Thursday, October 28, 2010

Here's my check, NPR, and thank you for Juan Williams!

My local public radio station is currently in its semi-annual fund drive, attempting to raise over one million dollars to sustain it in the coming six months. Since my radio dial is permanently tuned to NPR and I derive the benefit of their programming every day, it seems only fair that I should help foot the bill. After all, NPR gets almost no money from any public source and so the money to operate the stations and finance their news-gathering and entertainment sections must come from private sources. That means me.

Simultaneous with the beginning of this fund drive, NPR was in the news itself for having fired a pundit named Juan Williams. Williams split his time between NPR and Fox News, of all places, but he always seemed to fit a lot better with Fox. He was given to making obviously biased and ill-considered statements, and, over the years, I had frequently thought, "What is this man doing on my radio station?"

Finally, though, he crossed the line of no-return even for NPR's long-suffering management. He made derogatory and obviously prejudiced statements about adherents to one of the world's great religions. He made these statements in conversation, on the air, with one of his fellow Foxites. Watching this, NPR's management gagged and spit him up. Williams was fired. My only question was, "What took you so long?"

So immediately, Fox offered Williams a $2 million raise in his contract with them and all the talking heads on their network started a campaign against NPR, urging their viewers to contact NPR and protest their action. Soon NPR started getting emails and letters from their "long-time viewers" who wouldn't be watching them anymore because of their unjust action in firing Juan Williams.

Now, let us all pause and remember that NPR stands for National Public RADIO. Radio does not have "viewers" but that fact was lost on those people who were writing the angry letters. And who probably had never listened to NPR.

Anyway, I just found the juxtaposition of this whole tempest in a teapot coming at the time of the fall fundraising campaign too ironic and too delicious to pass up. So I doubled my usual contribution and became a sustaining member of my local station this year. It was the least I could do to take up the slack of those "long-time viewers" who won't be contributing this year.

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