Role: Director, Back Story

Non-commercial radio station WAKD is incorporated as a membership nonprofit. It is overseen by a Board of Directors which selects and supervises a General Manager. The bulk of station tasks are accomplished by Volunteer-Members.

Mission: At WAKD we cooperate to provide service to our community through alternative programming.

I heard a really great show on WAKD several years ago so I started volunteering. At first I was answering telephones and helping around the office. After a while I joined the Marketing and Outreach committee and then got trained to be one of the DJs of the show which brought me here in the first place! After serving briefly on the Strategic Planning Committee I was nominated by my peers to join the Board of Directors, and the members voted me into this spot of considerable responsibility two years ago.

My first exposure to board business was a bit frightening! I had never been in touch with the financial side of things before even though I have some business finance experience, and sometimes it is pretty stressful. We were not going to be able to pay our bills before the last pledge drive, so one of the other directors put up their home as collateral on a short-term loan! After the drive we repaid the loan, but I was nervous.

I also learned a lot about accountability, mostly to the FCC and IRS. The board is responsible for making sure this limited resource, our frequency, which is the property of the people, is used the best way possible. So that means making the people's property benefit as many people as possible, and that means we meet our service obligations to the FCC by having as many listeners as we can. We've also started tracking our listener service numbers because we hope one day to qualify for CPB grants, and they make a big deal about service.

Either the FCC or the IRS can hurt us if they think we are failing in our obligations. I get nervous whenever I hear underwriting announcements or political talk because the regulations are so complicated. But strangely enough, it was one of the simplest regs which got us into trouble.

One morning last week we had an anonymous profanity complaint just hours after DJ Pat's midnight music show. It was almost like someone was just waiting for us to screw up, and we are worried that we in the sights of one of the Christian Radio syndicates! Anyway the tape was conclusive, and our manager prohibited Pat from being on the air. But that may not be the end of that story.

Pat is one of the Midnight Music DJs who are all friends and constantly question "the system", including FCC rules. We are so grateful that the manager's authority with Pat, so far anyway, has sent a signal to the other DJs not to intentionally "slip up" on profanity on their shows. But how long will that last?

One step we are taking is to publicly emphasize how we unconditionally support the manager.

Not that we are always pleased with our manager! Even in this case, it is possible the manager overstepped station policy, and we communicated this in no uncertain terms, and luckily that is all confidential employer-employee stuff. Any doubts about our support for the manager could threaten the lines of authority which enable the manager to keep the station safe, and we sure as hell can't afford a FCC fine right now.

A recent problem is the proposal to replace Counterspin with Mainstreet Headlines. I think we generally favor the latter because it meets our service requirements better and doesn't violate anything else in our mission.

We don't usually get involved with programming decisions. Unfortunately this one is stirring things up too much. After several people reported harassment on the volunteer mailing list, we made the difficult decision to disallow postings on the subject for now -- they are only polarizing people -- and step in to handle this decision before the organizational price gets too high.