Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pulling out of the station


As I have commented previously, I think the slow deterioration of WBAI began back in the late Sixties when an inflated Larry Josephson and Steve Post (the latter, pictured above on the right) took advantage of a limp station manager and introduced personality shows starring themselves. It was an alarming trend that turned out to have legs and eventually altered the character of WBAI, pushing aside some of Lew Hill's most significant principles. Post, incidentally, got off at the last stop August 2.

Today, several decades later, this assimilation of lightweight radio has all but eliminated the line that once so impressively distinguished WBAI from the rest. It has become a station that advances personal agendas, whether it be through political indoctrination, entrepreneurial endeavors, or narcissistic needs. Post mostly satisfied  his craving for the latter—he was not a dummy, he just played one on radio.

Michael G. Haskins (seen above to the left) is among the dregs left in Post's wake. He never knew WBAI as anything other than a dysfunctional remnant of the past, and he clearly still does not grasp its intended raison d'être. He is among those who wish to see the station go black—which it almost has—but he places that goal above any desire to reach an intellectual level, as if the two properties were mutually exclusive. Inarticulate and of shallow thought, Haskins lives in a fantasy world where WBAI is the people's station, a "family" waiting to be rediscovered by the "community". His blinders are firmly in place.

Some of us here in Pacifica's Eastern outpost have wondered how WBAI has been allowed to stay on a dead end course with clods of Reimers' ilk at the helm. Well developed Pacifica paranoia ascribes it to a power struggle liberally sprinkled with greed—a vague plan that exploits the dumbest of the dumb and perceives an advantage in failure. Of course, failure is not something that requires an effort to obtain when you have a radio station that replaces substance with selfies. The less paranoid simply attribute the steady deterioration of WBAI to amateurism, rationalizing that these people really are as dense as they appear to be. They are, but nefariously so.

Having been short-changed both intellectually and materially, most people no longer care what happens to the station. Collectively known as the lost listenership, they would probably agree with Michael Haskins' standard selling point: "Where else can you hear what WBAI has to offer?" The answer in most cases is, "nowhere," which speaks well for the much maligned New York FM stations and is an inducement to abandon 99.5.

The following audio clip of Haskins' "open phone" segment is from this morning's show. It contains several elements that illustrate why the audience is all but gone.



As for the unraveling PNB coup, stay tuned.

18 comments:

  1. I love that picture of Post. It looks like a homeless Salvador Dali.

    For the record, I never heard any audio of Josephson or Post from the 1960s, so I can’t comment on their talent or lack thereof.

    Anyway, can you more specifically define what you mean by “personality shows?” Personally, it was the preponderance of call-in based talk shows that got me listening to WBAI in 1978. As the producers I knew disappeared and new, lower quality ones (DiRienzo, Sargeant, Martin, etc.) replaced them, I started my drifting away from WBAI.

    I have to admit that the only time I can listen to Hay-tie is during his call in segment. It’s fun to listen to the mainly lunatics and idiots that call him. If you listen closely, you can see he is getting fed up with his attempt to “connect with the listeners.” Maybe he is realizing what WBAI is? However, the first woman this morning taught me something. It seems there is a new theory of evolution out there whereby the Palestinians have been around for “hundreds of thousands of years.” I guess they pre-date Homo Sapiens…

    We need to be careful when we say anything about WBAI going/being “black.” That plays into stereotyping of all members of an ethnic group having the same opinions and views. What the goofs, who happen to be black, want is to turn WBAI into their myopic view of radical black, which they delude themselves into believing all black people share, unless they be Uncle Toms. Well, This past January 1st, WWRL changed format to a Spanish language station. Does that tell anyone anything about the chances of success for a black radical station format? Probably not.

    "Where else can you hear what WBAI has to offer?" Uh… Go ask the 20 listeners who care.

    Ultimately, WBAI is an insulated political amusement park for self-important dummies no one gives a crap about (or wants to listen to) to ride the rides and get a modicum of attention while an ever shrinking listenership pays their way.

    Monday the pledge drive starts. I still say it should be (said in my best Artie Johnson) verrrrry interrrresting…

    P.S. I was looking at the New York City market radio ratings. It seems the right wing talk stations are losing audience share, too. Maybe it’s a right wing version of what WBAI is going through – a more radical but myopic agenda being rejected by the audience.

    WNYC FM & AM are going up in the ratings.

