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HOW GROOVY THE GROVE?

Re: “Meet
Me at Third and Fairfax” [cover package, March 22–28]
. Excellent coverage
on the opening of The Grove and how it threatens the Farmers Market and the
surrounding neighborhood. I love the historical details you included. I love
looking at pictures of old-time L.A. I hope that you can rally the citizens
who think this monster will destroy something unique and great like the Farmers
Market to fight against the blanding of life. Quixotic? Maybe. Inevitable? I
don’t think so. Is it important enough to raise a voice? I think so. Again,
great story, great work.

—David Gregg
Los Angeles

 

Why all the negativity regarding The Grove? What is wrong with progress? And
why is there no mention of gratitude for the Farmers Market having been spared?
Few Angelenos grew up in L.A., so the Farmers Market means nothing to most of
us. Especially since it’s an architectural eyesore. I don’t mean to be insulting,
just wanted to point out that your views are surely those of the minority.

—Robin Mizrahi
Los Angeles

 

Where was the L.A. Weekly four or five years ago, when construction
of The Grove was still subject to various city approvals? Surely your staff
was aware of it. Opposing this iniquity after the fact just shows how shallow
you are.

—Morty Sullivan
Los Angeles

MORE FAMILY DYSFUNCTION

The KPFK that Ella Taylor describes in “Family
Feud” [March 22–28]
looks nothing like the radio station where I’ve been
working for the last month. Far from being 1960s-era Marxist-Leninist ultraleftists
— and, even worse, ineffective — we are smart people of all ages and backgrounds
who realize the value of the Pacifica Radio Network, the only progressive radio
network in the United States. We are creative, energetic and politically savvy,
and we’re trying to figure out how to develop political radio programming that
challenges listeners rather than putting them to sleep.

While Ella Taylor wants to pretend that alternative radio can only choose
from two models — the one in which white progressives interpret reality for
the listeners, or the one in which programming is “Balkanized” or “ghettoized”
by people of color — we know that our options are far broader than that. We’re
setting out to create dynamic, diverse political and cultural programming, and
a democratic organization to boot.

Readers of the L.A. Weekly should tune in to 90.7 FM — the island of
free speech in a sea of commercial radio — and check it out for themselves.
Or, better yet, come volunteer at the station and become part of an exciting
experiment in community radio.

Andrea Buffa
KPFK interim staff member
Los Angeles

 

I suspect that Ella Taylor, as a movie reviewer, normally sits in a dark,
climate-controlled room losing herself in manufactured drivel. No wonder she’s
“bored to death” with KPFK, the only voice of relevance, reason, and political
and social analysis on the airwaves, and no wonder she can neither grasp nor
elucidate the political situation at the station.

—Whitney Maxson
Los Angeles

 

I wonder how Ella Taylor can say with a straight face that Amy Goodman “whines”
like a “career victim” when the Weekly has had poor, put-upon Marc Cooper
whining like a career victim since he resigned, thankfully, from KPFK.

—Deborah Speer
Fresno

In one cautioning gasp, Ms. Taylor warns of a looming cloud of irrelevant,
chaotic programming; in the next breath she scoffs that there has been little
change at all. What is really her fear? Might it be that she fears success at
a rejuvenated KPFK supported by those same “radicals” some of her friends have
so bitterly and unadvisedly fought? Is she simply being a partisan soldier taking
potshots at the enemy? Either way, I reject the notion that trusting community
radio to the community is anachronistic and naive.

Ms. Taylor still pleads for centrally managed and unilaterally controlled
programming, like that cherished by her friends at KPFK whose own personal privilege
was thereby protected, so long as they helped to keep the lid on the troubles
brewing beneath the surface. Silence may be golden for those who fear the noise,
but it’s not for radio, especially Pacifica Radio.

—Dave Fertig
Member, Interim Pacifica National Board of Directors and
KPFK Local Advisory Board
Los Angeles

 

Thank you for Ella Taylor’s insightful article on the coup at KPFK. As a used-to-be
faithful listener of KPFK, I became confused, distressed and finally disbelieving
â as the victors chanted their slogans and pleaded for money after firing and
expelling people I have come to trust after hearing their honest and open confrontation
of the issues of our times. Their absence leaves a vacuum. Marc Cooper made
me angry at times. At times I strongly disagreed with his point of view, but
I have never found any reason to question his integrity. He did his homework
and brought to the airwaves an intelligent (tilted to the left, but balanced),
stimulating daily program. If the current leaders of KPFK are really concerned
about their audience, they will respond to our pleas and invite Marc Cooper
to return to his regular daily program. Thank you, Ella Taylor and your editors,
for your excellent article!

[

—Steve Gilliland
Lakewood

 

I want to express my deepest gratitude to Ella Taylor for her evenhanded,
fair and well-reasoned piece on the latest turmoil at KPFK and Pacifica. Being
a longtime listener and supporter of KPFK, I found it difficult over the past
year to form an intelligent opinion with the shrill voices from either faction
ringing in my ears. With Ella Taylor’s careful treatment, the shameful way in
which Mark Schubb and Marc Cooper “were disappeared” from the station now becomes
understandable, as well as many other dark corners of the current power struggle.
And it becomes clear that my suspicions as to the new face of Pacifica are confirmed.
I’m aware that you’re probably being deluged with letters espousing the opposite
opinion, but I also understand better the reason for that, as well. It truly
is a sad moment in a long, difficult history, and I hope you continue to devote
space to it.

