Fallows on why NPR matters

James Fallows, who was a guest on MPR’s Midmorning today on an entirely different subject , opens up on the attacks on NPR in the wake of its firing of news analyst Juan Williams. Fallows, who appears regularly on NPR, has penned “Why NPR matters.”

In their current anti-NPR initiative, Fox and the Republicans would like to suggest that the main way NPR differs from Fox is that most NPR employees vote Democratic. That is a difference, but the real difference is what they are trying to do. NPR shows are built around gathering and analyzing the news, rather than using it as a springboard for opinions. And while of course the selection of stories and analysts is subjective and can show a bias, in a serious news organization the bias is something to be worked against rather than embraced. NPR, like the New York Times, has an ombudsman. Does Fox? [I think the answer is No.]

One other factor affects my view of NPR. There are jobs where people are mainly motivated by the hope of big money. (Finance in general.) There are jobs where the main motivation is job-security. And there is a category of jobs where, as absolutely everyone recognizes, it makes a tremendous difference that “employees” care about something beyond pay, hours, and security. Teachers. Soldiers. Doctors and nurses. Judges and police. Political leaders, if they want to be more than hacks. And, people in news organizations.

Find it here.

  • Fallows said considerably more than just that:

    I think that the NPR leadership made a mistake in appearing to fire Williams in a snit, rather than not renewing his contract, at the next opportunity, because of longstanding differences in journalistic values*.

    Why did Williams still have a job despite being out of favor with NPR honchos? Media critics are slowly beginning to acknowledge that Juan Williams hadn’t been fired before because NPR is embarrassingly short of non-white on-air talent. NPR is a closed shop. I cannot recall the last time they brought aboard a new voice with any kind of critical perspective on the news and newsmakers.

    Polls show that about half of all Americans would like to replace ALL the members of Congress with new faces.

    I feel much the same way about our news media.

  • Lance

    Putting aside the fact that the firing of Juan Williams resulted from a pathetically transparent ideological hissy fit (or worse), I find it intriguing that NPR is angry that its Juan Williams appeared on Fox News, which according to NPR “promote(s) only one side of the ideological spectrum.”

    Isn’t Williams a 10 year NPR veteran liberal? Didn’t this “collision of values” (as NPR calls it) result from Fox including Juan Williams as a representative of the “other” side of the ideological spectrum? How does one present only one side of a spectrum by presenting both sides…?????

    Given this duplicitous criticism of Fox in conjunction with the firing of Williams it appears that NPR just didn’t view Williams as “liberal” (read “liberal enough”).

  • Lance

    And, of course, saying that Williams was not liberal enough really means he did not share the extreme level of intolerance for opposing points of view that NRP has come to expect from its other “journalists.”

  • Tyler

    While Williams might be a “10 year NPR veteran liberal,” he had a contract with Fox *before* he had a contract with NPR. $.02

  • Lance

    //While Williams might be a “10 year NPR veteran liberal,” he had a contract with Fox *before* he had a contract with NPR.

    Tyler: You are quite right. And does this fact not only further highlight NPR’s duplicity (hiring him while he was appearing on Fox and then purportedly firing him because he was appearing on Fox) and the shallow nature of their ad hoc “logic”?

  • Lance

    Frankly, the more I think about this the more I persuaded I am that NPR’s conduct was the intellectual equivalent of sticking their ideological fingers in their ears and chanting “nah nah nah…I am not listening” as they stomped out of the room.

    There, I said it.