After six years of control by people who know very little about radio or community issues but a lot about how very much they want to be fully in charge of the station, WBAI is struggling as never before. Some of us warned that allowing this group to have its way would not lead to the positive outcomes they promised – and it clearly has not. Longer and more frequent membership drives fail to yield what is needed or projected, as fired listeners and staff have drifted away. It’s time for a new approach – one that includes much more real and direct engagement with the staff in selecting management and in decisions about how the 24-7 studio is structured, and much less hucksterism with our listeners in raising funds.
Having served on GM and PD search committees over this same period, I know that except for Mario Murillo (who, sadly, was interim and is gone), candidates for leadership positions have not been anywhere near up to the standards of those who were expelled. Nevertheless, while the processes of these committees were problematic, and in spite of the outcomes, I was able to work with “the other side” in a reasonably harmonious manner.
During part of my two terms on the LSB (2006-12), I served as board chair, and in this capacity ran meetings sufficiently well that the highly dramatized calls for police and other security became part of history. I have studied non-confrontational ways of healing conflicts and have taught conflict resolution; I will apply those skills to help transform the counterproductive dynamics of WBAI’s board meetings.
Some of my participation at the station was curtailed by policies put in place by those who took over in 2009: censorship in the pledge room drove me out of it, and censorship of the Community Bulletin Board drove all its staff away. Since then, I’ve retired from working for a living, and am now available to devote more time to WBAI. In a recent fund drive, I developed and offered a premium that did well, and I will continue such efforts. If elected, I’ll urge my board colleagues to join me in off-air fundraising to reduce fund drive pressure. Apart from co-producing and co-hosting “Housing Notebook,” I remain very active in the housing movement, and am still a vice chair of the Metropolitan Council on Housing.
Bob Lederer, of “Health Action,” is also running as a staff candidate. Knowledgeable, hardworking, and collaborative (both locally and on national committees), he’s always diligent about defending the rights and interests of producers and all staff. In addition to the issues I’ve raised above, I share this focus and ask for your vote with Bob as your first choice and me as your second. I also strongly recommend that Wuyi Jacobs (“AfroBeat Radio”) be ranked high. His respectful approach is based on consensus building, and this is something from which the board can benefit.
Please contact me with your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- In what ways are the station moving in a positive direction, that you would want to continue or perhaps improve? While I was very grateful for the studios at CCNY that allowed all producers to be on air, it’s good that the station is once more under one roof. As soon as a real studio can be built at 388, it’ll be even better. The return to more live, local programming under Mario Murillo has been great, but we need more of it, and more programming that appeals to new audiences and a younger demographic in the realms of both arts and public affairs. This means that we need a program director who is not afraid to move in an ever more progressive direction, bringing in and training producers who can bridge the gaps among the many and diverse communities of New York and build new followings of their own. WBAI needs to become once again the vital organizing tool and cultural bastion it was for so many years. In addition, we need to pursue more off-air fundraising and focus more consistently, in on-air fundraising, on premiums that really educate and inform.
- 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? Endless on-air fundraising, with an emphasis on commercialized premiums that appeal to people’s fear of death with promises of longevity and perfect health, is not good. Reliance on endless rebroadcasts of the same pitches is likewise unhealthy. I’d like to help identify premiums that speak to the most pressing issues of the day and put genuinely useful information into our listeners’ hands. Serious off-air fundraising would help not only monetarily, but also build WBAI’s public profile. And although some of the programs out of California are good, we could replace others with local ones that better represent our area’s needs. I’d like more opportunities for staff to get together informally to iron out some of the differences and correct misinformation arising out of divisive board campaigns, and to allow for unexpected collaborations that could allow all our audiences to gain better perspectives.
- What key experience, connections, skills or traits would you bring to the Local Station Board to advance the station’s mission? I have long experience as a tenant organizer and member of the board of directors of the Metropolitan Council on Housing, and know how healthy organizations work. I’ve studied organizing and conflict resolution, and as chair of the Local Station Board from 2004 to 2008, I was able to run meetings at a level of civility, or at least reduced chaos, such that the highly dramatized calls for police and other security became part of history. I’m also a published writer and translator, and worked for a number of years as a part-time Spanish-language interpreter in public hospitals in New York. I have strong communications skills. I’ve been on a spiritual path for three and a half decades and can always bring whatever peace and insight I’ve gained there to any situation: I’ve designed and given a workshop for spiritual healing of the effects of racism, which, beyond being non-confrontational, was actually healing.
- What ideas do you have for helping the station and the Pacifica Foundation meet the financial challenges currently being faced? Helping the station out of its financial doldrums is going to take a multi-pronged approach. First, more local programming that is more engaging to more people in more different demographics; I don’t buy the notion that this kind of programming “balkanizes” the station. Each program can build a following that will “pay off” at fundraising time – that is, if the producers can offer premiums that really speak to their audience. This is another “prong”: higher-quality premiums offered by producers who can speak both to their own apparent constituencies and to the wider audience. Off-air fundraising should be actively promoted and encouraged, not only for financial reasons, but also because it increases the station’s visibility. So many people need WBAI, but so few people know we exist. We are a treasure to be shared, not hoarded!