    SDL (Damn! I’ll be 48 years old tomorrow…)

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    1. As soon as the telephone company made on-air multiple call-ins available, I decided to order the installation; it was very much in keeping with our efforts to make our relationship with the listenership a two-way one, Our main focus was on a live phone show called "Talk-Back," but Post and Josephson abused the system by conducting self-promoting chit-chat shows. They also took a tip from the likes of Joe Pyne, and began insulting listeners and anyone who complained over their dumbing down of WBAI. Granted, Josephson and Post were capable of intelligent talk and I see nothing wrong with injecting humor, but it soon became Josephson ordering bagels and Post talking about his following of flirty girls, etc. In short, the focus shifted from topics and issues of importance to Josephson and Post themselves. If you go to the top of this blog and search "decline begins," you will see how I expressed my concern about this dilution in observations sent to Pacifica's President almost fifty years ago.

      I agree that Haskins' callers reflect the low level of intellect that characterizes his small group of listeners. The same ones call repeatedly and Haskins himself is on their level, although he did seem to be questioning the suggestion that Palestinians might once have walked with dinosaurs.

      As to the blackening of WBAI, I think it is quite evident. It might not have scared off such a large percentage of the audience if the ethnic shift had taken place without so drastically lowering the overall intellectual level. It is wrong to assume (as some have done) that the exiting listeners were the white supporters—the truth is that WBAI lost its most discerning supporters—people of all ethnic backgrounds and hues. Intellectual curiosity was no longer being satisfied as a matter of rule. WBAI needs to be radical, as it once was, but just reporting the truth and airing intelligent thought achieves that. Routinely condemning "the man" as the Devil in drag, airing unsubstantiated sightings of reptilians and homeless angels, etc. is to take the old "I WAS RAPED BY A HORNY MARTION" tabloid approach. Thinking that it isn't working because there is no advertisement on the backs of buses is pure idiocy.

      The upcoming pledge drive may shatter those rose-colored glasses, but I doubt it.

      May I wish you a happy 48th birthday for tomorrow. I was there a long time ago, but I remember it well. :)

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  2. Some news from the Pacifica front. The Court has ruled against the Reese faction on every issue and affirmed its decision. Their lawyer quit. The Pacifica Board has selected the curator of the Oakland Children's Museum and a COO of some media outlet called Salon, Quincy McCoy, to be its permanent Program Director. Brian Edwards-Tiekert, who was repressed in Stalinist fashion by the Summer Reese's predecessor has been reinstated with another show at KPFA. And it was good.

    Personally, I prefer that the KPFA bunch be at the helm of the Pacifica Foundation, than the BAI bunch, or more appropriately, the faction whom the BAI bunch chose to support. I like my side to win and in this cased, it was the superiority of the current KPFA programming over the current BAI's. If you want to look at this objectively, Summer Reese could not see beyond the green of the three year contract, in the pursuit of which she has given up all of dignity, moral virtue, and self respect, if she ever had any of these qualities. She made a secret of her past, at least her professional past, or lack of it, because she was unqualified for the job (vis a vie the current director, who at least has a track record), and unfortunately, Summer Reese's vision and world view consisted solely of her own career. She got what was due her, but likely not everything that she deserves.

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    1. Your dislike for Summer Reese is stronger than I thought. Have you been following the exhausting and largely accusatory exchanges that have been taking place on Nalini's PacificaRadiowaves list? It's got everything: flip-flops, regurgitated flip-flops, trolls, snakes, finger pointers, homemade lawyers...you name it!

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    2. Nah, I couldn't follow Nalini's thread, and besides, I only go by Court decisions, after all, they are legally binding, and the law of the land, and my lingua franca. If the Court says that Reese doesn't have the pot piss in, then Reese doesn't have the pot to piss in. I tolerate political differences, but I despise naked career ambition and arrogance of power. I disliked Utrice Leid on BAI, because she enjoyed being a hatchet person a bit too much, and Reese is nastier, because she was more of a schemer. Like I said, I love the Courts and their word is final. Serial killers like Wuornos and Gacey, behaved a bit like Reese supporters - twisting truth and trying to come off innocent, but they were found guilty, sentenced to die, and regardless of their agendas and followers convinced of their innocence, when their hour came, they ended up riding that needle into oblivion. Why do I need to follow any other discourse, she is done, and the new director at least has professional experience in both media and in non-profits.

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    3. So, I take it that you believe the real killer of OJ's wife and Goldman is roaming free and that the DNA tests that proved the courts wrong in so many cases are, themselves wrong? And how about the Supreme Court? Do you find it infallible?

