Saturday, March 16, 2013
They say that you reap what you sow, and, in that respect, Berthold Reimers faces a major harvest these days, but it's nothing to brag about. Yes, giving WBAI the final shove into the mud is in and of itself a major dis-accomplishment, but the details and side-effects of this road to ruin are only beginning to emerge and be felt. Because WBAI has played an important part in my life and I still believe Lew Hill and his associates started something extraordinary over six decades ago, I derive no satisfaction from saying "I told you so," but I did point out early on that this man, Reimers, is a bumbling incompetent who not only lacks the qualifications for the job he was hired to do, but also has managed to make a bad situation much worse.
Even when the evidence of mismanagement and unprincipled behavior was made abundantly clear, some people continued to not only look the other way, but actually produced strenuously contrived excuses for Reimers and his cronies. We have seen this time and again in the Blue Board posts of Frank LeFever and, to a lesser extent, Jim Dingeman, but we have also had anonymous messages and snide remarks from some whose vested interest is to keep their job—host/producers who know that they cannot qualify for air time elsewhere.
This morning, on his show, Any Saturday, David Rothenberg raised some serious questions regarding the so-called Transmitter Fund drive.
He pointed out discrepancies between announced need and announced intake. Doing the math and applying logic, David ascertained with reasonable assumption that neither on-air people nor listeners are being told the truth.
Part of the problem is—on the surface—technical. With the station faced with what probably is the worst financial situation in its 53-year history, a fundraising effort has never before been more essential. Yet, weeks go by and there is no working telephone system. Eleven thousand dollars (plus a per call fee) is being paid to an outside company for taking pledge calls, but these people are not monitored by WBAI, although someone apparently gives them instructions. One such instruction has been costly and is, I believe, directly traceable to Pacifica's interim ED, Summer Reese.
When Ms. Reese visited various shows and did her initial Transmitter Fund pitches, she repeatedly emphasized the "we are beginning with $100 donations." That struck me as an idiotic, counterproductive rule to lay down and, sure enough—as David mentioned on the air—this call center for hire was actually turning down any pledges under a hundred dollars!
Incredulous prospective contributors complained about that to people at the station, so a counter order was eventually given, but how much money did WBAI lose over this? We will never know, and I bet some callers took it as a sign of WBAI having exaggerated the urgency.
Actually, to reach that conclusion, all one had to do was tune in to the station and hear Ifé, Tony Ryan, et al gobbling up hour after hour of precious air time with innocuous party music and self-serving promotions.
David also mentioned that he knew of three potential major donors and other well established people who wanted to help produce fundraising event for the station, but could not find out where to go or whom to see. As David pointed out, people who are thinking of making a major contribution, do not do so without first ascertaining that their money will be used for the intended purpose. They need facts and figures, none of which they were able to get.
Add all this up and you have a deplorable, unprofessional, highly questionable and thoroughly disorganized mess that leads directly to Berthold Reimers and, quite possibly Pacifica's Interim Executive Director. If nothing else, Ms. Reese ought to have seen for herself how incompetent Reimers is, and done something about it.
David Rothenberg also talked about direct accountability by station management to the listeners. He has been around long enough to remember the weekly Report to the Listener programs, where the manager and program heads gathered in a studio for live contact with the listener-sponsors.
I have often posted about this here, stressing the importance of management and staff communicating with those who pay to keep the station going, and citing my own experience as proof of such a show's usefulness. In the three years Reimers has been manager, only two such programs were aired and rather than hosting them, as he should have, Reimers made silly cameo appearances, one of which had him declare that WBAI is "doing very well." A deliberate deception.
David is demanding that a real Report to the Listener be aired, one on which Reimers lays it out and tells the truth, gives the figures, explains the discrepancies. I suggest that he also take calls from listeners and that even those who have tough questions be given ample time to get an answer. I further believe that such a report be heard throughout the week, in varied time slots. If there is new information, an update should be given.
Honesty is a dirty word at today's WBAI, but I think there is an urgent need for it to be reintroduced. —Chris Albertson