In a short announcement posted March 13, the Pacifica National Board (PNB) reports that it has ended the employment of controversial interim executive director Summer Reese. New board chair Margy Wilkinson sent this longer message to the network’s general managers explaining the change, asking that it be forwarded to staff. She confirms that an new interim executive director will be in place soon.
Wilkinson was elected Pacifica chair last month after new delegates from each local station took their seats on the PNB, following annual elections from the five Pacifica local station boards. The memo also notes that the national board is turning its attention to urgent needs in the network’s infrastructure, and that a report Pacifica is required to make for continued funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) was submitted on time this year. Last year, the CPB withheld its funding to Pacifica due to “shortcomings in its accounting and operations,” according to the online magazine of public broadcasting, Current.
BREAKING: At our publication time, there are reports that Reese had forced her way into the Pacifica National Office in Berkeley and was refusing to leave. Several SaveKPFA supporters are on the scene — more details as we get them.
It’s time to reverse the network’s decline
Reese was chair of the Pacifica board in 2011, 2012, and 2013. During the last 18 months, she was also the network’s interim executive director. Under Reese’s tenure and that of her close ally, former Pacifica treasurer Tracy Rosenberg, the network’s problems grew exponentially.
Pacifica’s independent news service, Free Speech Radio News, was forced to close because Pacifica failed to pay $200,000 owed to it. Over a million dollars is still owed by Pacifica to Democracy Now!
At New York’s WBAI, Reese fired or drove out two program directors, and gave huge blocks of airtime to vitamin entrepreneur Gary Null, whose peddling of questionable supplements brought attention from the CPB Ombudsperson’s office after listener complaints that the station’s fundraising was “ethically-challenged,” and whose position denying HIV has angered many in the AIDS activist community.
Last week, Pacifica finally paid the severance it legally owned to 19 WBAI employees Reese had laid off over 6 months ago. Of the $140,000 paid, $50,000 came from KPFA’s funds.
At KPFA, Reese abruptly transferred general manager Andrew Phillips last year to the program director job at WBAI, then would not let him do the job he’d been tapped for. Reese also failed to appoint a new KPFA general manager as required by the bylaws, even though the Local Station Board hiring committee had interviewed and chosen four acceptable candidates.
Supporting cooperative programming
After receiving new non-Pacifica funding, Free Speech Radio News, is back online trying to create an economically-viable model – one SaveKPFA believes is likely to be far superior than the replacement, Feature Story News, which Reese put on the air in place of FSRN last year.
There have been many complaints about the quality of FSN’s reporting. “This is not the kind of radio KPFA listeners should be paying for with their hard-earned dollars,” noted KPFA local board member Donald Goldmacher, producer of the film Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?
Other Pacifica stations benefit from a number of shows that originate on KPFA, including Against the Grain, Letters & Politics, and Voices of the Middle East and North Africa. “Sharing programming resources is a good way for Pacifica stations to support each other and bring in new listeners,” adds Goldmacher.
KPFA also assists other Pacifica stations by sharing the premiums that it creates through the station’s public speaker series managed by long-time events coordinator Bob Baldock. These premiums, which feature writers and activists such as Naomi Klein, Michelle Alexander, Gabor Maté and others, generate tens of thousands of dollars during pledge drives each year across the network.