By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
Warring activists cause a legendary public radio station to implode
It was 6:30 p.m. on August 9, at the end of the evening news. The voice of Jose Santiago, longtime news director at the legendary radical radio station WBAI, drifted out over the airwaves for what would be the last time.
"Over the years, I've knocked out last-minute news copy at breakneck speeds thousands of times, in a whole bunch of different places, and always made the deadline," Santiago told listeners. "But this one, on such short notice, is not flowing so easily."
Earlier that afternoon, Summer Reese, interim executive director of Pacifica Radio, which owns the station's broadcast license, had gathered WBAI's staff together and confirmed rumors that had run rampant for months. Almost all of them were losing their jobs.
"This is goodbye," Santiago said, his voice growing shaky. "I want to say a million things, but none more than 'thank you.'"
The end was a long time coming.
For years, observers inside and out had been prophesying the death of WBAI, birthplace of the nationally syndicated alternative news program Democracy NOW!. The station has not turned a profit in more than a decade. The last year has been particularly tough.
Millions of dollars in debt, and unable to pay staff or rent, WBAI has devoted a staggering 169 days to pledge drives since October. Quacks and conspiracy theorists solicited donations by dangling gifts like magic water capable of curing cancer and books that claim, matter-of-factly, that the world is secretly ruled by shapeshifting reptilian overlords.
Ask the people who have lived through the slow, sad decline, and they will tell you that the very thing they thought would save the organization—democratizing the network—nearly killed it entirely.
Fans of 99.5 WBAI still wax nostalgic about Election Day 2000, when President Bill Clinton made the mistake of calling the station to get out the vote for Al Gore and the Senate campaign of his wife, Hillary. Instead of the few minutes of small talk he expected, Clinton spent 28 minutes under fire from WBAI's Amy Goodman and Gonzalo Aburto, defending his presidency.
The pair hammered Clinton with tough question after tough question—Would he grant clemency to Native American activist Leonard Peltier? Did he support a moratorium on the death penalty, considering studies that showed it's tilted toward killing black people? Why did he authorize the bombing of the island of Vieques?—before a frustrated Clinton was forced to excuse himself from the call.
It was the stuff of WBAI legend, the stuff listeners lived for—holding privileged feet to the fire, demanding answers to questions the mainstream media wouldn't ask.
Over the decades, WBAI built a reputation as a beacon of free speech. It's where James Baldwin debated Malcolm X over the power of nonviolent protest, and where George Carlin broadcast his famous "Filthy Words" show, the monologue that spawned a debate over indecency and a Supreme Court case to boot.
It wasn't just a radio station; it was a countercultural epicenter. Legendary broadcaster Bob Fass informed listeners of his program, Radio Unnamable, of the best places to purchase acid in the East Village. And when one listener encountered a bad trip, he put a psychiatrist on the air to talk her through it.
In the old days, Bob Dylan used to come in just to do a station break. "He'd just walk in, and we'd hand him the microphone, and we wouldn't say who he was and, you know, most people could figure it out," former general manager Chris Albertson says.
Back then, Albertson says, "you could walk into the hallway and find the janitor—we had a janitor back in those days—deep in conversation with Ayn Rand," who had a weekly commentary show. "Where else could you find that?"
Yoko Ono, a volunteer filing clerk in the music department, pitched in during the station's first fundraising marathon. "You wouldn't believe this, but Yoko Ono was a really humble, quiet person. I mean, the fact that she even came to me, to my office, was amazing. But then she asked if she could go on the air and help out during the marathon," Albertson chuckles. "She said, 'I'd like to sing some Japanese children's songs.' I said, 'Sure,' and so she did it. WBAI attracted people like that."
That first pledge drive stretched over two days and nights without stopping. Contributors received gifts much different than those offered today.
"Artist Elaine de Kooning provided some of her minor Kennedy paintings for auction, and other lesser known artistic lights offered their services as plumbers and carpenters," Susan Brownmiller wrote in 1965, chronicling the drive for the Voice. "Big Joe Williams sang the blues and three teenagers hitchhiked in from Nyack to make sandwiches for the tired and hungry crew."
It only took 55 hours for the station to make enough money to cover its budget for the next few months. That's the way things used to work for WBAI. The station offered programming available nowhere else, and listeners gave generously to support it.
But in recent years, that audience has steadily abandoned the station. Despite WBAI's powerful signal—strong enough to reach 18 million people—the station has so few listeners it barely registers on Arbitron's ratings scale, the standard for measuring radio audiences. Donations have dried up. WBAI—saddled with a large payroll and high rents, ruled by an expensive and immovable bureaucracy—plunged deeper and deeper into debt.
To make ends meet, the station has come to rely on revenue from increasingly bizarre, and in some cases even dangerous, pledge drive gifts. In June, the ombudsman for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting—the organization that provides about 15 percent of the station's funding—wrote a pair of reports questioning the ethics of some gifts, including Double Helix water, which purports to cure both cancer and autism.
