Saturday, April 14, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth: Yesterday, in the snapshot, C.I. noted two Berkeley Daily Planet commentaries. The first was by Marc Sapir, the second was by Brian Edwards-Tiekret. This actually tied into the last report in one aspect so I wanted to address it this week. I was under the impression I understood a policy Sasha Lilley addressed on this month's listeners' report. I am now aware that not only am I confused, the policy itself is confusing.

Marc Sapir's commentary included this reproduced e-mail:

To: Miguel Molina
Re: Call to Action on Flashpoints
While hosting Flashpoints on Thursday 3/15, you urged people to attend the rally scheduled for Sunday 3/18 at Civic Center Plaza by telling listeners to be there.
Due to issues of liability, KPFA programmers are not permitted to urge listeners to attend an event. If damage suits stem from injuries suffered at an event, KPFA could be held liable for actively urging participation. Last Year, on March 22, following a remote broadcast from a rally in San Francisco, chief engineer Michael Yoshida sent a memo to you and the other producers of the rally asking you to be aware of and prevent such language in future broadcasts. This is a second notification. KPFA program hosts may not actively urge listeners to attend events. This is the case whether during a regular program or a special remote broadcast. Thank you for your cooperation,
Sasha Lilley

Brian Edwards-Tiekert, part of the KPFA news staff, responded to Mr. Sapir and, for this report, we are focused on this section:

Sapir's letter claims that Lilley has issued a new "edict" against "advocacy"--in fact, there is no such rule. What exists is a decades-old policy, recorded in KPFA’s staff training manuals since at least the 1980s and shared by community radio stations across the nation, prohibiting what the Federal Communi-cations Commission describes as "Call to Action" language when announcing an event. Programmers at KPFA are welcome and often encouraged to tell our listeners when and where a given demonstration is--we just can’t use phrasing like "be there." (Such language, can, under the right circumstances, get the station sued, fined by the FCC, or in trouble with the IRS.)

I need to note that Mr. Edwards-Tiekert takes Mr. Sapir to task for misspelling a name and I thought that was childish. I also thought, considering KPFA's mistakes in pronunciation, it was uncalled for. Ehren Watada's mother is Carolyn Ho, for instance. Is Mr. Edwards-Tiekert aware of how her last name has been pronounced on air at KPFA? I do not intend to respond to or endorse either commentary but Ms. Ho is not the only person who has been given a new name by KPFA, in many cases while they were being interviewed on KPFA, so I did want to note that if Mr. Edwards-Tiekert wants to zoom in on the spelling of a name, there is a long list of mangled names on air. In the case of Ms. Ho, it was all the more surprising since she was being interviewed at the time. In the same interview, she paused at one point and, on my end, I pictured her deliberating whether or not to correct the interviewer on how many years her son Ehren was facing in prison. So, to underscore this, I really do not think that pointing out a misspelled name by Mr. Sapir really accomplishes anything. If it helps, Laura Flanders' names is "flan-ders," not "flawn-ders" as Ms. Lilley pronounced it during the listeners' report. Is that minor? So is a misspelled name.

Ms. Lilley, interim program director, and Lemlem Rijio, interim general manager, hosted the listeners' report. Ms. Rijio was advocating living trusts. Ms. Rijio promoted an event where you could receive information on how to implement a living trust and how you could make KPFA a beneficiary of your estate. This was not in passing, this went on and on. Was that in violation of the policy? "Planned gifts, such as bequests . . ." As she continued to discuss it ("these large gifts, these large planned gifts"), and continued and continued, at twenty minutes into the broadcast of the listeners' report, I did wonder whether this was a "listeners' report" or a fund drive?

Ms. Rijio then announced that KPFA was "hosting an event with Laura Flanders" on April 18th because "she has a new book out, she will be touring". Was that advocating or promoting? When Ms. Rijio stated, "I want to remind everyone to save the date for our peace awards," "save the date" sounds a great deal to me like "Be there." That is advocating.

Was that in violation of the policy? I have no idea. Mr. Edwards-Tiekert noted a policy but did not quote it. I did ask C.I., "Do you know the policy?" I was told, "No, but I can get you a copy of it if you need it." I declined based on the fact that it should be, as Larry Bensky would point out, easily accessible online at the website.

One thing that I assume is that, of anyone broadcast over Pacifica airwaves, any station, Amy Goodman knows every policy. I assume that because Ms. Goodman can and does speak often on the importance of independent media and on the importance of Pacifica. My grandson Jayson and I went to one of her events this year. As someone who had to fight to preserve both the integrity of her own program, Democracy Now!, and the life of Pacifica, I am sure Ms. Goodman knows every in and out of all regulations, rules and guidelines.

