Sunday, November 3, 2013

Andrew Phillips on Current

The following appeared in Current:

According to WBAI volunteer Jim Dingeman, "these are Andrew's words on this story. More to the story than this but basically it's a summary."

But Summer Reese's remark that I didn't innovate programming at WBAI is a bit off. I "innovated program changes from 5-11am and 3-7pm (9 hours of programming) in the wake of laid off paid staff. In the short time they were in place they were beginning to show positive results and actually would have attracted members if permitted to run as planned. In addition we implemented a sustaining membership approach to fund raising, pitching authentic Pacifica content and this this too was taking hold. In both cases, change takes much more time however. Summer Reese usurped my programming authority importing more Gary Null infomercials and other re-runs of past fund drives, gleaning a few dollars continuing to frack the audience for every last drop. WBAI currently pitching into a void as it seems certain Pacifica will be forced to unload the debt-plagued station, to another entity possibly through a Leased Management Agreement.

Our response
We have a few issues with this view.  First, Andrew demonstrated a readiness to make changes, but as he himself admits, it was going to take time for the changes to have an effect. What WBAI did not have was time. Summer recognized this and took action. Andrew reacted wrongly in two ways,  in our opinion: he resisted Summer's attempts to improve the situation and he left WBAI in the lurch. Was this a battle of the egos or a fight to save WBAI? It seems to us that Summer was the one who was willing to take personal risks for the good of WBAI.

Second, we take exception to Andrew's dismissive attitude towards Gary Null, who pulled the station back from the brink. WBAI got through this fund drive, was able to reach its goals and pay its bills largely because Summer recruited Gary to help. A lot of people didn't like that. The naysayer community led by Chris Albertson was against it. Andrew himself was against it. And yet that was what saved WBAI, as far as we know.  Some people including Andrew are dissing Gary's premiums by referring to them as unwanted infomercials, but that's ridiculous because that's what pitching premiums during fundraising marathons is all about. Sorry, but that's what raises the funds that pay for regular programming.

They also ignore the fact that Gary was was running segments from his acclaimed Monday night Progressive Commentary Hour in the 7am slot. Listening to Andrew, you'd think it was all about "green stuff", and listening to Chris Albertson you'd think it was all about "brown stuff". Aside from the fact that this is disrespectful to Gary, the truth is that the drive was flagging even with Andrew's changes, and immediately after Summer put Gary on at 7am the situation began to change for the better.

Here's Gary in his own words after he received a call from Summer Reese telling him the drive was tanking (all of which was corroborated by Summer in her subsequent report to the listeners):

She asked if I would come on to help. I looked at the numbers and I couldn't believe it --
from 5:00 am  - 11:00 am we were bringing in tiny amounts - sometimes as little as 50 dollars!

Well here's the good news - in the last 3 days we've raised over 70,000 dollars, whereas before that we hadn't even raised 7,000 dollars.

So now we're able to pay the transmitter bill and the salaries.

Thank you, Gary

It's obvious that swift corrective action was needed. It's not surprising that the drive was tanking, as most of the staff who were the biggest fundraisers for the station had been laid off. The kinds of changes that Andrew was making needed time and time was a luxury that was simply not available. Summer Reese did the right thing.

Thank you, Summer


  1. Who wrote the non-italicized portion of this?

    1. We did. I think we need to issue a clarification. This is the way it was originally posted on the Blue Board by Jim Dingeman. We found it confusing because the words we italicized were said to have been from Andrew Phillips, but we did not find them in the Current piece. However, we decided to leave it as it was, include the link to Current and italicize the quote of Andrew to distinguish it from our own words on the subject. When someone asked about this, Jim said that Andrew had said it on his Facebook page, but we did not find it there either, so we did not include that. Sorry for the confusion. It was confusing from the beginning, so we tried to reproduce it as we found it, then add our own response.