Archive for the ‘National media issues’ Category

Reviewing quotes opens Pandora’s box

Monday, July 30th, 2012

“I’ll answer your questions if I can see my quotes before the story is printed?”

That question – and how to answer it – has become one of the summer of 2012’s hot buttons in the media world.

Reporters from the New York Times and other top news organizations have admitted that both presidential candidates aren’t asking – they’re demanding.

And reporters who don’t want to lose access to the candidates and their staffs are agreeing.

It has been a common request during my nearly 40 years as a journalist.

In the 1970s, I was taught the answer should always be “no.” Period. No discussion.

Open up that Pandora’s box and you’ll never be able to succeed as a journalist.

Think about it. If you show one source the quotes you’re going to use from an interview, how can you say “no” to another? Word gets around.

And if you can be forced to show a source their quotes, they’ll want to see other information from the story. Then they’ll want to see the whole story.

You’ll soon have a reputation as a reporter who can be pushed around, dictated to. The news source is in control, not the reporter. That’s not journalism, it’s stenography.

It’s better to just say “no.” Period. No discussion.

Okay, that was the 1970s, and that attitude probably continued through the 1980s. But the world was beginning to change. By the recession of the early 1990s, when newspapers really struggled financially, journalists were beginning to turn a different cheek.

Circulation was declining, and publishers were searching for reasons. Maybe we’ve been too arrogant, too uncompromising, too adversarial, they wondered. So journalists were asked to be kinder, gentler, more cooperative with sources.

After all, what’s more important – your ego or getting the facts right. Why not let a source review the information and comments you gleaned from her, so she can set you straight if there’s a mistake or a misinterpretation.

By the 1990s, I was a newspaper editor, advising my own staff of reporters on how they should handle that question from a source.

I had changed my tune slightly, saying that it was up to each individual reporter, based on their relationship with each source, to negotiate that territory. Generally, the answer should be no.

But sometimes it makes sense to give in, especially if the topic is complex and the likelihood of mistakes is high.

And you always have to weigh the cost-benefit ratio. Is it the only way to get the story? Is the story worth the possible “Pandora’s box” fallout?

Fast forward to 2012.

Now I’m the adviser to a student newspaper – The Agora at Monroe County Community College. I’m helping student journalists learn the basics of the news biz – and guess what question comes up regularly.

Just as presidential candidates are hyper-sensitive about how their campaigns are portrayed in the media, college administrators are nervous about how they will be quoted in the student newspaper.

Talented, experienced professional journalists sometimes make mistakes, inadvertently misquoting a source. With student journalists, it’s common. They’re learning, and you learn by trial and error.

And, of course, there are plenty of times when sources – whether presidential candidates or college administrators – are quoted accurately and later scramble because their words don’t look so good in print.

For whatever reason, faculty, staff and administrators at MCCC often ask the question: Can I see the quotes from me that you’re using in the story? Can I see any facts that came from me? Can I see the story?

Although the situations are light years apart, I think the advice I give the students also would work for the professional reporters covering the presidential campaigns.

Yes, it’s okay to have a discussion about sharing quotes and facts from an interview – in the spirit of accuracy. On a limited basis, it makes sense. If you’re interviewing a nuclear physicist on sub-atomic particles, it might be a good idea to make sure you got the scientific terms right.

But it’s wrong to have a blanket acceptance of source review of quotes and facts. The reporter loses too much – he becomes that stenographer I mentioned earlier.

It doesn’t serve the nation when coverage of our presidential campaign is filtered through the candidates themselves.

And it doesn’t serve journalism education when college students are denied the opportunity to learn the hard way to get it right.

Newspapers not quite Humvees yet

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Just how bad off is the newspaper industry?

David Carr, media writer for the New York Times, characterized newspapers as like used Humvees – “a hulking beast that has lost relevance in a changed landscape.”

In his usual eloquent prose, Carr described the decline of the industry, which he notes is about half the size as seven years ago.

He didn’t say whether he was referring to revenue, profits, or number of employees, but all would be about right.

In a fascinating development, the editor of the Boston Globe – which is owned by the New York Times – responded with a letter to the editor, which was printed in the Times. How often does that happen?

