Friday, February 14, 2014

Mayhem in the AM: Hennelly on the defensive...

As Berthold Reimers recites his litany of Hennelly's lies, the new has-been gets out an e-mail message.

Dear colleagues,

This morning I was fired by our GM. I wanted to thank you all for your support and commitment to the listeners.
I want to give a special shout out to Michael G. Haskins who worked so hard with me to re-establish our critical relationship with our audience.

Once we opened the lines back up hundreds responded but Pacifica's dysfunctional governance and the troubled WBAI business model meant we had no running room.
For those of you who stepped up and created call in afternoon drive time programs out of thin air, thank you, thank you. I listened to them all and am so proud of what you did. For those of you who gave up the bi-weekly silliness and embraced a weekly schedule, I hope they let you stick with it.

Ironically, I had just announced that DC 37's executive committee had voted to give us $5,000. In 90 minutes I raised $1,900 calling folks.
As producers, continue to explore ways you can fund yourselves. I will be glad to do whatever I can to help and promote the important work you do.

I do believe there are 100 groups, unions and individuals, that would pay $5,000 to keep us on.
I also know that, had I had a chance to continue to execute my approach, we would have gotten underwriting from organizations like the Municipal Credit Union.

I do think that the Pacifica governance model has profound structural problems which keeps it inwardly focused on itself, instead of on a nation and a world that so desperately needs its full attention.

Yours in solidarity,
Bob Hennelly

The above was published online by Politico Feb. 14, 2014. If you wish to read the article, here is a direct link.


  1. 100 groups each pledging to give BAI 5,000.00 USD. That's half a million! Was THAT why BAI hired Hennelly as the program director? Sad, sad, sad...

  2. The linked article is shallow, as are others Ms. Levy has written.

    I wasn't sure of whether to wince or be amused at Mitchel Cohen's comment on it.

    Hennelly, as best as I can tell, did what he could under the circumstances. However, I still don't understand how he can appeal to labor organizations (or why said organizations would donate) given that BAI shows no indication of making any effort to pay severance to its laid-off employees.

    1. Due to word-count limits, this is Part I of my reply:

      Hennelly is agressive, a fast talker, and someone whose past—including the immediate one—has been linked to Labor, and the promotion of it in organized form. I would not be surprised if he appeared on the morning show as a result of a call made by him to Andrew Phillips. As we saw, he did not waste any time volunteering for subsequent on air appearances, and when Andrew left, Hennelly saw the door open and began working on Reimers, the titular station head whose transparency, lack of broadcast experience, and vulnerability made him open to being manipulated. I'm sure that Hennelly, being an agenda-driven opportunist, saw advantage in the fact that Pacifica's ED, Reese, had made an unsuccessful attempt to fire Reimers and would presumable keep trying—that door would open wider still.

      I am, of course, being presumptive, but this seems like a plausible scenario, and Hennelly never failed to verify my predictions. So, getting back to the story as I see it, WBAI was in obvious need of hiring a new PD, so—given his aggressiveness and Reimers' desperation—it was a no-brainer for Hennessy to go after the PD job. The "program is the premium" angle was not original, but Hennessy found it easy to make it appear so. He was, after all, not dealing with full decks: Reimers suffered delusions and his little clique had seen 19 of their co-workers summarily dismissed, including several whose value to WBAI exceeded their own. I suppose Summer Reese had to give approval, although I'm not sure the bylaws require it. In any case, she had her hands and head full at the D.C. PNB meetings, dealing with power struggles on the Foundation level.

      Hennelly, knowing the key word to be "change," probably found Reimers receptive to the "no premiums" approach, notwithstanding its recent failure. I can just hear him wagging Reimers' tail with the prospect of massive labor union support. Prudent thinking was never the GM's forté, even under more normal circumstances.

    2. Here is Part II of my response:

      Hennelly had now reached the next plateau, in record time. He easily shifted Haskins' focus from lynchings to labor and dashed across the Hudson to his old stomping grounds in New Jersey. WWRL had been labor's trusty outlet in the NYC area, but it had switched to a Latin Music format, so it was probably not difficult for Hennelly to convince union officials that WBAI could be their new radio voice. He may even have come to them armed with a few of his meaningless slogans. If there was any hesitation on the part of Reimers, Hennelly easily wiped it away with the money he collected on his visits. The funds were officially labeled "donations," but they were clearly payment for air time, which they were given immediately. As usual, WBAI management did not think to look ahead, but anyone with a modicum of vision would have seen how tenuous all this was. Then, too, there was the hypocrisy factor: unions had a history of getting in the way of WBAI's intellectual progress, and AFTRA worked with management rather than its dues-paying members when the mass lay-offs were implemented last year. About a quarter million dollars is still owed to the 19 laid off WBAI workers whose unemployment compensation has or is about to run out. When pressed to address that outrage, Reimers skirts around the issue and Hennelly used to say that it was "regrettable." When fund raising matters are brought to the fore, the subject of overdue severance is either ignored or pushed aside.

      So the February drive tallies began to appear on the staff list and the picture became clear: this was not going to work. Reimers, even more desperate now, went back to the drawing board and saw in his wanting imagination the bogus products and services that once had the phones ringing. He could, of course, have made a trip to rooms where volunteers have stacked up thousands of unfulfilled pledge products, undelivered premiums going back to earlier fund drives, physical evidence of the neglect that had driven away scores of listeners as well as the lucrative quack-in-chief, Gary Null.

      I would like to have been a fly on the wall when it finally dawned on Reimers that a fund raising approach that failed in 2013 was not going to do any better in 2014. The lightbulb blinked, Andrea Katz may have thrown in a suggestion, or two, and another change was born. Well, it was more of a reversion than a change: Hennelly was history and he had achieved that status in record time.

      The bottom line is that the stagnant ideas and missteps that were perpetuated year after year never lead to higher ground—the wolves remained at the door, their number increasing. Now, inevitably, the end came into view and something very tangible loomed over the little station that couldn't. The sound of the fat lady singing grows louder and louder and louder.

      If Hennelly did the best he could, it was the best he could to advance himself and his agenda—not WBAI's restoration.

  3. Of course, Hennelly did the best that he could to get BAI off the ground. So did Phillips.Both ran afoul of the agendas above and did not pay enough attention to the local flavor below. Remember, how Reese fired, then did not fire Riems? There is a core constituency at BAI, for the benefit of which the station is operated, and screw the other listeners, who actually support the station. Maybe the station is trying to get these folks to send their financial support. This is not unlike Busch Jr. governing for the benefit of his core constituency disregarding the interests of the mainstream republicans, who voted for his father and also for him.

    There is enough cluelessness in the upper reaches of any large organization, where a good relationship and trust of Hennelly would have translated into underwriting for BAI, whether or not it actually delivered "labor" radio. The vindictiveness and pettiness of the local ruling elite at BAI, Justice and Unity or whoever, is shown in that Management did not demote Hennelly, did not offer him to keep his Haskins and Hennelly debacle, but they outright fired him.