To trace the decline, you have to go back at least 15 years, to 1998. That was the year the station moved to a fancy new building on Wall Street, where its new neighbors were other progressive-minded nonprofits like the Center for the Urban Future and the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights group.
The decision was handed down from the Pacifica Foundation, which holds the broadcast licenses for WBAI and its sister stations in Berkeley, Los Angeles, Houston, and Washington, D.C. Pacifica was on a kick to professionalize its scrappy stations, and WBAI's old office on Eighth Avenue was "a rathole by the time the station left there," as one longtime producer put it.
Listeners like Mitchel Cohen fretted over the move: "We were afraid they were trying to sell the station, or bourgeois-ify the station. Corporatize it, I guess."
Their fears were not entirely misplaced. By the time WBAI left Wall Street last January, the rent had ballooned to an untenable $40,000 a month. It was just one in a long series of ill-advised steps.
Even as Amy Goodman was grilling Clinton, creating one of the most emblematic moments in the station's history, WBAI was defending itself from Pacifica's increasingly aggressive attempts to tighten its grip on both the station and its biggest star.
Goodman is best known as the host of Democracy NOW!, Pacifica's iconic news program. In an open letter addressed to Pacifica's board of directors a few weeks before her Clinton interview, Goodman wrote that executives were urging her to soften the coverage, saying listeners didn't want to hear the details of police brutality before their morning coffee.
"Instead of congratulations and kudos for our many accomplishments, Pacifica has clamped down and threatens me at every turn with dismissal!" Democracy NOW!, Goodman added, was "being censored for our critical coverage of the Democrats as well as the Republicans."
The testy exchange with Clinton couldn't have helped matters. That month, WBAI's general manager was canned. A few weeks later, over Christmas weekend, a new GM installed by Pacifica snuck into the station at night and changed the locks. The program director and his top producer were fired via courier the next morning.
Security cameras were installed, and guards were stationed at the door with a list of the names of producers and employees who were no longer welcome. A gag order banned those still allowed on air from discussing the station's issues.
So much for free speech radio.
But the folks at Pacifica would find out quickly that they had overplayed their hand. Listeners and producers revolted. A rally two weeks after the firings drew 500 people to WBAI's office, where they chanted and held signs reading "Despotism Won't Fly at WBAI."
More rallies followed outside both Pacifica's Washington, D.C., headquarters and the law firm representing the network. Juan Gonzalez, co-host of Democracy NOW!, resigned in protest; Goodman was later suspended.
For almost a year, protests, demonstrations, and rallies rocked the station, before a newly elected board of directors was forced to restore Democracy NOW!, which had been broadcast "in exile" from a fire station in Lower Manhattan during the strife.
The turmoil did have one upside: A collection of Pacifica listeners, activists, and producers joined together to change the way the network operated. Listeners and staff would now be elected to a series of boards that governed the Pacifica Network.
"We're once again on the road to democratization of our cherished network—the only independent network in the country," Goodman told the Voice back then.
But those changes, says Patty Heffley, a listener turned board member, led to "the democratic state that has become a nightmare today."
It seemed a fine concept in theory, allowing listeners to dictate their experience. But in reality it placed the station's destiny in the hands of people who knew little of radio or management. Worse, committees were piled one atop another, creating a bureaucracy so vast and chaotic that only a Soviet apparatchik would approve.
Today, about 2,200 people are directly involved in the voting process, according to Matthew Lasar, author of Pacifica Radio: The Rise of an Alternative Network. "You basically have an organization that is drowning in governance."
The system bred a vicious factionalism that has made it virtually impossible to get anything done for more than a decade. The boards have fractured into splinter groups like the Justice and Unity Caucus, the Independent Party, and Listeners and Staff for Progressive Elections.
Epic power struggles for station control raged for years, while day-to-day operations ground to a halt. A succession of general managers and program directors were installed and quickly deposed. It wasn't unusual for fistfights to break out at board meetings. Countless lawsuits were filed, then summarily dismissed. All the while, the station floundered. Lasar, who was present when the bylaws were created, now calls the whole exercise "a disastrous experiment in democratization."
Take a recent meeting of WBAI's Finance Committee. Members had no actual numbers to discuss—Pacifica, in the middle of simultaneous audits by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the IRS, failed to provide them. So the committee was left to draft a strongly worded letter requesting the documents yet again.
The meeting then devolved into a multi-hour airing of grievances. At one point, a shouting match broke out between committee member Ed Manfredonia and the station's general manager, Berthold Reimers. Manfredonia wanted to know whether a rival member of the Local Station Board had a financial stake in a call center that was recently awarded a WBAI contract.
When an elderly blind woman urged the two men to calm down, Manfredonia yelled at her to shut up. For dramatic effect, he then called the cops on himself. The session was adjourned while police took statements and escorted Manfredonia from the building.