Marty Baron took issue with Carr’s metaphor. Newspapers may be struggling financially, he said, but they are still important to their communities and to the nation.

“Local and regional newspapers may have lost revenue, but they haven’t lost relevance,” he wrote.

As evidence, Baron offered a list of stories in newspapers across America that had made a difference – from The Patriot-News in Pennsylvania exposing the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State to The Sarasota Herald-Tribune finding Florida law enforcement officers were allowed to stay on the job despite stealing from crime victims.

Baron is right on. From national companies like the NY Times and Wall Street Journal down to community dailies like The Monroe Evening News, newspapers remain almost as relevant as a decade ago.

They may have shrunk in size – I cringe sometimes when I pick up the Evening News and feel more air that paper between my hands.

They may have shrunk in staff – by my count the Monroe daily has about two-thirds of its news staff from seven years ago when I arrived in the newsroom.

But the Evening News – just like all those other papers mentioned by Baron – remains an important mainstay of life in Monroe County. It still plays the same invaluable roles.

It keeps the populace informed – not only about who is running for school board, but also which bridge will be closed for construction and who won the Bedford-Monroe soccer game.

It still holds elected officials accountable. There’s not a public official in the county who doesn’t know the Evening News is there, fulfilling the time-honored watchdog role.

And it still ties the community together. It’s where Monroe discusses its problems and celebrates its successes. It’s where you go if you want to be an informed, responsible citizen, or if you just want to know how a former local athlete is doing on his college team.

No one wants to imagine a future without it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s mostly online, with a smaller print version.

As long as it’s there, to keep us informed, and to keep a watch on public life.

Yes, it’s smaller. But it’s still very important.

The credit for that goes largely to those journalists who are left behind, still fighting the good fight. 

There may be fewer of them, but they’re working hard to continue to be valuable to their readers – whether at the Boston Globe or the Monroe Evening News. 

They’re doing more with less, somehow maintaining that importance, that relevance, that is so vital to community life.

My hat’s off to them.

Times “truth” controversy raises tough questions

Friday, January 13th, 2012

The first week of the semester has just ended, a week in which I spend time in all my classes talking about the purpose of journalism.

“Tell the truth,” ranks high on the list. There are others, of course: Report the news, be a watchdog over the powerful, entertain, uncover injustice, provide a forum for community discussion, etc.

Ironically this subject became a national debate in journalism circles when Arthur Brisbane, public editor of the New York Times, asked the question in a blog post: “Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?”

There was immediate and vitriolic reaction from across the blogosphere, which ranged from “Duh,” to anger that he would dare to ask the question.

Some of the reaction, however, seriously tackled the ticklish issue – the same one I was discussing with journalism students virtually as Brisbane was writing.

On the one hand, journalists strive to be balanced and fair, keeping their own views out of the story. On the other hand, they strive to find the “truth.” 

Well, I’m sorry to say, we’re human beings and we come at truth from different perspectives.

Some of the people who railed at Brisbane for his naïve question – of course the Times should call out public officials when they lie – didn’t seem to understand how elusive truth can be.

Jay Rosen, one of the best thinkers in journalism today, offered a good perspective on the problem:

“Something happened in our press over the last 40 years or so that never got acknowledged and to this day would be denied by a majority of newsroom professionals. Somewhere along the way, truthtelling was surpassed by other priorities the mainstream press felt a stronger duty to. These include such things as “maintaining objectivity,” “not imposing a judgment,” “refusing to take sides” and sticking to what I have called the View from Nowhere.”

I disagree with his assertion that “truthtelling” was surpassed by “refusing to take sides.” Rather, I would say that good, conscientious journalists realize they often don’t have the time or resources to prove beyond a doubt which side is right. So they do the best they can under the circumstances, and that often means giving both sides and letting readers decide for themselves.

Yes, you can call that the View from Nowhere, and it can be very unsatisfying for readers. But it’s reality.

Another interesting response came from journalist James Fallows, who has written a book on the subject.

“I think Brisbane deserves credit rather than ridicule for raising this question. Let’s hope that within the Times, and elsewhere, it’s one more reason to focus attention on the difficult daily choices facing journalists trained to be “fair” and “objective” in the new political-infosphere terrain. (And, yes, I realize that these choices are difficult.)”

