KBOO at a Crossroads

When I first came to KBOO five years ago to become a music programmer, I was given a stack of materials to read including Programmer’s Rights and Responsibilities, and told that before I went on-air I would have to sign a programmer’s contract. All the members of our music show’s collective were told the same thing during the training, but none of us ever met formally with staff for this purpose, or were ever asked to sign anything.

Within six months of my arrival at KBOO, a minor dispute arose between me and another volunteer. I looked to the KBOO documents provided to me earlier and followed the dispute resolution process to the letter. The other volunteer chose to ignore the printed KBOO process and took actions that turned this minor dispute into a fiasco of public defamation and character assassination.

During eventual KBOO sponsored mediation, the other party denied any prior knowledge that there was a dispute resolution process, and many other details of programmer responsibility. Had KBOO been internally consistent in requiring actual contracts with programmers, there would not have been any plausible deniability in this fiasco. 

At that time programmer’s responsibilities included not attacking the character of other programmers or other shows on-air, or actions that harmed KBOO. As the dust settled it became clear that the way other media was used to attack my character harmed KBOO. But shortly thereafter several other public disputes followed including several between volunteers, Board members, and a former Station Manager. The comments section of the KBOO website then was changed to no longer allow anonymous postings. At this point the flame wars at KBOO calmed somewhat, though they moved to other websites and blogs. 

So limited progress towards better internal process at KBOO was made, but still no programmer’s contract was ever presented to me to sign ... even when I asked station management several times over the years when this would occur. Still no formal accountability. 

After this debacle I decided that if I wanted to be part of KBOO, I couldn’t stay in my music programmer bubble but should pay attention to the larger picture. I began listening to programs in the entire schedule and found the news and public affairs programming to be something I’ve come to describe as "Neo-Progressive", something actually quite removed from the progressive values I’ve held during my lifetime. When I complained to the volunteer coordinator about extreme bias in some of the programming, I was told that KBOO is a place that accommodates "principled dissent", and that if I had ideas for programming I should present this to the program committee. 

Thus began a two year long adventure into the bowels of KBOO. I worked within the process, and eventually became a member of the program committee. There I witnessed vicious in-fighting and personal attacks that should never occur between adults. What I learned from my participation is that KBOO programming is controlled by a very small group of staff and long time volunteers, independent of any accountable process. During this time I repeatedly presented a proposal for a public affairs show that received literal silence every time it was brought up. No one dared directly say no, but the entrenched committee sure wasn’t going to upset the status quo. During a well attended meeting to adjust the morning schedule, the former Program Manager thought this proposed new show would make an interesting addition to the schedule for Friday mornings, to make a "Mideast Block" (his comment was that the addition would be "hot"). But after Shalom Portland was listed on the board in the new schedule over two hours, another long-time staff member made a last minute objection (the only person in a crowded room to object) and had the show removed. Although I did try to revive the show and produced eight segments, with no regular program time and a total lack of encouragement or support by staff, it never had a chance. I’ve given up and now produce content for podcast elsewhere. 

What I learned from this experience is that KBOO is a closed shop. The Programming Charter says that KBOO shall be a place for unpopular and controversial content ... but what it doesn’t explain is that you can’t get program time for views that contradict those of entrenched staff and volunteers who have been running the place for years. Remember the new T-shirt during the last membership drive? 

"KBOO, not just for commie pinko freaks self-righteous gutter punks drug-addicted peaceniks anarcho-syndicalists hippie tree-huggers gay hillbillies militant vegans "Jerry-atric" deadheads or the foil-hat brigade anymore!" 

I read this and thought to myself, that’s precisely what KBOO is! To me KBOO is just like right-wing commercial radio ... you have to toe the very narrow ideological line or you don’t get on. It’s the same, a polaric opposite in viewpoint but it functions exactly the same way. 

Since that time, and since leaving the program committee I’ve seen board members be sued, I’ve seen people banned from the station then become elected board members, I’ve seen a station manager harassed out the door. I’ve watched a dysfunctional radio station decline in listeners, decline in membership and in revenues. In case you don’t know, before KBOO finally dropped the service due to lack of funds Arbitron consistently put KBOO in last place in total listenership in the metro area (lower than internet only business news ... lower than low power AM stations from down the valley). Our revenues aren’t suffering because we’re not doing a good job of pitching during membership drive, our revenues are suffering because most public and community radio stations only can get about ten percent of listeners to contribute. Declining listeners means declining revenues. I’ve suffered through the lack of effectiveness of the staff collective management model. I’ve watched consensus meeting styles come and thankfully go. I’ve been making plans for where to take my radio show producing habit after what I’ve seen as the inevitable demise of KBOO. 

Imagine my surprise when the KBOO staff and Board finally realized it needs some sort of Station Manager. Imagine my surprise when the new Manager announced that all programmers actually need to come to meetings and actually discuss the meaning of and then sign Programmer Contracts.

 But what floored me was the conversation afterwards. Lynn Fitch described a change in focus, where KBOO’s purpose was to be a media center for the entire Portland community, not just the people described by the now infamous T-shirt. She described a vision where competing viewpoints could have airtime, and by expanding the concept of "community" KBOO could return to it’s proper place as a open and welcoming community radio station. It would still be a place for programming that was extreme left wing, controversial and unpopular, but not exclusively. By reaching out and being a media resource accessible for a larger demographic KBOO would solve it’s issues of declining listenership (relevance) and gain new members and new revenues. 

I thought to myself as I listened quietly ... "good luck with that". 

So now we’ve had some well publicized issues arise between our new Station Manager (that’s what she is, let’s stop wasting time with silly titles) and the entrenched staff and volunteers that have been running KBOO. This was interesting enough for me to come to the meeting May 4th and see for myself how this would be handled by the Board, the Station Manager, and the community. 

My recollection is that 1) brush did a superb job ... no wonder he has been facilitating Board meetings 2) the Board members who spoke expressed clearly the reasons for the actions taken and the challenges KBOO is facing 3) Lynn didn’t duck any hard questions and 4) the decision to go along with a staff union was a wise one. 

During the meeting I sat next to a person I didn’t know, who commented to me "there sure is a lot of grey here". I looked around, and had to agree. In fact I only saw during the entire meeting two persons who looked to be thirty years or younger, mostly 50-60 and older. I remarked to my neighbor that if this was KBOO, it was definitely in trouble and possibly irrelevant for any future and she agreed. 

KBOO in it’s current form is drifting in a fast changing media landscape and becoming less relevant all the time. KBOO needs strong leadership, possible staff changes, and some other re-tooling to reach anyone beyond the politically narrow and rapidly aging demographic represented at the recent meeting. Can KBOO survive without changing? Possibly as an internet only media center, but the shrinking listenership cannot financially support the costs of operating a full power FM radio station. KBOO has some serious choices to make. It can change and become relevant to more communities, thereby fulfilling it’s mission to be "Community Radio" or it can openly decide to keep it’s narrow ideology and continue to shrink until it’s off the air, reaming "pure" in the minds of the grey haired members who want time to stand still and things remain as they were in the 1970’s and ‘80’s. 

But for any future to be worth being part of, KBOO must start treating itself and it’s own community with respect. During the recent conflict over employee policies, long time KBOO members have once again let loose with a volley of personal attacks on the Board and the Station Manager. It’s reasonable to openly argue about policies, and to discuss if any particular KBOO employee from Manager on down is the best person for the job. But irrelevant personal attacks on the character of Lynn Fitch have been made in other media, and in particular on a website started by disgruntled KBOO personalities. To argue the facts of policy is one thing, but to post content that is not relevant to the job itself is character assassination. Having been personally attacked in this way myself as my introduction to KBOO, I have to call out the people who are posting and remind them this is not the way a loving, caring community behaves. 

I met with the former Station Manager several years ago after he was let go, and he shared with me his view that part of the picture missing at KBOO was stable governance. He thought that if a portion of the Board was appointed rather than elected (like many other non-profit organizations), there would be less susceptibility to wild swings in direction from elections, elections that often turn on personalities rather than on policy. I agree with Arthur Davis and see issues at KBOO ultimately flowing from a failed governance model. During recent Board elections competing slates of ideologically driven insiders fought over control of KBOO. Who will serve on the Board in the current paradigm? Anyone who tries to establish any change or responsible policies gets dragged through the mud, sued, and harassed till they quit like the Board Secretary just did. 

KBOO is at a crossroads. It’s good that the relationship between staff and the Board is being clarified. It’s good that a union will represent the staff now. It’s good that an effort is being made to hold all members of the community accountable, as represented by actual signed programmer’s contracts. 

Now it’s time to decide if KBOO will continue as is, or transform to be relevant for the future. I vote to give the current Board and the Station Manager enough time and support to try something different. If KBOO expands the definition of the community that it serves, then I’ll be happy to continue to be part of that expanded community. But I’m no longer willing by my silence to give my tacit approval to those who make being at KBOO a toxic experience. It’s time for KBOO to gain the maturity that should come along with it’s grey hair. 

Ed Kraus

 
 
 

Comments

A matter of respect

Thank you, Ed, for your astute assessment of the political situation in the leadership and staff at KBOO. I, too, was victimized by some of the entrenched volunteers and staff there.

I fear that the Portland community will be without a community radio station if the current climate there does not change...

All of the people who work for and with KBOO need a check on the way they work with others... kindness and mutual respect  are in short supply and until that changes...I have little hope for my beloved KBOO.

I agree

I agree with everything you said. Very articulately. We will miss being on KBOO's "Tillicum Wawa" show because of some of the same issues. After alot of critism, we collectively decided to reitre. It was just too hard to put on a great show, do all the research, try to connect to the People , follow all FSS rules and do it in a warm "front room" type of discussions with each other and our listeners that called in to comment.

I will miss,  after 25 yrs of being on KBOO's Native American Programing, bringing you up to date information about our Native American world .,

Donadahgohuhi, until we meet again,Etsi Yona Samantha Cusi King

Ahh, I remember so fondly the grey hair of my youth...

... my hair is now quite white.

I've long noted that 'change' is not a KBOO value. IMHO it shoukl be. But 'change' is a term often used by politicians with a tacit understanding that the constituency has become tired of the status quo, and would support *anything* new. The first time I encountered this concept was from MAD Magazine c. 1958. Wish I could find that edition. And I was amazed that Obama used that tome and that so many voters got sucked in. Words like 'change' and 'reform' are often comforting and welcome, but few ask the next question -- What kindof change in what direction, what specific reform? But that's kindof off topic...

You mention the 'Crossroads'. Careful. That's a well-worn metaphor for a place where folks go to sell their souls. My great concern is that 'change' will come in the form of the devil -- professionalism, top down authoritarinism, or profit oriented corporatism if you will. If things go that direction, KBOO as we know it, will be gone.

I blogged here a couple weeks ago pointing out that 'crossroads' metaphor that Ms. Finch first referred to. That Blog was taken down by the powers that be. I'll be curious to see if your blog is allowed to persist. Hope it remains and hope the conversation continues. I spoke up at the 4th meeting saying that, we see no reason why station business should not be discussed on the air. This is not on the air but close to it in the sense that this is an official station venue.

 

best,

Jim Thompson........

 

 

 

 

 

Change and Grey Hair

If only my grey hair would stay attached to the top of my head ... I'd welcome more of it.

There is nothing perfect now, and nothing change brings will be perfect either.  But a few words to consider more carefully ...

"professionalism", what's wrong with that?
"top down authoritarinism", what has a leader and a head doesn't have to function in an authoritarian manner.  Good leadership is something that brings out the best in everyone and listens carefully to those consenting to be led.
"profit oriented corporatism", not likely at KBOO under any scenario.

We won't know the true legacy of Obama till twenty years from now.  Till then, I'm glad for what little change we have had so far.

Best, Ed

To the Posters on IndyMedia

(from a comment on IndyMedia) "Yes, I have also noticed the greying of the KBOO audience. I am one of those "graying" listeners. However, I disagree with the insinuation that younger audiences are turned off by radical politics and need a politically dumbed down KBOO."

 A very sloppy reading of what I wrote.  I neither said younger audiences are turned off by radical politics, nor did I imply that we need a politically dumbed down KBOO. 

There are several points missed by this conversation.  Radicallism is NOT an intrinsic value on it's own.  It's simply a tool when more careful and considered approaches have failed, and a crisis is at hand.  My own politics depend on the issue, sometimes I behave conservative, sometimes progressive.  For example, I find it "conservative" to hold on to my civil liberties such as the 1st ammendment.  I'mconserving and therefore valuing an American value and concept several hundred years old. Bush and his cronies were radicals when they messed with our freedoms in response to 9/11.  When I advocate for single payer health care, I'm being "progressive" because I see that we need to progress, or change something that is not working, i.e. our broken, fragmented, for profit health care system.  But being progressive can be careful and considered, it doesn't have to be radical to be effective. 

I'm possibly ready for a radical shift in the 2nd ammendment, as things seem to be headed steadily into a crisis with gun violence.  But I'd rather work first within the existing political system, along with my friends who are gun owners to see if we can accomplish an effective and reasonable re-balancing of rights under the existing 2nd ammendment.  But over time, if we can't ... then perhaps a "radical move" to a constitutional ammendment.  Or perhaps another "radical" movement to ammend the constitution to undo the horrible effects of Citizens United ... one can dream!   

In my opinion one of KBOO's worst attributes is worshiping the word "radical" as if this by itself is a value.  But KBOO should continue to be a place where "radical" ideas have a place in the programming, but KBOO should not be a radio station only for radical ideas. 

