assignment 2 2010 example

Juan Williams and NPR case

by David Colby

“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But 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.”  This comment, made by NPR senior news analyst Juan Williams on the Fox News’ show “The O’Reilly Factor” caused an uproar that led NPR to fire Williams on October 20, 2010, 2 days after the episode aired.

How should a news organization handle a journalist who repeatedly makes controversial, opinionated statements in public?  How much control should a news organization have over its reporters?  Can journalists air their own political opinions while maintaining the objectivity that their job requires?  These questions lie at the heart of the debate over NPR’s decision.  Williams did not make this statement on an NPR news show and, to make things even more complicated, Williams was also employed by Fox News as a political commentator.  Williams’ job at Fox News is to share his own opinions about political news.

NPR defended their firing of Williams by saying that he had “violated our standards as well as our values and offended many in doing so,” according to a New York Times article published October 22 (Stelter and Jensen).  For NPR, Williams’ comments were the last of a string of inappropriate and offensive remarks that violated NPR’s ethical code.  NPR did not decide to fire Williams in a fit of political correctness or as a way to punish Williams for his contributions to Fox News; rather they fired Williams because they felt he had undermined his objectivity to the degree that he could not do his job as a journalist for NPR.

Williams, who was offered a 3 year contract by Fox News the day after he was fired by NPR, defended himself in an essay posted on  Williams states that he was fired


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