New NPR ethics code discourages outside contracts

NPR journalists must seek management approval to sign work contracts with other media outlets, and most such requests will not be granted, according to a comprehensive revision of the network’s ethics guidelines approved unanimously by the network’s board Feb. 24. The board reaffirmed the network’s desire to regulate moonlighting such as the ongoing appearances of former NPR news analyst Juan Williams on Fox News — a gig that led to his firing in 2010 and an extended hullaballoo exploited by Fox and Republican partisans. Publication of the NPR Ethics Handbook concluded a 15-month process that the Board initiated after Williams’s dismissal. The guidelines specify that a news employee must get written permission “for all outside freelance and journalistic work,” a continuation of NPR’s previous policies.

DISARRAY: Takedown leaves gaps in network’s top ranks

NPR is facing the most serious political crisis in its history with no chief executive to speak for it, no chief fundraiser to make sure its new building can be finished, and no chief journalist to rebuff or heed criticism of its newsroom. “People feel that they’ve been let down, and there’s this vacuum at NPR, and what’s next?” said Dave Edwards, chair of the NPR Board. “Those emotions are felt by people in NPR’s building, at stations and by board members. The board has an obligation to stabilize things. That’s what we’re working on.”

Joyce Slocum, general counsel and senior v.p. of legal affairs, was named interim c.e.o. after the departure of Vivian Schiller March 9, but she has asked the NPR Board to recruit another exec to serve as the public face of NPR, speaking for it in Congress and to the press, she told Current.

NPR Board hires counsel to probe what went wrong

Reacting to NPR’s abrupt image makeover — from ascendant news organization to partisan punching bag  — the network’s board last week hired an outside firm to investigate the decisions that invited the comedown, the dismissal of news analyst Juan Williams.Dave Edwards, the board’s new chair, announced that Weil, Gotshal & Manges, a 20-office multinational law practice, is leading the internal review initiated last month. Weil is “highly regarded with considerable expertise in governance issues,” Edwards said, shortly after the board unanimously elected him as its new leader.Security guards with metal detectors checked the unusually large number of onlookers at the Nov. 11 meeting at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. A public session preceded nearly a full day of closed-door board meetings. Just two weeks earlier, after NPR’s dismissal of Williams prompted a display of outrage at Fox News, the network received a bomb-threat letter and turned it over to law enforcement (Current, Nov. 1).

Schiller discusses Juan Williams affair in remarks to NPR Board

NPR President Vivian Schiller’s remarks near the end of NPR Board meeting, Nov. 12, 2010. Over the last three weeks, I’ve heard from a lot of people — we all have — challenging what NPR is, what it does, and why we’re here. We’ve heard assaults on our programming, and on our objectivity. We’ve read some critical listener letters  and comments posted on and elsewhere.

O'Reilly and Williams on O'Reilly's Fox News program

Under-explained firing makes NPR an issue just in time for election

Top NPR officials may have thought their Oct. 20 decision to dismiss veteran journalist Juan Williams was about journalistic objectivity, but to many outsiders it sounded more like a story of arrogant lefty political correctness. That narrative opened up public radio — and all of public broadcasting — to a political attack that may help the candidates of Fox News and the Republican Party rally their conservative base for the midterm elections Nov. 2. Criticism of the firing was not limited to the partisan right.

Schiller apologizes to pubradio colleagues for handling of Williams firing

NPR President Vivian Schiller dispatched this apology Sunday evening, Oct. 24 [2010], six days after the network set off a pre-election political firestorm with its firing of news analyst Juan Williams. She stands by the decision but not the way it was handled. Dear Program Colleagues,

I want to apologize for not doing a better job of handling the termination of our relationship with news analyst Juan Williams. While we stand firmly behind that decision, I regret that we did not take the time to prepare our program partners and provide you with the tools to cope with the fallout from this episode. I know you all felt the reverberations and are on the front lines every day responding to your listeners and talking to the public. This was a decision of principle, made to protect NPR’s integrity and values as a news organization.

NPR fires news analyst Juan Williams

NPR fired news analyst Juan Williams late yesterday over comments he made about Muslims during an Oct. 18 appearance on Fox News. Williams, a news pundit and commentator who had contracts with both networks, was reacting to remarks by Fox News host Bill O’Reilly when he said: “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 a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried.