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KPFA: Playing Russian roulette with all the chambers loaded

May 23, 2011

Understanding KPFA Issues: Part II

by Carol Spooner

When Hard Knock Radio, Flashpoints and Full Circle, produced by the KPFA apprenticeship program, were the KPFA shows on the chopping block, young unpaid staff members of color organized a rally held Nov. 11, 2010, to unify KPFA around its commitment to grassroots community radio. Here, Davey D, host of Hard Knock Radio, is at the mic. – Photo: Lisa Dettmer
For the past six months the people behind “KPFAWorker/SaveKPFA” have run a relentless, dishonest and destructive PR campaign – both on and off the air – against KPFA and Pacifica over the layoff last November of two KPFA staff members: Brian Edwards-Tiekert and Aimee Allison, the former co-hosts of KPFA’s Morning Show.

Once proud KPFA has become the subject of ridicule in community radio circles across the country for all its dirty laundry, aired by the so-called “professionals” who have shot their reputations to hell and aren’t employable anywhere else at this point.

KPFA was functionally bankrupt as of Sept. 30, 2010 – they had almost $200,000 more in outstanding debts than they had cash and pledges receivable to pay them with. They had lost $1.5 million over the previous four years. They had borrowed money from Pacifica’s smallest station, KPFT in Houston, to meet the Sept. 15 payroll.

Painful choices had to be made. Under these circumstances, Pacifica Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt offered all KPFA staff a voluntary termination package. Six staff members initially took it. Most KPFA staff work part time, so that reduced the “full-time-equivalent” staff by 4.1 – for an annual savings in salaries and health benefits of about $245,000. (The base union wage is $20.20 per hour, and it goes up $20 per month for every year of seniority. All staff working half time or more receive full health benefits.)

That wasn’t enough to balance the budget. They needed to cut the salaries and related expenses line by about $500,000 – or about 4.25 more “full-time-equivalents.”

I honestly don’t know what I would have done in Pacifica Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt’s place, and reasonable people can differ about that. I don’t think she cut enough, but I wasn’t the one taking the heat and the responsibility for it.

After the voluntary terminations of six of the “behind the scenes” technical, production, operations, administrative, and management employees who keep the place running – there really wasn’t anywhere to go for more cuts except programming.

So the choices were The Morning Show (Brian and Aimee, plus producers Laura Prives and Esther Manilla), Letters and Politics (Mitch Jeserich), Against the Grain (CS Soong and Sasha Lilly), Living Room (Kris Welch), Hard Knock Radio (Davey D and Anita Johnson), Flashpoints (Dennis Bernstein and Miguel Molina, plus technical producer Eric Klein), Saturday Morning Talkies (Kris Welch), The Sunday Show (Philip Maldari), the News Department (Aileen Alfandary, Mark Mericle, Christopher Martinez, Rose Ketabchi and John Hamilton) and the Music Department director (Luis Medina).

In order of seniority, those staff members are

  • Kris Welch, Living Room and Saturday Morning Talkies host and producer
  • Aileen Alfandary, News Department co-director
  • Mark Mericle, News Department co-director
  • Philip Maldari (union steward), Sunday Show host and producer
  • Dennis Bernstein, Flashpoints host and producer
  • CS Soong, Against the Grain host and producer
  • Luis Medina, Music Department director
  • Davey D, Hard Knock Radio host and producer
  • Anita Johnson, Hard Knock Radio host and producer
  • Christopher Martinez, News Department reporter
  • Sasha Lilley, Against the Grain host and producer
  • Esther Manilla (union steward), Morning Show producer
  • Miguel Molina, Flashpoints host and producer
  • Brian Edwards-Tiekert, Morning Show host
  • Laura Prive,s Morning Show producer
  • Eric Klein, Flashpoints technical producer
  • Mitch Jeserich*, Letters and Politics host and producer
  • Rose Ketabchi, News Department tech
  • Aimee Allison, Morning Show host
  • John Hamilton, News Department reporter

*Mitch is probably higher in seniority due to his time as KPFA News Sacramento reporter prior to Christopher Martinez, which isn’t taken into account in this seniority list.

