First I want to express my sincerest appreciation to all of you for
the support you've shown me and the station during these difficult
times. I began answering you all individually, but then it got
overwhelming, given the number of responses. So I'm putting these
thoughts together for a collective message to all of you.
Attached I'm sending a transcript of my thoughts that I stated on
WBAI's Wake Up Call on Friday when I announced my resignation.
This is to make perfectly clear where I am coming from. I repeat,
this is not a time for personal attacks or vendettas, but for clear
strategic thinking as to how to make the contructive change that
WBAI needs and deserves.
There are some within WBAI who feel their cause is just, that
things were so bad in the past that the changes set in motion must
be carried out at all costs. Indeed, much like the reactionary
settlers in Gaza and the West Bank, who have "God" as their
reference and cannot be convinced otherwise, some of these
people in the station today have difficulty reasoning with anybody
who may have a different take on their prescription for "rescuing"
My reason for leaving Wake-Up Call is clear. It ultimately stems
from my utmost respect for the listeners of WBAI, who can see
through "double-speak" and manipulated truth from a mile away.
Had I remained on the air under the conditions outlined to me just
two days before going on the air last Friday, the listeners would
have rightfully lost respect for my role at the station. And your
response has been overwhelmingly in support of my action. From
the over 30 calls I received on Friday and the dozens of e-mails,
only one was hateful, negative, perhaps a bit racist. I expected
But your positive words, rest assured, are fuel for those of us who
truly believe in community radio. Your support energizes me, and
will be with me when I walk into the station again in the coming
Thank you very much.
Mario A. Murillo
OF MARIO MURILLO'S ON-AIR RESIGNATION FROM WAKE-UP CALL
3/9/2001 (I have called this an edited transcript because it is not a word for word rendition of what was broadcast. The actual broadcast contained more detail: naming Djabel Faye as the one who gave the "No Amy" order to Murillo.)
As we close out today's morning show, I had to make an important
announcement to all you listeners, loyal supporters of WBAI and
committed benefactors of community radio.
The last few months here at WBAI have been very rocky, to say the
leastsome would say perhaps the most tumultuous days in the
illustrious history of this glorious institution.
A lot of things have been said, a lot of people have been hurt, many
people have been let go from the station and subsequently banned. It has
been painful for just about everybody involved. One department head
recently referred to it as a war, and to many it has been just that. WBAI
is in a state of civil war.
Throughout this period I have tried to maintain a certain degree of
clarity as to what is happening, both on the air and behind the
scenes. I've only openly discussed the matter once on the air, that
was on December 28th, the first Friday after the abrupt change in
management took place before Christmas, and the firings that
accompanied it. I've avoided personal attacks, I've avoided making
any public denunciations about anybody, I've tried to hear people out and
understand the many delicate issues clearly before making any rash
judgments. In essence, for better of for worse, I've tried to keep the
entire situation in perspective while continuing to do the kind of
programming that I've been known to do here for over 13 years. That's why
I came to Pacifica in the first place. To do interesting radio, in an
environment where diverse opinions were respected, where individual
creativity and intelligence were nourished, where independence and free
speech were seen as fundamental to any process of communication.
I can't say I was completely successful over these past ten
weeks in everything I've attempted to do. In the current environment, I
can't think of one person who has not faltered at least once, who has not
made any mistakes.
I've been doing Wake-Up Call on Fridays now for almost two
years. In fact I took over the slot after our late Program Director,
Samori Marksman, asked me to do so. He wanted to have someone to stabilize
the last day of the week, even though he, like myself, was convinced that
the best formula for the morning would have been to have the same hosts
five days a week. It didn't make sense to do otherwise. But since we were
unable to do it for years, he asked me to take over the Friday slot
because it was a bit unstable, in his opinion. So I gladly obliged. I
started on Friday mornings again a week after Samori passed away, on March
23rd, 1999. And we tried to keep it consistent with the Monday - Thursday
show, albeit with a different anchor. Errol came in on Fridays, Sharan
Harper helped me line up guests and set up segments, occasionally Bernard
would pop in and co-host a segment, Janice K Bryant sometimes would pop in
as well. And of course, at 7am, Amy Goodman would come in and co-host for
about one hour, as she did Monday through Thursday. It wasn't the perfect
model. I still feel Wake-Up Call could've been a lot more if we had the
resources to do it right. To make it the strong news and public affairs
morning show that we had envisioned when we first embarked on it in 1993.
But while we tried to keep the consistency going, I maintained a
level of autonomy. I didn't use the theme song "Sweet in the
Morning", I tried to keep it faster-paced. I focused a lot more
attention on so-called Latino community issues than the other shows: this
is not to say they didn't do so on the other days or that I didn't do
other things, but it was a way to balance things out. It was understood
that Wake-Up Call was one show, although with two components,
Monday-Thursday being one, Friday being the other. Again, for some this
may have worked, for others maybe it didn't. But I tried to keep it going.
