The East Bay Express
May 7, 1999

War at Pacifica
Is the Pacifica Foundation going to destroy KPFA in order to save it?

By Paul Rauber

A little before 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 31, KPFA General Manager Nicole Sawaya received a terse memo from her boss, Lynn Chadwick, Executive Director of the Pacifica Foundation:

"This is to inform you that the Executive Director and the Executive Committee have determined not to offer a contract renewal, and therefore, your employment agreement shall terminate and your employment at Pacifica will end effectively immediately.

"We wish you success in your future endeavors."

Sawaya walked down the hall to the newsroom. In her fifteen months as station manager, she had cultivated a close relationship with News Directors Aileen Alfandary and Mark Mericle; last November, she had even gone out into the field on election night, calling in returns live, and more recently had been working to establish a Sacramento news bureau. Now, she announced, "I've just been fired."

The shock of those gathered around quickly changed to anger. "I cannot remember ever being so angry in my life," Mericle said later. "The only thing I can compare it to is Nixon invading Cambodia. Just the outrage--how could she take this step!"

"The staff that was here instantly galvanized," says Alfandary. Music Director Chuey Varela said, "We've got to go talk to Lynn right now." That was easy enough, because the Pacifica national offices are directly adjacent to KPFA's handsome new stucco building on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Berkeley. "Lynn held the door open about 14 inches," says Alfandary. "She didn't let us in, so we had a conversation through a crack in the door. We were just stunned, shocked, outraged--and very determined that Lynn, who after all had only been here since October, was not going to get away with this."

Having lit a fire, Chadwick proceeded to pour on the gas. Learning that Alfandary intended to report Sawaya's firing, Chadwick attempted--for the first time in KPFA history--to censor the News Department. "I am directing you not to air a story about Nicole's termination," she wrote in a memo. "This is not a news story. Airing this story would be a violation of Pacifica policy."

Alfandary ignored what she called the "unbelievable directive" from Chadwick. "I've been here for 25 years, and no manager has ever tried to tell me not to run a story." She reported Sawaya's firing on the Evening News and reported Chadwick's censorship attempt as well. Jaws dropped all over Northern California.

Incredibly, it was only at this point that Chadwick began to realize what she had set in motion. "The piece of it I did not anticipate was the way that the staff would go on the air about it," she was to tell me. She refused then, and refuses now, to say anything at all about the reason for her move, although she insists that it was not done for personal reasons. Asked the day after the dismissal whether it involved misconduct, Pacifica national communications director Elan Fabbri replied that it did not. (Fabbri also asserted at the time that the firing would have "no effect" on the upcoming 50th anniversary celebration.) Sawaya said at the time that she was told only that she was "not a good fit" and "not a team player."

"When Lynn fired Nicole," says Pacifica historian Matthew Lasar, "she reached blindly into the bush and picked up a hornets nest. Mark and Aileen's presence in this signified to thousands of people around the Bay Area that this is the real deal, that everyone needs to pay attention to it. Their presence legitimized this rebellion in a way that no one else could legitimize it."

Chadwick had not intended to go to war with the staff and listeners of the pioneering radical radio station that was, at that point, two weeks away from its fiftieth birthday. But with Alfandary's straightforward but defiant account of the afternoon's events, war had been declared.

To understand the electrifying effect of Sawaya's dismissal on the KPFA community, you need only talk to the staff, volunteers, board members, donors, or listeners who interacted with her during her short tenure. She is now regularly referred to on the air, apparently without hyperbole, as "our beloved former general manager." Sawaya came to a station with an operating deficit, and finished the last marathon $40,000 above goal. She came to a station still stewing over a contentious contract negotiation and riven by factionalism and mistrust, and, by all accounts, turned it around by sheer force of personality.

"Miraculously, she got people who disagreed with each other about everything to work together cooperatively," says Morning Show host Philip Maldari, whom the staff appointed its spokesperson in the early days of the crisis. "She respected us and we respected her."

