Sunday, October 24, 2010

Do You Fire the Analyst For Speaking His Mind?

NPR NEWS ANALYST Juan Williams was fired last week after making an appearance on the O'Reilly Factor and saying, "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. I get nervous."

Is that cause for termination? Wasn't he hired as an analyst, a person who is paid to offer his opinions?

Or, was his termination justified as it revealed him to be something of a bigot?

NPR released a statement that included this justification: "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."

Many conservatives are saying that NPR caved in to the far left. Many liberals have called Williams a bigot.

How would you have handled this situation?

18 comments:

Erik Lexie said...

I'm honestly not sure. Well, I don't think I would have fired him myself, but I probably would have raised the issue with him, for sure. At the least, I think he's justified to be upset that he didn't get the chance to talk face to face with the people firing him and try to explain his point of view.

But actually I'm way more interested in this thought I had: We talked in class about how advertising has always been a part of journalism and that pleasing advertisers can potentially control decisions. NPR is different, but maybe not so different: they rely on listener donations, right? And NPR is known to have a very liberal listening crowd. Maybe money directly affected their decision the same way advertising does with for profit news organizations.

Just a thought I had never really entertained before.

jeanette vega said...

I think the analyst is just speaking his mind which is completely justified. You know, when I was reading what he said, I was kind of agreeing with him. I thought, when I see Arabs in Muslim garb on planes, I also get a little uneasy. i don't think that is being racist, I just think that what happened on Sept. 11, 2001 still affects many Americans today still. I think Americans still live in fear of a re-occurance. Now whether or not he should have said it on National television is different. I think his employer has the right to fire whoever he wants based on the professionalism that employer wants to keep in the work space.

Kelly Offner said...

I think Erik makes a good point in addressing the importance of considering the advertisers and listeners of NPR and of what effect they could have on NPR's decision to sack the analyst...
HOWEVER, NPR is a not for profit organization int he sense that it is sponsored by public taxes.
I think that their decision to fire Williams was inevitable; they likely considered the public's response to O'Reilly on The View.
Some may argue that the decision to fire him was over political correctness, but I think it was an issue of upsetting a group of people that NPR wanted to keep as listeners. I think that if his comments were approached by the host as to be analyzed, an interesting discussion could have ensued about why he thinks the way he does.
For Williams commentary to be considered analytical, he would of had to have followed up the voicing of his own feelings with an analysis of the opposite type of opinion.
And what I just ended with brought up a question I've been searching for an answer to for a while:

What is the difference between an analysis by an individual and an opinion? Is there a difference? Do we expect there to be one?

Any thoughts on this will be appreciated

John McGill said...

Personally, I think William's termination from NPR is completely justified. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for freedom and speech and will defend the Constitution until the day I die. But from a professional standpoint, there's certain things you just can't say on national TV because your job will be jeapordized. Let Juan William's have his opinion on muslims. Let him speak his mind freely. But as an NPR analyst, he should have versed himself on NPR's rules and regulations and presented his case accordingly. Obviously racism is frowned upon, and he paid the price. I am surprised some people still see every muslim as an extremist and a terrorist though. That stereotype was born on 9/11 and cast a dark shadow on muslim-americans. The religion is not our enemy. Our enemy is the terrorists themselves, no matter what denomination.

Coeli Danella said...

I definitely think that it's a sticky situation for NPR. There are definitely a number of things you cannot say on national television without consequences like race, religion or nationality. I think that Juan Williams took a chance and said something that I bet a lot of Americans feel, but would never voice. I don't think I would have fired him, I would have talked to him and figured out a way to handle the situation he created, and told Juan Williams he has to be more careful with the words he chooses on television. I personally think that today's society is way to jumpy about anything regarding race, religion or nationality and therefore no matter what anyone says somebody is going to get upset about it.

Dana Dever said...

I don't think his termination is justified because he's being paid to give his opinion, even if no one else at the station, or in America agrees with it. He was simply doing his job, however, I can understand why NPR would fire him because a remark like that doesn't go unnoticed. I'm sure many people were asking if they supported it or didn't and that could make them look like bigots if they supported his idea. Yes, they fired him because of the comment but it was only to protect their own public image and their business.

Lauren Haber said...

Like some of the other people who commented before me, I do not think NPRs' firing of Juan Williams was justified. It seems illogical to me that NPR fired someone who, over the course of a 10 year career with them, said ONE very outspoken remark. While I realize that the remark was viewed as being insensitively and crudely directed towards the Muslim community, that was clearly not the intent of it. As Williams explained in the video "it's just a reality" that many Americans feel the same way that he does, after 9-11. As an analyst, his comment should not have been viewed so widely as totally bigoted or crazy.

Anonymous said...

Going on television as an "analyst" is a trick. Even though Juan Williams was asked for his opinions, he was going to be filmed and his statement would be aired in front of a mass audience. That type of audience should not be taken lightly. Columnists give their opinions by means of starting with facts and verification of an event, but then analyzing a bit deeper. Still, they do not simply state their prejudices. Williams crossed the line by taking his freedom of speech for granted. It is a lesson to all journalists that even when asked to share your opinion, your language should be monitored and always remain professional.

haley kmetz said...

