Monday, December 23, 2013

Heading for the abyss, it's Null speed ahead!

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A note from Berthold Reimers that conflicts with figures given earlier by R. Paul Martin. I think this typically optimistic message should be taken with a rather large grain of salt. That has generally proven to be good advice. Reimers is gilding his lily, as it were. Watch out for the "uniformer" fire officers! It looks like WBAI is the subject of a fire sale.

Dear colleagues,
We just wanted to take a minute to share with you the results of the Holiday Pledge Drive. Thanks to all of our collective efforts we were able to register more than $204,000 in pledges, well above the $132,000 budgeted goal. We would like to recognize staff members Andrea Katz, Tony Ryan, Michael Haskins, Reggie Johnson, Shawn  Rhodes, Max Schmid and Danny Williams for their efforts. Critical to the success of drive were the volunteers, coordinated by Mitch Cohen and Jim Dingman, who mailed out thousands of premiums. While WBAI still faces significant fiscal challenges, there are reasons to be hopeful. We were able to make these numbers without having to extend into the weekend and beyond.

In addition, sizeable gifts from the City's Uniformer Fire Officers, CWA Local 1180, DC 37's Local 768 indicate we are making significant in roads with the City's labor unions. After the holidays we will have more details about our one day Martin Luther King Day drive on Monday January 20, 2014 and our winter pledge cycle that starts on  Monday February 3, 2014 and ends on Sunday March 2, 2014.

Thanks again for all of your hard work.
Berthold Reimers 
General Manager
Robert Hennelly
Interim Program Director

Here's R. Paul Martin's table and assessment. Not quite as optimistic...

The 'thon ended short of goal, but by $17,238, which is less than one day's projected tally.

Nothing's easy with this stuff. On the one hand we didn't make goal, on the other hand we only missed it by less than 8%. But we have past expenses. And Pacifica is looking to see how self sustaining we can be. And then there's the nature of the big premiums that made up the bulk of this 'thon's tally. And what's going to happen with programming? Clearly the regular programming is not able to support the station.

A graphic of the final result is below. To me it is not clear at this point that WBAI can be self sustaining for the rest of FY14. The condition of the rest of Pacifica is crucial for figuring out how much time WBAI has to get into a condition where it can be self sustaining. If the rest of Pacifica is in bad shape there will not be any time and a desperation PSOA becomes a more likely possibility. The prospect of Pacifica taking out a loan to meet WBAI's short term expenses, which would probably require some real estate as collateral, and which would also require interest payments, is not what one could call an easy sell.

I do not know how the other stations are doing with their December mini-thons. I do not know what the PNB is discussing in its executive sessions on the PSOA topic.


  1. My question is this - What accounts for the big big discrepancy in the "Goals" reported by these two different sources?

    1. There is a reason why I call WBAI "random radio:—too many self-appointed "experts," and no coordination. Throw in the ad libs that come from Pacifica and it adds up to fatal confusion.

  2. I gotta admit, Reimers has a talent few of us have: He can make Paul Martin seem like a forthright paragon of reason.

    As for the unions' bullying of BAI: I was unaware of it until now but it doesn't surprise me. I grew up in a neighborhood full of blue-collar union workers, and most of my adult male relatives were among them. As much as I love them, we never were on the same page, at least politically. Let's just say that most union members were not progressives: They supported the Vietnam War and denigrated draft dodgers (Right up to the day he died, one of my uncles would not watch any movie with "Hanoi Jane" in it.) and were not supporters of the civil-, women's- or gay-rights movements. And the unions were as corrupt as the Democratic party most of its members supported and the Republican party they opposed (until they started making money, anyway)--and as willing to use violence to keep people "in line".

  3. R. Paul Martin is a bully too - management stooge. Union activities were banned from the station until AFTRA was brought in by Paul DeReinzo after the Christmas Coup!