One of the examples given by Brisbane sheds light on the problem. He notes that presidential candidate Mitt Romney often accuses President Obama of making speeches “apologizing for America.” But the president, Bribane notes, has never used the word apologize in a speech about U.S. policy.

So, should reporters covering Romney point out every time he uses that phrase – which is every speech – that it’s a lie.

You can imagine the reaction from Romney supporters. One man’s lie is another’s truth.

Should the New York Times be a “Truth Vigilante?” How about the Monroe Evening News, or The Agora, the MCCC student paper?

Or course they should. We would all agree that journalists should put “seeking truth” at the top of their lists of responsibilities.

But that’s the easy answer.

When you’re interviewing pro- and anti-abortion advocates for a story on when “life” begins – as I have – the wise choice may not be to spend a lot of time “seeking truth.” One side thinks it begins at conception, the other thinks it begins when life could be sustained outside the womb.

Both are right, sort of. Both are convinced the other side is wrong.  Seeking the “truth” would likely open the reporter to accusations of bias.

Frankly, I think providing context is often more important than probing for truth. Like beauty, truth is often in the eye of the beholder.

When journalists fall short, I think, it’s often because they didn’t provide enough context to allow readers to sort out the dueling versions of the truth.

Mitt Romney isn’t lying when he accuses President Obama of apologizing for Ameria. He’s giving his opinion. A follow-up question – getting Romney to explain what he means – would provide context. A response from the president would add more context.

Then “truth” is easier for the reader to find, without the reporter appearing to take a side.


Blogging shifts toward longer, less frequent

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

The concept of blogging has been shifting with the sands for the last decade or so – since the Internet opened the door to anyone who wanted to write.

A recent blog post on the Idealab site – where they’ve been researching new media trends – suggests that the sand is shifting again – this time toward more long-form blogging.

That works for me, since it’s essentially what I’ve done from the beginning.

When I launched “” a half-dozen years ago (I was managing editor of the Monroe Evening News at the time), I emphasized three things to prospective bloggers:

1) Write frequently. The more often the better. I suggested at least three times a week.

2) Write about something you know, something you’re passionate about. People don’t want to read drivel. But they may be interested if you share your knowledge.

3) Be interactive. Try to make it a conversation.

I was never much good at doing what I preached. I didn’t write very often, and I didn’t get into many long, interactive conversations.

But I did write about what I cared about and knew something about – media issues. And because I’m passionate about the topics, most of my blog posts tended to be longer.

It makes sense that the arrival of Twitter would move blogging in the other direction.

Blogs that are short bursts of words, several times a day, have been upstaged by Twitter. It’s a better platform for that kind of instant update.

And interactive conversations have been upstaged by Facebook, the ultimate social media (so far).

But Twitter and Facebook aren’t very good platforms for a serious discussion of a topic. Blogging remains ideal for one person to present his/her views, and get responses from others.

Even when I was blogging regularly, I rarely posted more than once a week. That’s because I didn’t have anything important enough to say any more often. I’ve used my blog as a place to express my views, but only when I though there was enough content to warrant it.

If the trend is indeed toward less frequent and more substantive blogging, I suppose I can feel somewhat vindicated.

But I won’t. I didn’t do it for any conscious reason. I did it because it worked for me.

And it’s why I continue blogging, even though I have less to say and therefore blog less often. For me, a blog post is a great way to express your views on a subject you care about, giving others a chance to agree or disagree.

That’s one kind of blog. There are many others, and I suspect the diversity of styles will continue to be a hallmark of blogging.

Although blogs are losing readership in some quarters – because of competition from Twitter, Facebook and other websites – I think they still have a future.

Obama re-election column troubling, scary

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Here’s another example of how journalism has changed, turned upside down.

It’s no longer about news.

It’s about what goes viral on the Internet, and that creates dynamics that are sometimes puzzling, sometimes troubling and sometimes just plain scary.

Chicago Tribune opinion columnist Steve Chapman suggested in his regular column on the Op-Ed Page that President Obama should back out of the 2012 presidential race.

His logic is that because the public is angry at everyone in Washington, anxious to kick the incumbents out, Obama would do everyone a favor by taking the blame and stepping aside.

