Big Changes At KZYX
by Sheila Dawn-Tracy, February 4, 2016
Traveling the rain slicked, snake like curves of Orr Springs Road, opting for the shortest distance between two points, I found the January 4th meeting of the KZYX Board of Directors meeting already under way upon my arrival.
The small conference room of the Travelodge motel was nearly filled to capacity, with twenty or so people neatly wedged in between audio recording equipment on one side and video equipment on the other.
The full Board was in attendance along with Interim General Manager, Stuart Campbell. Directors Sakowicz and Keller sat on the outermost edges of a truncated conference table, looking a bit conspicuous without their share of the table from which to work.
The abbreviated minutes of the previous two meetings were once again available to the public and quickly approved by the Board. Public comment had been eliminated altogether, including those comments made on action items requiring the Directors' vote.
Included in the agenda was a notice of "ground rules" asking that speakers be allowed to speak uninterrupted and that public comments be reserved to the time slated for that purpose. Also noted was that response to questions or comments would occur at the following meeting either directly or, if warranted, as a discussion item for the Board. Contact with Board members through the website BOD@kzyx.org was encouraged.
Board President, Meg Courtney announced that at a closed session on Monday, December 14th, five candidates recommended by the hiring committee were interviewed by seven of the eight Board members (Jenness Hartley being absent) for the open position of General Manager. After what was described as a marathon twelve hour meeting, a new GM was selected.
Originally, under the chairmanship of Clay Eubank, the interviews were intended to be conducted by the hiring committee and followed by staff and Board inclusion in the final determination. However, President Courtney commandeered the process by removing Eubank as chair and conducting the closed session interviews at her home stating that the process was taking too long. Eubank declined to attend the last hiring committee meeting. The fallout from her decision was palpable when Courtney asked Eubank if he would respond to a request from the public for more information about the derailed process and he replied that he believed doing so was inappropriate.
In what one programmer later assessed as a not well formed proposal to the Board, Courtney, in full Presidential mode, announced the dismantling of many of the committees created in June by then acting President, Stuart Campbell. Standing committees would remain but others would be formed as ad hoc - as needed committees.
This is cause for some confusion as the Bylaws define Standing Committees as limited to the Executive (Board officers) and Audit committees while Section 6.1 of the Policies and Procedures Manual (last updated in 2006) lists all of the committees formerly created by Campbell as Standing committees.
Appearing on the agenda as Standing committees were those of Finance, Election, Audit and the Bylaws and Policy committee which Courtney, herself, will chair.
The Policy Manual states that it is the policy of the Board that the Board's work should be done through committees whose meetings "shall be forums for discussion leading to problem solving, planning and development." Committees act in an advisory capacity to the Board for the purpose of producing g clear recommendation. Additionally, "encouragement should be given to station volunteers to participate in committee work."
I later questioned Courtney as to what input the community would have in regard to committee work. She indicated that such feedback would be confined to the three minute public comment period.
In other station news, Director Jane Futcher's first e-newsletter is ready for distribution and will be appearing on a quarterly schedule. The first edition focuses on the work of the KZYX News team in covering the Lake County fires.
Also announced were the dates for the Spring pledge drive -- March 5th through the 14th.
The Finance report was given by Campbell. Total income through December 31st was slightly more than $300k; $161k from donations. Underwriting contributed almost $39k with $94.5k received from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) fall grant. $5k was also added from an unspecified source.
Expenses we're $10k more than budgeted, totaling $284.7k for a net gain of $15.4k. The current bank balance is $8791. Audit Report - Director Bob Page reported that all is well. The full report can be reviewed through the station's website.
Election Report - All applications for the three open seats (District 1- Potter Valley to Talmage, At Large seat-not restricted to any geographical area within Mendocino County and the Programmer Representative seat) must be received by January 30th from members in good standing. (Current as of 12/31/15.) Requirement info and applications are available either through the website or at the Philo studio.