  4. Unions are good, in as much as any job I held that paid a living wage, offered real medical benefits, and did not try to nickel and dime me out of my wages, was a Union job. Add to it a fact that in large organizations managers tend to clique up and act in concert if they don't like an employee to get that person fired. I am all for the Unions. Corruption in Unions hurts the members benefits, but it is not as bad as the generalized observation that Justine made. Keep in mind, that if you want to be a shop steward in a high net worth job, you better walk on water, since any transgressions in your personal life will be used by the management to discredit you and get you fired.

    Re: Anon, well, what do you know! A radical left wing radio station bans union activities in its shop... how familiar is that? Needless to say, had the BAI employees been unionized, they would not have been let go the way they were, and come to think of it, to maintain a union workplace, BAI would have had to been on a more sound financial footing...

    For that matter, BAI is not really a progressive organization anymore it is thoroughly commercial in its spirit, with the radio station being used as a money-making vehicle for the benefit of the slick entrepreneurs like Null and opportunists like Goodman, for whom my respect drop, when she showed up at some left-wing rally and told a bunch of college kids to buy copies of her newly published book (at $35 bucks a piece) so as to send a message to the rulers or some such like.

    What Reimers and whatever management team is currently doing at BAI, is that it is experimenting by mixing "public affairs" and "cultural" programming in order to secure grants from foundations that support such programs and secondly, to try to compete with the NPR. It is a mistake to view BAI as any kind of a journalistic asset, because it was never about journalism, but about advocacy. You will never find a point of view, critical of Gary Null or offering counter-views to those, sold as premiums. I can see, where Unions might donate to BAI, as a progressive Radio Labor, which BAI is NOT, and the fact that BAI is not dedicated to journalism, but marketing and opportunism, can be seen from BAI letting go people like Ian Masters.

    1. I have had good and bad experiences with unions. I am not against them, per se, but I think it is a big mistake to make WBAI a mouthpiece for them, or any other organization.

      You are wrong when you divorce journalism and advocacy in regard to WBAI. True, our work in the South, when the Civil Rights struggle heated up, was—like Dale Minor's work in Vietnam—not done without advocacy. The key word was "peace" and high caliber journalism went into both projects. WBAI was very much about journalism, but that was only one of its many facets. What we worked hard to avoid was biased reporting, twisted facts, and one-sidedness, all of which characterize today's WBAI.

      Did you really bring AFTRA in? If so, did it make the situation any better? Were you aware of their history with WBAI?

  5. They fired Ian Masters? Seriously, there is no more reason to tune in in the morning. Background Briefing and Guns n' butter were the only 2 shows I could tune in early AM and get important information.
    Thank god for a couple of other commercial free FM stations that play music in the morning

  6. Chris, I had nothing to do with BAI, ever, and only became aware of the internal goings on at the station after year 2000. I did not bring in AFTRA, nor have anything to do professionally or otherwise with journalism or AFTRA. I meant to comment on your previous posting about your experiences with the two unions and recording the New Orleans jazz musicians:

    Individual labor unions are drastically different organizations, with vastly different organizational cultures and very unique and different labor relations with the specific management teams at a given workplace. I seen a very large employer and a treasure trove of union dues unionized by two separate and distinct labor unions. Both did the employees good and brought in workplace improvements, and both did its magic in vastly different ways, and neither was involved in anything shady or illegal, both strategies and approaches to labor relations were strictly legal and above board. They were involved in a very bitter election that was contested in Court over who gets to represent us. Furthermore, when there were internal union elections for the Local and the National Presidency, different candidates represented different interests and different sections of workforce, and the whole political process tends to be a lot more transparent and interesting to watch, than the local and national elections in the US - regular politicians during elections lie, try to be universally liked, and end up appearing like identical slices of wonder bread, while at out Union elections, the differences between candidates are much starker and the dynamics clearer, though there is as much resentment and negativity among the voters as there is in regular national politics.

    In light of all that, it is not surprising and consistent with what I have experienced, that you had two drastically different experiences with the two Union Locals, separate labor unions, one in California and one in Louisiana. Both were representing interests of their workers, and each brought a history of their labor relations to your negotiating table. I don't know what the situation was in California with the people appearing in your productions; it was clearly in the best interests of those New Orleans jazz musicians to have them appear I new recordings, and so their Union did not stand in their way.

