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 NPR.org and elsewhere.

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.

Schiller: ‘No reason for NPR to go it alone’ on the Web

An often touted and tabled proposal to recast public radio’s web presence as a combination of content from NPR and its member stations is gaining traction among leaders in the field. With strong support from its new president, Vivian Schiller, NPR is beginning to plan a pilot project that would demonstrate how stations’ local news efforts could be integrated with NPR content. Creation of a news portal that integrates pubradio’s world, national and local news coverage will also be endorsed by Grow the Audience, a research and consultation project managed by the Maryland-based Station Resource Group and funded by CPB. The recommendation in the Grow the Audience report, which has yet to be released, was developed in consultation with web strategists who described the online service opportunity that public radio could seize, said Tom Thomas, SRG co-chief executive. The report will call for pubradio to build a collaboratively managed “world-class public-service media news portal” that integrates international, national and local content.

Schiller hit ‘every point’ on NPR’s c.e.o. wish list

NPR’s next president made one giant leap in the news business two years ago when she moved from long-form documentary production into digital media for the New York Times Co., but it wasn’t the first or the last of Vivian Schiller’s career.In the early 1980s, Schiller was living in the Soviet Union, working as a translator and guide for professional groups touring the country, when she was hired as a “fixer” for the Turner Broadcasting System. The job required her to do everything from translating during negotiations for TV productions to making dinner reservations, and it gave her an entrée into television. “I fell in love with media,” she said. Schiller rose from entry level to executive v.p. of CNN Productions, an award-winning documentary unit. Her predecessor in the job was Pat Mitchell, who left CNN in 2000 to become PBS president.