      As you may recall, Summer Reese was not someone I embraced, and I still don't, but I do believe that she was treated wrong by the Siegelites, who are utter Pacifica misfits.

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    4. Not at all. In the ancient days we had Innocence by Ordeal, where the accused had to proclaim their innocence through mouthfuls of dried rice and walk barefoot on hot coals. Any modern system of criminal justice is an improvement on that, but it is still on Ordeal to get justice, and hence, it makes mistakes and get twisted by better lawyers and other outside influences.

      Having said that, Court rulings are the law of the land, and now if Reese and her followers try anything radical, they will be breaking the law, and police can deal with them accordingly.

      Siegel might be a Pacifica misfit, but a misfit to what, a Pacifica of the 1960's or Pacifica of today, and if Reese and her faction's predecessor, that white haired peace activist, whose FAMILY (her and Reese are factual and proclaimed SCIONS of family enterprises) got banished from Church of Scientology (Reese claims to be a home schooled offspring of the activist household), then we can reasonably ascertain that Jim Jones (of the mass suicide in Guyana fame) is less of a Pacifica Misfit than Siegel, but the question is, do we want THAT kind of a Pacifica, with self-delusional radicals at the helm? I don't. Reese has no formal education, no qualification to run any non-profit, outside being a street corner flower vendor, her real professional qualification seems to have been in corporate marketing. Her on-record Court filing as a street activist were thrown out of Court for lack of substance, and she got where she was in Pacifica through relentless factional politics and campaigning. Whatever the short comings and corruption of the Siegel faction may be, they did select Quincy Mc Coy, who seems to have better qualified, and they DID restore the content provider, who was fired for political reasons by Reese's predecessors. We should contrast what is going on at KPFA with what is happening at BAI. The fact that they left BAI alone and did not seek retaliation a la Reese and impose outside management, like Reese did, is another factor that speaks in favor of the Siegel faction.

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    5. Reese is a little girl looking for acceptance. Keep an eye on her and I bet she WILL end up in some crazy cult. She is just the type. I always said she was weird, and she proves it true all the time.

      Sadly, the people who run Pacifica and its stations no longer rise through the ranks learning radio then doing radio. They simply get put into management positions without learning the busines. Actually, that is why American corporations are so messed up now, since they do the same thing. Ironic for a leftist radio network to follow the post-capitaliat pattern, eh?

      SDL

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    6. SDL,

      Not ironic, really. Culture develops globally, like a tide rising all the boats so to speak. When they carved an ancient Buddha statue about 2000 BC, he was sitting in a posture of an "Enlightened Man", as was used in the sculpture of the Ancient Greece at the time. In the 1930's, US, USSR and Nazi Germany pretty much recorded similar sounding big band music, and their cops tortured the suspects in similar ways, of course, these were drastically different societies, and those cops enforced very different laws and the victims were drastically different, with the lowest common denominator being a typical low life criminal who has done something reprehensible (say drowned his wife in a bath tub for the insurance money), and was now hanging by the skin of his broken teeth to stay one step ahead of the bullet or the guillotine, or the electric chair that was looming in their future. In the final analysis, certain obscure details are universal and global, like the Coca Cola, and it is not at all surprising that criminal gangs emulate the culture of the soldiers at war, and the governing bodies of the corporations of the BAI will bear some striking similarities, just as the banking system of the USSR and of the Japan, before the US bailed out its economy, bore striking similarities. The key difference between the board of the corporation and of the Pacifica, which define their respective politics, is that a for profit corporation is governed by the board of directors foe the benefit of the company share-holders, while the boards of the Pacifica and of the BAI evolved to protect the interests of the people utilizing Pacifica airwaves to broadcast content, which they produce and in perpetuation of which they have a stake against the wishes of the management or anybody else, who might replace them. If I did what the founders of the Pacifica did, and started BRINC (Brooser Radio Inc.), I would set it up as a private not for profit charitable foundation with a personally chosen board of trustees, who would run it in my image, with the staff of broadcast journalists, paid or not according to the economic realities, and I would use the criteria of professionalism, journalistic integrity, and objective reporting to whip the producers into shape and I would develop the structure to enable the board of trustees to fire at will, whosoever fails to meet my expectations... all we need is a dollar and a dream!

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  3. I'm interested in the fate of former WBAI people, so I just checked up on a few people laid off last year.

    He wasn't laid off, actually, but Tony Bates left in disgrace -- can't find anything about him online. I have no idea what his deal is or was.