Eight of them worked half time, five worked full time, one worked less than half time, and five worked between half and full time.

The union contract does not require that layoffs be done by strict seniority. The employer can skip over critical or unique positions or skills. But seniority does give a laid off employee the right to “bump” a less senior staffer out of their job in the same department if, in the judgment of management, they have the skills to do the job. Union stewards can assert seniority “bumping” rights over any other position in their department.

With the voluntary severances, the News Department had already lost Max Pringle and Hard Knock Radio had already lost Weyland Southon. Flashpoints had lost Nora Barrows-Friedman when her hours were cut earlier in the year. Flashpoints, Letters and Politics and Hard Knock Radio are national programs aired on Pacifica affiliate stations across the country. CS Soong and Sasha Lilly had already had their hours cut earlier in the year.

Any more hours cuts or layoffs in any of those programs were not possible without cancelling the program. So at least one program had to be cancelled.

What would you have done?

Engelhardt chose to cancel the Morning Show. She involuntarily laid off hosts Brian Edwards-Tiekert, Aimee Allison and producer Laura Prives. Producer Esther Manilla then chose to take the voluntary severance package so that Laura could stay on. That resulted in 1.55 full-time-equivalent staff laid off involuntarily.

I would have laid off more. Whatever you would have done, the “KPFAWorker/SaveKPFA” crowd has not been telling the straight story to help anyone to make an intelligent assessment of what Engelhardt decided to do. Instead, they’ve been putting out twisted distortions, half truths, false innuendo, outright lies and slander.

A lot of people will have to pay for that deception – not just staff who will lose their jobs in more layoffs, but all of us who rely on KPFA and Pacifica and could very well lose it.

KPFA is much more than one program or two program hosts, whether or not you liked the Morning Show or loved Brian and Aimee.

The Morning Show format was decades old. Much of KPFA’s programming had become old and tired before the layoffs last fall. Listenership had dropped by over 25 percent in the past few years; that’s why the layoffs were necessary. Most of my old friends said they never listen anymore, and young people weren’t tuning in either.

With KPFA in precarious financial condition – teetering on the edge of bankruptcy – fomenting a listener revolt was reckless, to say the least, if not sinister.

With KPFA in precarious financial condition – teetering on the edge of bankruptcy – fomenting a listener revolt was reckless, to say the least, if not sinister.

With an extra added five-day fund drive in December, the station came through the first half of this fiscal year with $68,000 more in income than expenses – not enough to pay its $190,000 in past due debts from last year, but at least not more in debt.

But with this latest May fund drive the obviously predictable has happened. Many listeners were so turned off by all the dirty laundry and nastiness or so angry about the layoffs, or both, that they chose not to donate. Instead, they are calling into the KALW fund drive and saying they “used to” donate to KPFA.

After this fund drive is over, there will not be enough cash to get through July.

Are the people behind “KPFAWorker/SaveKPFA” surprised by this? If so, they are profoundly stupid.

Was it too much to ask that the paid staff might have worked together with the unpaid staff to make the best of the layoff situation and helped to pull the station through its financial crisis?

Maybe even might have worked together to support and develop new morning programming? Might have stepped up to the plate and pitched in to help ease and explain the necessary transition in morning programming to the listeners?

Where were the long-time programmers? How come they didn’t get on in the morning to help out the volunteers who were doing their utmost? Instead, the union notified Arlene Engelhardt that no union member would appear or help with the morning drive time programming. It’s a mystery at what union meeting this resolution was adopted, and the union later disavowed it. But Davey D was the only union staff member with the guts to help the Morning Mix out occasionally on the air, despite union opposition.

Where were Kris Welch and Philip Maldari? They used to do the Morning Show together. You’d think they might have stepped up to help out. Or Dennis? Or Mitch? Or CS? Or Sasha? At least Dennis wasn’t trashing the Morning Mix volunteers and I’ve heard he was supportive behind the scenes.

But how many times did you hear Aileen Alfandary and the News Department or Mitch or CS or Sasha or Kris or Phillip or Mark complaining about the layoffs and undermining the Morning Mix volunteers who were working for free to save the station and with it their paid colleagues’ jobs?

