Letters

Week of December 17, 2003

Bah, "Humbug"
Take cover! As someone who worked with many of the original KDHX people and who was undermined by Bev Hacker and her cronies and eventually tossed out unceremoniously by Ms. Hacker, I can't say that I approach this letter without prejudice [Mike Seely, "Rattle and Humbug," December 3]. The one thing I can say without question is that KDHX and Double Helix "eat their young" every few years.

I can place myself in Ms. Hacker's shoes as a previous member of management. I was program director in 1993 and again from 1996 through early 1998. I cannot and will not sympathize with Bev Hacker.

The structure of the whole organization is so unwieldy that it is almost impossible to enforce any standards. Once you try, you are accused of being a Nazi; "trying to take the place commercial"; "not having the right set of ears" for the place; not "understanding the purpose of community radio"; etc. For example, Bev, then a board member herself, was a leader in trying to stop me and the manager in charge when I tried to implement something as benign as drive-time traffic reports. Her rationale: "If I want to hear traffic reports on the radio, I'll tune somewhere else." Of course, my point was I wanted KDHX listeners to stay with KDHX and not tune away for anything.

Bev claims she has turned things around at KDHX during the past eighteen months. She's been manager since 1998. What was she doing before? Bev and her cronies on the board stood in the way many times of changes that other station managers tried to make to better KDHX. As the cliché goes, her birds have come home to roost. Now Bev is in hot water with volunteers and board members because she is trying to implement things the way she sees fit. Bev, welcome to the wonderful world of community radio, where friends can turn on you in a split second. Now you know how it feels!

Volunteers and the board complained about salaries back when I was P.D., making all of $20K per year and carrying a pager 24-7. I guarantee you the station manager was not pulling in anywhere close to Bev's $50K salary.

KDHX can provide interesting programming and interesting perspectives. dhTV probably should be spun off as a separate entity, because they will always be a poor stepchild in the Double Helix Corporation. Trying to find a "good guy" in the mess that has always been Management vs. the Board and Volunteers is like trying to choose between Saddam and al-Qaeda. As one who has participated in overthrows and who has been overthrown, all I can say to the innocent bystanders is: Take cover. Boy, am I glad I'm on the outside of this one!
Terry B. Moses, former program director & volunteer, KDHX
St. Louis

Who needs a story when you've got Eric? I don't know what is more frustrating: reading yet another article about bickering and infighting at KDHX or reading yet another shallow, gossipy, innuendo-filled Riverfront Times article. KDHX is an incredibly valuable community resource that deserves thoughtful discussion about its mission and direction, both from inside the organization and in the broader community. But your article provided little help. It mentioned that the executive director and the board president had different visions for the station -- but never told us what those visions were. Instead, Mike Seely devoted two pages to a pointless story about whether or not a certain programmer was drunk on the air and whether or not the executive director followed the personnel manual correctly in disciplining him. None of this has much relevance to the thousands of KDHX listeners. As a former Double Helix board president (present when KDHX first went on the air) who doesn't know the people currently leading the station, I offer the following thoughts:

KDHX needs to clarify its mission and purpose. Does it want to be more a of a "radio club" where the volunteers are the most important constituency, or a "radio service" where the listeners and the programming are most important?

A station that depends on listener contributions should provide financial transparency. There should be no need for secrecy. Board members should not derive any income from the station (whether as employees or contractors).

The executive director should be able to make hiring decisions, but common sense dictates involving others in the process to gain consensus -- especially when some candidates can cause concern about nepotism or favoritism.

Board members need to be leaders in fundraising and community outreach. I know of no other major nonprofit where the board can wash its hands of fundraising. Board membership should not be a popularity contest among volunteers.

The legal structure of Double Helix makes it easy for small numbers of disgruntled volunteers to block change. Consensus around mission and a strong dose of good will are required to transcend petty politics.

dhTV is a different animal from radio, but it can provide a needed service. Limited distribution and the cost of TV production mean that viewer donations will never sustain it. If it can be financially viable from the cable contract, both Double Helix and the community benefit.

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