"If you think this is bad, come to a Local Station Board meeting," one committee member scribbled in a note to the reporter seated next to him.
Every two out of three years, 24 representatives are chosen to sit on the local board of each Pacifica station—18 members are voted in by subscribers, and six are elected by staff. Four delegates from each board are then elected to the 23-member national board.
Pacifica has managed to make the elections incredibly expensive. They are estimated to cost $200,000 each—or about $3 million total since they were instituted, more than enough for WBAI to pay off the money it owes.
"Basically, Pacifica is paying these boards to have a big factional fight every two of three years," Lasar says.
Heffley is among the many driven away by the infighting. "I ran away screaming in 2007," she says.
In 2008, Pacifica's then-CEO, Nicole Sawaya, also threw in the towel. Before stepping down, she wrote a letter to Pacifica founder Lew Hill.
"The bylaws of the organization have opened it up to tremendous abuse, creating the opportunity for cronyism, factionalism, and faux democracy, with the result of challenging all yet helping nothing," she wrote. "There are endless meetings of committees and 'task forces'—mostly on the phone—where people just like to hear themselves talk."
Simply put, too much democracy was killing the station that gave birth to Democracy NOW!.
Sitting in WBAI's modest new headquarters in Brooklyn's Boerum Hill neighborhood a week before the layoffs will take place, Berthold Reimers looks exhausted. He's spent the week moving the station into a building where rent is about one-tenth what it was on Wall Street.
Reimers speaks with the French accent of his native Haiti, where he lived until age 17. He started listening to WBAI in the '80s, captivated by its coverage of the Iran-Contra scandal, and became involved at the station after the Christmas coup in 2000.
He was fascinated by the network's democratic process, he says, "since in Haiti I never voted. There were no elections in Haiti. I was interested in elections, and the democratic standard transferable vote system was amazing to me."
Now, he's disillusioned. He thinks Pacifica's elected boards should be abolished. "The people who get elected are activists that have no knowledge of management."
Take the move to the new office. "We didn't want anyone to know what we were doing, because there is micromanagement" whenever the boards or subcommittees get involved, Reimers says. "We just moved, quietly. We made decisions, and sometimes we didn't even ask permission. We just did it, because otherwise there is always a debate and nothing happens."
Ask Reimers where WBAI really took its turn for the worse, and he will provide an exact month: May 2012. That's when complaints from the board and the producers led to yet another personnel fight. Program Director Tony Bates was ousted.
The fight was emblematic of the personnel battles common at WBAI and across the Pacifica Network. The producers circulated a petition urging the station to replace the program director, in part because they didn't like the pledge gifts he wanted them to pitch.
Problem is, according to Reimers, those items—the cancer-curing Double Helix water, the rightwing conspiracy film Zeitgeist, and the writings of David Icke, which promote the theory that reptilian shapeshifters control our world—were the only things keeping the station afloat.
Sure, the station offered the smart gifts typical of a public radio station, such as books by liberal luminaries like Howard Zinn and Robert Reich. But these weren't bringing in donations.
Instead, Reimers says, 90 percent of WBAI's income is generated by health-oriented and conspiracy theory items.
The fiercely independent station is forced to rely on revenue generated by pledge gifts—no matter how dubious—because it refuses to accept underwriting, sponsorship, or advertising of any kind out of fear that they might influence the station's coverage.
Ironically, that stubborn refusal has left WBAI flat broke, with no choice but to lay off its entire news department.
Since the program director was pushed out, donation rates have plunged to new lows. WBAI has fallen short of its fundraising goals by more than $1 million. It's about $2 million in debt to Pacifica.
The station began to fall seriously behind on its rent beginning in July. At the time, Reimers was still hopeful WBAI could make it up during the fall pledge drive, but when that drive was almost over—and with its fundraising goal only half met—Hurricane Sandy hit.
The storm forced WBAI out of its office and off the air; 99.5 stayed dark for days. The station became a refugee, broadcasting first out of alternative medicine guru (and longtime WBAI producer) Gary Null's personal studio, and then out of City College in Harlem.
The same month, the station received a notice from the Empire State Building, where it was also behind on rent for its transmitter. If it couldn't catch up, the building would have to evict the transmitter, and 99.5 would go dead.
"At that point, we realized that we had to focus on paying the Empire State Building, we could not pay the back rent at 120 Wall Street, and the contract was up for renewal in January, so we decided we're going to move out," Reimers says. The station, still broadcasting from City College's studio, set up a small temporary office in Battery Park.
In March, when news that WBAI might be thrown out of the Empire State Building went public, the station raised $500,000 to save its signal. But WBAI was broke again a month later and unable to make its payroll. Employees went two pay periods without receiving checks before someone called the Department of Labor.
That's when layoffs became inevitable. "If you can't pay your staff, you have to let them go," Reimers says.