But really, the whole “KPFAWorker/SaveKPFA” strategy has been transparent all along: rile up some listeners with manipulative and inflammatory rhetoric and discourage them from donating to the fund drive and then pressure the station manager to put Brian on the air in the morning to “save” the fund drive, urging his supporters to call in and pledge their previously withheld money – thus “demonstrating” that KPFA cannot survive without “miracle worker” Brian Edwards-Tiekert.

The whole “KPFAWorker/SaveKPFA” strategy has been transparent all along: rile up some listeners with manipulative and inflammatory rhetoric and discourage them from donating to the fund drive and then pressure the station manager to put Brian on the air in the morning to “save” the fund drive, urging his supporters to call in and pledge their previously withheld money – thus “demonstrating” that KPFA cannot survive without “miracle worker” Brian Edwards-Tiekert.

But, unfortunately, all Brian’s “vast support” isn’t enough to save this sabotaged fund drive. Too many listeners are apparently just too disgusted by now to care.

That risk was obvious to any reasonably intelligent person all along. In fact, the people behind “KPFAWorker/SaveKPFA” have been playing Russian roulette with ALL the chambers loaded.

They’ve shot themselves in the head, as well as the entire staff and all of us who care about KPFA. It remains to be seen how many have been mortally wounded. Because of their sabotage of the fund drive, there will have to be more layoffs, and whether KPFA and the Pacifica network can survive is in doubt.

Despite all its flaws, KPFA could again become a beacon for what is true and beautiful and important in life in a darkening world. It could if it is willing to let go of the past and change radically.

But despite all its flaws, KPFA could again become a beacon – a reality fix, a place to confirm that you are not crazy for not believing in the racist war machine and the economics of empire and consumption and oppression – for what is true and beautiful and important in life in a darkening world. It could if it is willing to let go of the past and change radically.

Carol Spooner, who served on the Pacifica National Board from January 2002 through January 2005 and on the KPFA Local Board from April 2000 through April 2005, was founder of the Committee to Remove the Pacifica Board and lead plaintiff on “the Listeners’ Lawsuit” from July 1999 through December 2001. She can be reached at wildrose@pon.net.


8 thoughts on “KPFA: Playing Russian roulette with all the chambers loaded

  1. anon KPFA Worker

    Sounds reasonable, except the KPFA Morning Show was hands down the most listened to local program on KPFA, and it successfully raised 3 times as much money as it cost the station in salaries + benefits.

    Reply
  2. Brian Edwards-Tieke

    If you were in Pacifica ED Arlene Engelhardt’s shoes, Carol Spooner asks, “What would you have done?”

    I would have agreed to let KPFA spread catch-up payments over three years, instead of one — which would have saved $100,000 (more than the purported savings from laying off the two hosts of the Morning Show).

    I would have agreed to start paying rent for the KPFA-owned building that my offices are in — which would have saved KPFA around $30,000/year.

    If I absolutely could not give up any money for Pacifica National, then I would have gone back to the bargaining table with KPFA’s union.

    I would have taken KPFA’s union members up on their offer to switch Medicare-eligible workers to a cheaper Medicare Advantage health plan that would provide equivalent benefits.

    I would have explained how much we had left to cut, and asked the union to work with me on across-the board wage or hour cuts that wouldn’t compromise KPFA’s ability to continue fundraising. (After all, KPFA’s workers were willing to collectively sacrifice pay to keep John Hamilton on payroll. And it’s not a foreign concept: the nonprofit Carol sits on the board of, Free Speech Radio News, has done across-the-board wage rate cuts to deal with its own shortfalls).

    I would have cut my own salary at least 20% as a show of good faith — If I were Arlene Engelhardt, I think I could probably still live comfortably on $72,000/year.

    If all else failed, I would explain the situation to KPFA’s listeners, and give them a chance to come up with something.

    Before I cut anyone, I would have figured out what they make, and what the cuts would actually save (Carol has apparently been given exaggerated numbers for how many hours per week the hosts of The Morning Show were working at the time of our layoff–probably by Arlene.)

    I would have figured out who had already taken voluntary layoffs, and what duties I needed to fill. (When she pulled the trigger, Arlene didn’t know that Morning Show producer Esther Manilla had already taken a layoff. Apparently, she’s told Carol that Esther took a buyout *after* the elimination of The Morning Show–which is false).

