Thursday, October 3, 2013
The hatchet woman of KPFK
The realists among us saw it coming. The announced new approach to fundraising, one where the snake oil people take a hike and premiums actually relate to the station at its best, was too good to be true. It also came much too late—an afterthought preceded by three years of gross mismanagement, low staff morale, and fleeing listeners. The history on a stick idea was good, if not fully developed—there should have been a small, select variety of flash drives—but there were only two, as I can tell, and there was no real promotion behind them. Imagine, not a single mention on WBAI's own web site! One has the distinct sense of Pacifica's dysfunctional board deliberately killing what should be the Foundation's most important station. Of course, they are in California, WBAI is in the other end of the country, and what we have here on a local board is, with a couple of exceptions, a group of dabbling amateurs. The hit man in this final scenario is Christine Blosdale, who has returned from KPFK to finish WBAI off. Well, perhaps she isn't here in body, but those dreadful, dishonest infomercials are just as off-putting when recorded, perhaps even worse, and certainly more deceitful.
I feel sympathy for Andrew Phillips, who had to put up with Reimers, Summer Reese and other roadblocks. His morning appearances have been marred by the interference of Michael Haskins, who has been at WBAI for decades without grasping the concept that used to fuel it. Haskins is a camp follower who lately seems to have aligned himself with a faction that wanted to morph the station into a lower IQ racist outlet, which they called "community." Incidentally, it was a person of that order who played the race card on Andrew Phillips at KPFK and forced his having to take a "leave" from his job there as GM.
Getting back to the WBAI situation, Phillips has made many welcomed changes at WBAI in a very short time, but I think he should have called a press conference and laid the cards on the table. The press loves disasters, so they would show up and it would give the station an opportunity to admit having made colossal mistakes, point out what is being done to return to good radio, and stress the fact that it is a work in progress with many more changes on the horizon. This should also have been an occasion to call for volunteer hosts and producers—WBAI has for many years been sinfully oblivious to the incredible human resources New York has available. Inept management has allowed the station to limp along year after year with the same tired hosts who have big egos and imaginary proprietary rights. The stagnancy has almost become an identifying characteristic of 99.5—most of these people have nothing new to offer, they are on the air for what they themselves can get out of it, and they treat listeners as a necessary evil. Amazingly, nobody is as arrogant when it comes to the listener-supporters as Berthold Reimers, who does not take phone calls and leaves e-mail unanswered, probably unread.
Yes, I think this is really the end and while it is tragic the reality is that WBAI has been dead for a very long time—this is just the last gasp. There is nothing good about the station's demise, but a slight consolation can be found in the fact that it by default decreases the area's air pollution by cleansing it of some truly incompetent opportunists and narcissists.
Sadly, it also closes the microphone to some good people, but I'll be optimistic and assume that their talent will find find them another outlet. While they are best forgotten, I do hope that the people who are responsible for bringing WBAI down will be named and properly disgraced before they go into deserved obscurity. It is a long line that starts with Steve Post and Larry Josephson, and ends with a wimp named Berthold Reimers.