An unvarnished blog that dips into the past and comments
on the present of WBAI-FM, a once significant, intelligent New York
radio station that has chronically suffered abuse from within and now
nears extinction. Your comments are welcomed and will not be censored.
Since the middle of the week, when some of us waited to hear what went down at the Tuesday night meetings, there have been a few rumors and suggestions. The latter range from wishful thinking to practical ideas that could work if it wasn't for time running out. During all this, Reimers and his minions are acting as if this very real crisis were nothing more than an aggressive, pesky fly circling above the WBAI soup bowl.
A couple of sensible, appealing suggestions came from anonymous posters to the BlueBoard and a short, to-the-point one was submitted by Delphine Blue (you will find that one at the bottom of this post.
There were all kinds of reactions to these ideas. Some were sound, others not so, it seemed to me. Here is one of the latter and the rather lengthy reaction I had. Call it a tirade, call it redundant, call it Shanika...I hope you read it.
"A key problem in all this is not having steady
drive time hosts... with Hugh, Esther and Robert possibly gone their (sic) needs to [be?] a lot of debate as to what to
do." —Jim Dingeman (on the BlueBoard)
Dropping Hamilton, Armah and Knight is no loss to WBAI and
its listeners—quite the contrary is true, for it is imperative that the station
return to the principle upon which Pacifica was founded. Hamilton and Armah
feed their myopic messages to a very small segment of WBAI's remaining
audience: people of color, but only those who share a narrow view of the world.
The fact that WBAI has also discouraged "black and brown" independent
thinkers is often overlooked. Using an ancestral yardstick to focus on one
particular segment of the area's population is wrong, per se, but further narrowing one's target down to a faction within
that group is utterly ludicrous. Whether by design or incompetence, WBAI's
audience has been dumbed down over the years. So much so, that it would accept
an Ifé, a Kathy Davis, a numerologist, a DiMehle, a Geoff Brady, and a clammy
handful of health "experts." primed to be spoon fed over-priced/under
performing bogus "cures", digitalized doomsday theories, and
pre-recorded pseudo spirituality, the station's most vulnerable listeners
became its victims in a reprehensible practice designed to keep on the air,
year after year, the opportunists and hustlers we all can name.
That includes Robert Knight, whose case is slightly different.
He blathers on and on, but not about an imagined "community," his
favorite topic is his love for self and hate for the man he voted for in 2009.
Knight is driven by an agenda, but it is not—as one might gather from listening
to the downloads that comprise most of his programs—totally sparked by an
abiding hate for the current administration. I admit that I once thought that
was his motivation, but I have come to realize that Robert Knight is a
desperate man making a last-ditch effort to capture what he once apparently came
close to possessing: a meaningful career in the world of journalism.
They tell me that he showed promise when he first came to
WBAI, some forty years ago, but he overestimated his own talent, which included
a fair amount of bamboozling. Now
he is the ambulance chaser who Googles and throws his downloads on the air to
satisfy his own biases, fill time slots and cause a stir that might turn a
spotlight his way. The problem is that it isn't working out for him. You may
hear a faint "amen" from the small corner choir he preaches to, but
gone with his windbaggery is whatever integrity he may once have had. Knight
may himself believe that he is a journalist serving “cutting edge” news as a
network anchor, but I think he knows that it’s all smoke and mirrors.
Sad, really, but self-inflicted.
All of this worked for far too long, but there came a time
when WBAI's management, front-office cronies, and—very likely—Pacifica's board could
no longer obscure the fact that listeners were abandoning the station in droves
and outrageous bills were piling up like traffic in a flash fog.
So, i.m.h.o., dumping the three salaried, pretentious hosts,
Hamilton, Armah and Knight is a no-brainer. I am not so sure that WBAI needs to
think in terms of "drive time," anyway.
Were it not for the fact that racist, polarizing program
content of a political nature has begun to characterize a schedule that also
includes an overdose of insipid music programs, WBAI might have retained
listeners whose need for intelligent radio brought them to 99.5 in the first
place. They came and tended to stay, many even transferring their enthusiasm to
Now the lure is double helix water, homo-friendly guardian
angels, hours of alarmist crap on DVDs, heavenly shampoo, etc. worthless
products that too often are not delivered to the paying listener, bear no
relationship to Pacifica's stated mission, and do not inspire return visits.
WBAI's current audience is not only small, it is nomadic.
The scramble to come up with a quick rescue plan at this
stage demonstrates how disorganized and inept local and national management has
It is mind-boggling to think that there are a manager and
board members who have been so blind for so long to the inevitable outcome. I
see the most obvious victims of these games (for that is what they are) as the
loyal listeners who gave their financial support, but there is another group
that deserves our concern—perhaps even more: the hosts and program producers
whose work and spirit is in keeping with Pacifica’s mission and the intelligent
listener’s expectations. I hope they will be able to find another outlet for
their talent and keep alive that odd enthusiasm that helped them survive the
abuse and pettiness that polluted the WBAI work environment.
Delphine was one such person. She made a commendable
statement when she quit WBAI and she also deserves our admiration for coming up
with a simple, no-nonsense, do-able recovery plan that, alas, does not have
time on its side.
Delphine Blue's proposal:
Date: Friday, July 5, 2013, 12:29 PM
I think WBAI should go to recordings from the Pacifica Archives exclusively for 2
weeks to one month in order to re-establish the identity of the station. That would mean round the clock, exclusively, for two weeks to a month. After which a new grid would be introduced. The entire new grid must be in place prior to its launch.
•No TBA slots sitting idle. No cart before the horse grid.
• No paid on-air hosts other than the news dept.
• The initiation of underwriting. This means a 10 second or shorter announcement saying the name of the underwriting entity.
• No premiums offered unless they are in house.
My 4 cents. Feel free to argue amongst yourselves.