Instead of paid programmers based here in New York, WBAI will now rely on unpaid volunteers and syndicated shows picked up from other Pacifica stations.
And without original local programming, the task of righting the ship only becomes more difficult.
The last pledge drive, held over several weeks in July and August, had one of the highest goals ever—$1 million, enough to stabilize the station. It was met with some of the lowest donation rates in the station's history. By the time Summer Reese came on the air to announce the layoffs, WBAI had reached barely a quarter of its goal.
"They are fatigued," Reimers says of the listeners. "They are totally fatigued. I am fatigued."
On that fateful Friday in August, the day staff members were told they were losing their jobs, Reese took to the air to deliver the news.
All told, two-thirds of the station's staff was terminated. "Most of the producers whose shows you value will not even have the chance to say goodbye to you, for which I am deeply sorry," Reese said.
Andrea Sears was one of the few who did get a chance to say goodbye, during the final edition of the WBAI evening news. She used the opportunity to reflect on the station's legacy before signing off for the last time.
"News and information from a perspective that is outside the mainstream, a critical perspective that puts the needs of people first, and holds on to the ideals that are, at best, paid lip service to by those with money and power," Sears said, "journalism that speaks truth to power—that to me is the heart and soul of WBAI."
The following Monday, members of the news team listened from home as New York City's controversial stop-and-frisk program—a program that WBAI's news team had won numerous reporting awards for covering over the years—was declared unconstitutional.
It was a bittersweet moment, says former news director Santiago.
"I don't know anyone on the planet that had done more on this issue than our station," he says. "To see something culminate like that one the very first day we're not working—it's tough."
He is proud of the legacy his team left behind, of covering stop-and-frisk and police violence. But more than that, he's proud that the department survived as long as it did, given the circumstances.
"Frankly, I think our biggest accomplishment in the news department has been—despite all the political fighting that's gone on, all the artillery being fired by the different factions at Pacifica and at our local station board over our heads—we've managed to just consistently produce a pretty good newscast.
"To me, just the fact that we've survived, that the station itself has survived as long as it has under this governance structure," Santiago says. "I think that that's really our biggest accomplishment."
Correction: As originally published, this story stated that Matthew Lasar helped craft Pacifica Radio's bylaws. Lasar was present at meetings during which the bylaws were created and read drafts before they were passed, but he did not participate in the process. The above version reflects the corrected text. The Voice regrets the error.
Note, people were more interested in conspirascy videos and right wing libertarian items, then lame big government socialist stuff. Get the hint, writer at the Voice and WBAI...Nobody wants to hear Earl in the afternoon on his knees for Obama. The people are done with liberalism ands statists. Bye bye
The beginning of this article accurately describes the climate at WBAI. Some parts of this story warrant clarification:
The station moved from 505 Eighth Avenue because a of tremendous rent increase. The logic in moving to 120 Wall Street was that it was a building designated for non-profits and that WBAI would eventually purchase its space at 120 Wall rather than lease. The plan obviously never came to fruition.
In 1998, Program Director Samori Marksman died of a heart attack in his sleep at the age of 51. The period of upheaval that followed was precipitated by his death. He was the last competent Program Director WBAI had.
The creation of the current governance structure was never an upside of the turmoil from which it rose. It was always a disastrous idea. WBAI is not a small country. Its a radio station. Thats the part the creators of this governance structure never understood. And still don't.
The vast majority of the air talent has always been unpaid programmers. Apart from the News department, there were less paid programmers than you can count on one hand.
This story is important because it serves as a warning on many levels to people away from NYC still fighting for social justice.
This is a microcosm of what would occur to this country if the political philosophy espoused by those associated with this station ran the government.
It does not work. Time to wake up and grow up.
Also - When Errol Maitland and Bernard White last went on air to pitch for an unannounced, emergency fund drive in April, 2009, they raised $44,000 in THREE HOURS. In the last fund drive, it took almost TWO DAYS for the station to raise that much. This is the product of the work of Heffley, Cohen, and their group.
Finally, Tessa Stuart also interviewed Bernard White for this story. He gave a LOT of information about the racist and anti-left dimensions to this struggle, but she elected not to include any of it. Since Bernard was present and deeply involved for the entire period from the end of the Xmas Coup until this group fired hi in May, 2009, what he knows and had to say if of at least passing value. Bernard now helps run www.CPRmetro.org where he also does a three hour program daily, M/F.
There was a 'deficit' for the period prior to the takeover by the group managing Pacifica and BAI (the faction represented by Patricia Heffley and Mitchel Cohen) in late 2008 and early 2009. That 'deficit' was entirely consequent to the lease for 120 Wall Street, which was imposed upon WBAI by Pat Scott and Pacifica management in 1998. It contained escalator clauses that slowly and steadily ate into the otherwise adequate revenues, ultimately creating an operating deficit.
