Saturday, April 07, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth: To start off this report, I need to thank Dallas, Kat, C.I. and everyone who shared. I especially thank Dallas who checked out a number of details for me to verify that my recollections were correct. WBAI offered their report to the listeners this week and I really did want to address that. However, KPFA also offered their listener report and it allows me to address a number of issues that came up while I was not offering the report.

To highlight the positives from the report, it was announced that the KPFA website was going to contain more content with an indication that this may be text as well. I know Hilda's Mix is already a big hit in the community and I have done a report for next Tuesday's newsletter specifically about that; however, any members who have not signed up for Hilda's Mix should be aware that KPFA plans to up the content they offer online.

KPFA's report to the listeners aired on Tuesday, at noon PST. I still question the fact that it always airs during the week at noon. Across the country, people are asking their municipal governments to be more open and more responsive so it strikes as me as strange that KPFA can only offer the report during the work week at noon. Over the airwaves, which listeners are they reporting to? Why is this class of listeners better served than those who listen at other times? Would you be pleased with a city council that only met once a month and, instead of rotating the meeting, always held it at noon during the work week?

The second issue that bothered me, and I will be getting to Iraq shortly, was the fact that despite encouraging listeners to e-mail via the contact form at the website, despite stating that they would not be able to personally respond but could address those issues on the air, no e-mails were addressed. Since a large section of e-mails that came in while I was on the road included copy and pastes of what listeners had e-mailed KPFA, I know for a fact that there were a number of e-mails and a number of issues to be addressed.

There was time to giggle over a joke that aired. I did not need to hear that laughter is important and that we all need to laugh. I believe, in my old age, I already know that. What I did think, hearing that long discussion, was, "Is this how to conduct business?" My answer is, "No, but it is a way to eat up time." The joke aired on Larry Bensky's Sunday Salon and a guest host had opened the program with Christian-rock music and joked that the station had been taken over. The joke took less time than the amount used in the listener report to discuss it. One might also argue that it was a nice way to avoid discussing the very real issues of accountability that Larry Bensky had brought up in the second hour of his March 25th Sunday Salon. Minutes not being posted for months and months strikes me as much more important than a joke that was obviously a joke, so I did the see the long discussion of the joke as nonsense and a way to eat up time. Mr. Bensky is retiring shortly and apparently, with him, the advocate for serious issues.

Sasha Lilley? She is the co-host of Against the Grain and also the station's interim program director. That is a very big plate to fill and I am convinced that she has not been able to listen to the station as much as the job requires. The other alternative is that she is a liar. I do not think she is a liar, so I will conclude that she just does not listen.

Two callers raised the issue of Iraq and the issue of what actions the station elected to note last month on the Fourth Anniversary of the start of the illegal war. Ms. Lilley attempted to answer them but she has far less facts than she knows.

In defending the programming around the Fourth Anniversary, she asserted, "I think our programmers have done just a superlative job, in particularly with the Fourth Anniversary." Listeners may have scratched their heads over that and the claim of multiple programs exploring the topic of Iraq. On the actual anniversary, Monday the 18th, there were two and a half hours of live protest coverage. It is also true that The Morning Show devoted the first segment, always the shortest due to the fact that rest of the show has to be set up in the first half hour, to Iraq. It is very much true that the male guest was not content to discuss Iraq and frequently digressed to topics including Israel and Lebannon. That is truly sad that on the Fourth Anniversary, in what is basically twenty-two minutes on Iraq, a guest cannot even stay on the topic.

Otherwise on that day? Ms. Lilley mentioned cultural affairs and public affairs programming which, she felt, also covered Iraq. This Jewish woman is not remembering Anne Frank spending any time in Iraq but perhaps I have forgotten in my old age? Along with Anne Frank being the focus of one program that day, we were also treated to an exploration of menopause. I will assume it could have been tied into Iraq in some manner; however, it was not. In addition, the Women's Magazine began their broadcast that Monday with the acknowledgement that it was the Fourth Anniversary of the war and that there was an increase of violence against Iraqi women. However, while that statement still lingered in the air, we were quickly informed that instead of addresing the topic, "Today we'll be discussing the Porn Wars." Actually, Women's Magazine, dropping back to a complaint Lisa e-mailed on, began with a rap song performed by a male. To Lisa, I reply, "I have no idea why that was and am just as confused by it as you are."

