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Vivian and Ron Schiller: Why NPR firings matter

Here's a video we cut today with me talking about National Public Radio and its firing of three top managers in the last three months. You can read what I have written about it here and here.

In the video, I talk about a part of the story I think we are overlooking: The fact that NPR -- our last best hope for a US-based, global news service committed to information rather than opinion and commentary -- now has a real void at the top in terms of leadership. We can't afford in these tumultuous times to have such a source of fact-based information be as adrift as NPR could be in the wake of these firings. NPR did it to itself, but we as a society are the ones will suffer most if NPR does not find new and focused senior leadership quickly.

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Up until recently, I still believed CNN could be a source of such reliable global news. Like NPR, it has the infrastructure of a worldwide network of bureaus in place. And I thought it had an international business model that made it economically viable.

But during the last six months, CNN's inexplicable commitments to the likes of Eliot Spitzer and Piers Morgan have convinced me the channel has chosen to go in another direction.

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Let's hope NPR finds leaders committed to the high road of news and information -- leaders who are worthy of this institution and not given to the ideologically-edged nastiness of midnight firings and insensitive talk over wine at expensive lunches.

The third firing I referred to at the top was that of Ellen Weiss, the VP in charge of news, who was forced out in January following an in-house probe of the firing of Juan Williams in October.

I am sorry to see these NPR blunders used for larger partisan purposes. We need a strong public broadcasting system. But we don't need the kind of people who have been running the radio side in recent years.

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