Jayson and I attended Ms. Goodman's event because he heard her announce it on air during Democracy Now!, so off we went to Connecticut College. We enjoyed the event, we had a wonderful time. I would encourage others to turn out if Ms. Goodman is in your area. In fact, Ms. Goodman will be at Boston's Faneuil Hall this Monday for an event with Howard Zinn that starts at 7:00 pm. I would urge everyone to, "Be there."

Did I just open myself to liability issues? If the crowd gets out of hand, stands on their seats, begins dancing and chanting: "Goodman! Zinn! Goodman! Zinn!", am I liable?

Stands on their seats? I bring that up for a reason. My late husband was in a college band and may have been happier if he pursued that as opposed to becoming a doctor. Outings, after we were married, after we had started having children, always revolved around music. We would get a sitter and off we would go, at least three times a year, to a concert. I can remember our seeing the amazing Janis Joplin and the entire hall shook. Ms. Joplin urged everyone to dance.
That was a very big issue "back in the day." The Doors was another group that the police would clamp down in the midst of concerts over the issue of dancing. Those too young to remember that period may remember December 3, 1979 event in Cincinnati, Ohio when many hoping to attend a concert by The Who were trampled?

I bring those events up because, like Ms. Flanders book event, they may be seen as events that are about promoting a non-activism event. For the record, I do not believe Ms. Flanders can participate in an event that does not require activism and applaud her for that. But when Ms. Goodman notes an upcoming event by saying, "I hope to see you there," is the difference that she is on a book tour?

If so, book tours, concert tours, and other appearances that may be seen by some as "non-political" are not necessarily "safer" in terms of liability. If Mr. Molina had stated "I hope to see you there" instead of "Be there" would that have not resulted in an e-mail about policy? Ms. Lilley declared in the listeners' report this month that, "Programmers should not say you must come down to this demonstration." So does the policy only apply to demonstrations?

What of events, even book events, that take place as part of larger gatherings? Are liability concerns raised there?

In his commentary, Mr. Edwards-Tiekert raises the issue of whether or not Mr. Santora attempted to contact KPFA about his issues? To clarify, my own report is not for KPFA. My own report is, often, me noting things I enjoyed or, more often, me addressing concerns of the community. Through C.I., I have met two board members of Pacifica and some people involved in KPFA. Other than stating I wish they would air more coverage on Iraq, I have not 'raised issues' with them. That may be my failing but I honestly enjoy listening to KPFA and, in terms of ongoing criticism, would only wish that they would address Iraq more.

However, I do hear complaints from community members and often from visitors. Mr. Edwards-Tiekert may or may not. But if he does not grasp that the e-mail to Mr. Molina feeds into a belief that Flashpoints is being targeted, he is not very in touch with listeners. The first time I ever mentioned Flashpoints in a report, the response was about 20 e-mails from visitors repeating these nasty, vile claims about host Dennis Bernstein. Those visitors only write when I mention Dennis Bernstein. Are the claims true? I do not think so. But it is very clear that Flashpoints has a group that it makes very uncomfortable. I mention the e-mails for that reason, not to embarrass Mr. Bernstein, who does a fine job on air, but because, as I am sure he is aware, a segment wants him to just vanish.

I enjoy Mr. Bernstein's work, I enjoy Nora Friedman-Barrows' work and appreciate all that the Flashpoints team provides. Within in the community, I am not alone on that and there has been an increase in the amount of e-mails on Flashpoints, praising it, following C.I.'s featuring of Robert Knight's "The Knight Report." Mary, for instance, wrote to say that she was listening to Flashpoints again.

Flashpoints is not a "pretty" show. I appreciate the music and the poetry elements that have been added but Flashpoints is a very hard hitting show. That is a good thing, in my opinion, and needed. The many community members devoted to the show know that. They also sense that Flashpoints gets little support from KPFA.

Are they right or wrong? I have no idea. I do know that Flashpoints often has amazing interviews and they are not highlighted during The Morning Show's news breaks. Recently, we have twice heard of Amy Goodman interviewing someone on that morning's Democracy Now! and yet the same guest making the same points on Flashpoints a week prior did not warrant attention from the news breaks. In terms of their exclusive interview with US war resister Ivan Brobeck, there was no excuse for it not to be noted the following day on the news break. It was an exclusive interview, it was the only radio interview he was granting. He gave it to Flashpoints the night before he turned himself in. There is no excuse for the news break on The Morning Show not noting that interview with "Mr. Brobeck will be turning himself in later today."

