Ellen Weiss

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Ellen Weiss
Born (1959-01-30) January 30, 1959 (age 55)
Westchester, NY
Alma mater Smith College
Occupation Journalist
Spouse(s) David Saperstein

Ellen Weiss (born January 30, 1959) is a journalist and three-time Peabody Award winner. She joined National Public Radio (NPR) in 1982,[1] eventually running the NPR News national desk[2] and serving as executive producer of the NPR News magazine All Things Considered. She was named NPR vice president for news in April 2007 and held that post until January 2011 when she left the network due to her role in the dismissal of Juan Williams. [3] She was executive editor at the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity.[4]

She attended Scarsdale High School in Scarsdale, New York, and is a Smith College graduate. She currently resides in Washington, D.C. with her husband, Rabbi David Saperstein.

Juan Williams controversy[edit]

On January 6, 2011, Weiss agreed with NPR to resign from her position for her role in the October 2010 firing of political analyst Juan Williams for his comments on the Fox News program, The O'Reilly Factor. Discussing terrorism on the show, Williams said he gets "nervous" when he sees people in "Muslim garb" boarding a plane; Williams appeared to make the comment in the context of a larger point, against generalizing all Muslims as terrorists, and some of the later debate around his remark centered on whether it should be understood in this larger context. [5]

Weiss personally called Williams to fire him immediately over the phone on the basis of violating a provision in the NPR ethics guidelines against its staff expressing personal opinions.[6]

Although an independent review process concluded that "Williams' contract was terminated in accordance with its terms", an e-mail statement from the NPR board of directors expressed "concerns regarding the speed and handling of the termination process" and said that led to "certain actions... with regard to management involved in Williams' contract termination."

Concerning her consequent resignation, which ended her 28 year career at the radio network, Weiss called her decision "extremely hard" but defended her firing of Williams: "What I would say is that the decision to terminate the Juan Williams contract by NPR, of which I was a participant, was based on the highest journalistic standards."[6]

For his part, Williams accepted a $2 million contract with Fox News, and went on to call Weiss' resignation "good news," describing her as "the enforcer of political correctness of liberal orthodoxy" at NPR.[6]


  1. ^ Ellen Weiss, NPR Biography (broken link)
  2. ^ Kennedy, George; Daryl R. Moen (2007). What good is journalism?: how reporters and editors are saving America's way of life. University of Missouri Press. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-8262-1730-1. 
  3. ^ "Appetite for info is good news for NPR". New York Daily News. September 29, 2008. Retrieved July 22, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Former NPR News Exec Ellen Weiss Takes Job at Center for Public Integrity". 
  5. ^ Davidson, Amy. "NPR's Bad Divorce". The New Yorker. Retrieved 3/9/2011. 
  6. ^ a b c James Rainey (7 January 2011). "Top NPR official stepping down". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 January 2011.