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.