Community Advisory Board Report - CAB member, Tom Melcher stated that although the December 4th meeting was under attended, he felt that there had been a respectful and collaborative dialogue. After introductions (two members were newly appointed), discussion focused on the frequency of meetings. The group felt that staggering the meetings to alternate with the six meetings of the current Board schedule might be productive.
The propriety of informal CAB meetings - those without public attendance - was discussed and designated to be further researched.
Issues were prioritized by use of a dot system by attendees. Regular meetings, more local sports coverage, reactivation of the program advisory council and membership communication were highlighted. Melcher told the Board that the CAB representative would rotate and live reports were desirable over the alternative of turning in the meeting's minutes. He asked for additional time to take questions or suggestions from either the Board or the public.
Increased access to the community through an interactive discussion on the station's website as well as an on air regular call in program were mentioned by audience members. CAB member contact info was also requested.
Community News Event
Reporter Valerie Kim summarized the December 20th event sponsored by the News team. Guest speaker, Elizabeth Larson emphasized the importance of local journalism in keeping the Lake County community informed and safe from fire dangers during the summer and fall wildfires.
Johanna Wild Oak was presented with a Volunteer of the Year Award for her work in assembling a comprehensive resource directory for the evacuees of the Lake County fires.
Several more 'Community Conversations' are being planned for the near future.
Courtney made a motion to hire former News Coordinator, Lorraine Dechter as the new General Manager of KZYX/KZYZ. It was seconded and comments were received.
Director Sakowicz stated he was impressed by the integrity and fairness of the selection process, concluding that Dechter was, by far, the most qualified of all the candidates.
Dechter had a long resume starting in radio at the age of fourteen with management experience at both the Chico and Redding public radio stations. She later expanded into print and television media.
King Collins asked if there had been any discussion of different structural organizational possibilities by the hiring committee. I asked if there was any discussion of excluding the Executive Director title in the General Manager's contract while the contract was being reviewed.
Dechter was unanimously approved by the Board. Her contract began on January 5th.
In her acceptance statement, she expressed gratitude for the confidence and support of the community and Board members. She also spoke of her vision to network and create partnerships among local entities. Important organizational decisions are being considered like what entry level wage is best for the station and the community. She has plans to expand news coverage and has trust in the current news team. She is currently involved in training people to fill the vacuum left by the departure of several longtime personnel. Eventually, she intends to advertise the current interim positions of Program Director (now filled by Angela De Witt) and Operations Manager (currently held by a former radio associate of Dechter's, Mark Speer) more widely to attract new talent but job descriptions are in need of an update. She must reconcile the station finances with any structural changes being considered.
State Of The Station
Prepared by Interim General Manager, Stuart Campbell, the report noted that the news team of Sherri Quinn and Valerie Kim will continue coverage of daily news stories. Quinn will take on the Morning Edition; Kim, the Evening Edition. They also have plans to do longer investigative pieces throughout the year. Coverage of civic engagement forums titled 'Community Conversations' are also planned. The first one, on cannabis, is scheduled for February 6th at the Little Lake Grange in Willits. Organized by local community members, it will include the diverse voices of legislators, growers, advocates and other stakeholders. A second event on behavioral health services and the collaboration of local agencies and institutions to improve the care of those needing attention will be held in March. The event will be televised and funding for Spanish translators has been provided. Operations The County Community Benefit grant was not awarded to the station so an upgrade to provide remote access to the station' s two broadcast towers will not be possible at this time. The Board of Supervisors instead chose to give smaller grants to numerous community improvement projects. An application for a grant from the Mendocino