Long-overdue changes at Pacifica give hope for network’s renewal


Margy Wilkinson, PNB chair, temporarily serving as Pacifica’s iED, in her office at KPFA

Late last week, the Pacifica National Board (PNB), the governing body of the nonprofit that owns KPFA, voted to end the employment of then-interim executive director Summer Reese.

Because the board did not immediately appoint a new interim executive director, the person in charge this week has been, per California law, the new PNB board chair, Margy Wilkinson. 

Margy served as KPFA’s Local Station Board chair before becoming a Pacifica board member. She has a long history as a labor, civil rights and anti-war activist, serving on the City of Berkeley’s Labor Commission, and as the chief rank-and-file bargainer for a union representing University of California employees. Wilkinson was elected to chair the Pacifica board last month, after new delegates took their seats and began setting a new direction for Pacifica.

Wilkinson reports that the managers of the five stations Pacifica owns are working with her to straighten out the network’s difficulty getting funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting – something that festered for over a year under Reese, delaying nearly $1 million in payments.

Early in the week, Wilkinson told staff that she won’t accept pay, thinks it’s been a bad practice to move board members into management positions (which is how Reese came to power), and asked the PNB to appoint a qualified interim executive director quickly. Last night, the board met in executive session and issued a public report that it will offer the job to a specific individual, but for confidentiality reasons, it did not release the name.

Ex-manager locks out elected board members, KPFA staff


Elect reps Brian Edwards-Tiekert and Margy Wilkinson demand that terminated employee Summer Reese (in polka dots) leave the building

Wilkinson also reports that since Reese broke into Pacifica’s office last week by using bolt cutters to open the front door, she is sleeping in her former office and refusing to leave. Pacifica’s offices are in the KPFA building, provided rent-free to the network by KPFA.

UpFront co-host Brian Edwards-Tiekert, currently serving as a staff rep on the Pacifica National Board, said a handful of supporters of Reese blocked him and Wilkinson from entering the building: “As an elected member of Pacifica’s Board of Directors, I have a right under California law and Pacifica’s bylaws to inspect the premises, and look at financial records.”

In other words: this is a former manager locking out the elected representatives of KPFA’s workers and listeners. That’s consistent with Reese’s heavy-handed tactics when she was a manager: Reese purged more Pacifica employees than any interim executive director in recent memory.

Last spring, over the near-unanimous objections of KPFA’s staff and elected board, she drove out KPFA manager Andrew Phillips, who had won the respect of nearly everyone at KPFA. She also replaced every single member of Pacifica’s national staff, and forced onto the airwaves of some Pacifica stations heavy doses of snake oil from dubious fundraisers like HIV denialist Gary Null (thankfully, she’s not managed to get him onto KPFA.)

Posted in elections and governance, KPFA, Margy Wilkinson, Pacifica National Board, Summer Reese | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Who is Summer Reese?

Reese using a bolt cutter to break into Pacifica's offices

Reese using a bolt cutter to break into Pacifica’s offices

Summer Reese came to the Pacifica board via sister station KPFK in Los Angeles. She is a close ally of former Pacifica treasurer Tracy Rosenberg, and was appointed by last year’s board as the network’s interim executive director at a salary of $105,000. (That’s higher that former ED Arlene Engelhardt‘s salary, which was $90,000.)

According to a new article in the LA WeeklyReese’s break-in at the Pacifica office included lawsuit threats. The article charts Reese’s background, which “includes stints working for the lawyer of Sirhan Sirhan, and for a man named Peymon Mottahedeh, a non-lawyer who nevertheless founded the Freedom Law School, which claims to help clients avoid taxes.”

KPFK host Peter Z. Scheer didn’t comment directly on Reese in Truthdig, but notes that “The oldest public radio network in America is in trouble…Get involved, find out what is going on, and make a difference.”

“I’m appalled that a person who has done so much damage to our station and network is now refusing to leave after the board has ended her contract,” wrote KPFA listener Eva Kellen to the board. “Reese and Rosenberg, et al., have practically destroyed the Pacifica network, and the unfounded rumors they are now spreading are outrageous. My deep appreciation to the listeners and staff who are trying to get the network back on course. Pacifica is a treasure that needs to be preserved, now more than ever.”

Posted in Arlene Engelhardt, elections and governance, KPFK, Pacifica National Board, Summer Reese, Tracy Rosenberg | Tagged , , | Comments Off

It’s all there: KPFA’s financial reports

Reese and her supporters — most notably Rosenberg – have responded to Reese’s termination by fabricating stories of corruption at KPFA, including the bizarre charge that KPFA has kept its finances secret.

For the record: KPFA’s most recent FINANCIAL REPORTS are publicly available here, and show the station outperforming its budget for this year. Also, if anything were being concealed, responsibility would lie with the person in charge — which, for the past year and a half, has been Reese.

If  wild accusations are landing in your email box, you may want to remember that Rosenberg was formally censured by KPFA’s Local Station Board for misappropriating subscribers’ email addresses. Even though the board called on her to destroy then, these addresses may still be in Rosenberg’s possession. If you are receiving unwanted emails, you may wish to file a complaint with Rosenberg’s email provider, Salsa Labs, or with the Federal Trade Commission — the directions are in this story about Rosenberg’s deceptive email practices.

