Here is what I, Jay Rosen, New York Jew, liberal Democrat, and professional student of the press think... Given its existing codes NPR was in an untenable position from the moment Juan Williams started working for Fox, where his job is to be a liberal foil for the conservative alternative in news. There was no way he could abide by NPR’s rules–which insist on viewlessness as a guarantor of trust–and appear on Fox, where the clash of views is basic to what the network does to generate audience, and where Williams relished the give and take with outsized personalities like Bill O’Reilly.
NPR recognized the problem but tried to finesse it by re-classifying Williams as an “analyst.” Big mistake. The job of analyst, as NPR defines it, is so tightly constrained that it excludes almost everything Williams was doing for Fox. So why didn’t NPR simply get rid of Williams years ago when he began to generate view-from-somewhere controversies with his appearances on Fox? The likely reason was identified by Farai Chideya, who used to work at NPR: a diversity problem. NPR had almost no black men on the air.
Jay Rosen is right, but I'm also convinced that the focus on the 'whys' of the Juan Williams episode is convenient because it puts the essential question on the back-burner and that question is what does it mean to be a journalist in America. There are a lot of bad and discomforting answers to that question, but no sustainable attempts to provide thoughtful answers.