“As someone who has listened and contributed to this progressive radio station for over 50 years–from the time the station was located in the church at 62nd Street and Second Avenue and was produced by Delores Costello to now–I am now questioning what is going on with the station. There has been no communication with the listener, so I–and others who contribute to the station–cannot ask any questions.”
The writer’s statement, “There has been no communication with the listener,” is incorrect. Pacifica Interim Executive Director and Chair of the Board Summer Reese did interviews on “Wake Up Call” from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Monday, March 4, then conducted a two-hour report to the listener on “Talkback with Hugh Hamilton” on Tuesday, March 5, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Those three hours of programming opened up communication with the listener in order to inform them of the current challenges WBAI faces and the goal the station seeks to achieve. In addition to that, there is a regular “Report to the Listener” from WBAI and Pacifica management that specifically keeps the listener informed of events at the station. WBAI also has “listener commentary” in our monthly e-newsletter sent to 30,000 listeners and members. We received no email inquiry from the writer here.
“The station allegedly moved on Feb. 1 in a merger with WHCR in Harlem.”
Angela Harden, general manager and program director for WHCR, wrote the following in response to the above statement by the writer: “WBAI and WHCR have not merged as stated in the AmNews March 7-March 13 article on page 13. WBAI was flooded out of its Wall Street studio during Hurricane Sandy. Consequently, WHCR agreed to rent one of its studios to WBAI. Both stations are broadcasting on their individual signals and do not share programming. It is unfortunate that I was not contacted as a source for this article.”
The writer continued, “I was very happy, thinking that the merge of this city’s premier progressive radio with yet another progressive radio would bring a higher quality of programming to our listeners and our community.
WBAI’s quality of programming has attracted awards and recognition this year, last year and in the past few years. WBAI’s producers have received the following awards: 2012 Nation magazine Best Local Radio Show for “Wake Up Call,” 2013 My Sister’s Keeper Award from the annual Sista to Sista Youth Summit, Daniel Pearl Multi-media Award for Excellence in Journalism, National Federation of Community Broadcasters’ Award, Friends of the South Bronx Community Pulitzer Award, ProLibertad Freedom Campaign Award (for reporting on Puerto Rican political prisoners), the Society of Silurians Excellence in Journalism Award for Community Reporting, Comite Noviembre’s Best of Our Community Award, Friends of Brooklyn Community Reporting Award, George R. Polk Award, Jesse Meriton White Award for International Reporting, National Association of Black Journalists’ Radio Reporting Award, the Ethical Culture “Man of the Year” Peace Award, the “Madre Padre” Award (presented to “a few good men” by MADRE, the international feminist human rights organization), the Humanist Journalism Award and the Asian-Americans for Equality News Reporting Award.
Personalities like Earl Caldwell, Gary Byrd, Basir Mchawi, M. Saidia Mclaughlin and others who have links to the community seemed to have disappeared from view on the air. It seems that only a chosen few who are constantly begging for money have access to the airwaves.”
The writer is incorrect. Byrd was on air for his weekly Saturday show, “Global Black Experience, Global Beat” from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 16, just as he has been for many, many years. Caldwell is host of “The Caldwell Chronicles,” and he continues to host that show. Mchawi hosted with Sally O’Brien and Interim Executive Director Summer Reese Thursday, March 7 and continues to host “Where We Live” and “Cuba in Focus” from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Indeed, all of those people listed have shows on WBAI; please see the show schedule at www.wbai.org for details on their shows.
“The general manager seems to lack the accountability required of previous managers and program directors. This seems to contribute to the ‘tribal warfare’that is evident in the programming and has an adverse reflection on the administration.”
[I] Berthold Reimers, the general manager, send out a report every month to the listeners as well as reports at our Local Station Board meetings, which are open to the public. We invite the author to attend one to see what accountability standards he is held to.
“A woman from California has taken control and has even eliminated the world-renowned International Women’s Day programming.”
The writer is incorrect. There is no “woman from California” who has “taken control.” Reese, the interim CEO of Pacifica Foundation (which is a national group of five sister stations), was recently appointed to the seat after her tenure as the chairperson of the Pacifica National Board was over. She came to assist us with on-air pitching for our Emergency Transmitter Fund. The decision to not offer International Woman’s Day programming was made by the WBAI management because of the more pressing need to raise revenue on air so that the station would still be here next year to offer that programming in the first place.
“There is no accounting for money that has been raised. Fundraising has been ongoing since Feb. 1; no one seems to know the total amount raised to date.”
Amounts raised are shown on the website via a meter. Please see the meter located on our website, www.wbai.org.
“The perpetual fundraising along with the same repeated programs turns the listenership off.”
Having been a listener for so long, the author might have noted that WBAI was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. As one of numerous not-for-profits and small businesses in the area, the effects were financially devastating. Lost revenue is not being covered by insurance because it is being deemed “flood related,” and FEMA has extended deadline after deadline without addressing early applications for aid. The fundraising has been a community effort to keep the station broadcasting. All not-for-profits (WBAI is exclusively listener-supported and receives no paid advertising or corporate funding) have been hit hard since 2008. The pool for foundation grants has diminished and numerous government grants have been lost.
“The general manager’s failure to include new community-oriented producers is a serious concern.”
WBAI is excited to be partnering with a range of organizations (for that entire list, please take a look at the new WBAI website). Those partnerships have been made in these last two years and are building on the station’s long history within the community. Additionally, our programming includes topics important to them and includes many in the author’s community. WBAI airs more than 100 programs weekly that represent just about every ethnic community in the New York metropolitan area. New hosts include Desi K. Robinson of “Women in the Making,” who brings together two generations of women and holds “Women in the Making” summits on health, food justice, nutrition and politics in the community; while Barika Edwards of “Artsy Fartsy” expands the station’s art content and its links to New York’s amazing but often under-reported artistic community.
“I would like for you to look into the issues and concerns listed above and print responses to them when possible.”
It seems the author has been misinformed and was writing an article in order to create a negative view of WBAI. We find it hurtful that in these hard times–in the conditions under which our staff and management have fought and are currently continuing to fight to keep WBAI broadcasting since the hurricane–is unfair and mean-spirited at best. WBAI faces a major financial crisis and is currently doing on-air fundraising via the WBAI Transmitter Fund to raise urgently needed money. All nonprofits face challenges due to the struggles New York faces and continues to fight. WBAI is the only community radio station New York has; we are in the fight for its life, so let’s work to stay on air and stay together, not work to pull it apart.