Here us an update as of 11:09 p.m., West Coast Time, on what has been happening in and around KPFA since my last post regarding the firing of Nicole Sawaya
First, someone fired shots into the window of Pacifica's office late last night which, of course, is being attributed to an angry critic of Lynn Chadwick. But more on this at the end.
This morning's Morning Show started off with Kris Welch and Philip Maldari mentioning the firing of Nicole and saying that it was NOT an April Fool's joke. Later in that programmer,. former long-time staff member Russ Jennings phoned in to announce tomorrow's protest.
During the noon hour Wayland Severn interrupted his music program, several times to complain about the firing and express his concerns for what was happening to community radio.
Following that was Carolyn Casey's Visionary Activist show in which Carolyn raised the subject with the view that the firing could be reversed. When she opened the phones I called in and had a good exchange with her, mentioning the protest and repeating it at her urging. Then someone else called in to ask about it, and she encouraged everyone to come.
The next local show was Dennis Bernstein's Flashpoints, which dealt mainly with the war in Serbia/Kosovo but on which guest Barbara Lubin announced the picket and then I followed that up with a reinforcing call, which led Dennis to read Chadwick's orders not to discuss the issue on the air, since, according to Chadwick, "it isn't news."
Then co-News Director Mark Mericle, followed his co-director Aileen Alfandary's example of the previous night and after mentioning that Pacifica's window had been shot out, went over the circumstances of the firing. I taped this, but have not had the time to transcribe it. Portions of a strong statement by the staff calling for Nicole's reinstatement were read on the air and will be posted after this report.
It also looks like we will get some announcements in the local papers tomorrow so prospects look good for a big protest.
As to the shooting, it has, for me, the same nasty aroma as did the claims by Pacifica and KPFA management (Pat Scott, Marci Lockwood, and Ginny Berson) that they had received death threats after the August 1995 purge, (which turned out not to have been reported to the police, as they said) and the death threats that were received by Chadwick and two other Pacifica staff members prior to the February board meeting. The names of those two staffers were virtually unknown outside of Pacifica itself, which makes them extremely unlikely recipients of hate calls. I did talk with both women and believe that they did receive threats but from whom is open to question. As for Pacifica's office which is next door to KPFA , it has no name on the door to identify it and outside of the station few subscribers know of its location.
1929 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
1 April 1999
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
STATEMENT OF KPFA STAFF RE THE TERMINATION OF NICOLE SAWAYA
The executive director and the executive committee of the board of the Pacifica Foundation have terminated KPFA's general manager Nicole Sawaya. Despite the unanimous support for Sawaya, executive director Lynn Chadwick decided on March 31, 1999, not to renew Sawaya's contract.
A KPFA manager has not been fired in a quarter of a century, and we do not know the reasons for her dismissal. We were neither consulted or informed. We have heard that Sawaya was "not a good fit," not a "team player." We can only presume this language refers to Sawaya's questioning of national Pacifica's practices and priorities, concerns which we of KPFA as well as many supporters and listeners share. These questions should be matters of legitimate discussion within "free speech" Pacifica, not the pretext for autocratic action.
Sawaya's dismissal comes hard on the heels of the firing (subsequently reversed) of one of Pacifica's "signature" voices." Larry Bensky, a Pacifica employee of more than 30 years. We the staff of KPFA are totally confounded as to why the executive director would dismiss our general manager, who has met and exceeded all fundraising goals and maintained the station strictly within its budget. Her firing is the latest malfeasance of a national Pacifica leadership which appears to be on a path of self-destruction.
Sawaya and the rest
of us had just been able to repair relations with many funders and the
community following the debacle of national management's hiring of a union-busting consulting firm to
negotiate new labor contracts with unionized staff, when the Bensky affair occurred. Then Pacifica national
provoked another public controversy over governance.
Now yet another crisis
is upon us. The extent of national management's obtuseness and irresponsibility
judged from the fact that it has visited these vexations on us as we are struggling to deal with national crises--wars with Iraq and the former Yugoslavia. To say our work as radio professionals serving our audience on these issues has been disrupted is to state what should be obvious to any casual observer--but apparently not to national management.
The consequences of this firing are immense and on-going. How high is the cost that national management is willing to pay? The fund-raising capabilities, the goodwill, and favorable publicity from KPFA's 50th anniversary celebration lie in ruins. More negative publicity locally and nationally is all but assured.
We have two demands:
1. The immediate
re-hiring of Nicole Sawaya with a renewable contract, subject to normal
performance evaluation procedures.
2. A mediation of the dispute by a respected independent outside group or individual subject to the mutual approval of KPFA paid staff and the Pacifica national board. This mediation is to include a full public report of the reasons for Sawaya's dismissal and a full explanation of the underlying issues in the debate within Pacifica.
In closing, we want
to underscore our commitment to work with the entire KPFA community to
resolve the grave
issues which daily undermine our ability to do the important work of this progressive, free-speech media
Maldari 510-848-6767 x 227 KPFA
Dennis Bernstein 510-848-6767 x 260 KPFA