Going on television as an "analyst" is a trick. Even though Juan Williams was asked for his opinions, he was going to be filmed and his statement would be aired in front of a mass audience. That type of audience should not be taken lightly. Columnists give their opinions by means of starting with facts and verification of an event, but then analyzing a bit deeper. Still, they do not simply state their prejudices. Williams crossed the line by taking his freedom of speech for granted. It is a lesson to all journalists that even when asked to share your opinion, your language should be monitored and always remain professional.

Paki said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erin Magarity said...

I'm torn between the thought of keeping him as a news analyst and just having him apologize for his statement/opinion or fire him. Juan Williams having written many books on civil rights may very well be partial to his race, and his statement may sound somewhat bigoted, but I can relate to it whole heartedly. The muslim community does not affect me directly, everyone is different in regards to race, religion etc. I am accepting of that, however I do get that initial uneasy feeling when I see a Muslim on an airplane (ONLY BECAUSE OF 9/11). Juan's statement was somewhat bigoted which justified NPR's firing of him, yet at the same time it was honesty and since he's a news analyst....he was only analyzing almost every American's intial thought when stepping on a plane and seeing someone dressed in Muslim garb.

Paki said...

My initial reaction was that this was a matter of political correctness, and so I felt sorry for Williams. I can't stand this obsession with being politically correct at the expense of properly articulating your thoughts or feelings. But then I thought what if someone had said they get nervous around young black men wearing backwards hats and saggy jeans because they heard guys that look like that committed some crime or another? That would be too much of a stereotype to excuse.

In the end, I think Williams simply exposed his ignorance. That's not to say that, if I saw Muslims on a plane that the thought of terrorism wouldn't cross my mind. It would simply because 9-11 has a permanent place in my mind. But I also wouldn't assume they were Muslim and therefore terrorists.

I wrote a story that involves some of these themes if anyone would care to check it out

http://standbyignorance.blogspot.com/2010/07/if-shoe-fits.html

Jonathan said...

Does he have the right to say what he said? Of course. If you think about it, the First Amendment isn't meant to protect the opinion you agree with, but rather the one you vehemently oppose (on a related note, I'm curious to see how the SCOTUS case on this very issue with the Westboro Baptist Church plays out).

Now that said, he should know that by being invited to speak as an analyst from NPR, his comments would reflect on NPR. He should have been more mindful of that. It's one thing if John Doe says he thinks all (Muslims are terrorists/black people are criminals/Asians know kung fu/insert ignorant belief here), but it's something else if John Doe, (leader of the Republican caucus/White House spokesman/whatever), says it.

When you speak as a representative of the organization, you reflect that organization, even if you qualify what you say as your personal opinion. He was within his rights to say it, but it also was the right of NPR to say "we do not stand for what he said."

Sam Lannetti said...

I agree with what Juan said. Of course I believe that the vast majority of Muslims are completley innocent people with no intent to harm anyone, but when I walk into an airport and see a person dressed in Muslim garb I can't say I don't feel uneasy for a moment, before realizing that they are probably no more likely to hurt anyone that anybody else in the airport. That's completley understandable. Unfortunatley, the Muslims who attacked our country created a distorted view of Muslims as a whole. Anyone who claims that they can see a Muslim wearing their religious garb in an airport and never have the word 'terrorist' cross their mind is simply lying. It's sad and unfortunate, but it's true.

Juan did not deserve to be fired. He's an analyst who's paid to share his opinion. If he's pissing people off, it means he's doing his job well.

Nicole Patouhas said...

I honestly believe that Mr. Williams was just saying what many others are thinking. I do not feel that automatically makes him a bigot. I agree that the vast majority of Muslims are law abiding citizens with absolutely no intention of causing harm to anyone. I also believe that, many time, the fears that we experience are simply natures way of protecting us.Unfortunately,images of terrorists in Muslim religious garb have been shown to us repeatedly by the media. It is unfortunate for the innocent, but the association we make between those images and fear is natural. Mr. Williams should not lose his livelihood for expressing a fear that was perpetuated by images in the media. We can all come away from this with a lesson:that lesson being, that we all need to not be so quick to judge, and I include Mr. Williams in those I feel may have been judged too quickly.

Joie' Johnson-Walker said...

I do not believe that Juan Williams should have been fired for saying what he said. Most of Americans, unfortunately, feel the same way. I do not believe that his statement was bigoted. He was simply speaking a reality that most Americans feel. I do not think that he has anything personal against Muslims. Realistically speaking, if a person from off the streets walks into a room of wealthy "well to do" people, wouldn't you suspect their to be some kind of hesitation?

Alex K said...

In today's media it is absurd to think that Juan Williams could of kept his job. The fact that someone could consider his words politically incorrect immediately puts him in a terrible position. With television "news" networks tending to slant towards a political party nowadays, any sort of political incorrectness is pretty much outlawed. These networks want to appeal to their political audience with politically correct words, and nothing but. In all political parties there are going to be radicals. Political incorrectness is probably the easiest way to anger a radical, thus making Juan Williams words punishable. The networks do not want to give out any politically incorrect views in fear of pissing off the political crazies who are bound to write their mayor, their governor, the president, or whoever will listen to them talk.

Giulia Valtieri said...

NPR had to do some damage control. if they kept this man on staff, they would have lost credibility. Sure an analyst is paid for their opinions, but their educated one's, not their unjustified personal hatred for a specific race of people. I can't believe this man thought this was ok to say on a cable new network let alone say in general. NPR won't even allow their journalists to go to political rally's so they cannot keep a man so wrongly informed on staff.