The real problem began with the takeover by this group, when they removed Tony Riddle and Bernard White and began to reconfigure programming, hiring the same person (Tony Bates) who presented the report regarding the situation at WBAI to the Pacifica Board that was used to take over the station. Since then, revenues have steadily declined, bringing the station - and the network - to the present crisis.
There was a heavy racist component to this takeover - the public relations campaign which was the underpinning of the electoral campaign which placed them in a majority position on the board - overtly called for reducing the presence of 'black nationalists' and other black programming, alleged a work environment hostile to white producers, and other overtly racist appeals.
Who are these closet racist pretending that White folk are being attacked by Black folk and not being reported. Where has that ever happened in America? Stop the madness.
I am a former WBAI and Pacifica board member and listener activist since 1995. I have been a listener for 25 years.
Your article about WBAI and governance is right but it is all wrong.
It's true about the infighting and cumbersome boards, however that is not why WBAI is floundering. The main issue not covered - but actually
covered-over - is unlistenable radio and bad local and national management.
The article gives no hope. In fact there is some hope of the station's survival.
However awful the governance structure was/is, it is like democracy in the USA - it's messy. But with smart, principled, savvy people in charge of the country/station, government comes right along. It starts at the head.
The station is failing because no one wants to listen any more. Radio has to be entertaining even when it is telling a sad story. Much of the programming, especially at drive time (when there are most listeners) does not draw enough listeners to be sustainable. No program director in years (until now) has bothered to even listen to what was on the air and make changes necessary that might encourage new contributors.
A choppy schedule, niche programming at drive time, hosts not in studio but on the phone, technical difficulties and broken equipment despite a full time engineer - none of this is governance's fault. It is management that has dropped the ball. And since there is no money to pay local on-air staff (19 were laid-off last month) programs from other Pacifica stations have replaced the voices who were not delivering. Community radio is radio for ALL New York City, a varied group of people with all kinds of interests. To stay afloat in this town you have to appeal, at least some of the time, to a lot of people in order to pay bills.
In the article you gave management a free ride. But it is management who is responsible for programming and telling the truth about finances instead of rosy outcomes. Financial loss has been going on for ten years.
Some management employees overspent budgets and, according to the records I witnessed, there were allegations of stealing and sexual harassment, and in addition, expensive lawsuits involving alleged racism. Spurious lawsuits have cost WBAI and the Pacifica Foundation, millions of dollars usually in settlements since the foundation has not had the funds to fight the litigation, and the system is drained this way by lawsuits to WBAI and Pacifica: In two instances a Black man was replaced by a Black woman. There have been many lawsuits that happened across Pacifica in the past 6 years, costing millions of dollars, many of them inappropriate. Racism and sexism is still an ugly scourge in this world we live in but I believe is it for the most part misplaced at Pacifica.
Pacifica seems afraid or unable to the dirty job of ensuring local management and staff are accountable to the donors who kept them afloat and allow the privilege of being associated with Pacifica/WBAI. Incompetence is the word of the day for some in strategic positions and no one seems capable of firing anyone. That right there is a giant problem. No one wants to leave and no one makes them go. There are some amazing people there who know and love radio who have great shows, or do the technical work of the station. Without these people, the station would have gone down long ago.
Pacifica's rich and righteous mission, http://www.pacifica.org/about_mission.php, has been ignored and the station has been reduced to prostituting itself selling infomercial products because everybody ignored the most important fact: You have to preserve the host-medium, not the egotistic needs of individuals who want to keep their jobs or airtime at all costs. Berthold Reimers cries about losing Tony Bates who brought the extreme premium madness. This shows Mr. Reimers is just another in a line of incompetent managers refusing to face the facts. Technology and media habits have all changed. If you want to survive, you have to actually hold the audience because you offer something no one else does. You may also have to do something different and advance onto other media platforms.
Radio is anonymous and in these times of extreme surveillance, it's important to be able to listen to a non-commercial outlet, beholden to no corporate or government entity. Broadcasting permits one privacy in ways the internet does not - so long as you are not listening online! That is something that cannot be replaced.
If WBAI must go the way of the Dodo bird, may she go with dignity.
More NYC news that WBAI hides their head in the sand.....Man screaming 'I hate white people' attacks 3 'This dude punched this other dude for walking past him funny'
@DougHenwood And I just found the station 2 weeks ago, donated already as it is so interesting. Hoping it stays afloat. A voice from Canada.
I feel sad that sites that allow comments have become places for name calling, anger venting, and issues totally unrelated to the subject article you are supposed to be commenting on (and yeah, here I am doing the same thing), but having said this, I offer this observation:
I grew up in the era when WBAI was at it's best, but I never heard of the station. I was aware of some of it's programs and did listen to them whenever I could, but living in the wilderness of Chicago in the 50s & 60s & even the 70s, I could not be a regular. I did espouse many of the same principles of WBAI, and even tho I am now in my 70s, still do. I don't like name calling, and I don't like bigotry, and I hate hearing anti-Semitic invective from garbage mouthed retards (oops, now I am name calling) whose brains were left with the afterbirths on the birthing table.