"Nicole came here with an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm," says producer Sheryl Flowers. "She spent a lot of time talking to individuals, really listened to what people were doing. She acknowledged accomplishment, recognized birthdays, all those little things that, in a personal way, made people think that they were valued. It's something in the eight years I've been here that was unprecedented."

Another unique feature of her administration was a monthly "Report to the Listener," wherein she would go on the air and open the phone lines to listener concerns. She even brought onto her show Russian-affairs analyst Bill Mandel, whose ouster in 1995 from his weekly slot had set off a minor earthquake of listener outrage. Even the diehard critics of the listener-group Take Back KPFA were mollified. "Nicole was very frank and very open, which was welcomed by everybody," says organizer Jeffrey Blankfort. His group has long warned of a power grab by Pacifica, and Blankfort now admits to a slight feeling of vindication. "We saw something happening maybe before other people saw it," he modestly avers.

Sources at Pacifica have since intimated that Sawaya was merely conducting a popularity contest at KPFA, playing to the staff. But Dennis Bernstein, host of the afternoon Flashpoints program, disagrees. "Nicole is a tough cookie," he says. "I was often disappointed when I wanted more money for production and we didn't get it. But she never degraded me when she denied our needs, never put me down, never talked about me behind my back. She looked you eye to eye and told the truth. You could express the strongest passionate feelings, and not be afraid you'd be fired for saying what you felt. This was a very extraordinary woman who managed to unite a staff that had been far apart. She is the first thing this staff has agreed about in years."

Given the generally accepted inevitability of legal action, Sawaya herself is unable to comment on the circumstances of her dismissal. This only increases her cultlike status, investing whatever she can say with special meaning. And so it was that as a special guest at KPFA's April 21 fundraising event with poets Jane Hirshfield, Philip Levine, W.S. Merwin, and Michael Ondaatje, Sawaya appeared to a hero's applause to read a poem title "Samurai Song" by Robert Pinsky:

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
no supper my eyes dined.
When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought
When I had no thought I waited....
When I have no means fortune
Is my means.
I am obliged at this point to declare my personal interest in this story, which is considerable. Throughout the '80s I worked in the KPFA newsroom, mostly as a volunteer. I personally know nearly everyone on both sides of this story (with the exception of Chadwick), and consider many to be friends. I have written frequently in the past in these pages about KPFA and Pacifica, and have been sometimes accused of over-solicitude toward the latter. Several years ago, in fact, I put a bid on a house in Oakland--its first in the several months since it had been listed--and had it rejected when the seller, a member of Take Back KPFA, recognized my name.

Moreover, I listen to KPFA a lot. I tune in the 6 o'clock news religiously, and frequently call the newsroom afterward with praise or complaint. When I'm ready to nuke Belgrade after hearing of the latest atrocity on National Public Radio, I like to have my assumptions shaken by an alternative, pacifist perspective. (KPFA and Pacifica were founded, after all, by people who were conscientious objectors during World War II.) True, the first notes of the theme music of certain programs send me dashing to turn the dial, but the temporary absence of other programmers can ruin my week. Every year I pay my $35 pledge, and consider it money well spent.

In recent years, an increasingly large share of that pledge has gone to finance the burgeoning workings of Pacifica, the national umbrella over KPFA and its four sister stations: WBAI in New York, WPFW in Washington, D.C., WPFT in Houston, and KPFK in Los Angeles. In 1975, there was great discontent at KPFA that one half of one percent of its budget went to Pacifica. Now, 17.25 percent of the money KPFA raises from its listeners goes to finance the national office, about $400,000. This still bothers a lot of people--Sawaya included. On March 30, in what was to be her last report to KPFA's local advisory board, Sawaya quoted George Bush: "Read my lips: no new taxes." According to the minutes of the meeting, "She said she believed that more staff had been added to National and there are several vacant positions that apparently will be filled. Nicole wants to see the job descriptions for all these people."

"I need to know what my avenues are in relation to the national board," she is quoted as saying. "I need to know where the accountability lies, especially in regards to the finances. I would like to know if the organizational chart which was published in the board book stands. I have yet to get an answer."

