. Here is what should have happened after Juan got canned.

A. NPR should have apologized and rehired him.

B. Ellen Weiss should have apologized.

C. NPR should have issued a statement saying that they do not, in any way shape or form, agree with what Juan said. They then should have made fun of it, because of how moronic it was. (What the Hell is Muslim Garb anyway? I would say that 80 percent of Muslim men don't wear any garb at all, unless of course you are talking about blue jeans and a t shirt. Were you talking about Sikhs, JUan? Oh you devil you!)

D. Ellen Weiss should not have resigned.

Juan would then probably quit NPR in pride and still get paid his Murdoch millions. At least this way NPR would have saved some face.

Jan. 07 2011 12:56 AM
Bennett from New York

Williams' comment was simply racist. By his reasoning, police are justified when profiling any black man on the street because, you know, he's black, and they get nervous. NPR is entitled to protect its brand as objective, insightful and know...Fox.

Jan. 06 2011 06:52 PM

Juan Williams always struck me as a voice of reason. I miss his presence.

Jan. 06 2011 05:45 PM
Pam McGuire from Rye, NY

It seems that the review was well handled and that the recommendations adopted by the Board are appropriate. Although I don't condone Juan Williams's comments and especially the rather shrill tone of them, I do miss his voice on NPR. I personally think that NPR over-reacted in firing him, but I also assume that there was more to the dispute than meets the eye. In all, this seems like a reasonable settlement of the whole mess.

Jan. 06 2011 05:36 PM

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