Posted in budget, elections and governance, KPFA, KPFA Local Station Board, Summer Reese, Tracy Rosenberg | Tagged , , | Comments Off

PNB dismisses interim ED

Original KPFA radio dial, circa 1949

Original KPFA radio dial, circa 1949

In a short announcement posted March 13, the Pacifica National Board (PNB) reports that it has ended the employment of controversial interim executive director Summer Reese. New board chair Margy Wilkinson sent this longer message to the network’s general managers explaining the change, asking that it be forwarded to staff. She confirms that an new interim executive director will be in place soon.

Wilkinson was elected Pacifica chair last month after new delegates from each local station took their seats on the PNB, following annual elections from the five Pacifica local station boards. The memo also notes that the national board is turning its attention to urgent needs in the network’s infrastructure, and that a report Pacifica is required to make for continued funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) was submitted on time this year. Last year, the CPB withheld its funding to Pacifica due to “shortcomings in its accounting and operations,” according to the online magazine of public broadcasting, Current.

BREAKING: At our publication time, there are reports that Reese had forced her way into the Pacifica National Office in Berkeley and was refusing to leave. Several SaveKPFA supporters are on the scene — more details as we get them.

It’s time to reverse the network’s decline

wbai Reese was chair of the Pacifica board in 2011, 2012, and 2013. During the last 18 months, she was also the network’s interim executive director. Under Reese’s tenure and that of her close ally, former Pacifica treasurer Tracy Rosenberg, the network’s problems grew exponentially.

Pacifica’s independent news service, Free Speech Radio News, was forced to close because Pacifica failed to pay $200,000 owed to it. Over a million dollars is still owed by Pacifica to Democracy Now!

At New York’s WBAI, Reese fired or drove out two program directors, and gave huge blocks of airtime to vitamin entrepreneur Gary Null, whose peddling of questionable supplements brought attention from the CPB Ombudsperson’s office after listener complaints that the station’s fundraising was “ethically-challenged,” and whose position denying HIV has angered many in the AIDS activist community.

Last week, Pacifica finally paid the severance it legally owned to 19 WBAI employees Reese had laid off over 6 months ago. Of the $140,000 paid, $50,000 came from KPFA’s funds.

At KPFA, Reese abruptly transferred general manager Andrew Phillips last year to the program director job at WBAI, then would not let him do the job he’d been tapped for. Reese also failed to appoint a new KPFA general manager as required by the bylaws, even though the Local Station Board hiring committee had interviewed and chosen four acceptable candidates.

Supporting cooperative programming

FSRN logo

After receiving new non-Pacifica funding, Free Speech Radio News, is back online trying to create an economically-viable model – one SaveKPFA believes is likely to be far superior than the replacement, Feature Story News, which Reese put on the air in place of FSRN last year.

There have been many complaints about the quality of FSN’s reporting. “This is not the kind of radio KPFA listeners should be paying for with their hard-earned dollars,” noted KPFA local board member Donald Goldmacher, producer of the film Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?

Other Pacifica stations benefit from a number of shows that originate on KPFA, including Against the Grain, Letters & Politics, and Voices of the Middle East and North Africa. “Sharing programming resources is a good way for Pacifica stations to support each other and bring in new listeners,” adds Goldmacher.

KPFA also assists other Pacifica stations by sharing the premiums that it creates through the station’s public speaker series managed by long-time events coordinator Bob Baldock. These premiums, which feature writers and activists such as Naomi Klein, Michelle Alexander, Gabor Maté and others, generate tens of thousands of dollars during pledge drives each year across the network.


Posted in Free Speech Radio News, KPFA, Pacifica, Pacifica National Board, WBAI | Comments Off

Good news on KPFA’s budget, shorter pledge drives

KPFA on the Air posterPreliminary financial statements distributed by KPFA Local Station Board treasurer Barbara Whipperman during the board’s meeting on March 8 show KPFA outperforming its budget over the first four months of this fiscal year. The station’s budget anticipated a loss of $28,465 over that period — instead, the station reported positive net income of $56,532 — $85,000 better than budget.

KPFA wrapped up its February fund drive in just 18 days — nearly a week shorter than last years’ major fund drives. Credit goes to the hard work of KPFA’s staff, the generosity of its listeners, and a fortuitous estate gift that made it possible to KPFA to reduce its on-air goal by $100,000.

KPFA interim GM Richard Pirodsky sent out the following: “Now comes the follow-up, the diversification of fundraising efforts to ensure that KPFA need not be overly dependent upon on-air fund drives. To open new revenue streams, to generate more off-air monies, it will take planning, hard work, and yes, dollars.”

Mark your calendars: KPFA’s 65th anniversary

KPFA is currently planning a one-day fundraising blitz to mark the 65th anniversary of the day it went on the air as the world’s first listener-supported radio station. The date: Tuesday, April 15th. And don’t forget to support KPFA by paying your pledge, and/or attending some of the many terrific fundraising events coming up soon.

