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Vivian Schiller Resigns as President of NPR

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Departure Follows Second Major Embarrassment

David Broder Favored Calling a Racist What He Was

. . . Black Journalists Remember Broder as Mentor

Black Men Vanishing as Dallas TV Reporters, Critic Finds

Where Are U.S. Latinas Who Have "Shaken the World"?

Gaddafi Forces Beat Up BBC News Team Held 21 Hours

Laura Ramos Named V.P. of Innovation at Gannett Co.

Whites-Only Scholarship Group Has Raised Less Than $500

Short Takes

Vivian Schiller

Vivian Schiller rushed back to Washington from New York after news of a surreptitiously recorded video by a conservative provocateur. (Credit: NPR)

Departure Follows Second Major Embarrassment

Vivian Schiller resigned as president and CEO of NPR, its board of directors announced Wednesday, a day after news broke of a sting by conservative provocateur James O'Keefe in which a surreptitiously recorded video showed the head of NPR's fundraising arm saying that members of the tea party movement are xenophobic and racist and that NPR would prefer to do without subsidies provided by the federal government.

The fundraising executive, Ron Schiller, no relation to Vivian Schiller, had already decided to step down but made his departure immediate after revelation of the sting. He had planned to start work with the Aspen Institute on April 1, but on Wednesday the institute said he decided not to take the job in light of the controversy over the video, current.org reported.

Vivian Schiller rushed back to Washington from New York Tuesday to deal with the crisis, which occurred as public funding for public broadcasting was under attack by Republicans on Capitol Hill.

In response to the video late Tuesday, NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm said: "The comments contained in the video are contrary to everything we stand for and we completely disavow the views expressed. . . . The assertion that NPR and public radio stations would be better off without federal funds does not reflect reality," according to Paul Farhi, reporting in the Washington Post.

"The challenge with O'Keefe's video is that it is obviously heavily edited," NPR ombudsman Alicia C. Shepard wrote. "Just as was an earlier video where O'Keefe took on ACORN, a community activist group that eventually lost its federal funding."

For example, she said, Schiller seemed to be saying that conservatives, by and large, are uneducated.

" 'What I meant by "uneducated," for example, were people who viciously attack federal funding and NPR without facts, and people who attack Muslim people because of lack of education about Muslims,' said Schiller in an email to me. 'That, of course, hardly comes through at all.' Even so, Schiller admits he said some stupid things," Shepard wrote.

It was the second recent high-profile crisis for Vivian Schiller.

NPR faced widespread criticism for its abrupt firing of commentator Juan Williams last fall over remarks Williams made on Fox News about Muslims. In that fallout, Ellen Weiss, NPR's senior vice president for news, resigned in January, the board of directors decided Schiller would not receive a 2010 bonus considering "her role in the termination process" and Fox gave Williams a contract reported to be worth $2 million.

NPR issued this statement Wednesday:

"The NPR Board of Directors announced today that it has accepted the resignation of Vivian Schiller as President and CEO of NPR, effective immediately.

"Board Chairman Dave Edwards said: 'The Board accepted Vivian’s resignation with understanding, genuine regret and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past two years.'

"According to a CEO succession plan adopted by the Board in 2009, Joyce Slocum, SVP of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, will be appointed to the position of Interim CEO. The Board will establish an Executive Transition Committee to develop a timeframe and process for the recruitment and selection of new leadership."

NPR had been criticized by the National Association of Black Journalists and others for lack of progress on diversity, but during a question-and-answer session at the National Press Club on Monday, Schiller declared that diversity is "a very, very big priority for us" and that NPR had "a number of different initiatives" to broaden the diversity of its audience, staff and content. Schiller said she agreed with an October column by NABJ President Kathy Y. Times, "NABJ to NPR: Diversity is Better but Not Enough!"

As an indication of her commitment, she had also appointed Keith Woods of the Poynter Institute, to the new position of vice president of diversity in news and operations. Woods declined to comment Wednesday.

