Some of the best coverage of the firing
of National Public Radio news analyst Juan Williams has been NPR'sown. But the broader conversation has quickly become a chorus of ridiculousness:
Republican politicians are pushing
to strip NPR of federal funding-which accounts for a small portion of its
budget, all received
indirectly via Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding of local stations
and of foundations that support NPR.
Some commentators are saying Williams's first
amendment rights have been violated, missing the distinction between one's
right to free speech and one's duty as a journalist to exercise this right
while upholding the standards of good reporting and analysis.
Others have even suggested
that NPR acted out of racism. (Williams was one of the organization's few
senior black reporters.)
Members of local NPR affiliates are talking
pledges. Pastors I know are saying they will never again give to public
radio again-pastors who also argue against congregation members withholding
donations because of mistakes by church leaders.
Our national conversation has become a kneejerk festival,
celebrating whoever can have the most sensational reaction in the shortest
amount of time. I'm all for honest
dialogue about prejudice and fear, about public funding of the news, about the
distinction between sound reporting and jabbering-head TV. By all means, let's talk.