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A message from PNB chair Margy Wilkinson

The following message was sent to staff from Pacifica National Board chair Margy Wilkinson.

message from PNB chair Margy Wilkinson

Posted in KPFA, KPFK, KPFT, Pacifica National Board, Summer Reese, WBAI, WPFW | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off

SaveKPFA’s Margy Wilkinson elected PNB chair, Tracy Rosenberg finally off the board

margywilkinsonThe Pacifica National Board (PNB) met February 7-10 in Washington, DC. After a close election, Margy Wilkinson, a member of SaveKPFA and former chair of KPFA‘s local board, became Pacifica’s new chair.

Margy is a long-time union activist who is also involved with Grandmothers Against War and is an active volunteer in the Berkeley public schools. Over her two years as chair of KPFA’s local board, she demonstrated a real knack for bringing calm and civility to an often acrimonious setting. Here’s hoping she can keep it up at the PNB!

In related news, this year’s PNB no longer includes Tracy Rosenberg, the board member who engineered the destruction of KPFA’s Morning Show in 2010. She reached the end of her term limit. Filling her seat on Pacifica’s Finance Committee will be worker representative Brian Edwards-Tiekert — one of the Morning Show hosts she encouraged Pacifica to lay off (he was re-instated with full back pay and now hosts UpFront).

The PNB elected Tony Norman as its vice chair. He is an attorney who has previously served as chair of the local board of Pacifica station WPFW in Washington, DC. As secretary, the PNB elected Cerene Roberts, a delegate from New York City’s WBAI, and as assistant secretary, Adriana Casanave from Houston station KPFT. | LISTEN to the PNB meeting: agenda, part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

Posted in Brian Edwards-Tiekert, elections and governance, KPFA, Margy Wilkinson, Pacifica, Pacifica National Board, Tracy Rosenberg | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Pacifica board takes action on election, WBAI crisis

wbaigraphicIn its new configuration, the board took several notable actions. It passed a motion that will put long-overdue board elections into motion. Pacifica’s bylaws required it to hold elections in 2013, but Pacifica’s executive director Summer Reese failed to hire anyone to run them, and that year’s board ratified her inaction by voting to postpone elections — effectively extending many of their own terms.

National board members also brought more transparency to discussions over what to do about long-suffering Pacifica station WBAI in New York City. After years of running massive deficits, the station was dealt a near-lethal blow when Superstorm Sandy flooded the building it broadcast from, rendering WBAI homeless in the middle of a fund drive. WBAI made sweeping layoffs last year, and has been struggling to catch up on unpaid bills.

The Pacifica National Board held a public discussion with FCC attorney Melodie Virtue about the implications of entering into a Public Service Operating Agreement (PSOA) in which another organization would temporarily take over responsibility for running the station and paying its bills. It also allowed the audience to ask her questions, and make comments. Eventually, the board approved a motion to hold off on entering into negotiations over a PSOA contract while it solicits an alternative plan from WBAI’s elected Local Station Board, and asks Pacifica’s management to come up with more detailed information on the station’s financial performance and prospects for the future. | READ about WBAI: Village Voice, Current, Radio Survivor

Meanwhile, on its 14th anniversary of February 11, Free Speech Radio News has relaunched its website and begun filing stories from around the globe. The independent newscast had gone off the air last fall after Pacifica’s national office failed to pay over $200,000 in fees owed to it.

Posted in budget, elections and governance, Free Speech Radio News, Pacifica, Pacifica National Board, Summer Reese, WBAI | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

KPFA’s winter fund drive on track to finish early — help now!

Music programmer David Gans and Luis Medina, KPFA's music director.

Music programmer David Gans and Luis Medina, KPFA’s music director.

The station’s winter fund drive is chugging along at a faster clip than expected, putting it on track to end in just two and a half weeks — nearly a week shorter than KPFA’s major drives last year. Big kudos to all of KPFA’s staff and listeners, particularly SaveKPFA‘s David Gans and Tim Lynch, whose annual Grateful Dead Marathon raised about $20,000 more than KPFA does on an average Saturday.

Success can bring problems, however: the increased number of calls coming in has at times overwhelmed the volunteers staffing KPFA’s phone room. Staff are reporting regular shortages during the early morning fundraising appeals for Democracy Now! and UpFront.

Three ways you can help out

1) Come volunteer at KPFA any time after 6:30 AM — the address is 1929 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Berkeley.

2) Give some money online! Making a pledge through www.kpfa.org doesn’t tie up a phone line, and it lets you shop around all the thank you gifts KPFA is offering.

3) Check out the fantastic KPFA events and attend one or more! Email them to your friends, post them on Facebook and Twitter!

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KPFA needs YOU!

KPFA launches another on-air fund drive this Tuesday, February 4. Consider how much KPFA’s continuing presence means to you and your co-workers, friends and neighbors, and please make a generous donation by calling the station during the drive at 800-439-5732, or by giving securely online to www.kpfa.org.

You can also volunteer in the phone room from 6AM to 10PM weekdays and 7AM to 6PM weekends at 1929 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, near University Ave. in Berkeley. More about volunteer shifts here.

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