Sawaya's remarks reflected the growing gulf between KPFA and Pacifica. Until recently, at least some KPFA local board members could also sit on the national board, but all that changed with the discovery last fall of an obscure regulation by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting which forbade such an arrangement. Since KPFA and the other Pacifica stations depend on the CPB for roughly $750,000 a year, the board was quick to ink out local participation--the unfortunate effect of which was to make Pacifica's national board a wholly self-selecting body, free of any necessary links to the communities it represented.

The board meeting at which this decision was made took place in Berkeley on February 27 and 28 before a uniformly hostile crowd of KPFA listeners and staff. Tellingly, the board did not deign to hear comments from the public until the end of its meeting. Among the speakers was 30-year veteran programmer (and sometime Express contributor) Larry Bensky, who brought along pie charts and graphs demonstrating Pacifica's expanding staff, increased bite into local finances, and declining hours of programming to offer its affiliates.

"Pacifica has grown apart from its stated purposes and its origins and ideals over the past ten years, especially over the past five years," said Bensky. "This is exemplified by the presence of a large, unresponsive, and unnecessary bureaucracy that has grown unchecked and unsupervised. What is the justification for the proliferation of Pacifica's expensive, secretive, administrative bureaucracy? Aside from empire building, there is none."

Unfortunately, by this point board chair Mary Frances Berry, also the distinguished chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, had left the hall to catch her plane home. (According to the community-radio journal Current, Berry had brought a bodyguard to the meeting, saying that she'd received death threats.) Most of the other board members also left the room when it came time for the listeners and staff to express their opinions. "Timing is everything," says Susan Stone, head of KPFA's Drama and Literature Department, "and this was the cruelest timing of all."

The possibility of the loss of CPB funding, ironically, may have sealed Sawaya's fate. Before the February board meeting, Berry had asked all the station managers to submit budgets showing what they would do in the event of the loss of federal funds. All came with budgets showing smaller staff, program cutbacks, etc. All except Sawaya, that is; her budget showed a proportional cut in the amount of money KPFA contributed to Pacifica. Berry and the board were furious. Sawaya had made her point, but perhaps in a disastrously impolitic way.

In the hours following Sawaya's firing, events threatened to spiral out of control. Grateful Dead Hour host David Gans railed angrily against Chadwick and the national board. "I don't see that there's much of a point in protecting these sons of bitches any more," he said. "I've been programming since 1986, and the year since Nicole has been here has been the most pleasant and productive of my experience." Among his listeners was Phil Matier, who quickly publicized the affair in his Chronicle column. Another listener that night responded by firing shots into the windows of Pacifica's office--an act condemned by all sides.

On April 1, the staff issued an angry statement, blaming "a national Pacifica leadership which appears to be on a path of self-destruction" for Sawaya's ouster. "How high is the cost that national management is willing to pay?" they asked. "The fund- raising capabilities, the goodwill, and favorable publicity from KPFA's 50th anniversary celebration lie in ruins." They demanded the immediate rehiring of Sawaya and a mediation of the dispute, including "a full explanation of the underlying issues in the debate within Pacifica."

On Friday, April 2, Chadwick issued her first public statement on the controversy. It fell considerably short of the explanation many were hoping for. "We have made decisions that reflect the best management practices for the organization, regardless of their popularity," is as close as she would come. She insisted again that "internal Pacifica issues and management decisions are not news," and that "It is not appropriate...for KPFA to use airtime to voice internal grievances, nor should a parent organization such as Pacifica use airtime to counter such grievances." Her own counter to such grievances was broadcast four times.

Chadwick went on to criticize the KPFA news department for various "erroneous news reports." Sawaya, she insisted, had not been fired; her contract had just not been renewed. Larry Bensky had not been fired last December either, "nor did public outcry result in his new weekly show, Sunday Salon."

(Those statements are hard to reconcile with the written record. "Today will be your last day on the air as host of Living Room and moderator of the impeachment hearings," read the December 7 memo given Bensky from Pacifica director of program services Gail Christian. "Please see Mary Tilson regarding the details of your termination." Two weeks and much uproar later, a memo from Chadwick announced that "Listener reaction has been enormous, and positive, in favor of continuing to broadcast Larry Bensky on Pacifica Radio. We are pleased to announce a new weekly program, Sunday Salon...")

