Andy Stone, Aspen Times
Submitted by: Editor
Reporter fired for telling the truth
Not likely, you say? Who would fire a reporter for telling the truth?
Well, apparently (sort of) NPR — National Public Radio — every good liberal's bastion of truth and justice and every good conservative's loathsome source of hard-left propaganda. (Or, as Bill O'Reilly once said, “a totalitarian outfit functioning as an arm of the far left.”)
Now, those of you who read carefully are probably wondering about that parenthetical “sort of” in the previous paragraph. Well, hang on, I'll get to that in a moment.
But for now, let's forge ahead to the meat of the matter: the firing of NPR's Ron Schiller (who has some strong Aspen connections — I need to mention that, folks, this is a local newspaper).
Schiller was nailed by a secretly recorded, dishonestly edited videotape, staged by a pair of men pretending to be representatives of a Muslim organization that wanted to give money to NPR.
One of the statements that got Schiller canned was when he said that the Tea Party was made up of “seriously, seriously racist people.”
And, hey, that may not have been politically correct or professionally wise — but you've got to admit this: It was the damn truth.
Please don't swallow your bubble gum, Bucko. I'm not saying that every Tea Party member is racist — but when you see people waving signs with pictures of President Obama with a bone through his nose or signs with a picture of a lion, labeled “African lion,” next to a picture of Obama, labeled “lyin' African” … well, “racist” is the word that comes to mind. (And if you don't agree, get yourself a dictionary — and have someone read it to you.)
So, if that was what got Schiller fired, then he got fired for telling the truth.
OK, before we go any further, let's talk about that “sort of”
That was because Ron Schiller was not a “reporter” who got fired for telling the truth.
He was a fund-raiser. Or, to put it in newspaper terms, he was an ad sales rep.
In my years at The Aspen Times, there have been some ad reps I've loved dearly and some I'd gladly have taken out and shot. But there has never been an ad rep whose intemperate, politically incorrect remarks — left-wing, right-wing or just plain loony-wing — have made any difference to the editorial side of the operation. They have nothing to do with the “news” part of the “newspaper.”
Ad reps are completely shameless. It's part of their job description.
“Yes, Mrs. Hun. It will be our pleasure to provide you with a wonderful marketing opportunity. And please give our regards to your lovely husband, Atila.”
The right-wing attack squads have been howling that Schiller's remarks prove what O'Reilly, et al., have been claiming for years: that NPR is a hopelessly left-wing “totalitarian” operation.
Or, as Fox News chief Roger Ailes so charmingly described NPR, “They are, of course, Nazis,”
But (beyond the simple truth of what Schiller said) there are two points they are completely ignoring:
- The dishonest editing of the videotape, and,
- The fact that their claims about NPR are, to put it simply, just plain not true.
First, the videotape. It's hard to go into detail here, so let's look at just the “racist” remark.
On the edited tape, Schiller says, “The current Republican Party is not really the Republican Party. It's been hijacked by this group that is …”
And, right then, one fake Muslim jumps in and tries to put words in his mouth, saying, “The radical, racist, Islamaphobic Tea Party people?” And Schiller mostly agrees, saying, “Not just Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic.” And then he goes on to make the “racist” comment.
But if you look at the unedited videotape, Schiller begins his comments by talking about two “highly placed” Republicans — one a former ambassador — who told him they voted for Obama because they felt “The current Republican Party is not really the Republican Party. It's been hijacked …” etc.
It seems clear that Schiller agrees with the “two Republicans” he's quoting, but still, the unedited comment is not quite what the edited videotape seemed to reveal. And this same kind of dishonest editing took place throughout the tape.
(And, by the way, unexpectedly, the unedited videotape was analyzed and released by a website called The Blaze, founded by … Glenn Beck. I just don't know what to think about that.)
But there's a more important point to make.
The charges against NPR — that it is highly biased, hard-left propaganda — are simply untrue.
And I'm pretty certain that no one who actually listens to NPR could really make those claims.
Listen to the NPR morning and evening newscasts — Morning Edition, All Things Considered — and you will simply hear straightforward, honest news reporting on the major issues of the day.
On NPR, the news really is the news.
It is better, more honest, more in depth — more fair and balanced, if you insist — than any other major news outlet.
Frankly, I think NPR goes too far, bends over backwards to be fair, to give a lot of outrageous nonsense equal time and equal respect.
And, finally, as Republicans rally to cut all federal funding for NPR — gleefully quoting Schiller, who told those fake Muslims that NPR would do just fine without public money — let me give one more example of what Ron Schiller really said.
He said that NPR, as a national organization, would do fine on its own — but that without federal support many small local stations in small towns would have to shut down.
“We feel that voice of reason that comes through in 900 stations, scattered all throughout the country, including in the smallest towns, is really what's in jeopardy,” said Schiller.
Why would anyone fire someone who tells the truth like that?
Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is