Arcata Eye Scene

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Elizabeth Hans McCrone: Here is what happened

Dear KHSU Community,

Let me start by correcting the recent press release sent out by the university characterizing me as departing KHSU to “pursue other endeavors.” I did not leave to pursue other endeavors. I was forced to resign.

A week ago Monday at a regularly scheduled meeting with Rob Gunsalus, the vice-president of University Advancement, Mr. Gunsalus told me that he and I had “a different vision” for KHSU and that he would be seeking new management for the station. During that meeting and in a subsequent phone conversation he told me this had nothing to do with my job performance or any “job failure” on my part. In fact, he claimed I had done “good work for the station and the university.” He also said that he had no “animosity” toward me. He said that my dismissal was about a “new leadership direction” for KHSU. He was not specific about what that meant. He was specific about wanting me to resign, rather than to be fired.

I’ll spare you the details of our negotiations over the next week, which happened in large part while I was attempting to attend a family wedding in South Carolina. I will tell you that I was given very little time, that there are very few options for management employees in these circumstances and that I chose what I felt would be best for my husband and myself and our financial future – and that was to officially resign and take early retirement from HSU.

My last official day on the job is July 30th. As I leave I do so with serious concerns about the future of KHSU for the following reasons:

Last March a listener who was upset about the content aired during Democracy Now’s broadcast of the “Winter Soldiers” testimonies in Silver Spring, Maryland contacted me and university president Rollin Richmond to protest. Mr. Gunsalus became active in the discussion and sided with the listener’s position that KHSU was wrong to be airing what he felt were one-sided and “biased” perspectives on the war in Iraq. I did my best to explain to all involved that whether or not you agree with the programming, it is important in the interests of free speech and a free and democratic society to allow these perspectives to be heard. I said we would be happy to give the listener air time to react to the program and to share his opinions on Democracy Now or any other issue he wished to speak about.

Mr. Gunsalus became adamant about engaging me on the merits of carrying Democracy Now on KHSU. He claimed Democracy Now was “pedal to the metal” advocacy and had no place on a publicly-funded college radio station. He said he had listened to an episode of “Winter Soldiers” on Democracy Now and stated that it “made my blood boil.” He said he and President Richmond were “this close” to pulling Democracy Now off the air.

Shortly after this exchange I sent a memo and series of station reports about Democracy Now to Mr. Gunsalus and President Richmond. The memo was, as I stated “an effort to help us all deal with and understand listener reactions to Democracy Now and what role it plays on KHSU.” With the memo I included financial data from pledge drives since Democracy Now had been added to the program schedule, amounts of dollars pledged on each show pitched during the drive, statistics on audience research during 9-10 a.m. when Democracy Now airs, data from our streaming statistics and listener responses when asked “why do you support KHSU and what are some of your favorite programs?” I concluded by saying that based on the reports “I believe this program performs well for the station and university and has broad support throughout the community.”

I did not receive a response from the president’s office, but when Mr. Gunsalus and I discussed the reports later he said that even if listeners liked Democracy Now and supported it financially, it might be “the right thing for the university to do” to pull the show. When I asked what objective criteria he would use to make that decision, he said it would be done “subjectively.”

Similarly, I am concerned about the fates of Thursday Night Talk and Eco News. On several occasions over the last two years, I have had conversations with both Mr. Gunsalus and President Richmond about allegations that the programs are biased to the progressive left, advocacy in nature and inappropriate for a campus radio station. While at times I have agreed that the guests and perspectives on these shows come too often from one point of view and could be more journalistic in nature, and I have tried to work with the volunteer hosts and producers to achieve this, I have never questioned the value of the programs to our listeners or the dedication and hard work of the people who create them. I do not believe the university administration sees it the same way. Several months ago Mr. Gunsalus told me he wanted to replace the Thursday Night Talk hosts with someone who would do less “advocacy” and provide more “balance” to the show. I tried to persuade him that it would be better to add another talk show rather than to cancel a long-standing program already in place and he agreed – but he promised to “revisit” the issue of Thursday Night Talk soon.

Lastly, I am concerned about the station structurally and financially for the following reasons:

In April during meeting with Mr. Gunsalus, he insisted that I sign a document transferring $100,000 of KHSU reserve funds, which come from membership contributions and underwriting revenue, into an Advancement Foundation account under a quasi-endowment agreement. I was hesitant to sign over the funds because of KHSU’s current budget situation (see below) and the rate at which the station has been forced to deficit spend to meet expenses. I was also hesitant because quasi-endowments, as defined by the Advancement Foundation are “funds that the institution’s governing board may choose to treat as endowment, but the board is not subject to any legal prohibitions against spending the principal.” While I am hopeful that the monies will be invested wisely and that interest earnings will benefit the station into the future, I worry about KHSU’s access to the funds should they be needed. I also remain perplexed and uneasy about the insistence by Mr. Gunsalus that I transfer the funds.

