Heads are rolling at NPR.
The publicly-funded news outlet just announced that its CEO, Vivian Schiller, has resigned. However, as news trickles out it appears more that she was ousted.
The moves comes amid an undercover video scandal yesterday that showed Senior Vice President for Development, Ron Schiller (no relation), criticizing the Tea Party as “racist.” Ron announced his own resignation yesterday.
However, NPR reporter David Folkenflik says Vivian did not as much resign as she was “forced out.” He offers more information in a corresponding tweet:
“It is with deep regret that I tell you that the NPR Board of Directors has accepted the resignation of Vivian Schiller as President and CEO of NPR, effective immediately.
“The Board accepted her resignation with understanding, genuine regret, and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past two years.
“Vivian brought vision and energy to this organization. She led NPR back from the enormous economic challenges of the previous two years. She was passionately committed to NPR’s mission, and to stations and NPR working collaboratively as a local-national news network.
“According to a CEO succession plan adopted by the Board in 2009, Joyce Slocum, SVP of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, has been appointed to the position of Interim CEO. The Board will immediately establish an Executive Transition Committee that will develop a timeframe and process for the recruitment and selection of new leadership.
“I recognize the magnitude of this news – and that it comes on top of what has been a traumatic period for NPR and the larger public radio community. The Board is committed to supporting NPR through this interim period and has confidence in NPR’s leadership team.”
Still, in updates posted by NPR blogger Mark Memmott, it’s clear that Vivian’s departure was not a unilateral decision.
“The board had a wide-ranging conversation with Vivian last night,” about recent events and “how the organization needed to move forward,” Memmott quotes Edwards as saying. “The events that took place [particularly Ron Schiller's statements and Juan Williams' dismissal] became such a distraction to the organization that in the board’s mind it hindered Vivian Schiller’s abilty to lead the organization going forward.”
Memmott again quoting Edwards says Vivian told the board members that they should have “the flexibility to do what [they] felt was important.” She “offered to step aside if that was the board’s will,” he said, “and the board ultimately decided that was in the best interest of the organization.”
Yesterday’s video was not the first time Vivian came under fire for her leadership. She was heavily criticized for the way she oversaw the firing of former NPR reporter Juan Williams last fall. In January — after an internal investigation — NPR’s board withheld Vivian’s bonus as a result of the scandal.
“The Board has expressed confidence in Vivian Schiller’s leadership going forward,” the board said at the time. “She accepted responsibility as CEO and cooperated fully with the review process. The Board, however, expressed concern over her role in the termination process and has voted that she will not receive a 2010 bonus.”
The executive who directly fired Williams resigned at the time. Now, it seems, it was Vivian’s turn.
Vivian joined NPR in January 2009, and before that was senior vice president and general manager of NYTimes.com. She has also worked at Discovery Times Channel and CNN Productions.
Ron Schiller was initially set to take a job working with the Aspen Institute in Colorado. A spokesman for that organization, however, informed Yahoo’s The Cutline that that will no longer happen:
“Ron Schiller has informed us that, in light of the controversy surrounding his recent statements, he does not feel that it’s in the best interests of the Aspen Institute for him to come work here,” the spokesman said in a statement to The Cutline.
Additionally, Ron’s partner seen in the video, Betsy Liley, has been placed on administrative leave.
The controversy comes at a horrible time for NPR: this week, Capitol Hill politicians are discussing whether or not to defund the outlet and yesterday some anti-NPR politicians ramped up their rhetoric.
This is a breaking story. Updates will be added.