    I had no idea that BAI had trouble with AFTRA, or any other labor union, though given how hey fund themselves and their sporadic funding model dominated by sales, would be some indication that the paid staff would be getting screwed over and that there might be irregularities with the company payroll. Note, that no one has ever disclosed to my knowledge, the Reimers' salary, the salaries of the other paid staff, all we get are the glimpses, almost pirate like, of WHO TOOK HOW MUCH, after each fund drive, and that's not good.

    My comments about journalism and professional objectivity or lack thereof only concern the BAI as it exists today, after Ian Masters and Andrew Phillips have come and gone, and not on how BAI used to be.

    1. Thanks. Yes, the veil of secrecy regarding the disposition of money can only raise suspicion. Back in the day, as they say, our book was an open one. These people clearly have something to hide.

  7. Interesting how Summer Reese went silent. Probably because the management convinced that they can keep the station profitable in the present state. Null is in ascendance. Pacifica caould/should/may have re-negotiated the terms of loan repayment with Goodman. Funny how they keep everything out of sight, like the dark side of the moon. Taking in large grants from the government and non-profits will bring with it the burden of accountability, and these people, who run BAI and Pacifica like a personal fiefdom, prefer to remain in the dark. One plausible way to shine the light on BAI is for the laid off paid staff to file a formal complain with payroll regulatory authorities and/or sue for their wages. Since the laid off employees are silent, I am guessing that they have been/are awaiting compensation OR they are hopelessly naïve and idealistic, preferring to remain unpaid for the greater cause and common good. It is also quite interesting, how the Parentis, Chomskis, and other investigative journalists on the Left remain silent and refuse to investigate the internal politics, corruption and conflicts of interest at BAI. Whatever reason they do it for, that makes them complicit and part of the problem.

    1. Interesting observations. As for the due severance pay, Pacifica can no longer ignore its obligations in that respect. Here's a December 12 post made to the P.O.W.W. (Pissed Off WBAI Workers) site:

      "Word is Pacifica is sending us checks for late fees they accrued when they didn't pay us for a month in April. Yep you heard me right, they decided not to pay their employees for a whole month - no warning - just dry dust in the checking account - that was until the US Labor Department heard about this travesty and said 'Ah No! You can't do that.'

      The check is supposedly $50 each, my friend, $50 instead of the 1/4 of million buckeroos they owe us in severance. Happy holidays to you, too.

      Thank you, Pacifica!

      It turns out the Union had to work the 'phones daily to get that miserable amount out of them. Are you kidding me - nope. So support your local radio station because they have no scruples at all."
      They are counting the days until February 8, 2014, which is the deadline Pacifica (apparently with union input) has set for full payment of the quarter million dollars. We shall see.

  8. Brooser--I didn't mean to sound anti-union, which I am far from. In fact, I am a union member and thankful that, whatever its faults, the organization exists. However, I am a realist about labor history because my experience has taught me that, in the US at least, labor activism and progressive politics have not always gone hand-in-hand.

  9. Chris--I know one of the staffers who's awaiting severance pay. This person has a number of medical conditions, so that money is definitely needed. Not getting it is only exacerbating this person's problems.

    1. I know, Justine, this should have been taken care of long ago, but Pacifica and the station's present management have a seriously warped sense of priority. In the early years, the victims would have gotten together and demanded that those with the most immediate need be paid first. That's how we handled payroll problems; of course, everybody knew that it was not going to drag out for months, not even weeks—they also knew that the station would honor its obligation to them.

      That, I fear, is no longer a guarantee, but this group really ought to go out there and get help from the media—i's amazing how well that can work, and it would be perfectly legitimate and proper, i.m.h.o.

      That I don't think all are deserving is quite another matter—there are principles involved.

  10. Justine, nor should they. The job of a labor Union is to advocate for better working conditions of its members. Progressive politics is a separate area of endeavor, and the two may overlap, but necessarily, and not always.