    When SaveKPFA raised $63,000 in pledges to support the return of The Morning Show, I would have gratefully accepted the pledges and reversed the layoffs–on a temporary basis, if nothing else–rather than spending over $60,000 paying management attorneys to defend layoffs I wanted to avoid in the first place.

    Here’s what I would NOT have done: I would not, one month after layoffs made for purported reasons of financial necessity, have hired a personal friend to work as KPFA’s Program Director for $10,000/year more than budgeted.

    Of course — that’s me. I’d be interested in keeping good programming on the air, maintaining KPFA’s ability to fundraise, and keeping good faith with the station’s staff and listener-supporters. I would have been pretty motivated to avoid cutting a program that raised one out of every four dollars that come in during fund drives.

    I think Arlene, and Carol, had a different agenda. Both had strong differences with those of us working on the show, me in particular. Both probably saw an opportunity to eliminate some political opposition within the station. And both probably didn’t think it would cost that much money.

    Carol has for a long time been critical of strip programming (programs produced by the same people every day) — she thinks KPFA has too much of it. She and Arlene both have said they believe that the only reason The Morning Show raised so much money was because it was in a good timeslot–not because it was a particularly good program, or the people working on it did a particularly good job. Anything, to her thinking, could perform equally well.

    So they put anything on. A patchwork of different hosts every day, largely chosen on the basis of their political allegiances. A structure that didn’t really allow the new program to respond to news developments in a timely fashion — at exactly the time of the day when listeners want breaking news and analysis. According to Carol’s logic, the new program should have performed just as well–or better–than The Morning Show. In fact, the tune-out for that hour was instant, and dramatic.

    Then they went through a fund drive. Predictably, fundraising during the 8:AM hour dropped by more than 50%.

    Of course, that contradicts Carol’s ideology. So she’s doubled down: blame the people who didn’t want the Morning Show cut in the first place — accuse them of telling people not to give.

    Bullshit.

    Go to the webpages of savekpfa.org and kpfaworker.org. Both have been telling people to support KPFA since all the tumult went down six months ago. KPFAworker.org has raised over $9,000 in challenge funds, off-air, to support KPFA’s ailing fund drive.

    Look at the pattern of pledges: the drop in fundraising at KPFA hasn’t been across the boards. Donations are up, year-over-year, for The Evening News, for Letters and Politics, for the annual Grateful Dead Marathon. The major drops are during precisely those hours Arlene re-programmed.

    Reply
  3. Chris Stehlik repost

    Carol Spooner’s post has unsupported accusations, needless vitirol and at the end contradicts itself. It’s a sad response to a pledge drive in which the ‘chickens’ of Pacifica National’s actions have ‘come home to roost’.
    I am at home and so unable to look up exact figures but I can say the following(quite a bit actually).
    Several times, Carol accuses Save KPFA of lying or being dishonest, but she never states any specific lies or debunks them. Not one.

    She says that KPFA was ‘functionally bankrupt’, which is a made up term that can mead whatever anyone wants it to mean. Is a person with a $150,000/yr salary, and $200,000 in the bank but a $500,000 mortgage and a $40,000 car loan functionally bankrupt? Their debts outweigh their assets…

    On financial matters, she is selective with her facts, she mentions KPFA borrowing from KPFT for a payroll, but not that A) it was repaid with 4 weeks,
    B) Shortly after that, KPFA was directed by Pacifica National to loan WPFW money to cover their payroll. A loan that now in May 2011, 8 months later still has not been repaid. So we were ‘functionally bankrupt’ and yet able to cover others payroll. C) We needed to borrow because Pacifica had used a $150,000 CD of KPFA’s as collateral for a line of credit without telling us, so we couldn’t use that money. This never comes out when Carol Spooner, or Lavarn, or Tracey Rosenberg brings up the point. It doesn’t fit the narrative of financial irresponsibility at KPFA. They neatly avoid the issue of financial irresponsibility at Pacifica National.