Let me repeat that, there is no excuse for it. KPFA had an exclusive interview with a war resister who was turning himself in the next day. The news breaks, the news, should have noted it. It did not get noted. Philip Maldari recently did an interview with Ms. Barrows-Friedman which I enjoyed and praise them both for. But that is the only time I have heard Ms. Barrows-Friedman interviewed on KPFA. She reports on the Middle East for Flashpoints. Let me repeat that, she reports on it and she reports from it. That is a wonderful resource and you would assume KPFA would be eager to utilize an in house reporter. Ms. Barrows-Friedman was the only KPFA staff to travel to Doha for the media conference. She may have been the only Pacifica staff to attend. But her reports of the conference were not utilized elsewhere on the KPFA schedule. There have been many interviews conducted by Mr. Bernstein, with Robert Parry, Michael Ratner and others, that have provided analysis and information on breaking news but they have not been included the next day on the news breaks.

So when Mr. Molina receives an e-mail, such as the one he did from Ms. Lilley, I hear about in e-mails. Mr. Edwards-Tiekert may not. He may not be aware of the perception that Flashpoints is treated like the naughty stepchild of the station. He may be unaware that some listeners wonder why, since Democracy Now! is aired twice daily on KPFA, before and after The Morning Show, when Aileen Alfandary features a clip of the day's program in her news breaks, it is seen less as "news" and more as a "commercial" for that day's Democracy Now! He may be unaware of the very real perception that the work Flashpoints does is consistently ignored by the KPFA news staff.

Once upon a time, there may have been good reason for that. When Sandra Lupien was doing the news breaks for The Morning Show, KPFA was still forming its online presence. That presence is now formed and it is growing. KPFA is to be strongly congratulated and applauded for their amazing archives. Their system of archiving is the finest of any Pacifica station. You can pull a day from a calendar, you can pull up archives by accessing the show via the broadcast schedule. You can merely browse. They are keeping their entire archive online, not just for 90 days, but permanently. That is an amazing resource and amazing tool. The only exception may be music programming, there I am not sure and, possibly, Ms. Lilley could address that in next month's listeners' report. But for those able to listen online, a valuable resource exists. Zach listens over the airwaves but, from time to time, will see something mentioned at this site or at other community sites that he missed and utilize the archives to listen. He wrote that, "KPFA has the best archive system. Visit NPR and go through the various clicks and redirects and you will see what I mean."

Mr. Edwards-Tiekert, in his commentary, notes the strong online presence KPFA has built and is building. So we are no longer in "once upon a time." Noting something worthy on Flashpoints not only informs morning listeners who may have missed it, it can direct many to the archives which are being used.

Like Mr. Bernstein, Mr. Edwards-Tiekert can be very passionate on air. I do not find that to be a bad thing. But his rushing in, in print or on air, does strike many as "apologist." Megan and Mia both e-mailed me about that and shared that they do not believe he intends to be but have noted, in the commentary and in his recent call-in to Larry Bensky, that he often seems to rush over one point to reach what he wants to talk about. I applaud passion and dedication. But if the issue of the e-mail sent to Mr. Molina exists in a vacuum for Mr. Edwards-Tiekert, I would strongly urge him to familiarize himself with the real feeling KPFA listeners of Flashpoints have that the show is ignored by the station. I am not saying that the show is ignored. I am stating that is the impression and I have provided some of the reasons why they feel that way in this report.

It does not help when Houston's station drops Flashpoints. I have waited, at C.I.'s request, to address an issue that bothered KPFT listeners. It came up during a fund drive. I spoke to C.I. about it and our feeling was that to raise it during the fund drive might hurt KPFT so I intended to bring it up when I could work it in after the fund drive had ended. As listeners to Pacifica stations know, Amy Goodman regularly fund raises on every station. To call her "effective" is to insult her. That is a program just by itself. Yes, she repeats the station's phone numbers and asks you to "please" donate but she also provides this commentary, off the top of her head, that is a listen just by itself. It is not the same commentary over and over. One day, hearing her on WBAI, I decided to try to follow her around the net, this was in late 2005, and see if what she had said was her prepared bit for the day. It was not. It is off the top of her head, pulling a strand here and a strand there.

