Obligatory post on NPR and Juan Williams

I listen to a lot of NPR, so I have been thinking about the whole firing of Juan Williams thing a lot.

I really don’t remember any specific story or analysis that Juan did, so I don’t have much opinion of him. And, I also recognize that the specific events that lead to his being fired was not the first conflict between him and NPR…we dont know the whole story.

In the end I dont really think that NPR should have fired him. Instead I think NPR should have engaged him in a public conversation (get him on Talk of the Nation, do some town hall stuff, interviews, a TAL…etc…) about some real issues:

  • How is it appropriate to be honest about something that seems bigoted, discriminatory or whatever. For him to say “I get nervous on a flight with Muslims” is just true. The issue is what do we do with that. Does he think that is ok? Or does he fight that tendency he has to categorize and generalize? Is he coming to this from an (unfounded) string of logic, or is this an emotional response? How can we have a rational, helpful conversation about this stuff?
  • Next, It would have been interesting if they had a conversation about the role of opinion in journalism. I don’t for a second buy this idea that any journalist or news organization is unbiassed and just “presents the facts”. So what if there was a conversation abut how to understand bias in news. What are the appropriate ways for reporters and analysts to give their opinion? Perhaps if there was an accepted way (such as a blog, specific show, etc) for them to give analysis based on opinion they would be more able to leave bies behind in a news reporting situation because they have an out let. Perhaps not. At the very least if we, the news consuming public, had a way to know what a reporter really thought we would have a starting place to evaluate what they say.

Any way, if Juan, NPR an FOX had been able to engage those (and other) issues it might have helped us as a news consuming people think through some hard issues. In the end perhaps Juan would still have left or been asked to leave, but at least it would not have degraded into yet another he said, she siad, i dont like you, give me my free speech, left, right, yelling match in a big yelling match.

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