Some of you may know that KHSU’s state budget has been cut severely by the university this year ($25,000) and will continue to be cut by the same amount for at least the next four years. If this does happen, KHSU’s state subsidy will be essentially eliminated, which could very well cripple the station operationally. And, as I have tried to explain many times, any reductions the station receives from the university or other sources negatively affects the annual Community Service Grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The lower the state subsidy from the university, the lower the annual CPB grant, which further impacts KHSU’s overall budget.

As of July 1, 2008 Mr. Gunsalus changed the way in which the station receives and processes donations from the community. Instead of going through KHSU which has historically been the case, gifts now go through a centralized campus “gift processing center.” I am concerned that this procedure will interfere with the station’s ability to quickly know about and be responsive to our donors, a practice which the station has always handled well and been proud of. And just two weeks or so ago, University Advancement took KHSU’s donor data base away from our Member Services office so that donor records no longer reside with radio station development personnel. These structural changes, while complicated to explain, have caused internal disruptions to KHSU’s staffing, gift accounting, receipting and donor acknowledgment processes. In short, it’s a mess.

I’m very sorry I will no longer be able to assist KHSU in an official capacity about these or any other issues of concern to the station. In my resignation email to Mr. Gunsalus I said the following:

“It has been a great privilege to work with the dedicated staff and volunteers at this beloved public radio station for the past six-plus years. As a team we have achieved enormous success on behalf of the university and the listening community we serve. I had wished to accomplish much more for the station, campus and community … I am deeply saddened that cannot happen.”

Please know that I will always remain committed to the mission of public radio. I will miss my work at the station and with all of you very much.

Elizabeth

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4 Comments»

  Daniel del Solar wrote @

The hijack of the KHSU cannot be tolerated. The community ought to organize an invitation to Democracy Now immediately, before the departure of Elizabeth. The live broadcast of the evening will serve to make the issues clear. The deed is being done in the “dead of night” while the students are awqy. Immediate contact to both Pacifica Radio and the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. They may help. A committee needs to convene over dinner. Without immediate action this blatant act of arbitrary censorship needs to be stopped.

  plannax wrote @

Déjà vu Pacifica Radio circa 2000…

I agree Daniel, this is one for the full-year community resident listener/members to rally to… Sign me up as an interested participant…

Where do we start, a letter-writing campaign to Gunsalus & Richmond, or would that be a waste of time/effort, falling on deaf ears?

  Jud Ellinwood wrote @

What Dr. Richmond and his cronies don’t seem to understand is that there is a large number of HSU alumni who reside in Humboldt County and are extremely disturbed by the machinations of his administration, especially their funding priorities and (mis)handling of funding for community services and projects that have enjoyed deep and longstanding community support. The only thing that seems to influence his out-of-step, dictatorial, style-not-substance decisions is the bottom line. So be it. Someone should circulate a petition that would be signed by alumni stating their intent to refuse to donate any funds to the University if KHSU programming, staffing and financial structure is reconfigured into a form that will inevitably lead to its demise. Since many of us boomers alumni are at an age when we are considering end of life giving commitments, we ought to be using this leverage to protect the HSU community service institutions -KHSU, the Natural History Museum, First Street Art Gallery – from this ruthless, greedy, image-is-everything administration. And alert the Chancellor’s office that he’s got an alumni revolt on his hands that threatens their donation stream of revenue. Maybe that’ll get Richmond’s attention.

  JJ Semple wrote @

This is the same thing CPB [PBS parent organization] chairman Kenneth Tomlinson did to Bill Moyers, “…commissioning a study of the show NOW with Bill Moyers. Tomlinson said that the study supported what he characterized as ‘the image of the left-wing bias of NOW’. Moyers replied to this by saying that his journalism showed ‘the actual experience of regular people is the missing link in a nation wired for everything but the truth.’ Moyers characterized Tomlinson as ‘an ally of Karl Rove and the right-wing monopoly’s point man to keep tabs on public broadcasting.’ Tomlinson, he said, ‘found kindred spirits at the right-wing editorial board of the Wall Street Journal where the “animal spirits of business” are routinely celebrated.’ Moyers also responded to these accusations in a speech given to the National Conference for Media Reform, pointing out that he had repeatedly invited Tomlinson to debate him on the subject, and had repeatedly been ignored. Tomlinson subsequently resigned on 4 November 2005 after a CPB inquiry found improprieties in the commissioning of the study. Investigators at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting said on 15 November 2005 ‘that they had uncovered evidence that (Tomlinson) had repeatedly broken federal law and the organization’s own regulations in a campaign to combat what he saw as liberal bias.'”

The names have changed but the script is the same, even down to the bit about misuse of funds. Well, Moyers made a triumphant return to PBS, and little man Tomlinson is relegated to the dustbin of history. Ironically, about the only place one could follow this story was Democracy Now (DN). Amy was the only soul brave enough to rebroadcast Moyers amazing 2005 speech in its entirety. I agree with Daniel; this is a great “microcosm media takeover” story that Amy and Bill Moyers would love.

It’s amazing how these people (Richmond and Gunsalus) lack any feeling for the type of community they live in.


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