I tried to do the best I could, working with the little resources we had,
coming in every Friday morning at 5:30am to get the show on the air.
And this is the way that things went until December 22nd,
which was a Friday, when Bernard and Sharan were fired and banned.
People asked me what's going to happen to you, are you going to go as
well? Etc. And for the most part I was not affected programmatically. The
show went on, in my view, successfully. While the other days fell into a
state of chaos and rancor, I tried to do what I always did on Fridays.
Some people accused me of not taking a stand on the firings and bannings,
while others said I was taking sides with a particular camp because on
that first Friday I allowed Bernard to come on the air while taking phone
calls. But I continued doing the show, while seeing the station divide
ever more intensely with each passing day.
Amy Goodman's role in the morning continued to be questioned.
Her feeling that the firings and banning of personnel was unwarranted
continued coming across on the air. She was dubbed a saboteur for
constantly raising the issue with other fill-in hosts. And I was
criticized for allowing her to do it on the air during my time without
cutting her off abruptly. My feeling was although I didn't agree with
everything Amy was saying, I was not about to attack her or cut her off
unceremoniously, because that is not how I deal with people, and I was and
continue to be firmly convinced that the negativity that was being spewed
was not in the things Amy was saying about the democratization of
Pacifica, about her disapproval with the firings and bannings. My feeling
was and continues to be that the negativity, the true "bloodletting", the
process of alienation on the air that was taking place was caused by the
constant on-air bickering, the fighting, the attempts to silence and
stifle debate, a debate that needed to be had considering the public
nature of this foundation. It was not caused by the comments on one
person. Again, I was convinced that a lot of the crisis that was getting
worse as each day passed could have been handled differently, with less
detrimental results for the station, had positions not hardened so much,
so as to have created a mood of outright hostility on the air, and
subsequent alienation of thousands of listeners. I was not going to take
part in that, with the hope that things would settle down eventually and
that cooler heads would prevail. But positions continued to harden. The
possibility of dialogue lessened each day. And now, as the morning line-up
goes through yet another change, I am forced to reconsider what my role
here at the station is. The other day I was called at home by my direct
supervisor here at the station in the department of public affairs
programming. He informed me that I was NOT to have Amy Goodman on the air
anymore on Friday mornings, that the line-up is changing and that they
want to have some more consistency. And that Amy was not part of the plan.
I was also told that the initial idea was to make the morning show a
Monday through Friday program, with the same line-up and hosts, something
I had argued for years as public affairs director, but that "because of
who I am" and because of my contributions to the show and the station over
the years, I would be allowed to stay on on Friday, to continue doing what
I've been doing. With the very clear condition being that I "don't put on
Amy Goodman, nor anybody else who has been responsible for the nonsense of
the past few months." These are almost exact words. I don't have it on
tape, nor in writing, but I'm trying to be as accurate as possible.
Needless to say this put me in a predicament. Had I simply been told
they wanted to have a five day a week show and therefore I was being let
go, I would've accepted it, reluctantly, but I couldn't argue against it
because it has been my position all along. (No contradictions please!!!)
But I was given conditions, an ultimatum. I clearly had very limited
choices: I either defy this arbitrary provision of my on-air status in the
mornings and get immediately removed from the show (I was told that I
would have to deal with the consequences). Or I continue on the air,
protect my little three hour air-space, and tell Amy to bug off, not come
on the air. I either go on the air in defiance, taking a stand against
this blatant censorship of my program, or I give in to the dictates of the
management and continue doing my program. WE should point out that Amy has
not been named, at least yet, as one of the banned. It's in writing that
certain people are NOT permitted on the air: it includes Bernard, Sharan,
Cherene, Janice, I think Mimi Rosenberg is another, and one or tow others.
Amy is not on that list, at least not that I know of. But she has now been
confined, according to what I was told this week, to democracy Now, so she
is not banned, just quarantined.
Now mind you, in my 13 years here as a programmer and producer I've
never once been told who I can or cannot have on the air. In my
seventeen years doing radio I've never once been told who I can or
cannot have on the air. I consider myself a radio journalist first
and foremost, a rather responsible one at that, and I feel whenever I put
people on the air, it's for a good reason, whether it's as a co-host or as
a guest. So I ask myself, considering Amy and I share many of the same
journalistic values, the same approach to covering stories, to dealing
with issues that are not covered anywhere else, why wouldn't I have her on
the program that I am producing, that I am shaping, that I am hosting.yes
we have many differences, and I have as many criticisms of her as she, I'm
sure, has of me and my approach, just as I have of others who I've shared
the microphone with here at WBAI over the years. But I've always had the
freedom to invite anybody I pleased to share that mic. Now I'm told it's a
different ball game.