Finally, Chadwick added that "neither KPFA nor any other Pacifica station is for sale, nor do we have any intention of considering such measures." Chadwick herself, however, was the main source of such speculation. In the March 9 issue of Current, her answer to a question of whether a station might be sold struck many as disturbingly equivocal. "Things could happen," she said, "but this is not at all on the agenda here....There have been conversations at odd times...but the organization is financially stable right now." (Asked about the statement later by KPFA staff, Chadwick told them that she was referring to a conversation allegedly held by another executive director a dozen years previous, not to any talks of her own.)

At noon on Friday, an impromptu demonstration of about 150 staff and listeners took place outside Pacifica's offices. There were angry speeches through a bullhorn from the back of a pickup truck, including one by a militant Larry Bensky, who warned of the possibility of further layoffs. "If, in the coming days, you should miss the voices you're used to hearing," he warned, "know that it's not voluntary."

A week later, Bensky himself was fired for the second time in four months, and his Sunday Salon show canceled. The proximate cause seems to have been his show of April 4. Most of it was devoted to the war in Yugoslavia, but seventeen minutes addressed the Pacifica dispute. Bensky replayed Chadwick's taped April 2 statement; responded to her "false statements" about himself; read the staff's April 1 statement; and reprised his own February remarks to the board. In Pacifica's press release announcing Bensky's termination, this broadcast is characterized as "Mr. Bensky's April 4th on-air attack of Pacifica Radio Foundation and members of its management" and "a direct violation of Pacifica policy, as well as his AFTRA union contract, both of which prohibit airing personal grievances on the air." That is, Bensky was fired for violating the so-called "gag rule" against speaking about internal matters on the air. Disciplinary action was also taken against six KPFA employees for violating the same rule. Luckily for them, their Communications Workers of America contract has a progressive, four-step disciplinary process, which Bensky's AFTRA contract lacked, thus preventing their immediate termination.

Both contracts, however, are silent on the subject of the gag rule, and staff members say they have never actually seen it. "They claim it's a 30-year-old policy," says Mark Mericle. "It's barely a rumor to me. It's not in the Pacifica employee handbook, it's not in our union contract." When pressed for a copy of the policy, Chadwick produced the "Non-Disclosure" section of the 1996 Employee Handbook, which forbids disclosure of "confidential information" such as salaries, audience research, "certain financial information, labor relations strategies, and personnel documents, marketing strategies, planning documents, pending projects and proposals." An exceedingly broad reading of this section might conceivably include the statements made by Bensky and the other programmers--but would also have to include the standard poor-mouthing that is the stock-in-trade of any fundraising marathon.

Another version of the gag rule appeared in a 1989 "Pacifica Radio Manual," which stated a policy against airing "dirty laundry." This January, after the uproar over Bensky's first firing, Chadwick sent out a memo reminding programmers of the policy. "Our airtime is precious," she said, "and should be used for significant discussion of topics which have relevance to the lives of our audience."

"I think that most staff in general support the concept that it is tedious radio and bad policy to discuss your internal disputes on the air," says Aileen Alfandary. "But this is very different than 'My music program is being canceled, listeners please call and help me keep it.' This is a fundamental question of how the network is run."

The tactic the staff has come up with is essentially mass civil disobedience, wherein all programmers read the same short notice, demanding the rehiring of Sawaya (and now Bensky), mediation of the underlying issues, and directing those interested to email Since everyone reads the statement, no one can be singled out for disciplinary action. The job of updating listeners on day to day developments falls to the News Department. This raises the stakes for Chadwick; she might fire Sawaya or Bensky, but moving against the News Department would likely shut down the station.

By firing Bensky, Chadwick guaranteed that the crisis would not die down. Former KPFA News Director Alan Snitow (now a producer at KTVU-TV in Oakland) says that it demonstrated "that the original absurd and erratic action was not a mistake." Snitow is part of an ad hoc group of listeners, former staff, and major donors who are working behind the scenes to try to prevent the general conflagration that Chadwick seems intent on hastening. Pacifica management, he says, is "undermining the fundraising capacity of the organization as a whole. They are destroying the strongest station in the network. They may try to lay people off for violating the union contract; they may take the station off the air altogether."

