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Ousted Executive Director Summer Reese Occupies Pacifica Offices

Summer Reese, along with her mother and supporters, has been occupying the Pacifica Foundation’s offices in Berkeley, CA for almost ten days. Recall that Reese was abruptly fired from her position as Executive Director by the Pacifica National Board two weeks ago, without any public statements justifying the action. She and many others contest the validity of the National Board’s action.

Oakland TV station KTVU broadcast a report live from the Pacifica offices this morning. Reporter Patti Lee shows how the office door is now barricaded from the inside, with Reese supporters standing guard. Inside there are air mattresses to accommodate Reese, her mother and others who are taking turns occupying the building 24 hours a day. Reese told KTVU that she has not moved in, but that she and her fellow occupiers are sleeping in shifts.

There had been reports of mass document shredding happening there, though Reese told SF Weekly that the reason shredder truck was called is because staff are still working and the office’s shredder had broken. “We have paper piled up on both sides of the copy machine,” she said.

Pacifica board chair Margy Wilkinson told the San Jose Mercury News that a successor to Reese has been chosen and will be announced. She also said that the board is considering legal action to remove Reese from the Pacifica offices.

Since I first reported on Reese’s firing last week there have been several articles of note about Pacifica published:

  • LA Weekly writer Hillel Aron’s feature story “Left-Wing Darling Pacifica Radio Is Sliding Into the Abyss” does a nice job at putting the network’s current struggle in historical perspective.
  • Writing at Reason’s Hit & Run Blog, author and historian Jesse Walker shares some useful background about the network. He notes that especially before the McCarthy era, Pacifica was “more individualist and anti-statist left” than current listeners might realize. While giving a platform to leftists and progressives of many stripes, Pacifica also invited voices from the right, like William Buckley and Caspar Weinberger, often for on-air debates.
  • Writing for Counterpunch, independent journalist and KPFA reporter Ann Garrison reflects on the importance of Pacifica’s reporting in comparison to NPR’s, which she says “is far more right wing than the Voice of America[.]” After considering the claims and counter-claims at issue in the current stand-off, she sounds a note of cautious optimism, offering that the current crisis might be a step towards establishing real HR policies for hiring, terminating and laying off paid staff.
  • Finally, those looking for even a little more perspective on how Pacifica came to be so gridlocked might check out “WBAI’s Death by Democracy,” by Tess Stuart, which appeared in the Village Voice last September.

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3 Responses to Ousted Executive Director Summer Reese Occupies Pacifica Offices

  1. Mick Woolf March 27, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    The never ending history of Pacifica is, well, never ending. Whatever the disconnect has been, and continues to be, is a cultural, systemic, and organizational issue, that as in many other settings, never resolves itself. Therefore, why expect anything to truly change, when no matter what efforts are made, the internal element will somehow always prevent a better day. Simply self-sabotage, one’s own worst enemy approach, regardless of the reasons. So much good work, yet so much that is broken. To all those who have walked along that journey as well as they could.

  2. Dave Lucas (@davelucas) March 28, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    Pacifica is an oganism unto itself. I hope it can survive.

  3. Eric C. Jacobson March 31, 2014 at 11:31 pm #

    Reuters reporter Laila Kearney has an excellent brief article on the Pacifica crisis at the above link. I added a lengthy comment to her article because I believe that there is an “elephant in the room” issue that all friends of the Pacifica network need to understand: And that is the rather obvious intention of the recently empowered current Pacifica National Board majority faction to attempt to “liberate” the 5 constituent stations from the Pacifica Foundation. The Pacifica Foundation is a single entity that owns the (highly valuable) broadcast licenses of the 5 Pacifica stations in Berkeley, Los Angeles, Houston, Wasington DC and New York City. This same new (and hopefully temporary) rogue majority faction has also made clear that it intends to wholly or partially liquidate the assets of the New York City station, WBAI, and distribute the profits to the other four stations.

    The expression “No one every voted for this” is literal in this instance: At the turn of the century Pacifica had another crisis that resulted in the establishment of its current democratic governance structure. The Pacifica National Board is comprised of delegates sent from the democratically elected members of the Local Station Boards (LSBs) at the 5 stations. The “electorate” for LSB elections is comprised of listener sponsors of the stations (ie. donors). Paid and volunteer staff at the 5 stations have separate elections for a small number of members on the LSBs.

    I point out in my comment to the Kearney article that at least the current members of the PNB from the Los Angeles station (KPFK) (about which I have personal knowledge) have NO MANDATE to vote to violate the institutional integrity of the Pacifica Foundation by balkanizing it and turning its stations into separate self-governing entities. NONE WHATSOEVER. I have voted in every KPFK election where members of the LSB are chosen for 12 years, and no candidate for that position every once mentioned in their campaign statements favoring such a course.

    In another oddity I don’t mention in my comment to the Reuters article: the 2012 election to the KPFK LSB was voided because purportedly too few listener-sponsors voted. The idea this resulted from “apathy” from the listener-sponsors is far-fetched. A more than sufficient number of KPFK’s listener-sponsors have an “occupy” movement orientation and would not have bypassed an opportunity to vote on the stewards of their only progressive radio station in Los Angeles. The election was grossly mismanaged by local station staff and management, to put it charitably. One on-air public affairs personality who is entirely derisive of Pacifica’s democratic goverance structure, had the temerity to urge listeners to his “drive-time” show not to vote.

    This KPFK “electile dysfunction” in turn allowed LSB incumbents to retain seats they would have vacated and (even worse) caused the elevation to the current KPFK LSB of candidates from previous LSB elections who had not garnered enough support to be elected, but had been designated as “alternates”. One of those alternates now serves on the PNB which just took the radical step of firing Ms. Reese, who is bound and determined to “save the union” of Pacifica. Go figure.

    I hope Radio Survivor will continue to cover this important developing story.

    Eric C. Jacobson
    Public Interest Lawyer
    Los Angeles, California

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