In firing news reporter and commentator Juan Williams for remarks about people wearing “Muslim garb” while he is getting on an airplane making him “nervous” I believe National Public Radio has made a grave mistake. A news commentator — note I said “commentator” — should not be fired for telling the truth and for, well, commentating.
If his sole job was that of a reporter where his duty would be only to report facts, not his personal opinion, then he would have been off base.
It seems by what I have read so far that NPR was already displeased that he was working for another network, FOX, where he made his remarks.
While I personally would question William’s judgment for working for an outfit which does not even put on a pretense of objectivity and yet claims itself to be “fair and balanced”, I still think NPR was wrong.
And let’s be honest here: I have listened to public radio and television news over the years and have appreciated its wide-ranging and in-depth coverage. But while I have found public broadcasting to be more detailed and wide-ranging in its reporting than the others out there and somewhat more objective, I have also been aware that it does have that slightly left leaning stance. Many big three network correspondents had that too. So in reaction, FOX News was created. The only difference was that FOX, despite its claim to be “fair and balanced”, adding, “we report, you decide”, does not really give any effort to being fair or balanced. They are hard right wing, so much so that they are not a news organization that leans a little to the right, they are a propaganda machine.
But if the firing of Juan Williams stands, I’m afraid that NPR is in danger of becoming nothing but a propaganda outfit, as well.
I understand it does not depend solely upon taxpayer financing, but it does get some. If it is going to demand its news commentators only lean one way (and I do not understand really why getting nervous that someone might blow up your airplane makes you politically biased), then taxpayer funding should be eliminated. But I do not want that to happen. I think the person or persons who fired Williams should be fired and Williams hired back.
Again, I remind you that Williams was not just a reporter but a commentator. For that matter, as a former newspaper reporter, now that I think of it, I have almost never heard nor seen a broadcast news person yet who did not mix commentary with straight news, something that is considered a no-no in print journalism. The format and time frame for broadcast may make that necessary, I suppose — I worked once for a while as a radio reporter, although I do not recall mixing reporting and personal opinion during my stint.
Williams made his offensive-to-some-people remarks as part of a discussion about the perils of “political correctness” and thus became a victim of the same.
And in seems interesting and a bit chilling to me that the person who apparently fired him, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, later said something to the effect that Williams should not have made the remarks in public but instead should have told his “psychiatrist” (she later apologized for saying that — but she did not immediately fire herself). Accusing someone of having mental problems when they say something that does not agree with your political point of view is a tactic used by totalitarian governments, most notably communists — adding more to the claim that NPR is left-leaning (being as communists are said to be on the left — and I have always had a hard time with that since communists and Nazis act the same and yet one is said to be on the far left and one on the far right and even though Nazis are supposed to be on the right, and hate communists because they are on the far left, they, the Nazis, called themselves “national socialists“, but I have just digressed into a whole other issue or discussion).
In case you did not see or hear this yet, this is how all this came down: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/opinions/view/opinion/Should-NPR-Have-Fired-Juan-Williams-for-Muslim-Airplane-Remarks-5479/
Or for a more analytical take on what Williams said: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036697/#39803146
Don’t get to feeling too sorry for poor Juan, though, he has reportedly been offered a new three-year, $2 million contract by FOX (somehow you wonder if such journalists/entertainers feel the pain of the common man).
While good manners and civility are important, political correctness is Orwellian and a threat to free speech.