2007-03/Mar Founding Board member and DJ Eddie Arthur comments

Eddie's Comments March 2007

KRFC was founded as a democratically run station. This was very clear. What was unclear is what exactly that meant. Everybody had an opinion, volunteers, members and board. Instead of discussing this in an open manner, the board instead hired a manager, Beth Flowers, who ended the
discussion for them and sealed the station into what could be called a shotgun consensus model. They bullied through a revision that removed the words "democratically managed" from the mission statement. Then they kicked out three people who tried to gather signatures for a by-laws-prescribed
remedy that would have allowed the KRFC members to vote for themselves about changing the mission statement.

Now the board and station manager will tell you all about how destructive we were and how we threatened people and are hotheads and anarchists and just don't know how to get along well with others and will never be happy, and don't have the best interests of the station in mind. The dirty little secret that makes them so uncomfortable when asked about the firings, of course, is that their only proof was the word of the station manager. Their action was so honorable in fact that they felt they could skip any due process that the KRFC disciplinary policy demanded and just save everyone some time. They revoked our memberships. They decided to use the gun. The sad thing is that all these ethical acrobatics and closed-door contortions occurred and continue to occur all because their station manager does not know how to calmly process earnest questions and differences of opinion - the hallmarks, by the way, of a healthy community.

What is the relationship of the volunteer and member to the station? Are they part owners, stakeholders? Will they be allowed to have a say in station decisions that affect themselves before they happen? Will they feel safe? Are they allowed to disagree, to speak up? If their disagreement isn't easily resolved will they be kicked out?

Maybe the board and manager believe that people feel free to speak their mind at KRFC. Maybe they will say that those people who got kicked out were special. We would never do that again. We are not like that. Of course, one of the side effects of kicking people out with no cause and intimidating others is the message it sends to all the volunteers. Maybe the board and the manager see this as a bonus. To everyone else of course it feels more like a chill.

So KRFC is a community station. What keeps McDonalds from saying "we are a community burger joint?" What real, in practice commitment to dignity, respect, tolerance, compassion, open debate does KRFC have? How is KRFC governed? How does that differ from McDonalds?

Another sad side effect to all the managerial violence at KRFC, one the board would never admit to, is how it affects creativity, inspiration, ambition and overall quality at the station. This kind of turmoil doesn't cause people to open up and be themselves, especially if they tend to be repulsed by bullies. When your show could be at risk for thinking unsanctioned thoughts, it limits your choices and behaviors. Instead, for many the tendency is to come in do your show, keep your mouth shut, say goodbye, leave.

For creativity to thrive and for programmers to take chances and think outside the box, it helps to feel safe, feel appreciated, and encouraged. It also helps to feel as though they are contributing to something unique that they can get behind philosophically. There needs to be an environment of positivity, excitement and unlimited possibilities. For me it is the weirdoes that are an integral part of this formula. Another critical element is safe, open and vigorous debate -- the exchange of ideas-- outlandish ones, immature ones, and even wrong ones. When a situation develops where people are afraid to speak their mind, then eventually they start to shut off that part of their mind when they walk in the station. That creative part that thinks of how to do things better, do things differently, try something risky, or think big, gets put to sleep. People internalize the path of least resistance and creativity wilts.

The station continues. Good programming still exists, but all the rough edges get smoothed out and people resign themselves to thoughts that exist only within the safe parameters. This change is occurring at KRFC because the open exchange of ideas does not exist when ideas that challenge the status quo are not met with simple counter-arguments, they are met with defensiveness, fear, and the use of power to win by any means necessary. A good leader can handle the expression of opposing ideas, because after all they are just ideas, and can be healthy for growth. If the ideas of the manager are sound then in the arena of ideas, eventually the good ones will be embraced by more people than the unsound ones. If the manager is afraid of open debate, then they are either afraid their ideas won't hold up under scrutiny, or they do not trust the stakeholders to be able to make an informed decisions on issues that affect them. If you fear open debate, you probably feel under the constant attack of ideas, and the only recourse available to you outside of discussion is to resort to violence with your institutional powers. If opposing ideas cannot be tolerated, and are even met with retribution, then pretty soon the new ideas stop coming. Then I fear it is not long before that chill starts to expand to editorial decisions on the news and in the choice of public affairs programming. KRFC is then in a position to become like so many community radio stations, ruled from the top by a few, just kind of soulless, half-ass, and also weirdo-free.

Eddie Arthur
Former Founding Board Member, DJ