General conflagration threatened again on Sunday, April 11. Had he not been fired, Bensky's program would have followed Mary Berg's Musical Offering at 9 a.m. Berg, a militant volunteer programmer, made her own sophisticated statement by playing music of the Albigensians, a heretical Christian sect in the south of France who were brutally repressed in the early 13th Century. She also broadcast two short interviews with Bensky, who explained to listeners why he would not be one the air. When 9 o'clock came, Drama and Literature head Susan Stone put on a blisteringly pointed radio satire from 1954 called "The Investigator," in which an arrogant and autocratic Joseph McCarthy-like character is killed in a plane crash, goes to Heaven, and begins an inquisition first of St. Peter and then God Himself.

Standing in the hallway outside the on-air studio all the while was Lynn Chadwick. With her was an old colleague from Western Public Radio in San Francisco, Karolyn van Putten, armed with some music CDs and ready to go on the air if the insurrectionary programming continued. Stone and others pointed out that Van Puten was not cleared to operate KPFA board, so Chadwick ordered Chief of Operations Jim Bennett to come in and stand by to assist her should she personally seize the station's airwaves. When Robbie Osman came on for his Across the Great Divide show at 11 a.m., his voice was choked with emotion as he told listeners that this broadcast might be his last. And it might well have been the last for him or any other programmer, had not Chadwick been persuaded to leave the station. One can easily imagine the ultimate Pacifica power grab leading to a general strike like the one that shut down the station in 1974. (On that occasion, the staff was demanding the firing of general manager Roger Pritchard. The Pacifica Board declared that under no circumstances would he be fired. Thirty-two days later, Pritchard was fired.)

On April 15, another demonstration took place in front of Pacifica's headquarters, this one with upwards of 700 people--so many that the Berkeley police had to close off Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. Dennis Bernstein wore a gag. Lawrence Ferlinghetti said a few words, as did Berkeley City Councilmember Maudelle Shirek: "Instead of celebrating 50 years of community radio," said the local progressive icon, "we are here to stop the takeover of our station." Pacifica historian Matthew Lasar (whose Pacifica Radio: The Rise of an Alternative Network had been published only weeks before by Temple University Press) railed against the leadership vacuum at the top:

"We need people who want to lead the Pacifica Network, not just run it," he said. "We need people who play hard but play fair, who know better than to seek their goals through fiat, firing, and faites accomplis. We need leaders with a coherent vision for our network. We need people who have a philosophy for Pacifica and are capable of communicating that philosophy to others."
If Pacifica has such a vision, no one would know it. Oddly, the current situation would be far less desperate if Lynn Chadwick or Mary Frances Berry were aggressively defending their actions by appeal to national programming, ethnic diversity, democratic centralism, anything. Their silence is far more disturbing, because it suggests--especially to vocal, eloquent partisans--that there is no vision upstairs.

"They own the station, they can turn the transmitter off, but here you've got an entity whose business is broadcasting, and they don't know a thing about communication," says Drama and Literature Director Susan Stone. "There's no message, there's no plan, there's virtually been no attempt to explain to us what we're supposed to do next. Lynn is ostensibly acting general manager, but that door has been locked and the blinds drawn since the day Nicole was terminated. So we're scrambling, without a single bit of guidance: no plan, no message, and no idea of what's next."

Behind the locked door and drawn blinds of the Pacifica national office, Lynn Chadwick now works in a nearly empty upstairs office toward the back of the building. She used to work downstairs in front, but that was before shots were fired at her workspace. Seated across from her at our interview is Elan Fabbri, Pacifica's newly hired part-time communications director. (Among her other clients is Shannon Reeves, head of the Oakland NAACP and the most famous Republican in the East Bay. Her advice is apparently much sought after: When KPFA News reporter Matt Martin interviewed Chadwick on April 2, Fabbri wrote notes on her hand and held it up for Chadwick to see.)