Bob Butler, NABJ's vice president of broadcast, told colleagues Wednesday, "When Schiller arrived at NPR, she inherited a culture that was, at best, dismissive of diversity. Following some public tongue-lashings from NABJ, Schiller met with President Times and me and committed to creating a more diverse work force and management team. "She followed through and now NPR is more diverse. It's a shame that NPR's board bowed down to pressure from another James O'Keefe stunt."

Schiller joined NPR as president and CEO in January 2009 after being senior vice president and general manager of NYTimes.com, senior vice president and general manager of the Discovery Times Channel, a joint venture of the New York Times and Discovery Communications. She had also been senior vice president of CNN Productions, where she led CNN's long-form programming efforts, according to her NPR bio.

Then-Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, D-Ill., presents David Broder with an "Outstanding Illinoisan Award" in 1997. (Credit: Illinois State Society)

David Broder Favored Calling a Racist What He Was

David Broder, the "dean" of Washington political reporters who died Monday at age 81, wasn't an expert on race, particularly. In fact, Paul Delaney, a former New York Times senior editor who, like Broder, worked at the old Washington Star, said by e-mail, "He was in a group of columnists who bombed on race issues and who I urged . . . never to try it — Bill Safire, George Will, David Brooks . . ."

Still, Broder would touch upon race from time to time in his syndicated Washington Post column.

In 1999, discussing the draft, he said, "For many of us who were white, the draft brought the first experience of taking orders from African Americans and Latinos. It taught survival skills, and made you understand —in a fundamental way — your obligations to a group much larger and more diverse than your own circle of friends."

Sometimes he felt blacks' pain. "It requires no great sensitivity on the part of whites to understand the 'hysteria' of blacks," he wrote in 1980, when Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter for the presidency. Broder wrote about the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the think tank on African American issues, and in 1997, he attended and wrote about a tribute to Louis E. Martin, "a Chicago newspaperman who became a key black Democratic operative and adviser to presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Carter. As a friend and mentor to a generation of talented African Americans, he had as much to do with the desegregation of the top levels of American government as any individual."

After the beating of Rodney King in 1991, he wrote, "There is no more important test of character for an American president than what he does to heal the scars that slavery and racism have left on this society. That is the curse that is killing us, and everything else is secondary. The last president who acted on that conviction was Lyndon Johnson, who left office almost a quarter-century ago, when Los Angeles was last in flames. We cannot wait another 25 years for such a president. We just can't."

Most bitingly, on the 2001 retirement of Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., Broder criticized his journalistic colleagues for failing to call a racist a racist. "What really sets Jesse Helms apart is that he is the last prominent unabashed white racist politician in this country — a title that one hopes will now be permanently retired," Broder wrote.

". . . What is unique about Helms — and from my viewpoint, unforgivable — is his willingness to pick at the scab of the great wound of American history, the legacy of slavery and segregation, and to inflame racial resentment against African Americans."

. . . Black Journalists Remember Broder as Mentor

A side of David Broder that did not make most of the obituaries Wednesday was his mentoring of black journalists interested in politics, particularly in his Washington Post newsroom. Here, some share their remembrances.

Kenneth J. Cooper, an independent journalist in Kenneth J. CooperBoston, wrote to colleagues in the National Association of Black Journalists:

"I am saddened by the death of my former colleague, David Broder, who was gracious in mentoring black journalists, myself included. I believe NABJ members Gwen Ifill and Michel Martin will agree, to name but two others.

"The lessons he taught were both large and small, practical and theoretical. I remember overhearing him tell Michel in 1988 on the campaign plane of Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis that if she did not sleep on the plane she would never make it through the grueling drill. I was hyped not to miss anything on the plane, but after that remark I started nodding at 30,000 feet when I needed to, without any self-consciousness.

"I watched and emulated his straightforward, tough questioning of top politicians. I once watch him devastate Dukakis at a campaign news conference with questions about his blase policy on Israel. Broder did so civilly, without rancor or a loud voice.

"The greatest lesson I learned from watching him, which his obituary aptly reflects, is the most important things for a political reporter to do are to talk and listen to the people, the voters who decide elections. Up in years, with a mega-reputation, he used to knock on doors to sample voter opinion in key precincts.