Community Foundation was filed by Dechter. The money would be used to upgrade to software provided by Allegiance to improve the capacity of the membership database. $5000 is still being sought to acquire two new computers and upgrade the software for the station's accounting and bookkeeping needs. Programming Toby Gleason, formerly of Santa Rosa, will host the 10 am jazz slot on alternate Thursdays as of February 4th. He will alternate with Ron Hoffar. Gleason has previously hosted jazz programs on KRCB (Santa Rosa). His father, Ralph J. Gleason was the long time jazz critic for the S.F. Chronicle who co-founded both the Monterey Jazz Festival and Rolling Stone magazine. Campbell, free from his obligations as acting GM, will return to host his program, Consider This on alternate Friday mornings. Bob Bushansky, husband to Board President, Meg Courtney and member of the Community Advisory Board will fill the alternate Friday spot. His show, Politics: A Love Story will present a conservative viewpoint regarding issues and political candidates. Cal Winslow continues to produce limited series programs which are to be scheduled at a later date. Reveal, a Peabody Award winning investigative journalism program, will air weekly at 1 pm on Wednesdays. It can not be archived through the station's Jukebox feature. City Arts will move to 7pm on alternate Wednesdays opposite the Point and Click computer program. City Arts can also be heard on Sundays at 5am. Nina Gerona, currently working in Anderson Valley as an AmeriCorps volunteer, has joined Women's Voices. She has been involved in radio both in high school and college, and can be heard on the second Monday of the month at 7pm. N.O. show host, Eric Labowitz, will be taking a three month medical leave of absence. His replacement, Kathy Rippey, is familiar with New Orleans and its unique blend of musical roots, having lived there for many years until being forced to relocate after hurricane Katrina. W Dan Houck returns to The Tree house for Thursday night comedy. He will alternate in mid-February with John McAllister who is currently on honeymoon leave. In late breaking news, it was announced on air by Bob Bushansky that KZYX&Z's new General Manager, Lorraine Dechter, will begin on-air reports of station activities in the 7: 06 am NPR musical interlude time frame. This is a positive step in fulfilling the single recommendation of the 2014 CAB (Community Advisory Board) report which further stipulated that station news announcements be repeated at regular intervals during the day and evening hours to be effective in reaching the broadest spectrum of listeners. Fundraising Two auctions are planned for 2016. The first, a station Valentine, is slated for February 11th through the 20th. All donations are being accepted though it has been found that artwork often does not sell. Contact the station or the Board of Directors via phone or website to contribute items. The second auction, in conjunction with the Western Regional Public Radio Auction and Nevada Public Radio will occur later in the year. Donations from major donors have totaled almost $26k as of late December. Another $28.5k must still be acquired to meet the budgeted goal of $55k. Major donor 'house parties' were the idea of Director Jane Futcher. It was disclosed by Courtney that a certain amount of money would be needed to host these 'events' though details of how guests were to be chosen, of which houses were to host the prospective large donors or the exact amount to be budgeted was either not forthcoming or in the latter instance, revealed in an undertone so as to make the information inaccessible to the listening public. Membership Sustaining memberships (monthly installment payments) doubled during the fall pledge drive which exceeded its $80k goal. The tentative current member count for 2016 is 2285 which is a welcomed rise from the previous year's count of 2118 but well under more successful years of 2013 and 2014 where the member count rose to 2396 and 2372 respectively. Although the agenda included the topics of Document Demand and Explanation of why the Membership List Cannot be Shared under the heading of: Responding to questions of members (in bold type), Campbell did not address either issue nor was attention brought to it by any Board member.
Jeff Wright questioned why Interim Manager, Campbell refused to accept his offer of $120 as a membership donation at the November meeting. He stated that the November pledge drive had been promoted as being supportive of the News team and expanded news coverage. Wright wanted to know how much of the $80k raised was directed into the news as well as the cost of NPR and PRX programs. He also asked why the reversal of Safe Harbor policy was not on the agenda for public discussion.