Ms. Lilley was very 'jazzed' about a special on Iraq that Jim Bennet had a hand in. That aired on Saturday and, at four hours, it was the longest time KPFA devoted on any given day to the topic of Iraq. Well, to the topic of music and Iraq. Not Iraqi music, mind you, but jazz instrumentals. Mixed in with those tracks were poetry and speeches. Apparently, who knew, jazz instrumentals will end the war?

I did not hear that show in real time but, instead, while I was on the phone with Dallas. I was in DC when the show actually aired. Having now heard it, I need to note that, during Vietnam, shows like that were not considered "special programming," but instead were staples of FM radio. My point here is that the special could be done every week and, at a time when FM radio truly served listeners, such programming was. We could, and did, get discussions of the war mixed in with our music. Instead of applauding that special broadcast, the question I have is why all music programs are not already doing that?

Ms. Lilley asserted that events and actions were promoted and she was wrong. She stated that
KPFA had created a webpage to note various demonstrations in the listening area and across Northern California. KPFA did create a webpage, which she called a "website," but I see as a page on the KPFA website and not, in itself, a website. The webpage did not cover all of Northern California nor did it even cover the listening area which, as a caller demonstrated, includes Fresno. Search the webpage in vain for any mention of Fresno, Peta Luma, Salinas and a host of other cities in the listening area -- of which Kat can provide a listing. When issues are repeatedly raised about whether or not the station is serving its broadcast area, a webpage like that is not very helpful in silencing critics.

But where Ms. Lilley was really off the base was when she went on to state that, "Every day the news staff announced demonstrations, pointed people to the website."

After Rebecca and I finished laughing at that, I joked someone should e-mail Ms. Lilley to inform her that KPFA airs on 94.1 FM, just so she could tune in. Shall we start with Monday?

Aileen Alfandary is "news staff." Did she point people to the webpage listing the events? Ms. Lilley believes Ms. Alfandary did; however, that is not reality. On The Morning Show, airing 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. in the Bay Area, Ms. Alfandary gives the news in the first half hour, the second, the third and the fourth. As Ms. Lilley notes, KPFA is building the largest online archive of broadcasts. I encourage Ms. Lilley to utilize said archive. If she were to do so, she would find that on the actual anniversary of the start of the war, Ms. Alfandary never once mentioned the station's webpage.

On the first news break, Ms. Alfandary set her pattern for the day by noting one web resource and only one: "Details for the vigils are on the website." We need to address briefly, just to catch everyone up to speed.

They did not offer protests. They did not offer calls for an end to the war. Their candlelight vigils were meek and weak efforts that honestly remind me of the Ellen James movement in John Irving's The World According To Garp only no one need cut out a tongue because has no intention of using a voice.

The second news break, surely Ms. Alfandary plugged KPFA's webpage of local actions, correct? Wrong. Again she sent you to MoveOn.og. The third newsbreak found Ms. Alfandary stating, "Evening vigils will be held around the Bay Area. Details for the vigils are on the website." It was the same statements she made during the first news break, the same statements she made during the third and during the fourth. Ms. Lilley, where, in four news breaks during a two hour period, do you see news staffer Ms. Alfandary promoting the KPFA webpage?

Zach points to that broadcast as the start of the breakdown of accurate coverage on Congressional measures because it airs a report on U.S. Senator Barack Obama including the claim, presented as fact, that a bill "co-sponsored by" Senator Obama will result in "all troops home by next March." To correct Zach, C.I. said that report originally aired on Sunday March 18th's broadcast of The KPFA Evening News and Dallas verified that. This also goes to an issue Eddie raised but I will try to find a way to address his main issue at length in the near future. I am trying to do a very brief weekly column for Hilda's Mix so I may include it there.
To plug Hilda's Mix for any community member who has not signed up for it, I am basically doing what Ava and C.I. are doing, offering a critique and overview of radio programs geared towards explaing why they are or are not covered here or at other community sites. My columns are very brief, no more than five paragraphs, and not the analysis that Ava and C.I. do so well. But Hilda's Mix began last Tuesday and will publish every Tuesday. Hilda, who is deaf, is attempting to primarily serve disabled members of the community; however, the newsletter has appeal for everyone and I strongly urge to sign up if you have not already.

