Monday, May 9, 2011

Schiller and an NPR Thriller

Tricia Flickinger

From the NPR reading, “Elements of NPR Gotcha Video Taken Out of Context,” we all learned that NPR’s chief fundraising official, Ron Schiller, and his deputy, Betsy Liley, were videotaped on an hidden camera during an up-scale lunch in Georgetown. Conservative activist James O’Keefe III taped the interview. During the interview, Schiller said many things disparaging conservatives and the Tea Party. He also said that NPR would be better off without federal funding, in which federal funding for NPR has been a recent hot topic in the news the past few months. During the lunch, Schiller and Liley met with two officials from a fictitious Islamic trust, who said they were considering donating $5 million to NPR. The two men from the trust were actually citizen journalists, in which O’Keefe hired, and the trust is fake. Here is the video, which was circulated around the web:

There are many ethical issues that come up in this controversial story. One, O’Keefe hired two men to act like they were apart of an Islamic trust considering giving money to NPR, and in fact they really weren’t apart of any trust at all. Two, O’Keefe videotaped the lunch on a hidden camera, so Schiller and Liley had no idea it was being taped. Third, Schiller did say things about NPR not needing federal funding, but both him and Liley did try to get across that NPR is fairly balanced when it comes to reporting.

Once the video got out onto the Internet, many people were throwing red flags at Schiller for his comments, which in turn triggered his resignation and the resignation of his boss, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, who is no relation to Ron. The things Schiller said on the video were not his beliefs and not what NPR valued. In an apology letter from Schiller, he wrote:

“While the meeting I participated in turned out to be a ruse, I made statements during the course of the meeting that are counter to NPR’s values and also not reflective of my own beliefs. I ofer my sincere apology to those I offended. I resigned from NPR, previously effective May 6th, to accept another job…”

The video from O’Keefe is part of his project called Project Veritas. O’Keefe is an undercover political activist and he exposes people through undercover interviews and videos. He edited a tow-hour version of the interview down to an 11-and-a-half minute interview, which was sent all over the web. The video shines light on the statements Schiller said about NPR, and in a time when NPR really needs more funding and federal funding, with this video, the government and outside donors will see it and believe that what Schiller said is what NPR really believes and that is just not the case. In another statement by NPR’s senior vice president of marketing, Dana Davis Rehm says:

“The fraudulent organization represented in this video repeatedly pressed us to accept a $5 million check, with no strings attached, which we repeatedly refused to accept. We are appalled by the comments made by Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for…”

I believe Schiller made the correct choice to resign, because if he hadn’t, he probably would have been fired.

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