Weiss’s departure from NPR, reexamined

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Why exactly did NPR President Vivian Schiller tell her Senior News V.P. Ellen Weiss to resign or be fired? According to the Washington Post‘s account of the circumstances leading up to Weiss’s sudden departure on Jan. 6, Weiss’s management style as news chief, and her account of the decision to fire longtime news analyst Juan Williams last October, undercut support for her within NPR’s newsroom and leadership ranks.

The Post‘s Paul Farhi interviews NPR News insiders and points to internal rifts over Weiss’s record and leadership style: “While several employees acknowledged her role in building NPR into a radio-news powerhouse and emerging digital-news player, they also questioned her methods….More damning was the suggestion – hotly disputed by people close to Weiss – that Weiss had preempted her boss, Schiller, in telling Williams that he had to go.”

Weiss tells the Post she’d received no warning from Schiller that her job was in jeopardy nor an explanation of why she was being forced out. An anonymous defender within NPR News says Weiss’s ouster was “merely a smoke screen that helped Schiller keep her job and appease critics inside and outside NPR.” NPR communications chief Dana Davis Rehm declines to elaborate on “internal conversations” that led up to Weiss’s resignation.

Former NPR host and correspondent Alex Chadwick is one of few sources who talks on-the-record, drawing parallels between how Weiss informed him that his job was being eliminated in 2008, and her cell phone firing of Juan Williams last Oct. 20.

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