I am now caught up on all the e-mails that came in during the week Rebecca, Flyboy, Treva, Elijah, and I were traveling to Texas, that came in while we were in Texas, and the ones that arrived during the week we traveled back from Texas. From C.I.'s comments posted here, I knew KPFA listeners were enraged by the coverage of the Congressional measures; however, reading the e-mails, I see that may be putting it too mild. Gary may have summed up the feelings of many when he noted that "(a) double speak by the White House or Congress needs to be challenged regardless of political party and (b) repeating statements simply because they were said, with no attempt to analyse them, is the same sort of steongraphy independent media criticizes big media for." That certainly describes the report on Senator Obama that Zach highlighted.

The Evening News? On Sunday, the anchors noted various events and various webpages including one for DieIn, one for StopFundingtheWar and, of course, one for
Ms. Lilley would do well to listen to that broadcast and find where the two anchors promoted KPFA's own webpage? The answer, again, is that they did not. On Monday's Evening News, a website was plugged. Sandra Lupien began with, "To find out about a vigil in your area, you can visit the organization MoveOn at" and then proceeded to give out the web address.

Ms. Lilley is under the mistaken belief that KPFA's news staff promoted the webpage. Ms. Lilley is wrong and should probably do a bit of research before asserting on air, to issues brought up by callers during the report's live broadcast, that KPFA news staff "pointed people" to the station's web page. Ms. Lilley needs to correct that in the next listeners' report. Since this issue was raised by two callers, she needs to also provide an explanation for why, despite what she stated, the news staff did not promote the station's own webpage? She may consider it "old business" but it needs to be addressed.

It is also not good form for the program director, interim or otherwise, to not know what is actually being broadcast on the station's airwaves. It would be perfectly understandable to me, even if Ms. Lilley was not also a programmer, for her to reply to a caller, "I am sorry but I do not have that information. I do know we did create a webpage of actions and I do know that the webpage was supposed to be promoted on air by all news staff." However, that is not what Ms. Lilley told listeners. Ms. Lilley told listeners that the news staff "pointed" to the webpage repeatedly and that did not happen.

Why it did not happen still needs to be addressed. Brian e-mailed during that period to pass on that "the non-stop promotion of the website sounded like 'This program brought to you by Archer Daniels Midland'." Megan wrote that she kept waiting, on Monday March 18th, for Ms. Alfandary and Ms. Lupien to state, "Underwriting from made today's broadcast possible" and wondered why, since the Bay Area "has at least two Indymedia sites," one or both of them were not promoted. They did list local actions on both Indymedia sites.
Sticking with the to non-stop promotion of, Ken wrote, "Good to know. I'll cease worrying about pulling together from my own funds now that I know they have an underwriter."

On the topic of Iraq, if there is not enough coverage of issues related to Iraq, and there is not, the obvious problem goes to the fact that KPFA does not have a program covering Iraq. Though that issue was noted in a number of e-mails to KPFA in between this listeners' report and the last, that issue was not raised on air. As I noted before, despite Ms. Lilly encouraging listeners to use the contact form, there was nothing in the report indicating that, if someone bothered to use the contact form, their message would ever be read.

Someone who does read is the station's webmaster. That is not suggesting you write him about
problems with programs. Please do not because he has no control over what makes it to air. But twice last week, the KPFA stream went out. On Thursday's The Morning Show Andrea Lewis did mention there were computer problems at the station. That was the closest anyone came to mentioning it on air. Does it matter?

KPFA has a number of listening options. You can listen to KPFA, you can listen to KPFB, a mono broadcast, or you can listen to KCFC which carries most of KPFA's programming live. Here is what happened for online listeners Wednesday and Thursdays, they attempted to access the KPFA stream and could not. They then attempted the mono stream and could not get it to stream. Was something wrong with their computers? If they attempted to access the KCFC stream and used a Winamp player, they were informed that "the stream is full." If you had Winamp and you went through all the options, by the time you got to KCFC, you were informed that the problem was not your computer. Otherwise?

The webmaster explained in several e-mails that were forwarded to me by community members that he would have liked a message at the station's website explaining there were technical problems; however, they could not get into the station's website. That is perfectly understandable. But since KCFC had a huge number of listenrs, they should have set a record last week, KPFA hosts or news staff announcing on air that there was a problem with KPFA's stream and that it was being worked on would have been helpful.

Michael is the name of the webmaster or at least the name of the man responding to e-mail to the webmaster. I was asked by several members to please note that he was the only one who responded. I do not know if he responded to all who used the contact form. I do know that others, including the station manager, did not respond. To make things easier for Michael in the future, I would suggest that KPFA note on air when there was a problem with the stream. Those who have already switched to the KCFC stream will hear that and not wonder, "Do they know about the problem? Should I e-mail?"