". . . Not long after I joined the Post's National staff, David invited Lucilda and I to a group dinner at his home. . . . That was a whale of a gesture. He was in a class of his own as a political reporter, in my book, and a mighty decent man."

Michel Martin, host of "Tell Me More" on NPR:

"Absolutely," he was a mentor. "I also Michel Martin'remember him telling me that it was important not to be tied to the office. He always made it a point to get out and meet the up and comers — the governors, the new members of Congress...At that point I was so young I could not imagine what he was talking about, but I obviously never forgot it."

Gwen Ifill, moderator and managing editor of PBS' "Washington Week" and senior correspondent for "The PBS NewsHour":

Gwen Ifill"It's fair to say I would not be a political journalist, certainly not the kind of journalist I am, if it were not for David Broder. There is an entire generation of us who learned how to be a reporter, and how to do it honorably, by watching his example.

"I can name dozens of reporters who can tell some variation of this story: Out on the road as a junior cub, trying to figure out up from down . . . and being approached by this gentleman, who when we looked up we realized was the great David Broder. He always offered a tip, an idea, a word of encouragement — and asked about us.

"He was smart, engaged to the very end, deeply curious about what Americans far from the center of power thought about what was happening in Washington. I knocked on doors with him and learned how to ask and how to listen. I watched his example and learned how to be of help to younger reporters who looked lost or disheartened. And I loved his laugh. He knew the difference between what was serious and what was just . . . not. Whether it was comparing notes on a campaign bus or seeking advice in the newsroom or sitting around the table at Washington Week, I never found David to be anything less than generous, incisive and a great great friend."

Kevin Merida, national editor, Washington Post:

Kevin Merida"David was unfailingly generous to young political reporters, and took an interest in many of us who were just breaking in and trying to feel our way.

"I first met Dave in Nashville, Tenn., as I recall, at a gathering of southern Republican political leaders. This was in 1986, and it was my first assignment on the national political stage. Many of the prospective 1988 presidential contenders were there, as were most of the major national political writers.

"At the time I was a local political reporter at The Dallas Morning News, and had been tapped to go by our Washington bureau chief. And I step into an elevator, wearing my conference press badge, and this familiar fellow introduces himself: 'Hi, I'm Dave Broder.' As if he needed an introduction. He asked about me, and we exchanged pleasantries and that was that. What was remarkable to me was how Dave then went out of his way over the next day or so to introduce me to people — other national political writers, governors, various other politicians. This happened not just at this one event, but at other times when we'd bump into each other.

"On one occasion, we both were in Georgia at the same time, writing about the Democratic U.S. Senate primary that pitted Wyche Fowler against Hamilton Jordan. We both wanted time with Jordan on the same day. Broder, of course, was Broder and could get any amount of time he needed. But he insisted to the Jordan people that he and I split the time — he would ride to a particular event with the candidate, and I would ride back. He was looking out for me, a young nobody political reporter from Dallas.

"These kindnesses were not unique to me. I heard others tell similar tales. And, in fact, sometimes a bunch of us would be on a campaign plane somewhere sharing our Broder stories. It is hard to think of someone as large and important to the craft of political writing who was as available as Dave, as helpful as Dave, who cared as much about developing the next generation of practitioners as Dave.

"I had always daydreamed of working alongside Broder, and thought for a while I had missed that opportunity — just because of the twists and turns of my career. When I was hired onto the national staff by The Post in 1993, I was thrilled just to be working for my hometown paper. But I was ecstatic to get a chance to work with the greatest political reporter ever. It was like getting a chance to play with Michael Jordan or something. But better.

"Dave ought to be an inspiration for all young political writers, to cut through the noise and find out what really matters."

Black Men Vanishing as Dallas TV Reporters, Critic Finds

Gary ReavesA veteran Dallas television critic's look at local stations' diversity during the February "sweeps" period shows "African-American men increasingly are vanishing from the reporter ranks," the critic, Ed Bark, reported Monday on his "Uncle Barky's Bytes" blog.

"Whether for lack of applicants or abilities, there currently are no new African-American male reporters of significance at any of these four stations," Bark said.