Before the digital revolution, that column would have created some laughs in Chicago. Most people would write it off as a columnist at a traditional conservative newspaper taking a shot at the Democratic president. Glenn Beck does it every day.

Enter the Internet. The column went viral. In less than a week it had a half-million page views. A blip on the radar screen had become a bomb on the blogosphere.

Will it change the course of world events? I hope not. But it could.

That’s the new reality. It’s virtually impossible to predict what will catch the fancy of the digital world.

The puzzling part is trying to figure out what will fall flat, and what will take off.

The troubling part is that Chapman’s column is just his opinion. There are no new facts, no new ideas, just one guy’s half-loony hiccup.

The just plain scary part is that the Internet can turn a column like that into a new version of reality – that’s what going viral means.

It takes on a life of its own, like a pile of goop in a sci-fi horror flick, oozing into new shapes as it slithers through doors and windows – but not just in one house, in every house worldwide.

Scary, huh.

Cut the hyperbole in the tax debate

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

I like to think that American voters are smart enough to know that both President Obama and his critics are engaging in outrageous hyperbole when discussing proposed tax increases for the rich.

Obama has called his proposal the Buffett tax, after Warren Buffett, who is one billionaire who supports taxing the rich at a higher rate.

Buffett is fond of pointing out that he is taxed at a lower rate than his secretary.

On the other side, Republicans are crying “class warfare,” accusing Obama of pitting the rich against the poor, while thumping their chests and pointing out that the richest 1 percent already pay 40 percent of the taxes.

Both sides are trying to use catchy phrases to spin the news their way. Terms like “Buffett tax” and “class warfare” are just attempts to hide the real facts.

Fact one: Obama is proposing an increase in the capital gains tax rate. Most rich people make their money buying and selling securities; the earnings are taxed as capital gains, at 15 percent. That’s considerably lower than the 25-35 percent most of us pay on our wages.

Fact two. Yes, the richest 1 percent of Americans pay about 40 percent of all federal taxes. But that’s because they earn more than 40 percent of the money made by Americans each year. And their share of the wealth has been increasing for more than 20 years. Census data clearly shows that the rich are getting richer while the middle class and poor are losing ground.

If the rich are earning more of the money, doesn’t it make sense they should pay more of the taxes?

If Americans are smart about how they listen to politicians on both sides – cutting through the hyperbole and demanding facts, we have a chance to get government back on track in the next few months.

Washington has been at a stalemate, with both parties digging deep trenches and refusing to budge.

But the excessive spending of the last decade – two wars we couldn’t afford (paid for by borrowing, mostly from China) and a gigantic stimulus package to get us out of a recession – has led to trillion-dollar deficits that have everyone frightened.

Republicans and Democrats alike realize that we’ve reached the borrowing ceiling. Our national credit card is maxed out. We can’t keep mortgaging our grandchildren’s future.

Sounds like a dark cloud, right.

But I’m an eternal optimist. Maybe the cloud is dark enough to get Congress to see the light. Our nation needs to cut spending dramatically, and to carefully raise taxes enough to get us back to balancing the federal budget.

We can’t cut our way out of this. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the recession stimulus were too costly.

We also can’t raise taxes enough to cover the deficit. That would be suicide for the economy.

A balanced approach is the only thing that makes sense.

And we’ll only get there if voters turn deaf ears to the spinning coming from both sides.

It’s not about class warfare. It’s not about Warren Buffett’s secretary.

It’s about doing the right thing – paying your bills.

Court decision helps citizens who record police

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

A federal appeals court decision last week has fascinating implications for citizens and journalists who record police at work – such as during an arrest or controlling a crowd during a protest.

The 1st Circuit U.S Court of Appeals ruled that a Boston man’s First Amendment rights were violated when he was arrested for using his cell phone’s digital video camera to record police arresting a man on the Boston Commons.

The police used a state law against recording a conversation without both people’s permission to charge the man, Simon Gilk.

Gilk pulled out his cell phone and began recording the arrest when he heard a bystander call, “Stop, you’re hurting him.” Gilk was concerned that the police may have been using excessive force.

This decision could clarify a situation that has been fraught with peril for journalists and citizen journalists – regular folks like Mr. Gilk who take it upon themselves to record possible police misconduct.