    Sally O'Brian is still doing volunteer shows on WBAI, which suggests to me that she hasn't found anything better, but who knows.

    Ditto Ken Gale, who I think is very talented.

    Andrea Sears started a somewhat popular solo podcast called Left Voices, but a few months ago she basically stopped -- according to her wife, "Andrea is ramping up with consulting for [an HIV origanization] right now, but will continue to post podcasts at every opportunity." Andrea is very talented and I wish her the best of luck.

    I know Chris hated Esther Armah, but I enjoyed her on Wakeup Call -- she did one episode of her own podcast, called The Spin, which didn't really catch on, and she never did another one and stopped doing social media. In fact, she pulled the podcast from its online home, so it's hard to say what it was like. However, her last Facebook post suggests that she might be going through a rough time, which makes me a bit sad:
    "Thought for the Day. Self-Care, Love.
    Still sat at a computer after putting in what became a whole night of editing for the new show with THE SPIN editor, Aaron due to much computer drama. Today is launch day. Arrived at NPR studio early yesterday am, show is recorded on Wednesdays, released on Thursdays.. Radio is home for me, it is my first love, the sweetest kiss, shelter, refuge, freedom, power. I have missed it more than I know how to say. I was hella nervous, took some time to find my voice. This day comes after being laid off last August, mourning, taking time to figure out what the next show I would want to do would be, then figuring out how to make that happen. Today comes after months of prep, thank you to Maxie C Jackson III for helping with that prep, then came partnering with Loretta Rucker of the AAPRC thanks to an intro from my sis Nā Ta Lē , launching and running a 40 day campaign, in the middle of it going to Chicago to do double duty media blitz for The Spin, get Chicago contributions & do theater & media duties for my play SAVIOUR? Home, grub and the best work partner thanks to my sis Laura Rice and skymiles to actually get to Chicago, thanks to my ninja sis Treva B Lindsey. It has been a lot.. That schedule, that pace has meant too many working all nighters, I am weary to my bones, exhausted, have neglected my self-care. Am shutting down personal FB page & Emotional Justice page for a while. 'THE SPIN: all women media panel syndicated radio show' page will be active and carry all the info about the show. Y'all are appreciated."

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    1. The last news I heard of Tony Bates, he was working at the D.C. station as interim PD. His name never comes up in the busy discussion that's going on at Nalini's, so he might be out of there.

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    2. Oh so Bates was still in the Pacifica vortex until recently.

      Have any paid employees from the past ten years (2004 to 2014) gone on to do anything of note outside of Pacifica? Even of small note? I know that people used to go from BAI to NPR, but I don't think that is the case any longer.

      Some of the unpaid producers are successful outside of radio (though I don't think anybody has gone on to NPR or other broadcast media success, right?).

      The current speaker of the City Council used to be a host on one of the Latino shows, but I think she stopped before 2004. But she's basically of this generation of hosts.

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    3. The reason ex WBAI idiots don't go on to NPR is because unlike up to the 1980s, those who came after didn't actually learn to do radio; they learned to bitch, whine complain, backstab, play internal politics, etc.

      SDL

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    4. Yes, all of which was sanctioned by mismanagement. Pacifica picks the GM....it all starts with Pacifica, boomerangs, and hits them in THEIR inept asses.

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  4. Yes, it's telling that this generation of BAI host/producers hasn't gone on to do other things in radio. But it's even more telling--distressing, really--that as this generation was coming in, some of the good old hosts like Mike Feder and Delphine Blue.

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    1. With Pacifica’s redefinition of itself as a shallow, strident, and generally quite clumsy propaganda tool for failed, failing, and wannabe ‘left/progressive’ ‘activists’ it also became internally hostile to ‘bourgeois’ programming. The exodus began immediately before ‘the crisis’ of the late 1970s when Kosof and Guzman were installed, and continued for a number of years.

      The redefined station had, of course, no appeal with which to draw in a talented/potentially-talented new generations, and so the downward cycle continued, with various ups and downs – mostly downs – until the glories of the present day.

      Who on earth would want to be associated in any way, shape, or form with the present Pacifica/WBAI?

      ~ ‘indigopirate’

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    2. Who? Nobody. Not even people who would jump at a chance to be a program director. I truly have never heard of such a situation.

      SDL

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  5. Somehow I aborted my previous comment. The last phrase should read: "some of the good old hosts like Mike Feder, Delphine Blue and James Irsay were pushed out. (Thankfully, Irsay is back.)

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