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When I Was a Child I Read Books

By Marilynne Robinson

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The Oldest Public Radio Network in America Is in Trouble

Posted on Mar 17, 2014


Pacifica, the original alternative media, just fired its national director. The New York Times doesn’t seem to know why.

In an article Friday, Ben Sisario of the Times notes that Pacifica Executive Director Summer Reese was fired by the national board without any reason given. The article makes note of the network’s financial problems, which predate Reese and owe in some measure to Pacifica’s refusal to take corporate donations. That funding back channel is readily exploited by other public stations, which air commercials from banks, movie studios, and the oil and gas industry in the form of underwriting announcements. There are other troubles at Pacifica, perhaps too many to go into depth here.

Full disclosure: I host Truthdig Radio, which airs here in Los Angeles on 90.7 KPFK, part of the network. I never met Summer Reese and I have not had the time or inclination to investigate whether or not she made a good director. I have, however, heard so much about her second- and third-hand that I find it almost comical the Times could not dig up a better quote regarding her termination.

One need look no further than the Save Pacifica website, which hosts a letter to the Pacifica board written by my colleague Ian Masters. Here’s a taste:

The lunatics have indeed taken over the asylum and today the Pacifica foundation is already in the hands of someone with such a dubious background, who is so demonstrably unqualified for any job, let alone running a radio network, but yet has shown sufficient bureaucratic cunning that both Stalin and the Koch brothers would be impressed by her “stealth” right wing takeover of America’s only left wing media outlet.

Now I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, and I won’t repeat rumor without substantiation. But I believe Pacifica is a vital platform for news and information, perhaps the only truly noncorporate radio network. What goes on there tends to go unreported, or it takes the form of “haha, look at those disorganized lefties trying to make media.” The fact is, it’s an incredible organization that has in its archives recordings of Martin Luther King and Che Guevara, people who were once marginalized and found an audience in the Pacifica Network.

It’s community radio, which means you own it. So get involved, find out what’s going on, and make a difference. You may find things are moving in a positive direction, and you can be a part of it.

—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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