Thursday, October 21, 2010

Juan Williams: Objective Subjectivity or Vice Versa

One has to wonder—even the most liberal-minded of us—if NPR made a big mistake in terminating news analyst Juan Williams for his insensitive and opinionated remarks about Muslims on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor.

I’m still processing it.

Some have pointed out that this event has been a long time coming since Williams has weighed in before on other controversial issues—on the same program.

Perhaps it’s a no-win situation for NPR. Had they not reacted at all, hard-core, left-leaning NPR listeners surely would have been calling for his resignation—especially if he had expressed such feelings on one of NPR’s programs.

Many comments are coming in that NPR doesn’t respect Williams’ first amendment rights of free speech unless it is in line with their views. That’s doubtful. Everyone in this country has the right to free speech, but are there really any guarantees when it comes to free speech and job security—especially in the journalism profession?

Perhaps NPR is only guilty in its zeal for objectivity—much like Fox’s zeal for subjectivity. Just take a look at their nightly line-up of opinion-based programming (see image above).

NPR made the following statement following Williams’ termination, “…his remarks on The O’Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a News Analyst with NPR.” Translation: If your career is that of a news analyst, that pretty much means you’re about as objective as they come, so you shouldn’t be out there expressing opinions in any public forums—especially on one of the most opinionated shows in the country.
And I thought Daniel Schorr lived a long life, but now I’m thinking he didn’t live long enough in having the opportunity to chime in on this little drama.

From That Minority
What Williams said was dumb, plain and simple. But it was also “dumb” for National Public Radio—one of his media employers—to summarily fire him. Williams deserves the opportunity to defend himself, and at the very least explain what he meant and why he said what he said. And there are few better places for open and honest discourse than NPR. Even if his termination was inevitable, wouldn’t a few moments of clarity been of benefit to both Williams and the listening audience? If not NPR, where? Trust us, discussions of prejudice are best left off cable news. If Don Imus and Dr. Laura were given the chance to illuminate their moments of idiocy, why not Williams?

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