My point is that the comments I see here are not, in my opinion, worthy of the mostly intelligent listeners to this station. Arguing whether old people or young people are superior is silly. What a person does and how a person acts toward his supervisors or staff, as well as the principles that person follows are what is important. The results of all these actions is what determines the value and of course, the future of the company.
No one person caused either the success or the failure of WBAI. It was, in my opinion, group neglect coupled with changing times that were ignored by the people working there. Perhaps a good group of quality youth were required to inject their fresh and often deviant opinions. New ideas seldom spring from old, but the experience level of the older group should serve to moderate and guide, not to stifle the creativity.
It is sad to see a venerable institution fail, but progress demands fresh ideas and lean and hungry attitudes searching for truth. I think Obama has failed because if he did have fresh, new ideas when he began, he fell into the comfort zone of listening to the old establishment he installed to run his government. The Presidency is an extremely difficult and tiring position, and only the strongest can run it well. Obama is not one of them, and the staff of WBAI apparently were not either.
As someone who grew up on WBAI, I watched it disappear long, long ago. Long before this latest debacle began. WBAI has the same problem WFMU soon will - the old folks don't wanna give up the chair to young folks. The same problem that plagues all of humanity. Sure they'll let in a new face every now & then, but only for show. Real change is as impossible as with any coven of ancient politicians. I'm nearly 60 and I see it in my own age cohort, we cling desperately to our careers and kick the next generations in the teeth. Passive-aggressively of course, with great sneakiness. We olds--parents and non-breeders alike--want to keep it all until our dying breath AND we also want RESPECT. Just like any really good powermonger. It's sick.
BLACK FARMERS PROTEST AGAINST THE LACK OF
COVERAGE OF CONTINUING DISCRIMINATION AND RACISM
AT THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
ATLANTA GEORGIA – To protest this continuing violation of their civil rights, Independent Black Farmers from across the country will protest the lack of media attention and coverage of the continuous and ongoing racism, discrimination and retaliation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA Coalition of Minority Employees, N.A.A.C.P., National Action Network and the Nation of Islam will join the Independent Black Farmers in front of the CNN Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.
What: Black Farmer Filibuster and Press Conference
Who: Independent Black Farmers; USDA Coalition of Minority Employees;
Alabama NAACP; Coalition for Change, No FEAR Coalition;
National Action Network; Nation of Islam
Where: Cable News Network, Headquarters
190 Marietta Street, NW
Why: To bring attention to and protest the lack of media coverage of the ongoing discrimination and retaliation that continues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture despite the landmark Pigford vs USDA class action settlement.
When: thursday & friday September 5 & 6, 2013 at 9:00 A.M.Policy Change Demanded
The civil rights groups are demanding that the Obama Administration adopt a “Zero Tolerance” policy for discrimination and retaliation within the Federal Government, and to direct that Secretary Tom Vilsack hold the responsible Federal Officials accountable for the decades of discrimination and retaliation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
We can only be hopeful that the whole RACE-PIMPING Democratic Party - along with the rest of their sycophant media whores - IMPLODES as quickly!
This rank racial tribalism promoted by the left to promote their self-serving "GROUP IDENTITY" agenda needs to be identified for what it is - PRIMITIVE NEANDERTHALISM!
What's next, clubbing your woman and bringing her back to the cave?
Like YOUR Resident and HIS "red line" on Syria...YOUR GOING DOWN LEFTIES, and your going down FAST!
Heh-Heh-Heh....Have a nice day!
Were/are the budget/"books" ever open to the public?
I always wondered about the income and the expenses.
Weren't the DJ/Producers all volunteers, in the beginning? When did they start getting paid? How much did they get paid? Isn't there a myriad of people who would love to be sharing themselves on the air in NYC?
@delphineblue To add another dimension to your story, I was Program Director of KPFK-Los Angeles from 1987-94, fired in what was the first wave of Pacifica's elimination of staff perceived as not going along with the national organization's vision of "professionalization." (Veteran Pacifica anchor Larry Bensky once said of me, "You've heard about the 'banned and fired' [at BAI]? This is Lucia Chappelle, the tortured and damned!") The cry for democratization began among those who protested that take-over.
No one would listen to the dire predictions about how the democratic process would work or consider whether listener-activists were capable of running a broadcasting network, let alone whether the tiny minority of listeners who had the interest (or the patience) to participate could truly represent the desires of the broader listenership. The war spread to BAI and then to KPFA-Berkeley -- where thousands of people in the streets brought the situation to a head.
When the revolution was won, it was out of the frying pan and into the fire.