    Carol says “Painful choices had to be made” and lists the paid staff and asks “what would you have done?” and states “at least one program had to be cancelled”. That is where she is wrong. She was not at those budget meetings. I was. I was at the meetings and side meetings. Several people, including me, came up with a budget that would have avoided any involuntary layoffs. It’s right here. http://www.savekpfa.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/0
    It was rejected out of hand by the National Board and Arlene refused to support it. They considered job cuts to be the ONLY valid way of saving money.

    Carol is right in one thing, The union contract does say that layoffs need not be strictly by seniority. This means that Arlene actively and explicitly choose to cancel the Morning Show, without consulting the KPFA interim GM and Pacifica HR director Ahmad Anderson. She choose to cancel the top fundraising show. The show that made 3x what it cost to produce (those ‘big’ union salaries included), when most shows barely covered their own costs.They replaced it with a quickly put together rotating groups of hosts, without doing any forward publicity.

    And having done that, Were they shocked to see listeners complain, cancel their pledges leave in droves (and I had to listen to many of those complaints and process all those cancellations). I will answer in the way that Carol Spooner does and quote her statement to the very same drop in fundraising “If so, They were profoundly stupid”.

    Lastly Carol does the mind boggingly rhetorical backflip of chiding the paid staff for not having done more to raise funds.
    Earlier in the post, she says “I would have laid off more” (people than Arlene had ), and now she chides those same people, some of which she would have laid off for not doing more. Mitch has raised more since the layoffs than he has ever raised. Brian, who had several weeks severance and vacation pay to cover himself for a job search, fought for his job back and has stated publicly that people should NOT withhold pledges but should pledge because the station is an important resource and has been pitching when ever given the opportunity. His only pitch in the 8am slot of the current drive brought in about $7,000 that hour, more than twice the average. Save KPFA has been pushing people to donate (no such push has come from the other faction). Yet these are the people that Carol suggests she might have laid off. These are the people labeled as disruptive and possibly refereed to as ‘fifth columnist’ with ‘divisive’ agendas.

    She claims lies but offers no examples, selectively chooses financial data that serves her point and excludes context that doesn’t, says she would have laid off more people and then accuses those people of sabotaging their own livelihoods.

    “But despite all its flaws, KPFA could again become a true beacon – a reality fix, a place to confirm that you are not crazy for not believing in the racist war machine and the economics of empire and consumption and oppression ”
    I agree, but not if it’s going to fire and/or disrespect the people who have been doing just that all along.

    Reply
  4. KPFA Worker repost

    There is some major misinformation in Carol’s piece — I don’t know if all of it comes from her or if she’s just re-transmitting misinformation from Pacifica National.

    Here’s the biggest: “KPFA was functionally bankrupt as of 9/30/10 ”

    According to the Pacifica Foundation’s independent auditor’s report, on 9/30/10, KPFA’s total assets exceeded its total liabilities by $4.3 MILLION DOLLARS — making KPFA the wealthiest station owned by Pacifica.

    Borrowing money for two weeks to pay bills represents a temporary liquidity problem, not insolvency. Carol knows the difference, and she has a copy of the auditor’s report — there no excuse for her throwing the word “bankrupt” around. For someone who says she’s concerned alarmism might might hurt the station’s fundraising prospects, this is rank hypocrisy.

    Here’s a doozy:
    “[Engelhardt] involuntarily laid off hosts Brian Edwards-Tiekert, Aimee Allison and producer Laura Prives. Producer Esther Manilla then chose to take the voluntary severance package so that Laura could stay on.”

    1) Esther Manilla put in for a voluntary layoff *before* the Morning Show got axed, not after. (Engelhardt apparently did not know Manilla was one of the people who’d agreed to leave the station when Engelhardt issued layoff notices–which means she didn’t bother to review who had taken voluntary layoffs, what their positions were, and whether she’d need to cover their duties. Axing the Morning Show was the act of someone who had an agenda — not someone carefully weighing her situation.)
    2) When Esther Manilla found out her Morning Show colleagues had been laid off, and confronted Engelhardt with the information that Esther herself had already taken a severance package, Esther told Engelhardt that *Brian Edwards-Tiekert* had more seniority than Laura Prives, and he should be re-instated first, per the seniority provisions of the union contract. Engelhardt rejected that. Esther’s account of this interaction is quite public, and posted here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQCcGa5vBUk
    3) The fact that Engelhardt reinstated Laura Prives, without laying off anyone else to zero the cost of the reinstatement, shows that she wasn’t working toward a fixed financial target, she was just making things up as she went along and pursuing a political vendetta against The Morning Show.

