Media Matters

National Patronizing Radio

Why does NPR CEO Vivian Schiller need a shill of her own?

By 10.22.10

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Anna Christopher, who is "senior manager of media relations" at National Public Radio, spent yesterday doing some serious explaining. Most of us probably didn't know that NPR had any managers of media relations, much less a senior one, and certainly didn't care. NPR is free to waste money any way it chooses, even if some of the money does come from taxpayers.

Anyway, seems Ms. Christopher was called upon to manage the media regarding NPR's firing of Juan Williams for saying something inconsistent with the company line. The problem was what he said, Ms. Christopher insisted, not where he said it, which was on Fox TV.

What Williams said was that he gets nervous when he is on an airplane and notices some of his fellow passengers in Muslim garb. This, of course, simply will not do.

One wonders how Ms. Christopher and her co-workers at NPR would feel if they saw a couple of sunburned, tobacco chewing old boys in a pickup truck with a rifle racked over the seat coming down the street where they live. Most likely the strangers would not be dangerous; just a couple of bitter clinging deer hunters who got lost. Sort of people you should pity, not fear. But… you never know.

Anyway, Williams was fired and as if that were not punishment enough Vivian Schiller, Ms. Christopher's boss, the CEO of NPR, said he should have kept his feelings between himself and "his psychiatrist or his publicist."

Ms. Schiller got this nifty off while speaking to the Atlanta Press Club. One wonders:

(a) How her audience reacted?

(b) Why she felt compelled to send Ms. Christopher out to manage the media again, this time with an apology?

What the senior manager of media relations said was, "Vivian [Schiller] spoke hastily and apologized to Juan and others for her hasty remark."

Why apologize? After all, Schiller and her outfit had pretty much called Williams a racist already. Why not double down and say he's nuts, too? One suspects that it is a(nother) NPR taboo to in any way be perceived as making light of people who are mentally ill, emotionally disturbed, or suffering from any malady requiring the services of a psychiatrist. Ms. Schiller probably felt herself on the thinnest of PC ice and looking at a six-month stretch in sensitivity boot camp. So she sent Ms. Christopher out to do some managing of media relations.

You don't mock the therapeutic culture at NPR where they treat the audience as though it is in need of help and reassurance. How else explain the soft, modulated voices of the on-the-air talent and the implicit message of all those fund-raising campaigns, which comes down to, "We are the voice of sanity in an otherwise disturbed and disturbing world."

That would be the real world. The one Juan Williams was describing and which National Patronizing Radio elaborately pretends does not exist.

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About the Author

Geoffrey Norman is the author of Riding With Jeb Stuart and the editor of Vermonttiger.com.