[sixties-l] [change-links] Another Amy Goodman update

From: John Johnson (change@pacbell.net)
Date: 10/19/00

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    At long last, the moment we've all been waiting for has arrived. - cg
    ------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
    Subject:                Fwd: Leaked memo: Crackdown at Democacy Now
    Date sent:              Thu, 19 Oct 00 16:20:14 -0700
    From:                   Tracy <tracyr@media-alliance.org>
    Alert: Folks, I know this is long, but for those of us who care about
    alternative news, it's important. Stay tuned for upcoming protests planned
    for next week. We're cobbling out details ASAP. Tentatively - Wed Oct 26th
    at the DN broadcast time locally (9am California time). Feel free to
    call/write/discuss ....
    To: Pacifica Executive Director Bessie Wash and Board of Directors
    From: Amy Goodman
    Cc: Personnel File
    Date: 10/18/00
    A few days ago, I was given a shocking memo from Pacifica Program Director
    Stephen Yasko and Pacifica attorney Larry Drapkin. In the 3-page memo,
    Yasko listed a series of Pacifica policies and work rules that I was
    ordered to immediately adhere to or face "disciplinary actions up to and
    including termination." Yasko handed me the memo during a meeting in the
    law offices of my union, AFTRA, at a gathering that my union
    representatives and I had been led to believe was meant to resolve a
    series of escalating conflicts which have erupted in recent months between
    Yasko, Executive Director Bessie Wash, myself and the Democracy Now!
    staff. In fact, union officials dissuaded me two weeks before the meeting
    from filing a formal grievance against Yasko and Pacifica for harassment
    because they had been led to believe Pacifica wanted to resolve these
    conflicts amicably.
    Instead, we were suddenly faced with this list of "ground rules" and the
    threat to fire me. My union lawyer accused Yasko and the Pacifica lawyer
    of acting in bad faith, immediately cancelled the meeting and approved the
    filing of a formal grievance. I have now filed grievances against Pacifica
    management charging harassment, gender harassment, and censorship, among
    other violations of the union contract. Several of the new "rules" target
    me with restrictions not applied to other Pacifica employees, and are
    outright attempts to curtail my constitutional rights of free speech. Some
    rules go against the very principles of community radio on which Pacifica
    was founded, while still others will have the effect of hampering
    Democracy Now!'s ability to reach the widest possible audience. Given
    their timing and seen in their totality, the ground rules are a
    transparent attempt to retaliate against me for seeking union
    representation in a management-labor dispute, a right protected by the
    National Labor Relations Act.
    But in my opinion, there is something far bigger than a mere "work rules"
    dispute involved here, something which should deeply concern the Pacifica
    Board, our listeners and the greater community radio listenership. It is
    the desire of management to reign in and exert political control over
    Democracy Now! It intensified this summer when Pacifica Executive Director
    Bessie Wash had our press credentials pulled after we brought Ralph Nader
    into the Republican Convention to be interviewed and do color commentary.
    Management's action made it much more difficult to cover the Democrats in
    the same hardhitting, confrontational way we had reported on the
    Republicans, especially when it came to our focus on corporate control of
    the Conventions. This punishment was such an unprecedented act that it
    prompted my co-host and award-winning veteran journalist Juan Gonzalez to
    write an official protest to Steve Yasko, the new program director, the
    content of which Yasko never responded to.
    Our election project, "Breaking With Convention: Power, Protest and the
    Presidency," was a milestone in Pacifica National Programming,
    encompassing the largest expansion of audience in Pacifica history. We
    engaged in an unprecedented collaboration with community public access
    cable tv stations as well as satellite television, beaming Democracy Now!
    into millions of homes across the country. Instead of building on that
    collaboration and continuing the televising of our radio program, and
    despite meeting and exceeding every stated objective for the show--i.e.
    audience growth, fundraising, new listeners, groundbreaking
    programming--Democracy Now! is being subjected to a withering assault by
    Pacifica management. The motivation is blatantly political. Democracy Now!
    is a hardhitting grassroots program that is not afraid of tackling
    controversial issues day after day in the Pacifica tradition. We are not
    only being censored for our critical coverage of the Democrats as well as
    the Republicans, but for giving voice to a growing grassroots movement
    that fundamentally challenges the status quo--people fighting sweatshops,
    police brutality, prison growth, and corporate globalization.
    On September 14, Steve Yasko called me to a meeting with Pacifica General
    Managers. KPFK Manager Mark Schubb, expressed his repeated criticism that