So to call what she does "effective" is to insult her. Six KPFT listeners felt insulted enough to e-mail that they felt she was insulted in a recent fund drive. Ms. Goodman was offering a special premium where, I believe for a thousand dollar donation, you could attend a broadcast of Democracy Now!, sit right there on the set, and have a meal with her. Roy wrote that one day she had to continue offering that premium because she had announced one and quickly it became six because they were going so fast. During the pledge drive on KPFT, a male at the station identified it as a "date." While I am sure he meant no harm, six listeners e-mailed to say that was offensive, to say that Ms. Goodman twice tried to correct him ("nicely," wrote Barbara). Had that been Michael Ratner, co-host of Law and Disorder, offering the same sort of premium, would it have been referred to as a "date"? I do not know but, as Barbara noted, "date" can quickly devolve to other things. Ms. Goodman was not offering a "date." This was not a romantic get together. Those who purchased that premium were supporting KPFT and, in the process, getting to pick a day to observe how Democracy Now! is put together, as well as the chance to speak to Ms. Goodman about any issue they chose to.

I heard Ms. Goodman offer that premium on WBAI and on KPFA, she offered it on all Pacifica stations during the fund drive, but I only heard it on those stations. This was not presented as a "date" by Ms. Goodman on those stations or by anyone appearing with her, on KPFA, I believe the person was Jim Bennett. This may seem a minor thing to some but it was not minor to the six members who e-mailed about it. I did not think it was minor, nor did C.I., but I tabled the issue until the fund drive was over with the promise that I would insert it into a report in the future even if, as I am doing here, I had to graft it on.

Ms. Goodman is a journalist in a time where serious journalism is in decay. She is someone who has worked to conduct herself in a professional manner. To sell a premium as a "date" with her is demeaning, in my opinion. It was demeaning to the six listeners who e-mailed to complain. Barbara wrote that she turned off her radio after the male continued to bill it as a "date" because "the whole thing made me uncomfortable. I thought this was a wonderful gift and was sitting there wondering could I pull together enough for a thousand dollar donation and then he kept referring to it as a 'date' and I just soured on it."

I should add that I did not listen to it. Reading the e-mails about it left me insulted. C.I., who had received e-mails on it as well, did make a point to go to KPFT's archives and listen the day after it aired. C.I.'s states it was repeatedly referred to as a date, that Goodman repeatedly corrected the use of that term but it continued to persist.

When we went to Texas last month, for the week, to speak about Iraq and meet with community members, we spent a day in the Houston area. Repeatedly, someone would pull me aside and ask me if I was aware of that and why I had not addressed it? I explained, as I have above, that I was waiting and why and was struck by the fact that it bothered a lot more than the six members who e-mailed about it. Tuesday evening, Barbara had planned a for-women-only event that Betty, Rebecca, Trina, Ava, C.I., and I attended and spoke at. At that event, the "date" issue was not a pull someone aside and discuss it. Men and women had been offended, I was aware of that from the six e-mails and from the encounters during the day in Houston. But that evening, it was clear that a lot of women were not just offended, as they should be, they were very angry about it. I was asked by Barbara's sister to share her feelings when I addressed this, which were that, "There's a lot too much dee-jaying at the station and too little awareness."

I asked C.I. this morning for a comment because we all know the "in fairness" reflex. C.I. stated, "The women and men who were bothered by it had every reason to be bothered. It was offensive. It was offensive to what Goodman stands for and it was offensive to women. The repeated use of the term was not, I feel, meant to be offensive. You had a man who was very into the moment of the pledge drive, the pledges were coming in at an amazing rate, he was very excited and he used a term that popped into his head and ran with it. Not in an attempt to offend, why would he want to offend anyone when he was asking for money, but just from the exhilaration of the moment. That was a record moment, in terms of fundraising, any public radio station would have been dancing over the numbers. And, to be fair, during that, he made a point to note that a listener had donated a one-time amount of, I believe, twenty-five dollars. He stressed how important that pledge was, how the man was on a fixed-income, and how amazing it was that this first-time listener, on a fixed-income, had donated. He was not attempting to offend anyone. He was trying to be inclusive. 'Date' was the wrong term but, in the moment, it came to him and he ran with it repeatedly. That's not dismissing the feelings of those offended and, let me be clear, when I listened to it, I was offended. In terms of Brian Edwards-Tiekert, I understand why statements on air and in print lead some to feel he's an 'apologist.' While I appreciate why some feel that way, I don't personally see that as the case. He's a defender of KPFA and I think anyone who listens to it is. Everyone's always fighting for KPFA to be the best it can be. But in his presentations, it would be more effective, I feel, if he would address certain things at the top instead of presenting other points. To use the example of the call-in to Larry Bensky, that was a clear cut issue: Are the reports easily accesible online or not? The answer at that moment was, 'No, they are not.' There was nothing wrong with the points he made on air, necessarily, but by not addressing that at the top, he turned off some people. In terms of the commentary, as you said, there is a very strong, very real feeling that Flashpoints is ignored or, worse, under attack so, to be most effective, he should have addressed that in some form and probably at the top of his commentary. By not doing so, anyone reading the commentary is less inclined to make it past a few paragraphs before saying 'apologist' and stopping. When he presents the news, he follows a certain pattern. That can be hard to do, for instance, when you're calling into a live show. But if he would follow the same structure he utilizes when handling the news, what he was saying would reach more people. As it is, a lot of people are tuning out long before he's done and some are dismissing him, unfairly in my opinion, as an 'apologist.' This popped up every now and then, such as when he was featured on listener reports, but it became a huge issue after the phone-in to Sunday Salon. It's, my opinion, an issue of presentation. It's, my opinion, due to the fact that KPFA has suffered very real attacks. He is defending the same way anyone who listens or is part of the station would do; however, the order in which he makes his case, turns some people off because, in the case of the finances, that was 'yes' or 'no' before anything else is addressed or presented."

