Wednesday, September 25, 2013

When no news is bad news...

Yes, Berthold Reimers, the whimpering, rarely seen GM arrived 15 minutes into the broadcast, as is his wont, and contributed absolutely nothing as he mumbled on about his "BAI Buddy" system and mentioned hurricane Sandy countless times. He still won't take responsibility for his own mismanagement, so Sandy did it.

The rumors that preceded this broadcast turned out to be empty, but those of us who predicted that nothing new would be discussed hit the nail on the head. There was no news regarding the programming, except by inference. A couple of callers pointed out how stale WBAI sounds—one noted the cavalier attitude hosts have when it comes to the listeners, another suggested that host/producers who abuse the station's air by plugging their own commercial ventures ought to pay the station a percentage of that money. Yet another caller felt that out-and-out commercials should be sold, and there was a call for Reimers' dismissal.

None of this was well received by Reimers and Phillips, the former just mumbling some more and Phillips skirting the issue, but admitting that the station's handling of premiums is far from acceptable.

What struck me was the absence of any real program assessment. We all know that WBAI has dumped such Pacifica inappropriate host/producers as Esther Armah, Robert Knight and Kathy Davis, as well as Hugh Hamilton, who was fast becoming a liability, but that was done under the purse-string tightening umbrella. The fact that the absence and/or near-absence of these hosts has helped restore the station'a image is not acknowledged by Phillips, although he surely knows that to be the case. 

As Andrew Phillips connotes his dissatisfaction with much of the moldy program inventory he inherited, and replaces some of it with better shows from sister stations, he continues
to leave untouched such earsores as "In Other News," Geoff Brady's outrageously irresponsible fear-mongering weekly, and that numerology scam conducted by Z. Starman. I won't even go into the quack chorus led by Gary Null or the IfĂ©-Hooper-Ryan hours of Muzak-cum-hiphop BLS blandness.

I also found it disturbing that there was no discussion of the tremendous resource of talent New York City is, and how WBAI has left it untapped for several decades. In the early years, WBAI took full advantage of what great minds (in virtually every field) were out there and eager to approach our microphones. They were not out to make money on WBAI, they just wanted to avail themselves of a valuable platform for their thoughts and expressions. WBAI was a welcomed steppingstone to the successful future many of them would subsequently enjoy, so the truth is that lack of money is not standing in the way of the station's intellectual progress, egos, greed and complacency are the roadblocks.

If you hear this morning's report, please use the comment option (below) to share your opinion.


  1. I only listened to the first ten minutes, before Berthold came on. Your summary is more than enough for me -- sounds like a waste of an hour.

  2. Shooting from the hip:

    I’d never heard Reimers before. He seems to be out of his depth, and to have focused excessively on the minutiae. That said, I was struck by the fact that his was the voice raised to remind a caller that Pacifica was not intended to be primarily a ‘progressive-leftist’ advocacy organization, but to cover the arts at least as much if not more than political affairs.

    He seemed to me quite sincere in this, however ineffective he may have proven to be, and I found that interesting.

    The most effecitvely critical and communicative caller, in my judgement, was the lone woman caller (I don’t believe she had time to give her name) at the close of the program.

    On the whole, though, I continue to see no hope here. At ‘best’ WBAI and Pacifica may survive in desperate and/or marginal fashion airing programs of little or no merit and of little or no interest to me.

    They will likely continue to imagine they matter precisely because they’re so intinitely marginal.

    The desperate situation clearly has not served as a wake-up call – it’s the usual case of failed management which is unable to perceive and address core problems because… well, because it’s failed management.

    The tea-party fanatics will likely meet the same end in time, of course, and I’ll quietly celebrate that fact (perhaps not so quietly), but one has to acknowledge, I think, that the left has a particular talent or affinity for this sort of self-consuming self-obsessed intinitely-self-referential folly – the whole Luftmensch thing, I suppose.

    I once asked a student from the Jewish Theological Seminary if there were any Jewish equivalent of the Roman Catholic notion of an ‘overscrupulous conscience’ – the excessive reexamination of shortcomings and failings. He thought about it a moment and then said, ‘Not really, not exactly, I think, but ‘Genug’ might come close.’

    We both laughed.


    ~ Indigo Pirate

  3. The Armah person I am not familiar with, I actually liked Hamilton and I stay here the absolutely terrible Kathy Davis mooning on and on about angels and visions. Reimers is just a name to me but I would point out that shifting the blame the way he did is a familiar tactic of a failed administration. I can think of several example s of this but I recall years ago when the odious Koch was running for a third term as Mayor and the cities infrastructure was falling apart he still tried to blame his predecessors, although he had been mayor for ten years. Well, at least in that case, he was trounced!

  4. I used to find Hamilton interesting, although his affected manner of speaking always made me cringe. Lately, however, I noticed that he was falling in line with a group of agenda-driven WBAI producer/hosts who sought to morph the station into a black outlet and had, in fact, disproportionately increased the number of alienated listeners. Objectivity took a back seat to racially-based emphases, often sounded contrived, and was beginning to erode Hamilton's credibility

    Esther Armah, host of Wakeup Call, was also overemphasizing black issues (real and imagined), but—apart from that—she was i.m.o. a misfit on a show that should be helmed by a real New Yorker (she is an African Londoner) with ingrained knowledge of the city and surrounding area.

  5. I notice that a caller suggested firing Reimers. He/she apparently wasn't the same caller who made the same suggestion in one of Philips' first reports to the listeners.

    I liked Hamilton when I first heard him about a dozen years ago. He seemed--as he seems now--very knowledgeable about the issues. I didn't even mind his way of speaking: at he's articulate and his diction is clear. But, as Chris notes, he fell into line with the ones who seemed bent on turning BAI into a black station. That may be the reason why, as time passed, he seemed less and less capable of hosting a dialogue or discussion. He seemed to treat guests or callers as people who interrupted his monologue.

    As for Armah: You're right about her lack of knowledge about New York. Moreover, as I've said in other comments, I didn't find her convincing as a voice of African Americans or even Caribbean Blacks, as she she not only is an African Londoner, she also comes from more privilege than most Af Ams or Carib Blacks--or, for that matter, most white, Latino or Asian people.

  6. i was trying to find out how bob fass was and couldn't find anyplace to ask - then i discovered your blog(s) and how far back from the future wbai has come and gone - and i fondly thought of the days when you, bob fass, larry josephson and steve post shared the air along with dale minor and other wonderful folks that i no longer remember.-
    how wonderful the station was then.

    1. When last I heard, a couple of days ago, Bob was still in the hospital. They apparently want him to undergo a procedure, just to play it safe. It has to do with his heart, but I am told that it is fairly routine—let us hope keep him in our thoughts. He is younger than I (I am 82) but none of us are immune to aging. Yesterday, I spoke to Richard Lamparski (you may remember his "Whatever Became of? interviews) who is my age and has astonished his doctor by not needing glasses, not even for reading. I wish I could say the same—those NYT Xword puzzle numbers became blurs about a decade ago.

      Thank you for the comments.