"But recently hired and comparatively young minority women are making their marks in late night news, including [CBS11 reporter Arezow] Doost and Andrea Lucia at CBS11; Monika Diaz at WFAA8; Ashanti Blaize at NBC5 and Sophia Reza at Fox4.

"Investigative reporters make fewer appearances because of the time it takes to put together their stories. There are no minorities in their ranks at present.

". . . . Fox4's Shaun Rabb and WFAA8's Gary Reaves both have logged more than a dozen years at their respective stations while NBC5's Randy McIlwain (who had just one story during this period) also is a veteran street reporter. CBS11 likewise has a longtime storyteller in Steve Pickett, but he made no late night appearances during these two weeks."

Where Are U.S. Latinas Who Have "Shaken the World"?

Sonia Sotomayor's 2009 Supreme Court nomination was front page news for Puerto Rico's El Nuevo Dia."Today, March 8th, is International Women's Day, recognized by the United Nations. That there is a specific day of the year to celebrate women is, I believe, a sign that we have not progressed far enough to not have to have a particular day that celebrates our existence on earth," Pilar Marrero wrote Tuesday in the Spanish-language Los Angeles newspaper La Opinion.

"In Wikipedia the history of International Women's Day is linked to the labor movement and the pursuit of labor demands that began in Europe in the early 20th century. Much of that struggle continues today, and is still more acute in developed countries like the United States when it comes to immigrant and minority women, who sometimes are not even reflected in the dominant feminist world.

"One example will suffice. Yesterday my friend and colleague, Cecilia Alvear, former president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the first Latina TV news producer in an American network (NBC), expressed her annoyance at the absence of U.S. Latinas in a list of the 150 women 'who have shaken the world,' published by The Daily Beast, a web publication of news and opinion founded and directed by Tina Brown, former editor of Vanity Fair.

"The list is short, considering that it is global, but they still found room for 62 women in the United States, including actresses like Ashley Judd and Angelina Jolie, who are included for their social and philanthropic work. The only U.S. Latina is swimmer Dara Torres, of Hispanic-Jewish origin, who made history in previous Olympics by winning a gold medal at age 41.

"Without detracting from Torres, it seems incredible that a publication of the category of The Daily Beast will not consider any other U.S. Latinas as worthy of a place in the list. Among the best known, three names come to mind: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Farm workers leader Dolores Huerta, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. But I'm sure there are many others, both in the corporate world and in philanthropy, education or politics that might have qualified.

'The majority of U.S. women in this list are white. There are African-American women such as Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and Condoleezza Rice. There are immigrants such as the British-Iranian, reporter Christiane Amanpour and the new media potentate of Greek origin, Arianna Huffington.

"But U.S. Latinas are absent."

The BBC's Feras Killani said other detainees had been badly beaten. (Video) (Credit: BBC)

Gaddafi Forces Beat Up BBC News Team Held 21 Hours

"Libyan leader Col [Moammar] Gaddafi's security forces detained and beat up a BBC news team who were trying to reach the strife-torn western city of Zawiya," the BBC reported on Wednesday.

"The three were beaten with fists, knees and rifles, hooded and subjected to mock executions by members of Libya's army and secret police.

"The men were detained on Monday and held for 21 hours, but have now flown out of Libya.

"Government forces are in a fierce fight to wrest Zawiya from rebel control.

"Artillery and tanks have pounded the city — which lies 50km [31 miles] from the capital Tripoli — over the last four days.

"The BBC team showed their identification when they were detained at an army roadblock on Monday.

"They had been seeking, like many journalists, to get around government restrictions by reaching besieged Zawiya.

"The three of them were taken to a huge military barracks in Tripoli, where they were blindfolded, handcuffed and beaten.

"One of the three, Chris Cobb-Smith, said: 'We were lined up against the wall. I was the last in line — facing the wall.

" 'I looked and I saw a plain-clothes guy with a small sub-machine gun. He put it to everyone's neck. I saw him and he screamed at me.

" 'Then he walked up to me, put the gun to my neck and pulled the trigger twice. The bullets whisked past my ear. The soldiers just laughed.'

