Rebecca and Elaine went to college with C.I. and what stood out the most to them about Nicole's body of work was the absence of women. It's not just that she appears only to mention women when she's attacking women, it was the fact that women don't really exist in her writing as reference points. (It's what Ava and C.I. called the Deanna Durbin Syndrome: 100 Men and a Girl.)
By contrast, at The Common Ills and as far back as college, C.I. always references women. Rebecca and Elaine remember a class syllabus was always met with the question (from C.I.) of, "Where are the women?" Political theory, philosophy, World lit, what have you, where are the women? And the bulk of professors felt they'd done nothing that required altering. (Elaine: "One professor responded, 'This is an economics class.' C.I. countered, 'Exactly. So where is Charlotte Perkins Gilman? Or is it normal practice to leave out one of the most well known economists in this country in the first part of the century?' She always knew her facts and she was never afraid to stand up. All these years later, nothing's changed on that front.") And refusal by a professor to include women in the scope of study just meant C.I. brought the women in via presentations, papers and class discussions.
That's why, at The Common Ills, you will regularly and repeatedly find female artists referenced. And it's what Nicole Colson never grasped, you really can't be a feminist when your reference points are always male.
Neal Conan introduced Ted as an "NPR commentator." His NPR bio calls him that as well. However, when he was hired, NPR announced he "will join NPR as a senior news analyst" and a few months ago on Talk of the Nation, he was introduced as "NPR senior news analyst."
You may be scratching your head and saying, "Ava and C.I., you're splitting hairs! News analyst and commentator, it's all the same!" Really?
Because we aren't the ones who made the distinction, we aren't the ones who hid behind the distinction nor did we order the purging on the NPR website to protect ourselves (and NPR) from legal consequences. What are we talking about?
The division between commentator and "news analyst" was meaningless until October 2010 and most were introduced interchangeably. In October 2010, following public actions by NPR management, there was suddenly a need to create a division between the two roles. That's when NPR fired Juan Williams. Many were surprised by the purging of Juan's stories from NPR's website and by how quickly that took place. There was no reason to be surprised. They purged because Juan was introduced as both a commentator and a news analyst.
But the reason given, if you've forgotten, for Juan being fired was that he was a "news analyst" and not a "commentator." And to back themselves up, they needed to 'tidy up' the website.
Currently, you can see that Ted's still billed as both. (And, sorry, NPR friends, we did do screen caps.) Which is it?
After Juan was fired, there was a big to do. Suddenly, there was a huge distinction between the two roles. Then NPR president (she was fired by the board last week), Vivian Schiller issued a memo on the firing October 21st:
First, a critical distinction has been lost in this debate. NPR News analysts have a distinctive role and set of responsibilities. This is a very different role than that of a commentator or columnist. News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that’s what’s happened in this situation. As you all well know, we offer views of all kinds on your air every day, but those views are expressed by those we interview – not our reporters and analysts.
Since Alicia Shepard has echoed that party line, she should probably explain what Ted Koppel is and why NPR is so confused by his role. But an ombudsperson who doesn't do the due diligence required to realize that Juan Williams was introduced -- on air -- as both a "news analyst" and a "commentator" over the years isn't much an ombudsperson is she? (We're giving her the benefit of the doubt that she wasn't aware of Juan's various on air introductions when appearing on NPR programs.)
NPR has established that you can no longer be both. To go back on that now would invite a multi-million dollar lawsuit from Juan Williams, now wouldn't it? So what is Ted? Since the press release NPR issued to the press announced he was "a senior news analyst" and since he's been billed as that repeatedly and recently, we'd argue he needs to be held to those allegedly stricter standards. Or do those standards only exist when it comes to Juan Williams?
If Ted is a "senior news analyst," Vivian Schiller laid down the NPR law: "News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that’s what’s happened in this situation."
If that's the law, then follow it. If that's the law, then Ted Koppel deserves a disciplinary meeting over his remarks from last Tuesday:
Well, I mean certainly those who believe that we have no role, never did have a role in Iraq, I guess you'd have to agree with them. I would make the point, A) whatever your feelings are or were about the initial invasion of Iraq and whether that was justified or whether it is - it was smart ever to get in there in the first place, the fact of the matter is now that we have an enormous amount both in blood and treasure invested in that country, and were we to pull out now, at a time of greater instability in that region than we have seen in many, many years - we don't know what's going to happen next in Egypt, we don't know what's going to happen in Bahrain, we don't know what's going to happen in Yemen or in Libya, and for us just to precipitously pull out, before the Iraqis are capable of taking care of their own security, I think would be very unwise.
Pulling out, Ted declares, "I think would be very unwise." The law: "News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that’s what’s happened in this situation."
Ted took the personal public position that the US military should remain in Iraq. That is "a controversial issue" and, according to NPR law, he shouldn't have taken it. From the August 27th snapshot:
Last week, Gallup and AP polls were released offering the findings that most Americans are opposed to the Iraq War and feel it should never have been started. Gallup found 53% judge it as a failure, 55% judged it a failure. AP's poll with GfK Roper Public Affairs found that 65% opposed the Iraq War. Now Brian Montopoli (CBS News) reports on CBS' poll (but doesn't explain why the New York Times took a pass) which finds "nearly six in ten say it was a mistake to start the battle in the first place, and most say their country did not accomplish its objectives in Iraq." The number saying it was a mistake is 59% which is in stark contrast to March 2003 when a majority, 69%, stated the US was correct to declare war on Iraq (the US-led invasion began in March 2003) and only 25% of respondents then (March 2003) said it was a mistake.
Ted Koppel's opinion is not just contrary to a small minority opinion of Americans, it's contrary to the overwhelming American majority opinion. So if what was done to Juan was fair and how NPR deals with these issues, Ted Koppel should be shown the door. (We know he won't be.) NPR shut out the majority opinion on Talk of the Nation and on Diane's show. The majority of Americans were not represented despite NPR standing for National Public Radio. A functioning ombudsperson would address that. But how can a dysfunctional radio outlet have a functioning ombudsperson?