I'll also be very clear that Amy does NOT make or break the
Friday edition of Wake-Up Call. To be perfectly frank, at times her
late arrivals over the years were quite disturbing and could very
often throw off the rhythm established in the first hour of the
program. But the fact of the matter is that we work well together.
I've been working with her for years, and it's something that I look
forward to, mainly because I think you, the listeners, enjoy it as well,
and together we have something to offer. Last week I was pleased with the
number of calls expressing this much.
So what does one do when you're given such an ultimatum. Go
on as usual with Amy and get kicked off the air. Go on without Amy,
accepting this new condition, and remain on the air on Friday
mornings. It left me with a lot to think about over the last 48
hours, and I've come to the conclusion that I cannot accept these
kinds of conditions on my programming. If I were to accept it, it
would mean that my program was forever compromised. The integrity of the
show would always be at risk. Because when does one draw the line? I've
already lost a producer in Sharan Harper. Since her firing, I've been
forced to produce the show all on my own, not so easy when one is juggling
so many other commitments. Now a co-host in Amy Goodman. And there's the
statement "and all those other people involved in the nonsense over the
past few months." Pretty ambiguous if you ask me. And I tried to get
clarity. I asked my direct supervisor to define those other individuals,
who would be considered off limits from my program? Who would I be allowed
to have on the air and who would I not be allowed to have on the air? Can
you see where the problems will begin? You accept these conditions once,
you might have to accept them again, and again, and again. Afterall, we
are in a state of internal war!
So I've come to the conclusion that I cannot accept these conditions.
would not be able to look at my students in the eye when I talk to them
about media democracy, about independence, about free speech, about
journalism values, if I were to accept this preconditon in order to save
my little air space here.
After giving it considerable thought, and with considerable regret,
I'm forced to sign off from wake up call one last time. I know that I
cannot be content with myself to continue under these circumstances. I
oppose these arbitrary dictates supposedly in the interest of protecting
the station. If we are indeed supposedly at war, I refuse to be held
hostage. Which is why I am resigning from the program, effective
immediately. As much as I enjoy doing the morning show, as much time and
energy I have put into it to make it entertaining, informative, somewhat
amusing, or whatever else you may want to call it, I have to end it here.
Let me be clear. This is not about Amy Goodman. I could survive
without her. This is NOT about being a martyr. If anything, it's a
selfish move, to clear my own conscience. To be able to function here at
WBAI without compromising my beliefs. Without being forced by anybody to
take sides in order to protect "my ass." I also want to state right here
that I am not resigning from Pacifica or WBAI Radio. I'm here because I
believe in WBAI. I could be anywhere else I want to be, I don't need WBAI
for the money, for the ego, or for the space to have my voice heard. All
of these personal needs I have satisfied elsewhere, and very comfortably,
I may add. I am here because I believe in the mission of community radio,
of Pacifica, of Lew Hill. That's why I came here in the first place, and I
will remain true to that mission.
As many of you know, I still produce Our Americas on Fridays and hope
continue producing the program every week. I leave this studio each Friday
and immediately begin work on OA in the next room. I plan to do it today,
and hope that my decision vis a vis the morning show does not affect my
work or my role in Our Americas (the only program of its kind on the
radio, which currently airs on over 25 stations nationwide and will soon
be launching its own website). For now, besides the seven dirty words
restrictions that we are all aware of, I have not been given any
constraints to work from in that program. And I believe there should be no
reason for this to occur now.
Finally, I wanted to salute Samori Marksman one last time. I was
planning to do a special on-air tribute to Samori on March 23rd, a
Friday morning and the 2nd anniversary of his untimely death.
Obviously, my decision today will not make that possible. I am proud to
have worked closely with him for so many years here at the station. Like
him, I believe in the need for change, fundamental change, including here
at the station. I also believe in the need for a vanguard to lead that
change. I am grateful to have been given an opportunity to have been part
of the vanguard that turned this station around in the mid-1990s under his
leadership, notwithstanding the constant attacks, the hostile meetings,
the disinformation campaigns, the mean-spririted and divisive memos that
were constantly being sent out by known and unknown sources. It's never
been easy here at WBAI, and there was always dissent, always challenges to
the status quo. But we always tried to move the station forward through
dialogue, through compromise, through consensus, however elusive. Even
some of the most destructive individuals were allowed into that process,
for better or for worse. The fact of the matter is that we did move the
station forward. Through producing strong radio, and never giving into
pressures to sell out our principles of social justice, community
empowerment and free speech. I still believe this can happen at WBAI, but
first we have to step back from this atmosphere of war.
- Mario A. Murillo
BACK TO THE FREE PACIFICA HOME PAGE