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Radio Reaction to Schiller Firing Mixed Across the Country.

March 9, 2011

by Editor-in-Chief
Ed Ryan

Now that Vivian Schiller is gone and the winds of controversy continue to swirl around NPR, we wanted to know what GM's and other radio people around the country were thinking. And, the reaction is pretty mixed. One NPR affiliate GM in the midwest said in the grand scheme of things, this is a blip. "Senator Jim DeMint says this doesn't change anything, NPR should be defunded" the GM said. Other than that, we worry about what's going on in our local community. Jobs. The economy.The local issues. Others had much stronger feelings about the mess at the mother ship.

General Manager of WGCU in South Florida Rick Johnson told us the Schiller resignation was the right thing. "The comments made by NPR development executives Ron Schiller and Betsy Liley are inexcusable. We at WGCU are appalled and deeply disappointed by what we heard on the video. Its unfortunate that their thoughtless comments cast a negative light on all of the good, honest work done by NPR and public radio stations around the country. It is also unfortunate that the fallout from this incident has resulted in the resignation of NPRs CEO, Vivian Schiller, but it was the right thing for her to do. Now we, as a system, can move forward."

WBUR Boston General Manager Charles Kravitz told Radio Ink he was surprised by the Schiller resignation. WBUR receives about  6% or $1.3 million in funding from the home office. We asked Kravitz about the resignation. "I'm sad that Vivian Schiller has left. She was a strong leader and doing a lot of great things for NPR. She articulated a powerful mission. Her departure is a loss for NPR. This is not a good thing. It affects all of us in some way."

When asked whether he thought the recent string of events at NPR will affect the federal funding debate and money the Boston station receives, Kravitz said $1.3 million is not a trivial amount of money. "However, we have broad based support across the region. If we came to a financial crisis, we could rely upon our listeners and supporters to help us make up that money. If we did lose the money, it would require us to do significant belt tightening, perhaps freeze salaries, lay some people off and question some of our programming. Kravitz spoke to at least one NPR board member.  He expressed his sadness for Schiller and told the board member this is going to make the effort to keep federal funding more difficult.

National Press Club President and AP reporter Mark Hamrick interviewed Schiller three days ago. He told Radio Ink he was surprised by what happened yesterday. "Yes I was. NPR must do some soul searching and damage repair. Vivian Schiller did a good job of outlining her perception of the challenges the organization was facing on Monday. The irony now is there are additional challenges and the job did not get any easier in the course of 48 hours. I had pondered the possibility in the back of my mind that her days could have been numbered,  but I don't think you can go from the events of last October to now and think there was a high probability that Vivian Schiller would not be at NPR right now. It's obvious we live in the age of gotcha video and one of her underlings was caught saying something he should not have said".

About the debate over federal funding for NPR, Hamrik says this just adds fuel to an already burning fire. "I am also reflective of the highly politicized environment in which  we all live and work now and when we hosted the lunch with her on Monday I don't think I fully understood how vociferous the debate is as it relates to NPR. My appreciation for that fact was building by virtue of the questions that were requested to be asked as well as the reactions I received after people accused me of being biased on both sides.

Hamrick says there are people in the public who wonder whether federal funding of broadcasting is truly necessary. "I think that was one of the things that Vivian sought to answer in her speech Monday. She presented the argument that went along the lines of every dollar  spent there is an additional return that ultimately gets to the common and public good and now she is gone. Those that replace her at NPR and elsewhere that are engaged in the debate are going to have to be the ones to continue to wage that argument and engage the public in that discussion. And as you know politics is a process and this is just part of the process and its going to have to play itself out."

 What are your thoughts about the resignation?

(10/26/2013 4:21:54 PM)
AYdK37 Awesome blog article.Much thanks again. Will read on...

- NY
(9/12/2013 10:56:21 AM)
JpoZnD Awesome blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Great.

- NY
(3/12/2011 1:29:29 PM)
Re: Jim Robinson on WBUR's expenses: "scheduling a large amount of NPR syndication" is a big cost factor right there. Major stations pay NPR big fees for the two flagship newsmags.

- Harry Shearer
(3/10/2011 10:40:40 PM)
Vivian Schiller exhibited insensitive, arrogant and unprofessional judgement in her handling of the firing of long-term employee Juan Williams. I felt she should have been terminated at that time. The most recent comments of Ron Schiller indicate a deep-rooted lack of objectivity and unprofessional attitude at the highest levels of NPR.

For NPR to be worthy of taxpayer funding, it must demonstrate that it has no hidden political agenda and is lead by competent and professional management. NPR neeeds to do an honest self examination of its internal objectivity with respect to the programs it produces. I would hate to see NPR suffer any significant damage for it's own sake and the sake of its many valuable affiliated stations which provide a very valuable source of news and information to the Nation. Allen Shaw, Member of the Community Advisory Board of WFDD Winston-Salem, NC the NPR station of Wake Forrest University. I am also President and CEO of Centennial Broadcasting, LLC.

- Allen Shaw
(3/10/2011 8:13:24 PM)
"mess at the mother ship", "NPR demise great for radio." Gee, tell us how you really feel, Eric. Apparently, non-commercial radio stations are second class citizens where you come from. Whether or not they should be federally funded, your obvious glee in the current turmoil at NPR is pathetic.

- Greg Olsen

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