In wake of Williams’s firing, Weiss resigns as NPR News chief

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NPR News Chief Ellen Weiss resigned today as the board of directors concluded its review of the dismissal of former news analyst Juan Williams.

Weiss was the news exec who dismissed Williams by telephone last October, igniting a controversy over public radio’s news values and a political attack on public broadcasting’s federal funding.

NPR President Vivian Schiller, whose public remarks about Williams fueled outrage over the dismissal, retains the confidence of the NPR Board, according to a statement issued this afternoon. But the board voted to deny her 2010 bonus.

The review, initiated weeks after the controversial firing, found that Williams was dismissed according to the terms of his contract. “The facts gathered during the review revealed that the termination was not the result of special interest group or donor pressure,” the board said. “However, because of concerns regarding the speed and handling of the termination process, the board additionally recommended that certain actions be taken with regard to management involved in Williams’ contract termination.”

The board recommended that NPR take several steps to address issues identified during the review, which was conducted by the law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP. These include reexamining NPR’s ethics code and its policy guiding NPR journalists’ appearances on other media outlets. The review should ensure that NPR’s practices “encourage a broad range of viewpoints to assist in its decision-making, support its mission and reflect the diversity of national audiences,” the board said.

“The board regrets this incident’s impact on NPR and will work with NPR’s CEO, Vivian Schiller, to ensure that these actions will be expeditiously completed, examined and monitored on an ongoing basis.”

In an email to NPR staff announcing Weiss’s resignation at 1:36 today, Schiller said Weiss has “made meaningful and lasting contributions to the evolution of NPR and our newsroom….Ellen exemplifies journalistic professionalism and integrity. I am grateful to her for all she has accomplished at NPR.”

Weiss has spent virtually all of her career at NPR, rising through the ranks to become senior news v.p. in April 2007.

JAN. 7 UPDATE: Juan Williams comments on Weiss’s departure in this video from Fox News, in which he says that Weiss was the “keeper of the flame of liberal orthodoxy” at NPR.

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