Now that anyone can carry a video camera with them – and most people do – this is not an unlikely scenario. Numerous people – both journalists and citizens – have been arrested over the last few years in similar situations.

I show my class a video of journalist Amy Goodman being arrested by police while covering an anti-war protest during the Republican 2008 presidential convention. The video was taken by a citizen journalist, by the way. Goodman was arrested when she tried to stop police from arresting her colleagues.

In most cases, especially involving local police and local news outlets, officers are professional and respectful in their treatment of journalists at the scene of an accident, arrest, protest or whatever. They understand the First Amendment rights of journalists.

But there certainly are exceptions, and many professional photographers can tell stories about times they were told to put their cameras away or face arrest.

And I can only imagine what police think when citizen journalists get our their cameras and start recording. It’s so easy for officers to arrest them and claim they were participating in the protest or getting in the way of police doing their job.

Only time will tell whether last week’s decision will have a lasting effect strengthening the First Amendment rights of citizens to record police at work. I hope it does.

Debt debate highlighted fair reporting issues

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

I listened to a Washington Post reporter being interviewed on the debt ceiling debate, and it was a fascinating glimpse into the challenge of covering politics in the current highly partisan climate.

Observers of national media would expect a Washington Post reporter to be critical of the Republicans for their beat-Obama-at-all-costs approach to the negotiations.

They appeared to be willing to damage the U.S. economy and its standing in global financial markets, rather than give in and let Obama have a victory.

But the Post reporter was adamant that he wasn’t going to appear biased either way. He complimented the Republicans for following their campaign promises – they said they weren’t going to raise taxes, so why should anyone expect them to agree to tax increases – even when the stakes are so high.

It was almost comical at times how hard the Post reporter was working to say equally good and bad things about both sides.

That continues to be the biggest difference between mainstream media and conservative media like Fox News. While many Fox reporters aren’t shy about openly showing their bias, reporters for traditional media – like the networks, CNN and the big eastern newspapers – try to maintain at least an appearance of balance.

 Their biases are more subtle, coming from socio-economic factors largely out of their control. They were raised by progressive parents, attended liberal universities and hang out with liberal friends.

No matter how hard they try, they’re coming to the table with a perspective they can’t override.

With Fox, a conservative perspective is a business decision. Rupert Murdoch knows that he can dominate audience share within the large segment of America that is conservative by speaking their language, giving them the angle they’re looking for, playing to their own biases.

It works. Fox News is making lots of money. Its audience share among conservative TV watchers is huge. It doesn’t matter that liberals make fun of Fox – by dominating one large segment, Fox has the overall lead among cable news shows, and is approaching the size of the network news audiences.

For years, I’ve been among the group of media watchers who appreciate Fox News and the other conservative media for the balance they bring to the table. They force the Eastern establishment media to try harder to achieve fairness.

Citizens who really want the “truth” can watch a little of both and feel comfortable they’re getting as close as possible.

Unfortunately, too many Americans don’t avail themselves of this opportunity. If they’re conservative, they only watch Fox or read the Wall Street Journal. If they’re liberal, they only watch CNN or read the New York Times.

Virtually every liberal would benefit from an occasional trip to Fox, and virtually every conservative would benefit from exposure to other perspectives than they get from a steady diet of Fox.

The Internet should have improved this situation with all the choices it offers. But the same principle applies – if you only go to conservative or liberal websites, you’ll only get one viewpoint.

Oh, well. You can lead a horse to water …

Obama urges a return to civility – nice idea

Friday, January 14th, 2011

There was a time, when I was younger, when I would have responded with enthusiasm to President Obama’s call for a return to civility in our public discourse.

The president, speaking during a memorial service in Arizona following the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others at a street corner rally, urged Americans to honor the dead and wounded by keeping the discussion on a respectful level.

My favorite quote from the speech:

“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.”

Like many other observers of American media and politics, I was dismayed when I saw the direction that bloggers and commentators headed after the Arizona shooting.

Liberal voices accused the Tea Party and other conservatives of creating a climate of hatred that led to – or at least encouraged – the senseless act of violence that killed six and injured another 13.

Conservative voices shot back, and the level of meanness on both sides escalated.

I’ve watched this process unfold during my lifetime. Politics has always been nasty. People have always won elections by attacking their opponents, and truth has always been in the eye of the beholder.