"A second member of the team — Feras Killani, a correspondent of Palestinian descent — is said to have been singled out for repeated beatings.

"Their captors told him they did not like his reporting of the Libyan popular uprising and accused him of being a spy.

"The third member of the team, cameraman Goktay Koraltan, said they were all convinced they were going to die. . . . "

Laura Ramos Named V.P. of Innovation at Gannett Co.

Laura Ramos has been named vice president of innovation and design for the Gannett Co., the company announced on Wednesday.

Laura Ramos"Laura has played an important role in leading innovation successfully across the company, identifying future trends and relating innovation to customers’ needs. Her efforts have contributed much to the consumers and business customers we serve," said Gracia Martore, president and chief operating officer at Gannett, in an announcement Wednesday.

Ramos was director of innovation development for Gannett’s Center for Design and Innovation. She will influence the company's development in the digital world.

Ramos, who joined the company in 2002 as senior business analyst for usatoday.com and later served as the director of advertising administration for usatoday.com, succeeds Michael Maness, who is joining the Knight Foundation as vice president of journalism and media innovation.

Whites-Only Scholarship Group Has Raised Less Than $500

"Earlier, I noted that last Tuesday, CNN gave airtime to Colby Bohannan, president of the Former Majority Association For Equality, a nonprofit that exists solely to give scholarships to white males — and only white males," Jamison Foser wrote Monday for Media Matters.

"Bohannan and his group have enjoyed a flurry of media coverage in recent weeks despite the fact that as of February 24, the organization had been in existence for nearly a year, had not received a single scholarship application, and had raised less than $500.

" . . . Bohannan said the group is raising money — as of Monday, the group had raised $485, according to its website — and that he hopes to award scholarships by July 4. The money can be used to go to any college, not just Texas State, Bohannan said.

"Bohannan's group isn't the first to offer scholarships only for white students. In 2006, Boston University's College Republicans created a program with similar requirements. A Republican group at a university in Rhode Island offered a similar award in 2004.

"So in nearly a year of existence, Bohannan's group had raised only $485 and hadn't awarded a single scholarship or even gotten a single application. And there's nothing innovative about the group: It's been done before.

"And yet several media outlets, led by CNN, decided that Bohannan and his organization were worthy of coverage."

Short Takes

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Comments

Good Riddance Vivian Schiller

The departure of Vivian Schiller at NPR is an opening to a more inclusive and progressive NPR. Tragically for all under her tenure NPR was a underdeveloped enterprise which ignored entire continents of color and serviced just the palate of the elite and the bandwidth of western thought and ethos.

As a Black activist from my porch the genius of Black America is unlimited and has many incarnations. NPR under Vivian Schiller's tenure never valued the genius of Black culture all to often we were ignored and marginalized. We are more than portrayals of despair and conflict. We are more than just sports, entertainment and civil rights. NPR in part because its corporate leaders never did capture our essence.

Now is the time to leverage this moment and champion the selection of a new CEO at NPR that will value inclusion and diversity not just in content but in the staffing of NPR.  NPR can be a national asset but not without people of color in the mix......

David Broder, from Roger Wilkins

From Roger Wilkins

Broder was a splendid guy.  Gave me an early lesson about publishers lunches....one sharp look from him at my first such lunch (where I had been bloviating grandly) indicated that a real journalist asks questions...and guest was to have HIS SAY)'.  Felt stupid, but ultimaely, I was grateful for the lesson.

Years later, he gave me my best moment at the paper.  I was in my office banging away at  an editoial for the next day that was defeating my efforts to develop a sharp and memorable kicker.

bam bam bam on my door got my attention and as I leaned to open it, Broder blasted in and seemed like a man who was very high.....dry.  "Why all this dumb noise, man?"

"We won a bunch of Pulitzers for  Watergate and your name is all over the copy." Might have hugged him but he was already out the door and zipping down the corridor to Herb Block's office--spreading the good news all the way.

Broder was a lovely man--decent to his core and superb at his work......He was also a pretty swell colleague.  

But he never could see that the Dodgers were just basiclly BETTER than the Cubs.

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