Written by: Tom Rieland
Date: October 21, 2010

We’ve received over 30 calls and emails today (Thursday) related to the termination of Juan Williams contract with NPR. Nearly all the comments have been critical of the NPR action. Williams has subsequently, according to the LA Times, signed a multi-million dollar contract to work with Fox News.

NPR is an independent news organization and WOSU is one of its many affiliates around the country, but stations were not part of this decision. WOSU purchases NPR programming such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation, but we also pay for programs from other national distributors such as Public Radio International and BBC. We don’t take a stand either way on this NPR action, but consider it a NPR personnel issue. However, I don’t believe its fair to judge NPR’s action on this single event, without knowing the history and context of other issues that may be related to his lengthy tenure at NPR. You might be interested in an assessment of the situation from NPR’s Ombudsman, who has criticized NPR for how they handled this, but also provides some important perspective.

I first met Juan Williams in the late ’80s when I was involved in one of his TV projects with WETA focused on how the media covered the civil rights movement. I did several interviews for the project, which Juan wrote and hosted. Three years ago, Juan came to Columbus to speak on the OSU campus and also joined supporters of WOSU to discuss the state of journalism and more. He was very generous with his time and we appreciated his support of WOSU. I’ve always enjoyed his news analyst work at NPR, particularly during Morning Edition. He will be missed.

This is the latest information release from NPR leadership sent to stations across the country :
Late Wednesday evening we gave Juan Williams notice that we’ve terminated his contract as a Senior News Analyst for NPR News. We didn’t make this decision lightly or without regret. Juan has been a valuable contributor to NPR and public radio for many years.

However, his remarks on The O’Reilly Factor this past Monday violated our ethics guidelines. Unfortunately, this has occurred several times in other media. Our decision to end our contractual relationship with Juan has come after repeated conversations and warnings about some of his public comments. This was a difficult, but principled decision.

We’ve been contacted by listeners who have passionately agreed with our decision, as well as those who have disagreed with it, with equal conviction. We hear you both and respect your perspectives. At the same time, we believe that the public is better served by NPR holding firm to the values and standards that have guided us for many years.

As some listeners have also asked for more details about our funding, you can find a detailed overview of our funding on our website in our “About” section: http://www.npr.org/about/aboutnpr/ Of note, and as is explained in that site, NPR, Inc. has received no direct operating support from the federal government since 1983.

I recognize that this decision has sparked a strong debate in the blogosphere and elsewhere, and that you have a firm position on the matter. While we stand by our policy, we also regret that we were compelled to take the actions that we did.


  • tigersgrowl

    I never knew about that. Had I known, I would have listened to local radio because my data is capped within the first week due to all the 3G radio I listen to. This will be a great help however, I use the Kyrocera Event (don’t laugh, it was only $20 and I got a mortgage) with the Virgin Mobile service using the Sprint network. I contacted Virgin just now, we’ll have to see if they give me the run around as expected with most phone companies or not. If they do, I won’t give up there, I will consult the blogs and forums. If there is a way, I will find it.

    • Jessie

      @tigersgrowl, I also have Virgin Mobile and they use the Sprint network. I will call them also, but I would really appreciate if you post your updates.

  • Yoga Bear

    “I want my FM Radio! Unlock the FM chip in all smartphones you sell so I can get important emergency information when data networks are unavailable and reduce the amount of data I use each month.

    Thank you. I have a HTC one m7 I have looked and the phone has a FM chip and I have Verizon I have called there tech support and they told me all I need to do is find a radio app, you can’t find one that will work without the net, theses company’s just lies to get you off the phone, so I called HTC by the way Verizon told me not to do that, so me being one not to do what I’m told lol I called any ways, HTC told me that they will be updating to lollipop in a few months and then they’re going to come out with the update that send you a FM radio to your phone that they have been working on it for several months without any support from Verizon Wireless so they’ve taken it on their self to go ahead and make a program to turn on the FM chip so that it will work so that we can have free FM radio on our smartphones, we will see. I’ll give them two months if they don’t do it I’m calling back.

    • Joseph Ogidan

      I had a Nokia phone back in 2008 that had a radio. All I needed to activate it was my head phone, and it worked perfectly well.

  • jeremiah stansbury

    please its our rite we paid for the phone why cant we have fm radio it wont cost you any thing to keep the public informed

  • callthemanufacture

    you’re provider has nothing to do with this they do not make the phones so be sure to call the manufacture the provider does not have a way to unlock this so don’t blame them and give more information on fm chips besides call your provider

    • Irwin Busk

      You are very incorrect. The provider orders the phone with their preferred software load, and with certain features and applications locked. The carrier can provide an “unlock” code, but is not required to by law. many will do so, if you are near the end of your contract.

  • sm spfld ma

    Radio is not a right. I’m all for the chip being activated but come on. npr is using you to push their agenda and getting this activated. It’s a scarf tactic. We all got text messages from the weather service when the tornado was on its way to western ma. Say you did have a radio on the phone then; how many people would put the radio on? I Google the tornado then and got the info I needed. Don’t be fools: you’re bejng used by public radio cronies to get more people to listen to PUBLIC RADIO. It’s a cheap marketing initiative.

    • Mrpockets

      If you are all about activating the chip then why are you urging people not to ask for it? Sure it’s an agenda. Everyone has an agenda. For all we know, you could hold a bunch of stock in Pandora and are pushing your own agenda by trying to make people feel stupid for wanting access to something that they’ve always had. That’s what you sound like to me.

  • Floyd Durham

    I just contacted Virgin and they claimed to have no knowledge of any of this. I was told that basically it probably not real and that just because it says so on the internet it doesn’t mean anything. They don’t want people using it then they loose money for data use….Like the owner of Virgin needs more money..lol

  • Byron Edgington

    What a wonderful, warm and kind human being. Fred Rogers will always be my hero. When my daughter Amanda was four, her grandmother (my mother) died, and ‘Manda was bereft at losing her. She decided to write to her TV friend, ‘Mikkah Rogers.’ The letter went in the mail, and a month later, Amanda received a warm, understanding letter from Fred Rogers. In the letter, he wrote as he spoke on TV, a show Amanda wouldn’t miss for the world. He said the very same people who are glad sometimes are the very same people who are sad sometimes. He told my daughter how sad he was for her loss, and he signed the letter, ‘Your friend, Mister Rogers.’ Amanda still has the letter. It’s one of her cherished possessions. The world needs more people like my hero, Fred Rogers.