All of us on WBAI staff, paid and unpaid, fear for the station’s future: continual financial crises; the haphazard studio move to 388 Atlantic Ave.; lack of communication – all these need to be addressed. As throughout the station’s history, staff is a crucial resource for developing strategies to solve these problems.
Besides co-hosting Health Action, I serve on the WBAI Local Station Board, which is where we can influence station policy and provide input for selection and evaluation of management. It’s been a frustrating experience, with an often dysfunctional board majority hostile to staff concerns. Nonetheless, I’ve accomplished several things in alliance with like-minded staff and listeners:
• Fought against the renewal of the lease at 120 Wall Street, arguing, before Superstorm Sandy, for a move to more affordable quarters;
• When eviction from Empire State loomed and local and national management was withholding the information, pushed successfully for disclosure and establishment of a dedicated transmitter fund that averted the crisis;
• Volunteered at a board-led call-center to contact listeners who hadn’t fulfilled pledges, to build that fund;
• In collaboration with Mimi Rosenberg and others, interviewed experts in progressive radio and fundraising, and coauthored a 31-page WBAI sustainability plan (http://wbai.org/dldetail.php?doc=172);
• Repeatedly urged management to adopt approaches recommended in the report, including retaining a development consultant;
• Worked with an activist group to hold a BAI rent party that raised thousands of dollars;
• As a member of the LSB’s advisory Finance Committee, carefully scrutinized budgets, successfully challenging unrealistic income projections and unnecessary spending;
• Pushed for the bylaws-required evaluation of the General Manager, a process just now starting after four years of foot-dragging;
• Fought the board majority (including some other LSB staff members) for the full staff to directly elect its own non-LSB staff reps to crucial search committees for Program Director, rather than have the choice made for you by the three-fourths-listener LSB – unsuccessfully: unity among staff reps could have changed the outcome;
• Protested arbitrary cancellations of programs without process;
• Urged ongoing information-sharing by management with staff regarding finances, technical issues, and management appointments, and genuine collaboration with staff, especially during crises.
I will continue pursuing these concerns. Quickly finding a qualified permanent Program Director is essential, as is the hiring of a permanent Development Director. The board must begin to work with staff and management on off-air fundraising (such as crowdfunding for studio buildout) and aggressive program promotion to build listenership, ultimately allowing cutbacks in the endless fund drives.
Staff is the “secret weapon” that must be recognized – and respected – by all other parties in Pacifica if we are to save this precious resource.
I also support Vajra Kilgour, Housing Notebook co-host, diligent former board member and former GM/PD search committee member who has consistently advocated for staff interests, and Wuyi Jacobs of AfroBeat Radio, a thoughtful voice for strategic planning.
I welcome your feedback and suggestions at [email protected]
- In what ways are the station moving in a positive direction, that you would want to continue or perhaps improve? • Although the move was poorly planned, financially and in terms of staff cohesion and communication, it’s good that we’re now in one location. Now staff needs to be consulted on the technical ramp-up and studio build-out plan and the fundraising campaign for it (we need a capital campaign — not on-air — including crowdfunding).
• Mario Murillo’s programming changes brought fresh local voices and different perspectives to the air. But there are still more types of voices, particularly those of more young people, that should be added to the mix.
• The station should explore partnerships with area journalism schools to help with a reconstituted daily newscast.
• While some progress has been made on mailing premiums to listeners in a reasonable time, there’s still a long way to go. Producers should be consulted on ways to make this work, including budgeting to cover the cost of these gifts.
- In what ways are the station moving in a negative direction, that you would want to stop or change? What changes would you work for? • We must stop the unending pledge drives, particularly with huge repetition, and the commercialized nature of some premiums, particularly edible powders, etc.
• The chronic financial crisis is unnecessarily worsened by the lack of a comprehensive, cohesive sustainability plan to ramp up off-air fundraising, station promotion, and digital distribution of programming. See proposed solutions in #4 below.
• We need a permanent Program Director. The Local Station Board (LSB) refused to set up a search committee until recently, after several of us pushed hard. But my motion to have the full staff elect its own reps to the committee was voted down – with even some LSB staff members voting against it.
- What key experience, connections, skills or traits would you bring to the Local Station Board to advance the station’s mission? • I’ve served on the LSB on & off for 10 years, including 3 years when I was also on the Pacifica National Board. I’ve served on & chaired various local & national committees. My focus has been defending staff rights/input & monitoring finances. At BAI, I’ve co-produced and co-hosted Health Action since 1994 and served on the (now-disbanded) Program Council. From 2003-6, I was Editor of the WBAI Website and Folio.
• I’ve been an organizer for social justice for 35 years. My work has ranged from U.S. political prisoners to HIV/AIDS to LGBT rights, so I have a broad range of movement contacts.
• I’ve worked with various nonprofits and am skilled in writing, editing, project management, advocacy, & strategic planning.
• I believe all these experiences give me important skills for continued board service: understanding budgets; engaging in personnel searches & strategic planning; facilitating meetings; building consensus; & working toward mutual respect.
- What ideas do you have for helping the station and the Pacifica Foundation meet the financial challenges currently being faced? • In collaboration with Mimi Rosenberg and others, last year I interviewed experts in radio & fundraising, and coauthored a 31-page report offering a detailed WBAI sustainability plan (http://wbai.org/dldetail.php?doc=172). I helped compile this with plans written by board members with views that differ from mine.
• I’ve advocated that management implement the recommendations that are possible with even limited resources, but little has happened. I’ll keep pushing. There should be outreach to university programs on non-profit management, seeking their fundraising expertise. Also, we need a permanent, experienced Development Director and a short-term consultant to jumpstart cash-raising projects (explained in our report).
• Many well-known musicians and other entertainers have appeared on WBAI and can be approached about co-organizing benefit concerts, special appearances, and (for wealthier ones) large personal donations. This is a largely untapped resource that should be pursued.