    Finally, I don’t think Carol actually knows she’s got this one wrong, but it’s illuminating:

    “That resulted in 1.55 fte staff laid off involuntarily.”

    Aimee Allison and Brian Edwards-Tiekert had both already had their pay cut to 27 hours per week earlier in the year. That adds up to 1.35 FTE., not 1.55 FTE. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s telling. Carol presumably has this number wrong because Engelhardt had the number wrong. Which means she didn’t bother to get good numbers for how much money the layoffs would “save” before she dropped the axe.

    Reply
  5. mark

    There is some major misinformation in Carol’s piece — I don’t know if all of it comes from her or if she’s just re-transmitting misinformation from Pacifica National.

    Here’s the biggest: “KPFA was functionally bankrupt as of 9/30/10 ”

    According to the Pacifica Foundation’s independent auditor’s report, on 9/30/10, KPFA’s total assets exceeded its total liabilities by $4.3 MILLION DOLLARS — making KPFA the wealthiest station owned by Pacifica.

    Borrowing money for two weeks to pay bills represents a temporary liquidity problem, not insolvency. Carol knows the difference, and she has a copy of the auditor’s report — there no excuse for her throwing the word “bankrupt” around. For someone who says she’s concerned alarmism might might hurt the station’s fundraising prospects, this is rank hypocrisy.

    Here’s a doozy:
    “[Engelhardt] involuntarily laid off hosts Brian Edwards-Tiekert, Aimee Allison and producer Laura Prives. Producer Esther Manilla then chose to take the voluntary severance package so that Laura could stay on.”

    1) Esther Manilla put in for a voluntary layoff *before* the Morning Show got axed, not after. (Engelhardt apparently did not know Manilla was one of the people who’d agreed to leave the station when Engelhardt issued layoff notices–which means she didn’t bother to review who had taken voluntary layoffs, what their positions were, and whether she’d need to cover their duties. Axing the Morning Show was the act of someone who had an agenda — not someone carefully weighing her situation.)
    2) When Esther Manilla found out her Morning Show colleagues had been laid off, and confronted Engelhardt with the information that Esther herself had already taken a severance package, Esther told Engelhardt that *Brian Edwards-Tiekert* had more seniority than Laura Prives, and he should be re-instated first, per the seniority provisions of the union contract. Engelhardt rejected that. Esther’s account of this interaction is quite public, and posted here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQCcGa5vBUk
    3) The fact that Engelhardt reinstated Laura Prives, without laying off anyone else to zero the cost of the reinstatement, shows that she wasn’t working toward a fixed financial target, she was just making things up as she went along and pursuing a political vendetta against The Morning Show.

    Finally, I don’t think Carol actually knows she’s got this one wrong, but it’s illuminating:

    “That resulted in 1.55 fte staff laid off involuntarily.”

    Aimee Allison and Brian Edwards-Tiekert had both already had their pay cut to 27 hours per week earlier in the year. That adds up to 1.35 FTE., not 1.55 FTE. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s telling. Carol presumably has this number wrong because Engelhardt had the number wrong. Which means she didn’t bother to get good numbers for how much money the layoffs would “save” before she dropped the axe.

    Reply
  6. repost

    What I would do to Save KPFA, by Brian Edwards-Tiekert

    If you were in Pacifica ED Arlene Engelhardt’s shoes, Carol Spooner asks, “What would you have done?”

    I would have agreed to let KPFA spread catch-up payments over three years, instead of one—which would have saved $100,000 (more than the purported savings from laying off the two hosts of the Morning Show).

    I would have agreed to start paying rent for the KPFA-owned building that my offices are in—which would have saved KPFA around $30,000/year.

    If I absolutely could not give up any money for Pacifica National, then I would have gone back to the bargaining table with KPFA’s union.

