Lynda wrote this document sometime in 2001 in a period when the station was between general managers. She had been working as a programmer and paid staff member and as such she was, and still is, an insider. The criticisms of the board and staff in this letter corroborated my own observations. And Lynda perfectly predicted the cold response to those observations when I compiled them into the Minority Report. As she says: "When criticism comes from one of the staff or board, that person is attacked, marginalized, and discredited. Criticism is met with defensiveness and denial of a problem."
Note also that Lynda's suggestions from four years ago, are similar to the "egalitarian" principals. [Ed comments by King Collins, April, 2005]
To: The Board and Staff of kZYX&Z
From: Lynda McClure
Re: My employment and relationship with KZYX&Z
[The document is undated. Probably written sometime in 2001, at a time when there was not General Manager, in the period shortly before Diane Herring was hired for that position.]
I apologize for not getting this in writing and to you sooner. I've thought about and made pages of notes about my relationship with KZYX&Z, and the station's relationship with the county. I come from the perspective of initially a member, then a programmer, then paid staff with intent to apply for the station manager's position.
I started working as staff in October 2000 when Lili first went out on leave and the station needed some fill in. I was unemployed, so it worked well for me, too.
The short answer to why I left the employ of the station and did not apply for the station manager position is that I was offered a job with Service Employees International Union doing what I have enthusiastically done in the past, on a campaign organizing the working poor and doing hands-on redistribution of public wealth. I've been with that just over two months, and don't regret my decision.
One of the factors of the decision was the nature of the work. In many ways it is similar to the work I'd been doing at the Mendocino Environmental Center for several years; maintaining a space where people can do good things. This includes general office support like phones, office supplies and mail distribution, and general picking up after people, washing their dishes and sorting their recycling out of -the trash. While keeping a space useable for other people has its own satisfaction, I want to spend some time letting others deal with housekeeping, income and expenses, and focus on doing specific work other than organizational maintenance. (I continue with my volunteer task of cleaning the bathroom, though, as I think everyone should take a piece of the basic housekeeping.)
The people who do the day to day maintenance are critical to any organization. At KZYX&Z, they are exceptionally responsible and committed, partly because the context necessitates it, and partly because they are exceptional folks. As I've stated numerous times, each one does their job well, and assumes personal responsibility for the successful operation of the station. This includes working long hours, early mornings, late nights, week-ends, and taking working vacations or returning early from one. This fierce ownership is both a treasure and can be an obstacle to wider participation.
Another factor to my leaving KZYX&Z, and for not applying for the station manager's job, has to do with that level of ownership by some of the people affiliated with the station, and the atmosphere it creates. During my time a at the station I became increasingly discouraged about conflict, negativity, divisiveness and backbiting. In my opinion, some members - not all - of both the board and staff participate in this. I'd intended to be specific about who I thought was doing what, but it occurred to me that putting this out to all the staff and board could result in seeing it in print in the AVA, and I do not want to contribute to that publication ;character assassination' material. I sincerely hope this stays within the organization, even without names.
Conflict is inherent within a group of people who come together to do something. It can be part of the creative, dynamic process and it can tear an organization apart. Most groups operate somewhere within the extremes. A paid working situation often imposes another layer of potential conflict - the power over dynamic, or hierarchy. There is a thin line between being responsible and being authoritarian.
The power to direct work and to hire and fire is an element of hierarchy that fuels resentment, hostility, and covert activity. Whether it is the board of director's power over the station manager, the station manager over the staff, or the program director over the volunteer programmers, the attitude of authority and subservience is destructive and drains from the creative force. In regard to the station manager's position, my vision was to flatten the hierarchical structure into a team/group decision-making process on all matters of importance. I truly believe in the wisdom of group/collective thought, and I feel it is currently disrespected, disregarded, or worse yet, not sought. I believe critique and- discipline, including termination of staff or programmers, should be a peer process I came to believe this organizational restructure would have taken more emotional energy then I was willing to give, at this point in time.
I am concerned about the response to criticism from the community or from within the organization. When it comes from community members, they are put down as crazy or disruptive or whiners. Their opinion is delegitimized When it comes from one of the staff or board, that person is attacked, marginalized, and discredited. Criticism is met with defensiveness and denial of a problem. I witnessed and experienced this. It is important for everyone in the organization to understand that no matter how hard you work, or how much responsibility you take on, the station and programming does not belong to any one person, or exclusive group of people.