Chadwick is the consummate public radio insider. After her start as a volunteer with the Feminist Radio Network in 1979 at Pacifica station WPFW in Washington, D.C., she went on to Western Public Radio in San Francisco and then to the presidency of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, which she held for nearly ten years. (One of her projects there was the "Healthy Station Project," which suggested organizational changes to community radio stations to improve their listenership and finances.) During this period she clashed with Nicole Sawaya, who, as station manager of KZYX in Philo, wrote a public letter complaining about NFCB's lack of services to its members.

In 1997, then-executive director Pat Scott brought Chadwick to Pacifica to serve as Director of Operations and Planning. Scott also recruited Sawaya as station manager and Mary Frances Berry as board chair (replacing longtime chair Jack Odell) before stepping down herself. Once on board, Berry initiated a search for a new executive director; by several accounts, she had her own favorite in mind. Speaking to Current, Berry said she wanted Scott's successor to be "somebody who is a good administrator and manager, who's good with people, and sensitive to the public image of the organization. And who can in a collegial way work with station managers and volunteers to make progress with a minimum of conflict." Chadwick was not Berry and the board's first choice as executive director, but the first choice turned them down, so Chadwick took charge last November 1.

Given everything that happened since she dismissed Nicole Sawaya, says Chadwick, if she had it to do over again she would do the same thing. "The decision I made around Nicole Sawaya, with the full unanimous support of the [board's] executive committee, was a decision that had to be made. It's not an easy decision, and it came with a lot of consideration."

But why do it two weeks before the station's 50th anniversary? "I don't want to discuss that," said Chadwick.

As to her philosophy for the future, Chadwick cites Pacifica's strategic plan, the result of a series of board and staff retreats that took place in the mid-1990s under the leadership of Pat Scott. "The major thing is to build on the strength of Pacifica as a network," Chadwick says, with increased investments in national programming, the centralization of some administrative functions, and expansion into new formats like Web broadcasting.

(News Co-Director Mericle describe the Strategic Plan as "a document that in their mind had everyone sign on to centralization. They see it as a mandate that they've got all the power, and if you dissent, or question particular priorities, you're in defiance of the plan." Susan Stone, who participated in the Strategic Plan, says that she "brings it out from time to time to remind myself of how much is not happening." The Plan called, for example, for the formation of a 50th Anniversary Campaign to build a major endowment for the network. In the wake of Sawaya's dismissal, the 50th Anniversary Committee suspended its operations and went home.)

Chadwick says that she tells the many listeners who call to complain to "listen to the programming on the air [and] realize that these actions are not about censorship, not about changing the thrust of the alternative mission of our programming. That is unchanged. That was reaffirmed in the strategic plan. Our challenge is to expand our ability to serve an audience, maintain the engagement of current listeners, and find new listeners, diversifying the audience."

There have been incidents at some of the other Pacifica stations, however, that are hard not to describe as censorship. In Los Angeles, station manager Mark Schubb edited a reference about the KPFA situation out of the Pacifica National News before it was broadcast on his air. He also killed an entire edition of Counterspin, an independently produced program by the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, one segment of which dealt with the Pacifica crisis. (Ironically, Schubb once served as FAIR's Los Angeles representative.) At WPFW, the first segment of the Counterspin broadcast was aired, but the second was pulled off the air in progress. Listeners heard an announcement for the Emergency Broadcasting System, and then music.

I asked Chadwick if she instructed the station managers to pull the program. "They enforced the policy of their own stations, as I think they should have," she said. Even to the point of taking the show off the air? "What else can you do?" she said.

Much as the "free-speech radio" ideal may have suffered at the other Pacifica stations, it is still strong at KPFA. "They may have had the power to fire Nicole," says Alfandary, "but we have made a determination about what is and is not on our air." The News still broadcasts updates and programmers still read their defiant messages, now including announcements of a public rally in Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza behind City Hall in Berkeley, at 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 9. The continued resistance is significant because, as Bensky points out, "In order to be a fit licensee, you have to prove that you're in charge of the airwaves. Right now, Pacifica is not in charge of the airwaves." If it does not regain control it could presumably be subject to a license challenge, but if it tries to gain control by mass firings it would likely take the station down.

