Sunday, March 30, 2014

Reimers' embarrassing confrontation with intelligent producers

Last year, Berthold Reimers told a Village Voice reporter that he did not answer his phone because there are too many crazy people out there. If you have ever tried to call this man, you probably know that he does, in fact, ignore phone calls. He also ignores e-mail, even from producers and hosts of the radio station he purportedly manages. Well, he does have cronies with busy tongues—they will go along with anything that comes to his little mind, so it's safe to speak to them.

One of WBAI's most useful programs used to be the weekly "Report to the Listener," a live hour that gave the manager and producers an opportunity to listen to and speak with the station's listener supporters. Much good came out of those live dialogues for not only did they give listeners direct input, it also allowed the Manager and staff to discuss new ideas and future program plans. Berthold Reimers never had a real program of that nature, he only made three or four cameo appearances on alleged listener reports that were conducted by his cronies. Communication is not something Berthold Reimers finds necessary.

One reason may be that he is clueless and inarticulate, a "manager" who has not the faintest idea of how to operate a radio station. If you think I am exaggerating, you have come to the right audio clip, but let me first give you a brief background.

Last week, word got out that Reimers had added a new 2-hour Sunday morning black gospel show to the schedule. It was not an original show, but rather one that is already running  on WHCR, the college station that, literally, is down the hall from WBAI's rented studio. Furthermore, this is an area of the country that has more black churches and gospel choirs than Seattle has Starbucks, but Reimers reaches out to a host who isn't even American—for a black gospel show? Idiotic.

He scheduled this borrowed show, High Praize," for a 5 to 7 AM slot, thus chopping an hour off "Through the Opera Glass," a popular program that is unique to our area and has developed its own loyal audience over many years. Apart from the fact that host Ivan Hametz has impressive knowledge and love for operatic music, he has just finished participating successfully in the latest fundraising marathon where his program and the station were the only premium. That is how it should be, but most of WBAI's producer/hosts have little or nothing of intellectual value, so they have to resort to gimmicks, phony cures, sloppily thrown together doomsday "documentaries," etc. Reimers should appreciate that the opera program—like Chris Whent's delightful "Here of a Sunday Morning," which follows it, have remained mission appropriate, but his mind remains in the sewer, where there's more money. Mr. Hametz felt a need to apologize to the supporters who sent in their money so that the program and station could stay on the air—that, of course, never occurred to Berthold Reimers; neither did the fact that a two hour time slot makes it impossible to air most operas in their totality.

This morning, Mr. Hametz did a farewell show, not knowing what was around the corner. He was never told of this change and none of his calls or e-mails to Reimers were acknowledged. There was a rumor that Chris Whent planned to quit in protest, and that Reimers would be coming to the studio for a discussion. Not having received any official word, Mr. Hametz announced last Sunday that this morning's program would be his last unless Reimers rescinded the rumored intention. Airtime came without any response, so Mr. Hametz did as he said he would, and delivered his last show.

Then we heard that Janet Coleman invited Hametz and Whent to appear on her 11 AM program, "The Next Hour," for a discussion of the station's arts programming.

They stayed around for that and had barely started when Reimers popped up. It was obvious that he had not intended to have a discussion on the air, but they cornered him. He tried several times to weasel out of it and go off the air, but he was outnumbered. Now I highly recommend that you listen to the program and hear how embarrassing this high-salaried :manager" is. There are a couple of phone calls at the end and one might say that they demonstrate the intellectual contrast that attracted a new audience to WBAI and sent the old one fleeing.

Please give us your thoughts on this.


  1. I tried to call into this show but I don't know the number (I still remember 279-3400 though!) What I wanted to know is: is there any evidence that there is a money-wielding audience for gospel music on Sunday morning? Reimers said people getting ready for church would want to listen. What is he basing this on?

    I used to listen to WBAI all morning long, then again in the evening. Little by little I stopped, to where now I only listen on Sunday mornings. I'm sure part of that is my own change, but if they're going to screw up Sunday morning, I won't listen at all.

  2. Janet Coleman asked Reimers a good question. She said the opera show and chris's show are cash cows.,. Why would you mess with them. He did not answer her. He changed the subject. I believe there is a bribe involved. Do not think Reimers is above this. I think some of the churches have promised funds either to wbai or Reimers himself. They really need to fire this idiot. He should never have been hired. Reese wanting to fire him was a good thing.

    1. Reimers is a frequent liar—not a good one. He was doing a lot of dodging on that program. I loved the one where he suggested that his e-mail to Ivan Hametz had been addressed wrongly. Hametz and Chris Whent are no a-kissers, but they are surrounded by them.

      BTW, I also think Reimers would go to outrageous length in order to keep his undeserved position.

