Saturday, June 09, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth: This is a grab bag report and thanks to Kat for grabbing items [language warning] in "KPFA, you're getting on my last nerve" earlier this week. I will be focusing primarily on presentation and Iraq as these are the two topics that have come up repeatedly in e-mails. Where a member, or in one case a visitor, has given permission to be noted, I will note them specifically but, even where an individual is noted, many e-mails came on the topics below.

KPFA Management Report to the Listeners aired June 1st and there were a number of problems with it. The two biggest problems were the time and the handling. Despite all the talk of rotating the report so that it aired at various times, after doing so only once, they are no back at their usual 1:00 pm, weekday hour. Did it tax them too much doing one report that aired on The Morning Show?

If so, too bad. That was the only coherent report that Sasha Lilley, interim program director, has taken part in. Here is the reality, Ms. Lilley and interim general manager Lemlem Rijio, two grown women, cannot deliver a report on their own. With Andrea Lewis acting as moderator, the report was listenable, moved along nicely and sounded like you were hearing adults talking. On their own again, Ms. Lilley and Ms. Rijio are not just a mess, they sound like a really cruel Saturday Night Live skit.

Ms. Rijio did not take part in the report that Ms. Lewis moderated and I said then that I was not arguing it was better because Ms. Rijio did not take part; however, I will say now that Ms. Rijio is one of the biggest problems with the report. At one point in this month's report, while addressing a caller's concerns, both women had answered. Then Ms. Lilley stated she wanted to touch on the second part of the caller's comments which immediately resulted in Ms. Rijio claiming she did as well. Ms. Rijio did not comment on anything new, Ms. Lilley did. I visibly cringed, Rebecca pointed out, when Ms. Rijio rushed in with her 'Yes, me too! I want to comment too!' nonsense. That is because it was embarrassing before she even offered her noncomment. Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon's Margaret Jo and Terry could not have been more embarrassing; however, the two characters those actresses played were supposed to be funny.

This was the report where listeners were informed Peter Laufer would be taking over Larry Benksy's Sunday hours, nine to eleven a.m. PST. Apparently, annoucing that tired both women because Mr. Laufer was then expected to deliver a monologue about himself. Mr. Laufer seemed suprised, and did ask what they wanted to know, that he was brought onto a show not to answer questions from either women, but to provide his resume. This was not a conversation, it was not a question and answer session. It also was not even remotely professional. That was not Mr. Laufer's fault. He did his best to condense what was at least four decades of experiences and history. The fault for the problems belong to both women who never asked questions and seemed to think that their job began and ended with brining someone on the show.

Ms. Lilley does know how to interview but apparently, when with Mr. Rijio, she too is reduced to "giggly girl." That is how their reports play out as they both show up unprepared and suddenly remember an announcement, which they get wrong and then have to correct, and jump from topic to topic. To be really clear, as interim program director and station manager, their reports destroy any image of professionalism for KPFA each time they open their mouths.
They were on in Kris Welch's spot and Ms. Welch, being an adult, may not have wished to moderate a discussion where two other grown women acted like the silliest teenagers you can imagine. If so, I do not blame Ms. Welch for not wanting to participate, but Ms. Lilley and Ms. Rijio need a moderator and they need to conduct themselves as if they are aware of the responsibilities their jobs entail.

This is a huge embarrassment and C.I.'s only comment was, "Well a friend did say it would make a good sketch." (I have permission to note that.) If it does become a sketch on TV, the two women cannot blame anyone but themselves. If they become national laughingstocks, the only reason for that is because they have conducted themselves in that manner repeatedly.

Now if anyone thinks KPFA will benefit from such attention, think again. These two women do not represent themselves on air, they represent the station. They are doing a very poor job of that. They need to cut the 'girl talk' and start acting like women. They need to cut out the cross talk and the "aren't we cute" presentation before they do find themselves sent up on national television. It will not be funny to me, I will be humiliated for KPFA.

"Oh good point, Sasha." "Thank you, Lem-Lem." "Always, Sahsa. If I may add one more thing." "Oh, certainly, Lem-Lem." The skit writes itself.

As usual the first thirty or so minutes were a huge waste that any attempts at organization could have reduced to ten to twelve minutes. Organization would not allow for the giggles or rambles, but I really do not graps the need for either in a report to the listeners. What it conveys, intentionally or not, is that the two at the top of the chain never know what they are doing or what they will say next. That does not encourage faith in the station.

Moving to the second topic, KPFA has changed the look of their website and we are all supposed to be impressed. I thought I was the only one who would have trouble with it since they switched to a much smaller type but e-mail after e-mail complains about it and notes that KPFA had a signature look and it looks now just like the new WBAI layout with different colors. Not noted in the e-mails, but equally true, is that it is just like the layout for Pacifica Radio although Pacifica Radio uses a bit larger type.

Since she listens over the airwaves, Mia goes online only to send comments and she asked that I note that they have still not returned the option of contacting the news department in their online forum.