The possibility of the station going dark is all the more incredible given that little over a month ago KPFA was a picture of public radio health. (In order to maintain CPB funding, Pat Scott reorganized the other four Pacifica units as minority stations, which have a lower bar for listenership and local financial support. KPFA, on the other hand, meets CPB requirements outright.) The station is fiscally sound, working well with its local board and listeners, preparing for its 50th anniversary and a major fundraising drive, and gearing up to raise a voice of peace and sanity in time of war.

Now, says Bensky, "KPFA and Pacifica have been immeasurably weakened and destabilized by this executive director and this board. We've done exactly one hour of special programming about the war in Yugoslavia since the bombing began. We have no capacity, no consensus within the organization to deal with the very issues we were founded to deal with: violence and nonviolence, war and peace."

Bensky also calculates, from the communications he has seen from major donors, that KPFA has lost at least half a million dollars in renounced pledges and canceled bequests. As of this writing, the station's staff is debating whether or not to go ahead with the May fundraising marathon, which was scheduled to begin this Wednesday. The decision could have very direct consequences, since the money raised in listener pledges goes directly to staff salaries. KPFA provides roughly a quarter of Pacifica's budget, but the national organization takes its share off the top, so it will be the last to feel the pain.

Yet while Pacifica may not hurt financially for some time, its executives and board members cannot avoid the contempt being heaped upon them from all sides. "What is Pacifica doing?" asks Mericle. "Every progressive person in the country who's aware of it starts asking that question. It's the largest progressive media institution that's probably ever been built in the country's history, and it looks like, on the watch of Dr. Mary Frances Berry, and under the guidance of executive director Lynn Chadwick, it's going to be destroyed."

Chadwick shows no indication of being swayed by the maelstrom around her. Berry, however, must be feeling the heat intensely. In April, 1998, she told Current that "I do not intend for this organization to destroy my reputation. I am going to be a very open person with integrity who tells truth as I see it and stands up for what I think is right. I would not stay if all people are going to do is fight. My reputation is, I succeed in what I do. I don't want to risk that."

Berry refused comment for this and all other stories on the crisis. This Wednesday, she did consent to a one-hour conference call with Chadwick and three elected spokespeople from the staff. Afterwards, she and Chadwick also agreed to answer listener questions on-air for an hour, in what is sure to be a lively exchange, albeit too late to be included in this article.

The Pacifica board has been silent as well, although longtime executive committee member Roberta Brooks, an aide to Representative Barbara Lee, did try to resign, only to have her resignation refused by the board. (The probable effect of this is that she will continue to serve until her term is up in June.) Off the record conversations with a number of board members, however, indicate increasing frustration, with the number of dissidents on the fourteen-member board growing to six. "In most corporations," said one, "you hurt your company and you're out. If our executive director isn't sophisticated enough to handle these stations, it's time for that executive to go."

"Can you imagine any possible resolution of this matter in which Nicole Sawaya comes back?" I asked Chadwick. "No," she said.

"Can you imagine any possible resolution in which you leave?" Slight pause.

"No. I don't think I'll be here for the rest of my life, but I don't see leaving in the short term."

In that opinion, she is probably in the minority.

Where do we go from here? The war between KPFA and Pacifica is like the Cold War, in that both sides have the power of mutually assured destruction. The pacifist impulse is alive, if very faint. To date there have been two facilitated discussions between Chadwick and the staff, both inconclusive. Berry herself may participate in future meetings; many consider it remarkable, in fact, that she has not yet done so. Many KPFA oldtimers are working overtime trying to defuse the crisis, but as the pacifists know, that is easier done before hostilities have begun.

"In the end," says historian Matthew Lasar, "this isn't about what you stand for, it's about what you do. It's about how you treat people. There is still time for Lynn to do what she needs to do, which is to get Nicole back in that building. She's just got to swallow her pride or whatever it is she's got to say to herself; she's got to put her back in that building. Otherwise all bets are off."



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