      I think this Reimers appearance ought to convince anyone that—as you say—Reese's firing was wholly justified. Unfortunately, she mis-fired. I would like to hear what Lefever, Dingeman and Cohen—Reimers' most vocal defenders —have to say now. I see no comments from that corner. :)

    2. Reimers appearance on a WBAI arts program doesn't convince me that "Reese's firing was wholly justified." I have this apparently odd idea that an individual's job performance should be evaluated on the basis of what they, themselves, have and have not accomplished rather than how some other individual is perceived.

  3. Funny, how everyone is talking around the subject in this broadcast. Apparently Reimers got rid of two shows that had its own audience which donated to the BAI. Rather than move the two shows to another time slots, Reimers got rid of them, and used the bottom line of fund-raising as an excuse. It was a good reason, but not the real reason why he did it. He may have taken the Gospel show on in a bid to discover the new talent, or maybe he was promised a stream of BAI Buddies from those churches, which is fine, but then why did he get rid of the shows altogether and not reassign them a different slot. That was because of Reimers' parochialism - he is not aware of much outside his community, note that he remembers Tony Bates' name but not Robert Hennelly's. He fired Hennelly, again, using purely financial reasons as a justification, but then adapted his suggestions, just as BAI management did with Andrew Phillips. I don't have enough evidence to say that Reimers is aggressively cultural nationalist, but I can say that he is extremely parochial, and financial number crunching is his fig leaf.

    Well, I hope that Hametz and Whent find a new home and a bigger audience on NPR and that their audience will follow them to that better radio station. Also keep in mind, that Reese is a Reimers supporter, and if she stays, he stays.

    1. Compounding Reimers' idiocy is the fact that "Through the Opera Glass" had—to begin with—been scheduled in an inappropriate time slot. Common sense tells anyone with a working brain that airing the station's only opera program (and a fine one, at that) in the early Sunday morning hours is to wish for a reduced audience. Moving the program down an hour or two would have made sense. That said, Chris Whent's criticism of piecemeal, patchy program rearrangements is right on the money.

      The fact that this new gospel show is already running on the very station from which WBAI is renting its studio raises a red flag as to Reimers' motive. He is utterly clueless in every aspect of broadcasting, and that ought to have been clear to Frank LeFever and the committee that picked and recommended him for the job. Apart from the obvious managerial skills and knowledge of the broadcasting field, this is a position that requires one to represent the station and, indeed, Pacifica. The General Manager is the face of the organization—its embodiment.

      Well, not only has Berthold Reimers gone out of his way to avoid contact with others, he is an inarticulate, dishonest nitwit. Our janitor at 30 East 39th Street was more intelligent and presentable. I recall seeing him lean on his mop while carrying on serious conversations with Ayn Rand and other thinkers in our hallway. Remember how Reimers describes his job in his Linkedin resumé?

      "Manage a staff of over 230 employees. Oversee the administration of personnel, programming, finance, public relation, and technical and general operation of the station. Work closely with the staff, the Local Station Board, and the community. Lobby major donors, well known artists, politicians and socialites to solicit grants and donations. Increased net cash input by 20%. Prepare budget, financial projections and coordinate strategic planning and analysis."

      This is what you are apt to get when you have clueless incompetent committee's doing the hiring.

  4. I share in particular Chris Whent’s historical perspective as to the inflection point in late-1976/early-1977 when WBAI/Pacifica was transitioned (at board direction) from its original foundational purpose and an accompanying emphasis on intelligent programming, on ‘good radio’ that couldn’t be done elsewhere, to one of shallow mindless ‘progressive’ advocacy and its accompanying political correctness.

    I was also, incidentally, his nominal engineer at that point – nominal in that Chris was infinitely proficient at the board, but I held the then-requisite license – so I simply stepped out during his program and stepped in briefly when required to take the required transmitter readings for the log.

    Lopate was quite another story, but that’s quite another story.

    It was at this point, too, that the great exodus of talent began (with a very few exceptions, such as Chris) – I dropped off Charles Ruas’ CV at WNYC, for example – if you want a sense of what was lost with the loss of people like Ruas, simply google his name.

    ~ ‘indigopirate’

  5. I broke my promise and tuned in yesterday morning to see whether Hametz and Whent were still there. Thankfully, they were. But it was painful to hear Hametz make his goodbyes, especially since he was making them "just in case".

    He seems as decent a human being as he is a passionate and intelligent operaphile. There simply is no excuse for Reimers and the other BAI thugs to treat him as they are.

    Like I said in an earlier comment, they don't deserve him or Whent. Or David Rothenberg. Or Simon Loekle. Or Michio Kaku. Or Peter Bochan. Or even Janet Coleman.