Missing from this Hall of Hypocrisy scenario are some of WBAI's most significant program contributors, talented people whose work and dedication raised the station's standard and left indelible—albeit, apparently invisible—marks when they moved on to continue and further develop their career on a broader stage.
You can be sure that they never forgot their early years at WBAI; you can be sure that they wept as they saw the station lose its purpose to become a listener-abandoned feedbag for opportunists; you can be sure that many of them would have reached back and extended a helping hand if they thought WBAI deserved it.
You can also be sure that WBAI—with very few exceptions—no longer attracts or produces the kind of dedication that once was commonplace. It has certainly lost its audience appeal and respect while failing to address the most glaring reasons: inept management and inferior, stagnant programming.
This brings me back to the station's Feminist Film Festival and how it triggered this post.
One of the highlights of the festival is the showing of "Fund: the Story of Ella Baker," a highly acclaimed 1981 documentary film produced, written and directed by Joanne Grant.
Fran Luck gives due credit to Joanne Grant, but her praise falls short by not mentioning the early WBAI connection: Not only was Joanne our News Director, she was the first woman to fill that position, and she was among the station's first three black staffers.
When we initiated the call-in program, "Talk Back," Joanne was the host-producer. The idea of having a marathon fundraiser was developed when Joanne and I had lunch and wondered aloud how we were going to raise $25,000 in a couple of days. That night, I interrupted her news program to announce that there would be no more regular programming until we received that sum of money (a sizable one back then) in pledges. Joanne and I jointly made the first pitch.
I don't know why Ms. Luck omits mention of Joanne's alumnus status, but I hope it isn't deliberate. Do we ever hear her name called out when frantic marathon pitchers feel a need to cash in on the station's distinguished past? We hear far less accomplished people cited as examples of WBAI's importance, and I think that points to ignorance more than anything else.
When I mention Joanne from time to time, it is not because I was the one who hired her (as, gulp, I did Steve Post), but because she was such a remarkable woman—highly intelligent, talented, personable, and dedicated to the pursuit of what she believed in. I want you to know more about such people, who came to us and left us more enlightened. You can Google her name, but here is a link to a detailed obituary of Joanne.