To: WBAI Public Affairs Staff
From: Mario A. Murillo, Public Affairs Director
Re: Future at WBAI
As we settle into our fabulous new home
at 120 Wall Street and get ready for a summer of new programs and specials,
I wanted to take this moment to let all of you know that I have submitted
my official resignation to Valerie Van Isler as WBAI's Director of Public
effective August 1, 1998.
My decision to make this move at such a critical time has not been an
easy one. Clearly, the intense labor carried out by our core staff over
the last several years is finally bearing fruit, with new facilities
that both on a technical and personal level make it a more attractive place to work. There is also the human factor which cannot be overlooked, regardless of what the physical plant looks like. Working on a daily basis with such a highly dedicated group of individuals like Samori Marksman, Jose Santiago, Matthew Finch, Bernard White, Donna Neiman, Amy Goodman, Michael G. Haskins, Dred Scott Keyes, Paul Wunder, David Sears, and Utrice Leid has been an experience of considerable satisfaction, both personally and professionally. Of course, to those many of you solid and equally dedicated producers in the Public Affairs Department that have made my job easier over the years, (I won't mention you here because there are too many names), I thank you all as well. As
colleagues and friends who truly have the best interests of the station at heart, I will miss you. But I also intend to continue supporting and collaborating with you as WBAI Pacifica moves into the next century.
I must add, however, that I am ending my tenure as public affairs director
with concerns for the future of the station, concerns that have played
a factor in reaching my final decision. As you probably know, I and many
others at the station are not pleased with some of the management decisions
made in recent years, ranging from issues relating to the union and new
staff hires, to personnel management and communication over key aspects
of the station. I think I share the views
of many paid and unpaid staff members that despite the positive change that the station has undergone with the move to Wall Street, many very serious matters have yet to be resolved, and will only grow worse as we continue sweeping them under the rug. At the same time, I urge vigilance
against those who claim to have the best interests of the station at heart in their rhetoric, but with every action and at every turn, defy the very principles of which Pacifica stands for.
For me it has been an extremely frustrating experience trying to see
some of these issues resolved. We have spent many staff meetings arguing
over some of the most basic matters, such as hiring a permanent bookkeeper
(and other key staff); having true staff input on the move to and construction
of 120 Wall Street; inviting people to participate in major projects like
the "Capital Campaign for the Future"; and perhaps most detrimentally,
dropping the intransigent and fundamentally unprincipled position taken
by Pacifica national vis a vis unpaid staff in the collective bargaining
unit. For the most part, these discussions have gone nowhere, and have
been handled with disrespect and contempt
for the working people of WBAI. This stagnation has also put wind in the sails of those nefarious forces who have taken it upon themselves to push for "what's best for BAI", claiming to represent "the community", while really being stuck in a vicious individualism. So while the station flourishes in many key areas, we are all forced to carry the extra weight needlessly placed on us by people unwilling to take constructive criticism in the spirit of improving the conditions for all.
I am unable and unwilling to carry on in this environment in my current
capacity as public affairs director. I must confess that to some extent,
this hostile and counterproductive atmosphere has created in me a sense
of cynicism which has not been healthy either for the station or for
myself. I see the frustration and anger building in my colleagues, distracted by unnecessary battles which have sidetracked the gradual advances we have made. I am not giving up the fight over what I believe is right for WBAI, and which I feel I've been consistent with over the years. I remain committed to the radio station, and will continue to work with the staff to move the station forward. I will do it, however, under different circumstances and with distinct responsibilities.
I must make it clear that this is only part of why I am leaving now. In the spirit of remaining positive as I step into a new role at WBAI, it should be understood that I have many other personal projects that I want to pursue in the coming months and years. In order to do so, I cannot maintain a full-time job of this nature. As we all know, the level of intensity required to work here is quite high, and at this moment in my life, I don't feel like I could keep it up, especially given my other commitments.
I hope to continue producing and distributing Our Americas on Fridays, and will be around to fill-in for Wake-Up Call, Behind the News or any other slots that might open up in the last minute. I also intend to continue working with Samori and the staff on specials, community events, live broadcasts, etc. when time permits. In short, I look forward to strengthening my already solid relationship with the WBAI family.
As for the immediate future, I am scheduled to begin my four-week vacation today, June 15th, during which time I will be in the area and plan on popping in from time to time. Carlos Andres Perez, who filled in for me valiantly last year, will be in the Public Affairs Office on a half-time basis during my absence. I intend to return to WBAI on July 15th, and work until July 31st, which will be my last day in the office.
Now in my tenth year as a paid staff member of WBAI, I have finally
recognized the need for change. I am excited about the possibilities, and
as I mentioned above, equally concerned. In closing, I want to once again
take this time to thank those of you who have supported what I've
tried to do with the department over the last several years. It's been difficult at times, and I am sure there are many of you who are pleased to see me go. But for the most part, I can honestly look back on my tenure as director of the department with considerable pride and a sense of accomplishment. The station is clearly better off today than it was when I came here back in early 1989, and while I can't take the credit for it, I can rest easy knowing that I was a part of this historic transition at one of the most important community media institutions in the country.
I also believe it's important for everybody in the staff to be willing to take a step back and appreciate the need for changes. Perhaps then, as fresh winds blow through the canyons of Wall Street and filter through the air of an energized radio station, we will truly begin to see a difference in the way things are handled, for the benefit of the entire WBAI community.
Mario A. Murillo
Director, Public Affairs Programming