But in the 1960s and 1970s, and to a degree, the 1980s, when the election was over members of the two parties rolled up their sleeves and got to work governing. Remember, “politics is the art of compromise” – or it used to be.

Then somewhere along the line – there are lots of theories on when it started – the attacks got more harsh, truth became less important in campaigning, and the “truce” needed to govern effectively in between elections was lost.

Ironically, one of Barrack Obama’s campaign pledges was to try to bring the parties together – to return to more civility in governing. And both Obama and John McCain managed to conduct slightly more responsible campaigns.

But whether you blame the president or the opposition, the last two years brought a heightening of anger and bitterness, a further loss of civility. To say the nation is polarized is an understatement.

So it really wasn’t surprising – disappointing, yes – when the tragic Arizona deaths were quickly politicized.

I agree that some of the rhetoric used by Tea Party and arch-conservative politicians and commentators is over the top and appropriate for criticism. They are part of the problem.

But they didn’t cause last week’s shooting. Sarah Palin didn’t start the nasty trend – she just jumped on the bandwagon. And conservatives, while maybe a little more likely to use NRA-style rhetoric, don’t have a monopoly on mean-spirited comments.

Which brings me back to my first statement – in another time, I would have been cheered by President Obama’s speech, which was full of hope and high-minded thoughts.

Unfortunately, it will take more than a tragic shooting and a stirring speech to bring American politics back to civility.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, actually stated publicly that his party’s No. 1 goal for the next session of Congress was to defeat the president in 2012. Not to fix the economy, create jobs, improve education or health or the environment.

In that environment, it’s hard to be optimistic.

But I don’t want to be part of the problem. I don’t want to let my cynicism, born of decades of watching American politics spiral downward, keep me from being part of the solution.

So I’m going to embrace the president’s theme, as he outlined in my other favorite quote from his speech:

“Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy…”

That’s my goal. I’m going to listen better, look for points I can agree with, whether they’re coming from the left, the right or center field.

NPR hurting more than Juan Williams

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

The Juan Williams affair is doing more damage to NPR than to Mr. Williams.

Williams walked away with a $2 million contract with Fox News; NPR has a serious perception problem that is more of a reopened sore than a new wound.

For most of its history, National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service have suffered from accusations of liberal bias. Whether you agreed with the claims has largely depended on where you sit.

But during the rancorous past decade, when Fox News has used its new model of news commentary to create a schism in American journalism, NPR has benefited.

Its morning and evening news shows, along with its mid-day interview shows, have been rising in both popularity and impact on the national scene.

While the cable news channels, and to a degree the networks, have slogged away in the “bias wars,” NPR has cultivated a “down-the-middle” path.

In the process, it has moved from a minor player, largely only noticed by the intelligentsia, to one of the most trusted and listened to news organizations in the country.

By mishandling Juan Williams’ involvement with Fox, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller has given the right-wing enough ammunition to last for years.

Fox has obvious competitive reasons for wanting to stick a knife in NPR. Even some of my conservative friends, who think Bill O‘Reilly and Glenn Beck are journalists, were beginning to pay attention to public radio.

They’re noticing that NPR is an alternative that provides serious, fact-based news coverage – which is sometimes hard to find elsewhere.

The Washington Post reported a year ago that NPR’s audience has grown roughly 50 percent in the last decade.

That’s during a time when most other media, including network news, have struggled to keep from losing market share.

Ms. Schiller has apologized, both to her news staff and to Williams, for how she handled Williams’ firing. If given a second chance, I’m sure she would do it differently.

The issue wasn’t really what Williams said about Muslims. It was that he was on Fox news giving his opinion on a regular basis.

That’s antithetical to the mission NPR has cultivated so carefully – just the facts, please. NPR wants listeners to be able to count on serious, unbiased news and analysis. Williams’ role on Fox was confusing the issue.

Schiller should have just asked Williams to choose – be a news analyst on NPR or a celebrity commentator on Fox.

That would have further positioned NPR as the news organization in the middle.

Instead, she’s given America’s conservatives – those who want to pretend that Fox News is the only legitimate news source, and that everyone else is biased – a battle cry that can only hurt NPR’s image.