In Response to ‘Healing KPFA’By Shahram Aghamir and Nick Alexander
Thursday September 25, 2008
First of all, we must confess we were a bit puzzled that the authors of the Sept. 18 commentary, “Healing KPFA,” self-identified as “KPFA Staff,” when nearly half the six signatories are actually KPFA Local Station Board members affiliated with the “Concerned Listeners” block, rather than staff members. Furthermore, of the six actual staff signers, five are paid department heads, and not rank and file or unpaid employees. To say the least, a rather skewed sampling of “KPFA staff.”
Beyond that rather misleading representation, we ask, is it really fair for the authors of this letter (who ostensibly call for “healing”) to use innuendo and the term “opportunist” when characterizing the many dedicated programmers who have courageously taken it upon themselves to discuss the troubling Aug. 20 police incident (a public news event) on the air, both to educate listeners and to bring healing to a traumatized and demoralized staff?
In addition, quoting from the “Healing KPFA” letter, we see a number of other unfair and divisive characterizations, to wit:
“And the loudest shouting over the police incident has come from those entrenched programmers at the station who stand to lose the most from a revitalization of KPFA.”
While we acknowledge differences of opinion among KPFA staff, we ask this letter’s authors whether they are trying to instigate false divisions along “seniority” lines within the vibrant, strong coalition for fundamental change at KPFA. The “Healing KPFA” authors seem to be trying to create divisions in our struggle without addressing the favorable or unfavorable contributions of so-called “entrenched” staff with regards to “revitalization.” None of the “Healing KPFA” authors have signed our widely embraced open staff letter outlining a desperately needed, prudent and carefully developed vision for new leadership and the revitalization of KPFA. (Visit www.physicszone.org/letter2008/letter.html) On the other hand, those senior programmers derided as the “loudest” by the “Healing KPFA” letter did sign our letter. So who should properly be described as “entrenched?”
Unfortunately, the tragic arrest of unpaid staffer Nadra Foster is but a symptom of deeper problems inside the station or on KPFA’s Local Station Board that the “Healing KPFA” authors have steadfastly refused to address. Indeed, LSB staff representative Brian Edwards-Tiekert did not support a LSB resolution calling on Interim General Manager Lemlem Rijio to reverse her “de-recognition” of KPFA’s Unpaid Staff Organization (UPSO). His close ally, then-LSB Chair and journalist Conn Hallinan, was not eligible to vote. But ally, voting LSB member and Pacifica National Board Chair Sherry Gendelman, also abstained. To be fair, Andrea Turner voted for the resolution, but she has otherwise gone along with the mute response of LSB “Concerned Listeners” to Rijio methodically shifting KPFA’s culture away from collaboration and mutual support, which ultimately culminated in the unnecessary police arrest of Nadra Foster.
In the eight-point open letter, 80 paid and unpaid staff from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and positions at KPFA are demanding a number of reforms, including fresh new KPFA leadership committed to the following core values:
1. KPFA and Pacifica network’s mission, which promotes peaceful means to solve conflicts instead of resorting to state force as occurred in the tragic and unnecessary arrest of unpaid programmer Nadra Foster.
2. Active support and respect for KPFA’s entire staff, including the First Voice Apprenticeship Program and other radio collectives, and no obstruction of UPSO from lawfully holding elections, as well as support for unpaid staff participation in station affairs. KPFA’s Unpaid Staff Organization, which advocates on behalf of the station’s large unpaid workforce and had established grievance procedures for volunteer concerns, was abruptly de-recognized by Rijio in August of 2007 and has not been reinstated, in defiance of resolutions by KPFA’s Local Station Board and Pacifica’s National Board.
The open letter’s other points deal with new KPFA leadership that works to achieve—instead of blocking—democracy in the station; helps reform KPFA’s program schedule and incorporates interactive media tools; recognizes the need to serve new and younger audiences (In 2006, Rijio outraged many staff when she permanently removed Youth Radio from the air for FCC profanity violations without discussing other possible disciplinary actions with the then-active Program Council, which was also effectively dismantled later, under her watch); allocates resources to support local producers’ needs, including disabled staff; is accessible and impartial in all staff matters; and respects and facilitates the broadcasting of ethnic specials.
Finally, despite what the “Healing KPFA” authors are trying to suggest at kpfa.org/august20, no one in our coalition is saying do not call the police in extreme circumstances involving bodily harm or willful destruction of property. Falling outside such circumstances is an unpaid KPFA programmer, Nadra Foster, who was allegedly “banned” from the station for apparently disagreeing with a manager who said she could not use the phone or photocopy machine.
Shahram Aghamir is a staff representative on the, KPFA Local Station Board and co-producer of Voices of the Middle East And North Africa. Nick Alexander is a reporter and co-producer for The Radio Chronicles.