    I would have taken KPFA’s union members up on their offer to switch Medicare-eligible workers to a cheaper Medicare Advantage health plan that would provide equivalent benefits.

    An explanation

    I would have explained how much we had left to cut, and asked the union to work with me on across-the board wage or hour cuts that wouldn’t compromise KPFA’s ability to continue fundraising. After all, KPFA’s workers were willing to collectively sacrifice pay to keep John Hamilton on payroll. And it’s not a foreign concept: the nonprofit Carol sits on the board of, Free Speech Radio News, has done across-the-board wage rate cuts to deal with its own shortfalls.

    I would have cut my own salary at least 20% as a show of good faith. If I were Arlene Engelhardt, I think I could probably still live comfortably on $72,000/year.

    If all else failed, I would explain the situation to KPFA’s listeners, and give them a chance to come up with something.

    When SaveKPFA raised $63,000 in pledges to support the return of The Morning Show, I would have gratefully accepted the pledges and reversed the layoffs—on a temporary basis, if nothing else—rather than spending over $60,000 paying management attorneys to defend layoffs I wanted to avoid in the first place.

    A different agenda

    Of course—that’s me. I’d be interested in keeping good programming on the air, maintaining KPFA’s ability to fund raise, and keeping good faith with the station’s staff and listener-supporters. I would have been pretty motivated to avoid cutting a program that raised one out of every four dollars that come in during fund drives.

    I think Arlene, and Carol, had a different agenda. Both had strong differences with those of us working on the show, me in particular. Both probably saw an opportunity to eliminate some political opposition within the station. And both probably didn’t think it would cost that much money.

    Carol has for a long time been critical of strip programming (programs produced by the same people every day)—she thinks KPFA has too much of it. She and Arlene both have said they believe that the only reason The Morning Show raised so much money was because it was in a good time slot—not because it was a particularly good program, or the people working on it did a particularly good job. Anything, to her thinking, could perform equally well.

    So they put anything on. A patchwork of different hosts every day, largely chosen on the basis of their political allegiances. A structure that didn’t really allow the new program to respond to news developments in a timely fashion—at exactly the time of the day when listeners want breaking news and analysis. According to Carol’s logic, the new program should have performed just as well—or better—than The Morning Show. In fact, the tune-out for that hour was instant, and dramatic.

    Then they went through a fund drive. Predictably, fundraising during the 8:AM hour dropped by more than 50%.

    Of course, that contradicts Carol’s ideology. So she’s doubled down: blame the people who didn’t want The Morning Show cut in the first place—accuse them of telling people not to give.

    That’s cynical.

    Go to the web pages of savekpfa.org and kpfaworker.org. Both have been telling people to support KPFA since all the tumult went down six months ago. KPFAworker.org has raised over $13,000 in challenge funds, off-air, to support KPFA’s ailing fund drive.

    Look at the pattern of pledges: the drop in fundraising at KPFA hasn’t been across the boards. Donations are up, year-over-year, for The Evening News, for Letters and Politics, for the annual Grateful Dead Marathon. The major drops are during precisely those hours Arlene re-programmed.

    Compare it to 7:AM: Democracy Now! is raising only slightly less than The Morning Show did at that hour. The drop off is nowhere near as dramatic as the time slot Arlene replaced with her patchwork. Which suggests, to me, that there is some value to having the consistency of a strip program covering current events in drive time.

    But what do I know?

    MORE: http://www.radiosurvivor.com/2011/05/24/what-i-wo

    Reply
  7. Tracy Jefferson

    Good grief. The reason the fund drive tanked in the morning is because of the programming upheaval from an informative, well produced show with engaging hosts to a mish mash that could not sustain an audience for the entirety of morning drivve. No, NOT just anything can do well in the most listened-to slot. But amateur programming of truther crap few people will remain tuned in for also hurts the programs that follow. It's amazing that Letters and Politics did as well as it did with its lead in juggled as badly as it was. Carol, bless her heart, is wrong here. The fund drive is not going badly because of the internal struggle, which she herself helped to perpetuate after 1999, but because the anchor of the day has been upended and filled with inferior programming. Sorry, it's as simple as that.

    Reply

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