I sold C.I. on providing a comment by noting that I could pull the Houston issue into the report if they could be tied together. In Friday's snapshot, C.I. noted: "Edwards-Tiekert is a strong member of the news staff. His commentary (and recent call in on air to Larry Bensky) only fans simmering flames for many. I'm not interested in that. (Ruth may be. She can write whatever she wants in her space.) I am interested in war resisters." While C.I. confined the issue to war resisters, Iraq is the focus for C.I. here at the request of members, I can go beyond that and will if members feel something needs to be addressed. Obviously, members who listen to Flashpoints felt this needed to be addressed.

It is also true that, unlike Kat and C.I., I was not listening to KPFA when the battle was going on. I think they are much more reluctant to address some topics as a result of that battle. C.I. gave a "no comment, not interested in the topic" while Kat stated, "When I do criticize KPFA at my site, it's because I'm really ticked off. Most things I do let slide because of the recent history."

She also stated that she read both of the commentaries that appeared in The Berkeley Daily Planet and, "I was semi-surprised C.I. noted them but the issue of war resisters is a big issue to this community. If Tiekert had not included 'war resisters' in the commentary, it wouldn't have been addressed by C.I. I know members had brought up the first commentary and the second one. C.I. was in the middle of dictating the snapshot to a friend when the commentaries were raised by the friend. At that point, C.I. called me and asked me if I had them and could read them over the phone, which I did. I know C.I. hadn't read the second one before I read it aloud. I'm not sure whether the first one had been read or even skimmed. C.I. is correct about the Watada coverage. We'd usually listen to the programs after [they aired] because we were there [Fort Lewis] for the court-martial. Aaron Glantz did do an amazing job but he did that for Free Speech Radio News more often than not. A friend had burned all the coverage down to one disc, Sumner, and we listened to that on the disc as well when we got back. So I'm really not surprised it got addressed Friday. C.I.'s first words after 'hello' were to ask me, Friday, 'Does Tiekert,' Edwards-Tikert, sorry, 'mention war resisters in his commentary?' I had read both, when they came out, and ignored them. Partly due to the recent history and also due to my own laziness. But, if you're asking my opinion of the snapshot, yeah, it needed to be addressed. When I read that sentence, C.I. stopped me and asked me to read it slowly again so that every word could be taken down."

Kat noted that she may ("May, remember I'm lazy") write about this on Monday. I need to note that all week long, Andrea Lewis did amazing work. Had the e-mails not come in about the commentaries, I would have been noting those interviews with Martha Burke, Dave Zirin, Eleanor Smeal and many others on The Morning Show. Friday featured Aaron Glantz and Ms. Lewis speaking with, among others, Dahr Jamail. I also need to thank Dallas who is tagging this report for me and also revisiting some audio to make sure my own memories are correct.

Lastly, Robert e-mailed to note that Ms. Lilley had stated in this month's report that future reports would air "in different time slots. I assume, like me, you're taking the attitude of, when it happens, I'll note it." Yes, Robert, we do share the same attitude. A part of me wanted to applaud that statement but I remember other reports where we were told things such as if you "e-mail" (use the contact form online) or if you phone the listener line, they will address some of those issues in the next report. As we all know, that was not the case in this month's report. If and when the listeners' report airs in different time slots, I will note it and I will praise them for that. But, having heard that something will happen only to find it does not, I am taking the wait and see approach.