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To the Board and Subscribers of KZYX
Open Up The Closed Board Listserv
I sent the following letter to the board of KZYX and to John Coate the General Manager. His response is below.
Open up the closed board listserv
June 30, 2009 12:31 PM
The KZYX board is using the board listserv in a way that is inappropriate to a community member-supported radio station.
Prior to 2005, there was no way for the board to communicate among themselves except at physical meeting. In 2005, we put in a listserv and it was decided, against opposition from myself and others, to limit access to board members and GM only.
I argued then that excluding members from the listserv discussion was effectively holding an ONGOING CLOSED MEETING which is definitely against long-standing procedures: Closed meetings are only supposed to be held for specific legal matters like personnel actions and real estate negotiations.
If the board would simply open up its deliberations to interested members there would be more intelligent input from the public and less unpleasant surprises, like the recent layoff of Christina.
The typical board member's attitude is that input from members would be at best a nuisance. That is one of the essential characteristics of the "centrist" perspective: Keep the discussion out of reach of the membership.
To open up the listserve to the members could be done now, easily.
I would appreciate a response (from the board) to this suggestion.
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Coate, KZYX station manager just wrote back:
....I know of no board that has no way to converse in any form other than at a formal meeting. If not email then a phone conference. Boards have to be able to converse in some form in a less formalsetting.
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To which I responded:
Dear John and board,
Thanks for your response. I think you have hit upon a good idea:
Limit closed baord discussions to phone conferences (or physical meetings).
The handy use of the listserv would than be shared with members. That would be acceptable, I think.
Are you aware that at the state level after the passage of the "sunshine" laws (Brown Act) closed email are not legal for elected govenment boards? Courts have interpreted the Brown act to mean that a certain number of board members may not even drive in the same car to meetings.
I have had two years of exclusive email exchanges as a board member, and I am quite certain we would have benefited by sharing our thoughts on the listserv with the membership.
John, you seem to be saying that because transparency is not practiced by other boards, to your knowledge, that that is a reason not to do it. The opposite may be true. Those boards are all, to my knowledge, designed to keep the membership uninformed, and they all suffer from it.
KZYX was an innovation to begin with and one of the main innovations was to create a radio station controlled by the members, or at least a radio station whose deliberations are available to the members. Some of us want to know what is discussed by the board as they discuss it, not months later.
Transparency is the friend of good radio.
So, what's being discussed on the listserv right now, John?
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Before the above letter, I had written to the baord, below:
To the KZYX Board Of Directors
From King Collins
Re. Crises of Transparency at KZYX
Dear Doug Livingston and other members of the KZYX board,
The current crisis at the station, and especially the layoff of Christina Aanestad, is alarming. Not only for the fact but also because of the surprise to all of us.
As a interested member of KZYX, I feel left out, the same way I felt before I came on the board back in 2003. For two years I tried along with a few others to open up communication between the board and the membership, between the board and the programmers, and between the board and the staff. The experience caused me to write a pamphlet "The Secret Life Of KZYX," the title chosen to point to the lack of transparency at the station. The pamphlet caused a huge uproar and a campaign to get rid of me, which succeeded (see below).
I realized then that that the KZYX board was split between two camps: "centrists" and "egalitarians." There were a lot of issues at the time, including the fact that the station was dominated by an entrenched circle of local valley folks. Most of the staff were from Anderson Valley, the station manager was the sister-in-law of the board president, and the board had fallen into the routine of letting the station manager make all the important decisions.
After I left the board a new manager, Belinda Rawlings, was chosen. I gave a copy of my writing to Belinda, and to my pleasant surprise, she appreciated my critique. Belinda took charge and things seemed to chang in a good way . The clique was broken up and no longer exists so far as I can tell and the news programming and many other things improved vastly. I was so satisfied that I stopped worrying about the station and stopped going to board meetings. It seemed that Belinda had solved the problems.
But I noticed that one important thing did not chang: Belinda herself was forthcoming, but there was no effort to keep the membership really informed, and I suppose the board fell back into the old "let the manager do the job" attitude. I had asked and hoped that some mechanisms would be created to insure that concerned members could find out what problems were coming up. Among other things I suggested that the board set up and conduct a regular monthly show, controlled by the board (not management) in which board members would openly discuss the issues before the board. That never happened for sure.
In my opinion, if KZYX is to be a truly community station, the board must be more proactive and transparent about its deliberations. It would benefit us all if you would treat the membership as a source of intelligence and problem solving and not just a target for fund raising.
We need more than a website where we can submit messages to you, although I appreciate that.
Back in 2005, I wrote:
"In the meantime there's been an election, in which I ran again for the board, against a nice person by the name of Jane Futcher and I lost. So I'm off the board. That will certainly save me a lot of time and heartache. . . . Unfortunately, Zac Zackary also lost which means that there is no one left on the board who can be trusted to report what is actually happening. The veil of "confidentiality" once again settles over the board. Egalitarian sympathizers, Lynda McClure. and newly elected Jane Futcher (not to mention Antonio Lamb and Mike Grady) are unlikely to directly challenge the "centrists" and their restrictive notion of what members are allowed to know."
So Doug and other board members, do you think there is merit to this critique?
King Collins, email@example.com
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