The San Francisco Chronicle,
page A-16, Wednesday, June 23, 1999:

by Charles Burress,
Chronicle Staff Writer

   The crisis involving KPFA-FM radio and its governing Pacifica Foundation deepened yesterday as several prominent people called for the ouster of Pacifica's executive director, Lynn Chadwick.

   Chadwick, in turn, tightened security at the embattled Berkeley station.

   During an emotional rally of about 125 people in front of the station, where 14 protesters were arrested the day before, organizers distributed a letter telling Chadwick she had been "terminated" for "promotion of censorship" and "abuse of and disrespect for KPFA's staff and listeners."

   The letter was signed by United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta; environmentalist David Brower; Berkeley City Council members Maudelle Shirek and Linda Maio; alternative journalist Scoop Nisker, musician/storyteller Utah Phillips; and others.

   A statement from poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti called for Chadwick's firing, and another from actor Peter Coyote attacked Pacifica's "peremptory and undemocratic" management of the station.

   Pacifica spokeswoman Elan Fabbri said Pacifica is "deeply saddened" by the attacks.  She blamed "lifetime activists" for having a "clearly myopic and one-sided" perspective and for refusing to follow Pacifica's internal
structure for resolving disputes.  The protesters say Pacifica has refused to bargain in good faith.

   Pacifica and KPFA, its flagship station, are fighting over local control and over Chadwick's recent terminations of Nicole Sawaya, the popular station manager, for undisclosed reasons and of two KPFA on-air veterans for speaking about the dispute while broadcasting.

   Speakers at the rally also accused Chadwick of making the station like a "prison" yesterday by adding a second security guard and disabling the security codes for door locks, thus requiring everyone to be checked by a guard before entering.

   Elan said extra security was needed because 30 protesters trespassed on station property and "stormed" unannounced into Chadwick's office late Monday.

   The Pacifica Foundation board, which oversees listener-sponsored KPFA and four other Pacifica stations across the United States, is expected to address the conflict when it meets in Washington, D.C., this weekend.

(c) The San Francisco Chronicle


A Little Static On the Radio
     Wednesday, June 23, 1999
     ©1999 San Francisco Chronicle

     LET ME CONFESS: I am not a devoted listener to KPFA. Indeed, it is fair to say that I have been on the station more often than I have listened to it.

     As a listener, I am stuck in the KALW-KQED Circle of Life, where Terry Gross and Ray Suarez and the man I think of as Bah Bedwards count the hours until the grave.

     I listen to the radio only when I drive, and I do not listen to music when I drive because music excites me. It is as distracting as talking on a cell phone, which I also do not do. KPFA often plays good music, and America does want not me grooving down the highway. You may trust me on this.

     Therefore, my view of the current trauma at the station is unclouded by fanhood. My unbiased analysis: What a first-class cock-up we have going on over there. There may be worse administrators than Lynn Chadwick, but it
would be hard to come up with their names. The late King Zog of Albania springs to mind.

     A good administrator would not have allowed this to happen. That's yer basic ipso facto QED sort of deal.

     (For those who have not been following the controversy, a nutshell description: Chadwick, executive director of Pacifica, the allegedly progressive body that owns KPFA, in March fired very popular station manager Nicole Sawaya. She then forbade staffers to report this news and comment on it.

     They did anyway, on the air, and after a time several of them were fired for speaking freely. Chadwick, meanwhile, stonewalled, evaded, failed to respond. Within the past week, there have been sit-ins, arrests, lawsuits and the whole tap-dance of confrontation.)

     It did not take a rocket scientist to see how this would play out.

     KPFA is listener-supported; Lynn Chadwick is therefore employed by her audience.

     When a recent on-air money drive resulted in a huge number of ``protest pledges,'' she did not acknowledge their significance.

     She dissed her boss, in essence. The lowliest junior veep knows that's bad management.

     BEHIND THIS WHOLE mess lies political maneuverings at Pacifica corporate headquarters. There are power grabs and secret meetings and the whole panoply of the-Left-eats-its-own-liver that has become such a familiar dynamic in America today (cf. the Sierra Club). Worse yet, no one except official flacks with bland statements is dealing with the concerned citizens.

     This is just dumb. The way to aggravate a bad situation is to refuse to negotiate with the interested parties. It is doubly foolish when some of the parties are the on-air talent that attract listeners to the station in the first place, and the others are the people who pay the bills.

     Pacifica has always been about protecting free speech and alternative opinions. That's always been the point. It is a noble calling, even an endangered one. When the people in charge of the shop decide that free speech is too dangerous for their own airwaves, the most basic public trust has been breached.

     How could Lynn Chadwick not have known this? How could she have decided to make Nicole Sawaya (not exactly a household name before now) a martyr to the cause of liberty? How could she not know that an order not to discuss the firing on the air would be the largest red flag she could ever wave?

     Here's my guess: She forgot where she was. She forgot the larger mission. KPFA is not about, cannot be about, protecting Lynn Chadwick's rear end.

   That was, in essence, the only clear message she sent in four months of conflict. No wonder people were enraged.

     THE CURRENT SITUATION is breathtakingly untenable. Everyone is losing. Needed money is being spent unwisely. If the lawsuits go forward, this could turn into a Big Stupid. It's getting close already.

     Pacifica needs to take its medicine. It needs open discussion; it needs flexibility; it needs to rehire those who were fired and start all over.

     Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we issue a dumb memo.


    Whispers at the bus stop, I heard about

     ©1999 San Francisco Chronicle  Page B8

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