I heard from a number of people what occurred at the WYPR Board of Director’s meeting.
I suppose some of you heard what happened to Kay Dellinger when she left the meeting. She was among the last to leave, and encountered WYPR GM Tony Brandon in the parking lot talking to one of the police officers sent to guard the board from its listeners. They were talking about whether the building was empty.
As Kay passed Tony Brandon she said to him, referring to the board, “You are a bunch of cowards.”
Tony replied :”F**k you, Get a life…”
So, elite, well-mannered, calm, cool, collected, tough-minded business mogul tells a woman who is his elder to F**K herself. It shows you what kind of man he really is.
Tony has misled the board, and most of the board has bought his claims, hook, line, and sinker. The board has never asked to talk with me. The board never asked to talk with Ray Blank, the consultant who worked with Tony and me over four years to manage our station
WYPR has attempted to mislead the public with its ever-changing excuses for why it fired me.
At the meeting, board chair Barbara Bozzuto said that I was fired because of philosophical differences. Previously, they claimed that my show was replaced because it focused too narrowly on Baltimore and they wanted a “statewide” show (easily disproved by looking at the list of topics the show addressed and by the fact that they had no “statewide” show lined up to replace me). Then they claimed that there were “personnel” reasons for firing me, but they have never provided any specifics to me, nor to the public, despite my public waiver of any claim of confidentiality. The falsity of their claim is demonstrated by the fact that they offered me $50,000 to keep quiet (which I would not accept) — not the sort of offer an employer makes to an employee who has done something wrong. Then they claimed they dropped me because ratings were down. But Chris Kaltenbach of the Sun showed that the numbers didn’t support their claim. Moreover, the station had cut back on promoting the show. Most importantly, public radio isn’t supposed to be driven by ratings.
Now, it is “philosophical reasons.” At least they’re getting closer to the truth.
Yes, there were philosophical differences — I believed in putting the public in public radio, they did not.. That in combination with Tony Brandon’s ego and determination not to manage the station as a team (but on his own, something he made clear at the first board meeting back in 2002) led to them ousting me as Vice President in the summer of 2005. There were philosophical reasons then, but since 2005 we have hardly said a word of importance to one another. They won control of the station, and we lost, and I decided to produce my show and serve the community as best I could.
Bozzuto said they were moving beyond my “narrow audience base”. Narrow audience base? When they canceled the show, fired me, or as NPR’s Andre Codrescu put it, “carried out a palace coup,” the support for our show and for our public radio was broader than most other public radio shows. Conservatives like Bob Ehrlich and Richard Vatz, leaders of the Jewish and Arab American communities, heads of universities, inner city activists and Hunt Valley dwellers, artists, doctors, lawyers, social workers, teachers, black, white, Asian — that “narrow audience base” for our noon show — have expressed their support of me.
If there were philosophical differences that erupted in the last three years, they revolved around what we did on the air. Some of them took umbrage that I had the temerity to raise questions about their powerful corporate friends and investments, that we did too many “urban” shows, that we brought voices on that did not sound like them. I was given grief about “Just Words,” the very series that won my producer Jessica Phillips and me a Peabody. The voices of the working poor wasn’t considered real journalism.
Well I am sorry, I thought I was finished with this, but maybe I am not. It gets so frustrating at times.
I really appreciate the almost 1,100 people who have now signed the petition to bring back my show, as well as those of you who have stood outside the station, who have written letters to WYPR’s management, made public and private statements, stood by us, taken a stand on public radio and personally supported me and Valerie through all of this.
When people ask would I go back, of course I would love to go back. I loved what I did. As Valerie often says, I lived and breathed my work. Could I do it in that atmosphere, with that leadership in place, after all that has been done? No, I could not.
When you ask what to do, I say keep the pressure on to make public really the public’s radio. It does belong to us.
This week we will be launching our website to bring you great stories and interviews every week. Our site will be a place for unheard voices. I am excited about what we are building with your support.
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