News tops fundraising; an open letter from KPFA union members

After reporting that co-anchor John Hamilton had been given a 30-day layoff notice, the Evening News rocketed to the top of KPFA’s fundraising charts. The outpouring of support from listeners brought in over $48,000 in the final four days of the Winter Pledge Drive, bringing the Evening News total to $87,000 — the highest of any time slot during the fund drive. MORE HERE

Management’s response? During the final hour of the fund drive, KPFA interim program director Carrie Core sent news co-anchors Mark Mericle and John Hamilton (as well as Letters and Politics host Mitch Jeserich) written disciplinary letters for reporting Hamilton’s layoff on the air.

Pacifica accuses KPFA staff of “undermining” the station, uses bizarre math
Three days after the end of KPFA’s Winter Marathon, KFPA’s staff and listeners opened their inboxes to a letter from Core and Pacifica’s executive director, Arlene Engelhardt.

Was it a thank-you for their hard work and and contributions? Nah. It was a broadside accusing KPFA’s union of agreeing to John Hamilton’s layoff (which it hasn’t), accusing KPFA’s staff of “efforts to undermine” the station (huh?), and declaring that “The Morning Show Will Not Return.”

To support that last position, management did some pretty contorted math, cherrypicking five days of fundraising from December’s emergency fund drive, dropping all records of online pledges, and completely ignoring fundraising data from the Winter Pledge Drive that had just concluded.

What do the numbers actually say? KPFA’s new morning lineup raised $140,000 less from 6-10AM during the 2011 Winter Drive than the old morning lineup did during the 2010 Winter Drive. At that rate, staff warned management in an open letter, lost pledges from the the Pacifica-imposed program changes could approach $500,000 per year.

Management’s letter admits that “KPFA’s first quarter financial report for this fiscal year is encouraging. . . We were almost $335k over budgeted income,” but goes on to say that “salaries and related expenses must be reduced to balance the budget.”

“That statement is not only incompetent, it is downright Orwellian,” said board member Pamela Drake. “It takes the very real outpouring of listener support for KPFA’s key programs and attempts to turn it on its head.”

Mismanagement angers listeners
KPFA and Pacifica got a barrage of mail from listeners during the fund drive expressing their outrage at Hamilton’s layoff. Here are some excerpts from the letters we have permission to publish:

“I simply don’t think you understand how sacred these voices of truth are,” wrote Kristen Burlington to Engelhardt. “You can’t possibly comprehend how integral the Morning Show and the Evening News are to the sanity of both our local and global community.”

Susan Wallace told management: “share in the cuts and sacrifice some of your pay, or stop using union-busting law firms. You should resign immediately and allow new leadership to emerge based on openness, respect and support for unions, equity and justice.”

“Engelhardt’s mismanagement of this station leads me to ask whether she is the one who should be given a layoff notice,” wrote Arpi Kupelian, who was part of a group of listeners who tried to visit Pacifica’s executive director recently to speak with her about $63,000 in SaveKPFA listener pledges to restore the Morning Show, only to be turned away.

“Why does it seem that you, the management, seem intent on destroying the best that KPFA has to offer?” wrote Rose Elizondo. “It almost seems you want to destroy the station! If $63,000 has been raised to re-instate the Morning Show, how can you possibly ‘justify’ not accepting this money?”

That question is best answered by looking at who hired Engelhardt: the Pacifica National Board. That board is currently holding onto power illegally by refusing to seat KPFA’s democratically-elected delegates. An Alameda County Superior Court judge recently issued a restraining order prohibiting the national board from discussing KPFA issues. A full hearing on the matter is set for March 18.

NEWS CLIPS: KPFA News: Another new interim station manager | Matthew Lasar: How to donate to KPFA without giving to Pacifica

SF Chronicle: Grateful Dead marathon’s record pledges

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