If you paid attention to the media at all last week you heard about NPR firing Juan Williams, and attributing that to remarks he made on The O'Reilly Factor. And NPR has largely been criticized for that, although it seems fairly obvious (and Williams himself felt) that they had been looking for a reason to give him the axe.
Are we to interpret the intent behind the firing of Williams was to be a punishment—as denying him the reward of having the job he did? Obviously it didn't work out that way; if anything, firing him was a reward, freeing him up to get a better-paying gig at Fox News. But was it supposed to be a punishment?
Eh, probably not. Even as inept as those behind the decision demonstrated themselves to be, they couldn't have been so daft as to think that Williams would be cast out into some journalistic void with no possible prospects. More likely they knew he had a chair waiting for him over at Fox News, perhaps even perceiving him as having one foot out the door given the number of appearances he made there, and finally concluded it was time to cut him loose.
It's almost as though they fully grasped that they'd get some bad press for how it would come off, but (here's the rub): NPR would be in the press. Think about it: When was the last time you heard NPR get mentioned by the entire media in this way?
The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, so the saying goes.
I'm not saying that I think the whole thing was a calculated ploy to get some attention, but there's no denying that's what came of it. I wouldn't be surprised if the diehard supporters of NPR were somewhat energized (so to speak); even those who disagree with the firing may come to the defense of the other personnel who still are employed by the organization; those who agree with the firing and presumably weren't happy about Williams moonlighting with O'Reilly are emboldened by what they see as overdue. Those who didn't like NPR before still don't and merely have a new reason for that. And the rest, who weren't following either NPR or Fox News, were reminded that NPR still existed.
Even if federal funding were cut off to NPR that wouldn't kill it; that's only a small percentage of how it pays the bills. And it doesn't stay on the air by pulling in impressive ratings. Those who won't contribute because of this are unlikely to have contributed anyway. The negative effect on NPR is not necessarily as bad as it might seem, and there's even the possibility there's some upside for them due to this. And really: it's not like they have much to lose.
After their next pledge drive they may wish to set aside some funds for training their executives to learn how to fire without a firestorm of controversy; there's only so many times they could pull that off and have it not be completely bad.