This wasn't my first time at the rodeo. I started at KPFK in 1973 and have witnessed many a coup in my time. But there just ain't been nothin' like this! You can't look at BAI (the station I grew up on) without taking into account the whole Pacifica picture. As Bensky also once said, "You can't flush the toilet at BAI without the water rising at KPFK!"
BAI went under because all the progresives now want to be at Martha's Vineyard and send their kids to very posh private schools. The old communist alinsky guard likes expensive champagne, caviar at 4 PM and very designer clothes. They have gone from the struggle to the bank and left BAI, etc. in the dumpster. Look at reality - black unemployment, abortion and incarceration rates rise even as communist progressives run the white house - from Martha's Vineyard. BAI was no longer necessary. It was no longer to be discussed at Martha's little Vineyard. BAI morphed into MSNBC and so the original, now embarassing, goes to dust. Look who never showed for the fundraisers that never happened. The money went to phoney solar projects for recycling into political slush. Thus, no dough for BAI. Get used to being sold out by the Vineyard crowd.
@Jonnyjones ... and do what...?
@PattyHeffley Programming, programming, programming! That is the 800-pound gorilla in the article, isn't it? Bad programming, stupid programming, dangerous programming (note complaints to the FCC about "advice" for AIDS patients) are the responsibility of local station management (speaking as another ex-PD), but pressures and incompetence from national, the loud demands of small listener factions, and the lack of resources make good programming a miracle.
One thing I'll never understand is how somebody can taut being non-commercial while hawking "snake oil" to raise money! Then they go on to believe that selling "snake oil" is great programming!
I'd like to have hope, but in order for there to be hope somebody in Pacifica has to develop ears.
@PattyHeffley You've provided many salient points that make WBAI, as it is currently "managed," and by whom it is currently "managed" (includes the almost-useless and extremely dangerous LSB, who have helped "govern" the station into the ground, but have done nothing but add to the station staff in-fighting). But your statement about the current GM listening to the programming is way off. While he may listen (selectively), he has no idea to what he is listening, nor any trained litmus for what's working and what's not. He has no broadcast or not-for-profit managerial experience, so your second point about him is more accurate: he is another in a line of incompetent managers refusing to face the facts (would that he could find them without pointing outward).
I believe we concur that if it has any chance of surviving current "management," the LSB and Pacifica, it must be completely re-imagined from the standpoint of leadership, 21st century technology, and its broadcast offering.
Indeed--snake oil program fundraising is absolutely wrong, as is the very idea that all fund raising be put on the backs of the few producers who manage to consistently pull, every time there is an on-air fund drive. On-air fund drives should be supplemental to other types, and I don't mean that listeners should be tapped, quarter after quarter for these funds, either. Mr. Reimers has a "development" person who is the only other paid staffer aside from himself, and in three years, she's only managed to develop a source of income for her "webmaster" brother (so I guess that makes three people on payroll). She doesn't have any more fundraising, broadcast or not-for-profit management experience than Mr. Reimers.
So in that vein, a housecleaning is in order. This "management" needs to go. A core group of producers who've managed to maintain audiences and support should lead the thinking on programming, and elect among them a program director capable of developing an overall vision for what WBAI can and should be, going forward, because the core of this is the broadcast product. The LSB should be abolished, and remaining listenership tapped to understand what's resonating, and what isn't. As a nice chunk of said listenership is dying off, new programming and audiences need development, with the appropriate level of community outreach to get them to care.
That last point is most salient: WBAI has operated as an "insider" organization for a long time; those who've been there 20 years and more are protectionist and actually discourage new and "outside" thinking--even from long-time listeners. What programming's been developed with new audiences in mind? it's been proven that there's a paucity of sustainable ideation (save for a core group of capable producers who've been cowed by bad management for too long), such that 24-7 programming can come from our community. Time to dissolve all but that core, and start anew--or yet more of us will stop opening our wallets--and our hearts--for WBAI. Indeed, that would be a tragedy for free speech and a community that has the potential to cut through corporate media to reach New Yorkers (and others--but New Yorkers first) who eschew corporate media.
@PattyHeffley I'm confused about this sentence "Your article about WBAI and governance is right but it is all wrong." Thanks for clarifying.
@PattyHeffley You've correctly shed light on many things not stated in the article, but there 19 layoffs were not on air staff. Some were, but most were administrative staff.
@pityadd Thats partially true but in reality the next generation is really clueless....I am begging to find responsible intelligent 20 somethings for our internet radio station, very poor quality of kids today. Ive received at least 35 resumes from people that have a 4 year communications degree yet never stepped foot into their college radio station, and then they expect to get paid!.
I find most kids have no idea how to use the internet because they are always on their iphone. What i need are people who want to be experts at SEARCH not APPS....hard to find.
I booked this girl on a show the day after she turned 20 and the host was in his 50's, she was very good, now she's all of 22.....i could use 10 people like her in the nyc area..and have an incredibly successful radio station.
