NPR ombudsman: Ron Schiller fired for being ‘unprofessional,’ NPR staff ‘angry’ at top management

Former NPR executive Ron Schiller, who was caught on tape this week making comments that cost him his job, wasn’t fired for holding personal biases against conservatives, but for being “unprofessional,” the network’s ombudsman said Wednesday in an online question-and-answer session.

“Certainly he wasn’t fired for harboring negative views about conservatives,” said NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard during a chat with readers on WashingtonPost.com. “It was the unprofessional manner that cost him his job. Who blabs to total strangers in public about their personal biases?”

“When you first meet a complete stranger do you share your personal feelings about conservatives, liberals, politics?” she added. “UNBELIEVABLE.”

Shepard, who works on contract for NPR until May 31, said that NPR had made many blunders since the outlet fired news analyst Juan Williams last year for comments made about Muslims on Fox News.

“Senior executives at NPR have made some serious mistakes in the last six months. Working inside NPR I can see it’s very disheartening to the reporters, hosts, producers,” she said. “They are angry that top management hasn’t handled NPR more carefully. It’s a complicated situation.”

The national appetite for cutting government spending combined with the recent missteps at NPR has renewed calls among Republicans to end federal subsidies to public broadcasting outlets like NPR. The station receives about two percent of its budget from taxpayers and more from local member stations, which are largely funded through government sources. In the video released this week that got him fired, Schiller said it would be “a good thing in the long run” for NPR to lose its funding, Shepard, however, said the loss would be “devastating.”

Also fired this week was NPR CEO and president Vivian Schiller (no relation to Ron), who when pressed on questions of liberal bias in the NPR newsroom, shrugged them off as a mere “perception” problem. Shepard, who has spent more than 30 years in journalism, said there is little question of a liberal bent among reporters, who “go out of their way to compensate” for it.

“I happen to think that many journalists tend toward liberal thinking,” she said. “They go out of their way to compensate, to reach out to those with opposing views, to be professional in making sure everyone gets heard. They do not have an agenda, at least MSM reporters do not.”

NPR announced today that the station’s chief counsel Joyce Slocum will serve as interim president until a replacement is found.

This article originally referred to NPR’s ombudsman as “Lisa Shepherd,” and has been updated.

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