My comments followed. I wondered what, if any, community input had been part of the Search (hiring) committee process. I noted that the only sanctioned community member of the committee, Jenness Hartley had been recruited off the Community Advisory Board to serve as newly appointed Board member. The actual committee had been winnowed down to only three members--a programmer, a part time staff person and the chair of the Personnel Committee, Board member, Benj Thomas. Having attended two previous committee meetings, I had requested of the Board to be allowed to represent the voice of the coastal community. I was excluded from process of vetting applicants. The minutes of those meetings are station documents intended to be available for public review. However, the process instead has been shrouded in intrigue and mystery. I again reiterated CPB requirements that membership information COULD be shared with other members provided that members were told they had a right to sign and were presented with a non disclosure option. I remarked that such information had not been made available to members in the 26 years of the station's existence by either station management or the member's representatives, the KZYX&Z Board of Directors. Both entities in the past two years of requests have steadfastly maintained that they were bound by CPB regulations to protect the privacy of its members. Now we know it just isn't so. A non disclosure privacy statement could be sent out with the next election ballot. Doing so would help eliminate the tension between members who want a means to communicate with other members and station management under former GM, John Coate and Interim GM, Campbell, who consistently denied that right as established in the California Corporation Code. It should be pointed out that although the Board has a way to communicate privately with other Board members and that same ability to communicate privately is granted to the station's programmers, no such vehicle of station sanctioned communication is available to station members who, incidentally, provide more than half of the station's operating budget. I also stated that management's insistence that members pay $1500 for the privilege of communicating with each other through the postal service is unnecessary when both the Board and management are permitted by the Bylaws to assist in the calling of the membership's own meetings through free announcements broadcast over the station's airwaves. Why shouldn't member's expect the full cooperation of both the Board and management in this effort especially when the difficulty of getting feedback from listeners has been remonstrated time after time? In my final comment I pointed out the disconnection of current Board members from the decisions of past Boards due to the lack of a Board historian. It was abundantly clear that the Board had no idea of what specific rules were to be used in running their meetings until my research determined that it was, in fact, Roberta 's Rules of Order by Alice Collier Cochran. (adopted 9/8/2002)
Mike Dunlap of Lake County observed that the Board had not introduced themselves nor provided any means for the audience to identify them. He was critical of the way the meeting was conducted stating that the Board needed a parliamentarian as well as a gavel and a clear set of rules. He commented that in 2012 there were 126 fires in the County and that radio is the only method that works in an emergency. He felt the public was being "short shifted." Dunlap advised the Board to seek out non members and be attentive to their concerns. In response, the Board quickly amended their error and introduced themselves.
Courtney, in way of an apology, commented that in her four years on the Board, there had been no Board training. She acknowledged the Board owed it to their members and the audience to know their job and how to run the meeting well. She added that she thought the idea of a Board historian was a good one.
Late night programmer Tim Gregory stated that it was a crucial element of public radio to have a time for freedom of expression. Safe Harbor, formerly from 10pm to 6am, by legal precedent had been established to satisfy that intent and he was in favor of its quick return.
Derek Hoyle, also a late night programmer decried the continued lack of action of the Board in supporting programmers like himself in the production of their shows' content without the cloud of censorship obscuring their creative energy. He also asked why it took navigating three pop up menus on the station website to determine the location of that night's meeting. He felt the information should be more accessible by being on the home page.
Tom Melcher stated that the fact that the Board of Supervisors chose to award grants to other social community endeavors did not preclude management from attempting to establish a contract with the County.
Dorothea Dorman advocated for a way listeners could call in to ask for shows that responded to current needs for information citing Lyme's Disease as a topic of community interest. She felt that the Board of Supervisor's meeting on an advisory recommendation to Mendocino Redwood Company's to voluntarily halt its practice of using poison to kill tan oak trees should have been recorded live by the station as had public meetings of importance in the past. She added that greater exposure could have put more pressure on the Board to vote in the public interest. She also favored a call in program with CAB members.
The date of the next Board meeting is Monday, March 7 the in Willits. In response to a request for the compiling of a six month Board calendar with the specific location of meetings predetermined, Courtney stated that an effort was being made toward that objective. Though the meeting had officially ended, Director Keller, who was noticeably quiet throughout the meeting, made an effort to pacify programmer and videographer, Derek Hoyle about the current lack of a Safe Harbor policy. Keller opined that "it wasn't a big deal." Hoyle vociferously disagreed stating for all to hear, "Some people may not think censorship is a big deal but a lot of other people think it is a very big deal."