@ricohenry7 This is why WBAI is gone. Crazy white Liberals pick up the megaphone whenever they get the chance and scream about their own pet issues, apropos of nothing.
The WBAI audience is like the routine South Park activist mob, who have no idea where they are or what they're doing, but are pretty sure that they are supposed to be indignant about something.
On the morning of the 14th (sunday) my step son, a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps , was out with two other friends off base in 29 Palms CA. One was a Marine the other a Civillian.
Steven and the other Marine are both white, and they’re mutual friend is black. The three men observed a large group (15-20) African American males walking down the street making a lot of noise, shouting, causing a scene. Many were carryintg weapons, ie…batons, and at least one tire iron.
@philos.xenos Not really. But the current General Manager does like his (many sets of) Excel spreadsheets! Zero transparency to the public.
@philos.xenos Commies don't believe in that. Non-monetary accounting is where it's at, man.
I'll try again:
Weren't the DJ/Producers all volunteers, in the beginning?
When did they start getting paid?
How much did they get paid?
@philos.xenos The salary I have solid knowledge of, is far from "high-on-the-hog" for the outer boroughs of NYC.
The "myriad of people who would love to be sharing themselves on the air in NYC" may not be the people with the skills to produce shows _donors_ want to hear.
Listening to bad sound levels, "uh...uh...ummm" every ten seconds, and fatuous pontification is not what passionate listeners want to give money for.
In addition, the hours required to track down sources, check facts, edit sound, and finally produce a _high quality_ product are much greater than might appear. Unless a producer is independently wealthy and doesn't need to be paid, expecting quality, daily output without paying them fair wages, is out of touch with reality.
@philos.xenos Actually NO we are desperately looking for people to host their own internet radio show, in a real live studio...but 95% of the kids today are so clueless,
They have poor internet skills because they are always on the iphone.......my advice to everyone learn how to be an expert at SEARCH and you will be far ahead of your peers.
@philos.xenos @PattyHeffley What I mean is what I said in the paragraph where your quote of mine comes from. The article focused on the governance being the reason for WBAI's possible destruction (let's hope by miracle it survives) was the warring governance. It is my belief that bad management of the network and stations is why the place is in dire straits and warring factions or not, if the station sounded good and was managed well, it wouldn't be such an issue, just a pain in the ass to deal with.
@condaggitt2 So you're saying there's little between 60 and 22? That's half the problem. Would you even deign work with someone your own age (whatever that is) in their 30s or 40s? There are plenty of those people who want the experience and have the discipline you seek--or is it just that the 20-year olds are more easy to exploit for the "experience?"
I don't have much to go by in judging the link to that 22-year old, except that she looks like she's trying to do television, rather than the non-visual medium of radio--be that terrestrial or streaming.
Pityadd is right--60-somethings don't want to hand the reins or even part of the opportunity to those younger than themselves. This IS half of WBAI's problem, and why it's dying--the 60 and 70-somethings that were once ardent listeners have peeled off or died off.
@philos.xenos Since the seventies everybody on air was unpaid. This changed in the late 90's when the morning show and afternoon drive hosts were paid.Several hundred producers continued working for no pay while approximately 5 were paid.
@philos.xenos Chris Albertson's blog has information. He says that people were being paid in the 1960s. Current salaries AFAIK were low 40s, if that. If you want to find out exact salaries, I did see some photos of 1960s salary lists, but don't remember where, and am not inclined to do your research for you.
@condaggitt2 So, you are looking to replace unionized workers with people who can afford to work for free?
Who are "we"?
"Internet radio" sounds like an oxymoron.
"95% of the kids today are so clueless"--nice!
@delphineblue I (have always) love(d) you, Delphine.
I was not suggesting "busting" unions, but always thought that the DJ/Producers were all volunteers. Perhaps in the beginning? I wonder when they started getting paid. And how much they got paid. I thought that it was a "commune" of sorts. But there always seemed to be an undefined black hole of a money pit. I do understand about major & incidental physical operating expenses,
@philos.xenos @oshma You're welcome. I am sorry I am peevish. I am upset that good people are out of work, and that folks seem to think that busting unions by asking volunteers to do work, is appropriate for an organization such as Pacifica.
@oshma The email that this system sent showed exactly this
"Chris Albertson's blog has information. He says that people were being paid in the 1960s. Current salaries AFAIK were low 40s, if that."
so I came here to thank you.
Then I read the rest of your response.
@condaggitt2 Tell us where to sign up--or is this just about getting cheap/free 20-something labor?
Some of us would do it for free, for the love of it, and have mad skills. I don't know where you're fishing, but you might consider another pond.
@oshma @condaggitt2 NO replace workers with those that have a brain and can think outside the box...right now you have vastly overpaid morons who are doing a very poor job at being radio hosts.
@condaggitt2 I've "actually heard a real 'internet station' [sic]," Anybody can make one, these days!