Politically dumbed down?  That's what we have now on too many programs.  If KBOO was less full of crazy conspiracy theories and hate speech, it might have more people listening.  We need a smart KBOO that looks into difficult issues that fall through the cracks or have micro-audiences that aren't being covered by other capable news outlets such as OPB.

To Theresa Mitchell

Just keep posting, and dig yourself in further.  Others have pointed out your obsessions.  But your own post asking what I think about current issues in the Middle East is funnier than hell.  That's precisely the point.  I was prevented from having regular airtime on KBOO by people you know, so that my views (and more importantly those of very serious people whom I have access to, and whom actually are involved in working for peace) would not have a chance to be aired.  Now you're going to "invite" me to debate micro issues on IndyMedia?  Get real.  The issue here is that KBOO won't give air time to anyone who differs from viewpoints of the "in crowd".  You and your crowd are doing everything possible to keep serious, Jewish moderates (and perhaps other moderates in other communities) from having a political voice on community radio.  There are some good programmers who do interesting programs, but not if they contradict the views of the "in crowd" on certain issues.  God forbid you and your friends loose control of the message to those who still listen to KBOO.  I guess my community doesn't give you the "diversity" you seek.

By the way, I've watched other key people at KBOO challenge and intimidate programmers who differ with their personal viewpoints, and even had side conversations asking if they might cool down.  That went nowhere, so Theresa ... sadly you're not alone.

To the trolls who now are trying to pretend they are me

First, Both KBOO and IndyMedia need to dial it in.  Real names only for posted comments, and some moderation would really help.  And is anyone every going to delete the stupid crap being posted on KBOO comments every day?  Do we really have no staff who do a daily cleanup?  What an embarrassment.

These trolls sound just as childish as when I was being attacked five years ago on WWeek and at KBOO.  Stop posting lies and defamation.  It's horrible to pretend you're someone else, even less moral than being harsh in your comments. 

Ed Kraus

Again Theresa, Stop The Lies

Theresa Mitchell.  I DEFY YOU to find and reproduce actual evidence of "anti-Palestinian" rehetoricfrom me, either in writing or in any audio I've produced.  I've certainly interviewed people whom I disagree with on certain points, and have used that opportunity to challenge their views ... but I defy you to back up your statement that I am "anti-Palestinian".

In fact, I'm pro-Palestine as I see the survival of Israel depending on having a stable, viable, peacefull, soverign partner nation next door.  I've dedicated countless hours of my time to working to move the political center of the Jewish community to be ready to accept that this is the best path.  I've made personal visits in the last 2 years lobbying on behalf of J Street perhaps five or six times, meeting with our representatives in Congress, asking them to resist the urge to pile onto stupid letters that are sponsored by reactionary elements in the Jewish community.  In fact, after one particular lobbying push J Street was directly credited with blocking an attempt to close the Palestinian offices in DC after the recent UN vote to make Palestine an observer state.  I was directly involved at the state level lobbying to block that congressional letter which died in committee, and also worked to ensure that payments to the PA were not interupted.

Lies, Lies, Lies.  This is defamation.  This is character assasination.   This is bullshit.   Your behaviour is horrible and I'm calling you out for it.

BTW, as you don't listen very well ... I'll clarify.  I said that on the sidewalk outside KBOO I'm viewed by most of the world as a left wing peacenik ... but when I come into the building KBOO treats ME like I'm Rush Limbaugh.  I said KBOO is intolerant, or words to that effect.  I did not say that KBOO is Rush Limbaugh.  BTW, I'm sure the precise words are on the recording that was made by Kathleen Stephenson, you might want to brush up on facts before posting again.

Ed Kraus

Well said!!!

It's obvious that alot of thought was put into this post.  I couldn't have written it any better. Thank you for putting this out there Ed!

Yes Grace, Let's Dredge up again this Pack Of Lies

It's ironic this is being paraded around again.  Anyone who cares should make sure they read the op ed written by Arthur Davis, and then read my most recent post on IndyMedia dated June 5 2013.

The hack reporter at WWeek who contacted me after another KBOO volunteer "leaked" the "story" no longer works at WWeek.  Perhaps the last straw was the blowback when his efforts were labeled "Flabby Journalism" when he decided to label Oregon Jewish Museum as a "Flabby Charity"?  And after having the "Rouge of the Week" column blasted by readers as irresponsobile and poorly handled, WWeek dropped the column perhaps a year ago?  At least WWeek can learn.  I spoke with the publisher of WWeek regarding a different story a few months ago, I should have asked him if he remembered who I was.

Let sleeping dogs lie.  There was no story, no one was prevented from having any program time by anyone else.  Lies, Lies, Lies.


 

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