    audiences don't want to hear graphic details of police brutality before
    breakfast, or as he said last year "before I have my coffee." He
    criticized our coverage of Mumia Abu-Jamal, East Timor and questioned why
    I asked Spike Lee about his affiliation with Nike. Pacifica's Chief
    Financial Officer weighed in with her criticism of American prisoner Lori
    Berenson in Peru, (we had just aired an exclusive interview with her that
    received widespread national press.) After the meeting, Yasko took me into
    the hotel lobby and shouted, "I am your boss! I am your boss!"
    I'm being subjected to a concerted campaign of abuse and harassment by
    Pacifica management. Despite repeated appeals to Executive Director Bessie
    Wash, there has been no redress. Yasko regularly makes new demands on me
    and Democracy Now! with wild outbursts of unprofessional yelling and
    screaming. This has happened during a period when Democracy Now! has been
    unique in radio by reporting extensively on the refusal of the Commission
    on Presidential Debates or many in the corporate media to provide fair
    coverage and inclusion of third parties. It has also happened during a
    time when Democracy Now! is growing in audience, in media coverage, and in
    fundraising from both listeners and foundations. That is, we are growing
    in all the areas the Pacifica board says it is concerned with.
    Just as the presidential campaign reaches its climax, we are confronted
    with new restrictions and threats. Among those new work rules are a
    requirement to provide Yasko each Friday "a list of possible shows the
    following week and a short status report on each," adding we must
    "determine the topics of at least three shows the preceding week." Yasko
    notes that "the Administrative Council (of Pacifica) stated that the show
    does not sound like breaking news either to the station staffs or the
    listeners." Are we living in the same world? Our show breaks more national
    news, as measured by actual press coverage in the mainstream media, than
    perhaps any show in Pacifica history, e.g., Chevron in Nigeria, the Lori
    Berenson interview, Seattle WTO coverage, Nader at the Republican
    convention, Tulia, Texas, East Timor, etc. etc.
    But instead of congratulations and kudos for our many accomplishments,
    Pacifica has clamped down and threatens me at every turn with dismissal!
    As I write this, Yasko is forging ahead with imposing two new producers on
    Democracy Now! with or without the consent of co-host Juan Gonzalez and
    me. The two producers--our only producers-- are the heart of this show. It
    is clear from all of management's actions, they are using this opportunity
    to change the political direction of the program. This is the first time
    that we have been clearly told that our consent is not necessary.
    In his memo, Yasko goes on to demand, "All use of volunteers on Democracy
    Now! must cease immediately." Why?! Volunteers have always played a
    pivotal role in Democracy Now! and are the lifeblood of Pacifica. For
    violation of this ban or any of the other dictates management has laid
    down, I am threatened with dismissal!
    Take this section from the Yasko memo:
    "To establish an appropriate balance between your programming obligations
    and any speaking engagements and related travel, you are not to accept any
    speaking engagements without first informing the Foundation and obtaining
    approval. It is also important to know whom you are speaking to."
    This is an outrageous intrusion into my personal life and an illegal
    attempt to control my right of free speech. Given the many large and
    enthusiastic audiences I am often invited to address, I would think
    Pacifica would be glad for the positive publicity. Instead, Yasko demands
    veto power over when I speak and whom I speak to, and he tries to
    camouflage the crackdown with concern for my welfare or statements such as
    "you are, of course, a valued voice in spreading the word of our mission,
    programs and goals." I am so valued that he is ready to fire me if I don't
    follow unethical and illegal orders. Yasko should be worried less about
    where I am speaking and more about why our Ku satellite system suffers
    avoidable catastrophic foul-ups, an area he oversees.
    I thought the Pacifica board had learned from the bitter battle in
    last year that attempts to silence free speech are the last things this
    network wants to revisit. But apparently not. Maybe the stakes are too
    high in this presidential election year to permit too free a press -- even
    at Pacifica. I truly hope that is not the case.
    I plead with those of you on the board who still remain dedicated to the
    grand mission of Lew Hill to reject this poorly disguised attempt at
    censorship of Democracy Now! and of me personally. Please direct Steve
    Yasko to cease his harassment and retaliation against me immediately, and
    Pacifica's attempts to exert political control and undermine the editorial
    independence of this hardhitting grassroots program.
    We are not NPR. We are not US government media. We are not the corporate
    We are Democracy Now!: The Exception to the Rulers.
    Amy Goodman
    Host, Democracy Now!

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