Another dynamic which I believe is intrinsic to a traditional work situation (and in terms of hierarchy, KZYX&Z is traditional) is the idea that if someone is being paid, they are fair game for abuse. Pay doesn't equal subjugation Money doesn't buy the right to abuse or otherwise exert power over influence through action, word, of thought/attitude. It is not OK to belittle, scold, or treat another in a demeaning manner because they are receiving pay. I witnessed and experienced this at the station.
The dynamic between the staff and the board is not healthy, and is one of the most serious situations I see at the station Some of the staff are extremely hostile toward the board as a body and select individuals who sit on it. Their anger, which is strong and persistent, feeds an atmosphere of distrust, secretiveness, and noncooperation. Some of the board members mirror this distrust and secretiveness. Some people on both the board and staff -seem to thrive on the conflict; being angry, assuming the worst intention from others, and feeding on the disagreeable traits in each other. They would rather spend their time and energy fueling the conflict than finding ways of solving it. I believe this adversarial dynamic must be broken, and both the staff and board members must make sincere commitment to dealing with the anger, frustration and concern of their own and others in a constructive setting, with full intention to reach resolution and a harmonious working relationship. Everyone needs to accept hat decisions and procedures may not be what they think is ideal, but be willing to let go and work with what the group creates. You are many people, from diverse backgrounds and current niches,- who come together to support a common purpose: public radio, which is a public trust, particularly at this time of assault on free speech in this country.
Staff should be included in all decision-making since they are the ones most often directly impacted. Their expertise gained from the day to day operations and long term experience should be considered a valuable, respected tool. The board should be acknowledged as valuable, respected volunteers who are charged with critical, legally binding responsibility for the station.
Specific areas to open up and dispel secrecy include board access to any and all files and records, and staff access to full financial information, including co-workers, wages and other money paid to people on staff or for a special project.. Any project the board takes on should have buy in and participation by staff. Closed door operations are a recipe for non-cooperation, distrust and hostility. I've witnessed intentional acts to hide information, both on the part of staff and board members. I will take this opportunity to give some other opinions and ideas I have about the station operation.
- Fundraising is a critical consideration in selecting a new station manager, as is the strong ability to work effectively with people, both on staff and in the community. The delicate balance between raising funds and restricting big money influence is critical.
- Staff hours should be reduced without a reduction in pay, as a way of giving compensation without budget impact. With careful scheduling, this could be accomplished- It would help to reduce bum out and the negative aspect of "ownership" attitude that comes with too many hours at the station.
- One or two people need to be doing internship with the station engineer immediately. Not only is the current level of responsibility and availability unfair, it leaves the station quite vulnerable.
- A retreat with board, staff, and key volunteers would help with team building and give an opportunity for extended discussion and planning. I recommend a full week-end or a few full day sessions.
- Volunteer programmers should be acknowledged for their part of the operation and given a structure for input. Programmer meetings and agenda should be controlled by the programmers, not the staff. Programmers should take more responsibility for station upkeep - at the very least cleaning up after themselves and returning CDs and records to the shelves - and for fundraising and promoting the station in the community.
- The Community Advisory Committee should be supported and made an important part of decision-making. I submitted a proposal for building this committee which includes specific outreach and structure. Meaningful participation by the community will, I believe, increase listenership and membership, and reduce the, vehement criticism by some of the listeners. There is currently no ongoing, meaningful community input.
Lastly, I want to comment on that sticky wicket, NPR programming, although I know it is stretching the context of this memo. I believe NPR is another element of government propaganda and programming of the people of this country (along with public education and influence on private education). This assault comes through most media sources, and it's quite disturbing to have our station be a part of it to the degree it currently is. I agree with the position that some NPR is appropriate, and the financial benefit to the station through their grants is worthwhile. I oppose it filling four hours of week-day prime time - three hours in the morning and one during the drive home slot. I believe this scheduling is responsible for the high NPR listenership more than the program itself I agree it is important to give a variety of perspectives and allow listeners to analyze the information and draw their own conclusions. I think this could be better accomplished with offering a true variety of information during those prime time hours.
KZYX&Z is a community treasure, and I want to give my sincere appreciation to all of you on the board and on the staff who give so much tune and energy to keep it going, day to day and long term. I am committed to staying engaged and hopefully being a productive, positive influence.
Thank you for allowing me to give these comments and perspectives. I'm happy to talk with any of you at more length.
P.O. Box 1004
Ukiah, CA 95482