Just add this distinction to the litany of challenges NPR is facing this year, which were so eloquently discussed by Gavin Dahl in his Radio Survivor post yesterday about NPR’s “Liberal Identity Crisis.” The PR blunder which earned NPR a spot on the list related to their handling of the firing of Juan Williams. According to Fineman PR, which crafted the list:
“Although National Public Radio commentator Juan Williams raised eyebrows when he told Bill O’Reilly of FOX News‘ ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ that flying on airplanes with overt Muslims made him nervous, it was NPR that took the damaging reputational hit. NPR CEO Vivian Schiller dismissed Williams over the phone and, according to The Washington Post, later publicly implied that Williams needed psychological help. His supporters framed the firing as a First Amendment issue and called for cuts to NPR’s budget while FOX News capitalized on the situation by awarding Williams a multi-year contract and promising to protect his freedom of speech. Jon Stewart of ‘The Daily Show’ declared FOX News ‘the winner,’ exclaiming, ‘Are you kidding me NPR? You’re picking a fight with Fox News? They gave Juan Williams a $2 million contract just for you firing him! … You just brought a tote bag of David Sedaris books to a knife fight.’”
If I were to craft my own list of radio PR blunders for 2010, I’d also have to add to it the behind-the-scenes shenanigans by officials at Rice University before they revealed their plans to sell off student radio station KTRU. Additionally, Vanderbilt Student Communications (VSC) would make it onto my list for trying to re-direct all commentary about a potential sale of Vanderbilt student station radio WRVU to their own official website by presumably buying the URL SaveWRVU.com a week prior to their announcement that they were exploring a station sale. Admittedly, VSC did redeem themselves a bit when they gave control of SaveWRVU.com to staff members at the radio station so they can use it as their own outlet for information about the future of the station; but the fact that they made an attempt to silence protests in the first place cast a lot of doubt on both their honesty and their true plans for the station.