Mark, a visitor, saw Kat's post this week and e-mailed to remind me that I promised I would address the issue of the news after the fundraiser. Kat has addressed it but I did promise Mark in my e-mail reply the first week of the fundraiser that I would note it, so here goes. Do not expect to reach your goal if your news department has seemed less about news and more about selling Congressional plans. The Pelois-Reid measure in March was nothing but symbolism and many guests that we usually hear on KPFA were pointing that out . . . elsewhere.

Whether or not KPFA grasped that the measure was symoblism and decided to sell it regardless or whether they all followed D.C. correspondent Leigh Ann Caldwell's lead, I have no idea. But I do know we did not hear reality and that frequent guests who were calling the measure out in real time were suddenly not showing up on programs. Pacifica is peace radio. It is not radio. Peace was the mission under which KPFA was created and whether you are a member of this community or a visitor, you wrote in complaining about KPFA's news coverage of the Pelosi-Reid measure. I read all 486 e-mails on that and knew, going into the fundraiser, that reaching a targeted goal so soon after so many listeners felt the news had, at best, taken a vacation or, at worst, lost their common sense, would be problematic.

Mark knew it too. The first time he e-mailed, he noted that in his e-mail, writing that he felt no need to contribute this cycle after that news coverage. He predicted then that KPFA would not reach their goal. Mark was correct and, judging by e-mails I received, and conversations I had with Kat, Ty, Ava, Jess, Dona and Jim about how that was playing out in KPFA's over the airwaves listening area, I knew he had a solid point.

You should not offer 'news' that is one-sided, cuts out all debate from the left on a Congressional measure, and does so repeatedly, then turn around with your hand out asking for a donation if you are expecting people to haul out their wallets and checkbooks.

As someone who listens to both KPFA and WBAI, the most amazing thing about this past week has been how little attention Adam Kokesh, Liam Madden and Cloy Richards have received. Another underserved topic was the passing of the 3500 mark for the number of U.S. service members killed in the illegal war. Iraq continues to be the most undercovered topic; however, Aileen Alfandary did have time to discuss Paris Hilton on a Friday's newsbreaks. I am sure that was a popular topic, I am equally sure it is not news nor does have a single thing to do with the reason that KPFA was created in the first place. Liam Madden held a press conference on Thursday but Ms. Alfandary wanted to discuss Paris Hilton? Is KPFA the peace radio station or is it just reading off the CNN feed? The inclusion of that junk news is exactly the sort of item Kat was criticizing earlier this week and they are not the sort of topics Sandra Lupien covered when she did the morning news breaks.

On WBAI's First Voices Thursdays, an interview with singer-songwriter, activist and artist Buffy Sainte-Marie was aired and we heard about she was targeted by the government in an attempt to silence her voice. These days it is not necessary for the government to silence voices when what too often passes for news silences themselves by avoiding real news.

Take Liam Madden. I learned more about his Thursday press conference in Friday's "Iraq snapshot" than I did from Pacifica Radio. The only time I heard it on KPFA was during Thursday's The KPFA Evening News in a report by Dave Goodman. I did not, in that report, hear that Mr. Madden had explained the difference between his case and Sergeant Kokesh's and that may be the biggest failure of independent media which may be due to the fact Mr. Goodman's report was a "headline" from Free Speech Radio News on Thursday, not an actual report. Sergeant Kokesh was engaged in street theater. That does matter, as C.I.'s pointed out, because the Supreme Court addressed street theater and the right of citizens to wear military garb in these productions back in 1970. All of broadcast independent media has failed Sergent Kokesh. That includes Free Speech Radio News which went all week long without reporting on Kokesh's hearing or appeal, even as a headline. Meanwhile, Democracy Now! was signaling that it was summer? How so? Tim Russert declares each Sunday, "If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press." Broadcast independent media's undeclared motto appears to be, "If it's summer, it's Israel." As C.I. noted, independent media is in vacation mode and, apparently, we can now look forward to the occassional report on Iraq but not much more.

It bears noting that Cindy Sheehan became the face of the peace movement not due to independent media but due to the mainstream media. Ms. Sheehan has left the building, as the saying goes, and independent media feels no obligation to provide leadership or to present leaders.

On the subject of Israel and the occupied terrirtories, though unpromoted, a special is airing that is worth your time. Not being promoted? "Ruth," C.I. asked me Thursday, calling from Boston, "Nora's special is airing Saturday, right? If it is, I'll mention it in the snapshot but I'm not finding anything on it." I had heard a few promos, very few, about Nora Barrows-Friedman's special but, until Friday, KPFA did not even note it on their website. Marshall noted that as well and that there was nothing about the special at Pacifica Radio either when he wrote Thursday evening. Why, he wondered, "do you bother to do a news special if you won't even promote it?" That is a very good question. If you missed the special, you can hear it in the KPFA archives for Saturday or at the Pacifica Radio site. It will also air tomorrow on Houston's KPFT at 6:00 p.m. Ava and C.I. have a write up on the special that will run in Tuesday's Hilda's Mix. Buffy Sainte-Marie, whom I mentioned earlier, will be performing Sunday at the Clearwater Festival which WBAI is a sponsor of. It was also stated that the Cowboy Junkies and Bruce Cockburn would be performing Sunday.

This was a grab bag report and my hunch, based on last year when All Things Media Big and Small dropped Iraq as a topic, is that I will be doing many more of those this summer.