Williams’ firing isn’t about race

This Juan Williams business demands a quick note.

From what I gather, Williams’ honesty cost him his job with NPR, because his comments about a twinge of fear when boarding a plane with Muslims, according to NPR, “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”

I think we can all agree that his comments were stereotyping. I have a Muslim daughter and son-in-law and four Muslim grandchildren and can tell you with certainty that there’s no reason to fear getting on a plane with them. Anybody who did would be blessed.

But this isn’t about stereotyping to me; it’s about the depth to which professional journalism has sunk in its attempts to prove the impossible: that journalists are or can be above being human. Jay Rosen calls it “the view from nowhere,” and I’ve been writing about it since I first left the business in 1998. When we examine the data about the loss of trust that the public has in media, we have to include the sacred canons. They, after all, drive the news industry, and if the public has lost trust in the press, then we must be honest with ourselves and admit our own bullshit.

Juan Williams was asked a question and answered it honestly. NPR fired him for that, not for making statements contrary to its code of ethics. That NPR can’t see this is exactly what’s wrong with professional journalism. You can’t be honest if you’re playing a role, and THAT is what is transparent with the American public.

So NPR didn’t just shoot itself in the foot here; it actually accelerated the necessary demise of the artificial nonsense that professional journalism has foisted upon a public that is sick to death of it. I say that’s a good thing.

Meanwhile, Williams will do fine as a liberal commentator on Fox. Good for him.

Comments

  1. Transparency is the new objectivity — why can’t the “mainstream media” understand that???

  2. I know this is a bit dated now, but I felt that there is something important to add here. NPR, I believe, is not reacting to Juan’s comments but rather to his affiliation with Fox. There is no entity that regulates traditional “news values” that we are taught in school so we are left to police ourselves, as it were. Fox may be the most extreme example of a new breed of partisan agenda masquerading as journalism. There is much that is good and legitimate within Fox News, but, on the whole, I don’t blame NPR for trying to get some distance from the organization.
    People are “sick to death” of professional journalism, I’m afraid, because we continue to give them what sells. As we all know, we don’t always purchase what we truly want.
    Fox news sells. Right or wrong.
    In my eyes it is wrong. Maybe NPR recognizes this. Regardless, at the end of the day, is Fox news journalism?
    If not, maybe it is worthy of a professional boycott.

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