—Bob White
Los Angeles

 

As a former program director of KPFK, I was particularly grateful to read
Ella Taylor’s incisive diagnosis of the Pacifica mess. Her emphasis on the disastrous
shift within the left from class analysis to identity politics is most welcome,
and could be applied to other educational institutions and other publicly funded
organizations, including the media. Moreover, her article has captured both
the tragic and comedic qualities of a once-credible institution in our community,
including the Humpty-Dumpty nature of its fall.

—Clare Spark
Pacific Palisades

 

I dreaded one of my editors asking me to do a KPFK piece precisely for the
reasons cited by Taylor in her KPFK piece. For any reporter it’s like poking
a stick in a hornets’ nest and getting stung in a thousand places even before
you sit down at the computer to write. Taylor should be congratulated for a
fair, balanced, elegant and vivid piece of reporting. Full marks to her.

—Clancy Sigal
Los Angeles

CORRECTION

In last week’s feature Playtime, Shrek was identified
as a product of the Pixar animation studio. The movie was, in fact, made by
DreamWorks.


WEB EXCLUSIVE LETTERS:

I just wanted to let you know how much I liked Ella Taylor's piece on KPFK.
The left doesn't have very much going for it at the moment, but writing like
this keeps up the morale and gives hope. I look forward to reading more.

James Scott
Los Angeles

How can the left “speak truth to power” when they're willing to rationalize
any warlord, repressor and murderer as long as he's an enemy of the U,S.; when
any and every social problem is blamed on unseen oppressors while the people
involved (be they homeless or poor) are presumed to lack even the dignity of
self-responsibility; when facts and results matter little compared to the purity
of one's ideology. As Ella Taylor rightly points out, the state of affairs at
KPFK would be sad if it mattered much.

Doug Weihnacht
San Francisco

Ella Taylor's depressingly on-target account of KPFK's continuing crisis sent
me hurtling back to the early 1970s, when I worked there for several years as
a teenaged volunteer. At that time, KCRW's current general manager Ruth Seymour
(née Hirschmann) was program director at KPFK, and current KCRW development
consultant Will Lewis was KPFK’s general manager. What impressed me most about
the place was the incredibly diverse, creative and genuinely progressive (as
opposed to marginalized loony left) programming roster. And yes, despite the
chronically crappy equipment, those volunteer programmers somehow managed to
deliver an on-air product that consistently sounded professional yet remained
unerringly true to the Pacifica ideal.

What happened? Personally, I've always traced the beginning of the end to the
station's absolutely insane decision in 1974 to withhold from FBI investigators
a cassette-tape “communiqué” delivered unsolicited to the station by
surviving members of the SLA (Sample: “Racists cannot believe that middle- and
upper-middle-class whites and the daughter of a superfascist ruling class family
would ever have reason to follow the lead of a beautiful black genius revolutionary
warrior and give their lives for the people.”) Rather than recognizing the tape
for what it was potential evidence from a whacked-out clutch of criminal lunatics
still at large KPFKinstead cast itself in the leading role of a kind of counterculture
Washington Post in a fevered Watergate-inspired fantasy, valiantly protecting
its confidential sources against the depradations of “pig” government as personified
by the scandal-ridden and rapidly unraveling Nixon administration.

[

Many months and thousands of dollars in legal bills later (not to mention a
stint in the slammer for Will Lewis), the station was forced to relinquish the
tape after it lost its battle at the U.S. Supreme Court, a decision that also
lost considerable ground for mainstream news organizations with legitimate confidentiality
concerns. Lewis soon departed, and Hirschman left not long after for cross-town
KCRW. Back in the wreckage of KPFK, despite the well-intentioned efforts of
successive managers, the programming became increasingly erratic, irrelevant
and ultimately self-destructive.

In its heyday, KPFK was a proud heir to a daring and noble broadcasting legacy,
and a fertile training ground in its own right for many talented and creative
people who went on to successful mainstream broadcasting careers. In my own
case, I will always cherish the memories of a brave little station that once
afforded this starry-eyed kid his first delirious kiss in a lifelong love affair
with non-commercial FM radio.

Joel Bellman
Los Angeles

I can't believe the coup to takeover KPFK actually worked. Interim station
manager Steven Starr boycotted the station when things weren't going his way,
and after he took over, had the nerve to fire Marc Cooper for non-support. Jon
Beaupre left his Golden Mike Award winning Morning Show after his director
was fired. Jon's replacement admits that her first day on the show was her first
day in radio. Wow! I guess professionalism is now a “corporate evil.”

Thank you for telling it like it is. The propaganda on the air is unbelievable.
The new sound (and fury) makes the left sound every bit as incompetent and lacking
in credibility as the right makes us out to be. Do they actually think we can't
hear between the lines?

Jim Brillon
Long Beach

Ella Taylor's simplistic drive-by on the KPFK story pits the “witty,” “intellectual”
and responsible-enough-to-work-within-the system in-crowd of white KPFK programmers
against what she portrays as a set of witless face it, plain dumb blacks and
radicals poised to undo KPFK's recent fascination with middle-of-the-road populism
and apologetics for the Democratic Party. She portrays as endangered the likes
of Marc Cooper, Barbara Osbourne and John Wiener, KPFK programmers Taylor upholds
as examples of “the intellectual left [that] engages with the establishment,”
including the Republican right. In their defense, she attacks those who still
hold mere decades after the Third Reich and after the end of formal apartheid
in the U.S. the “vulgar” belief that there are both oppressors and oppressed.
Like the racist victimizers she mimics, she whines against a so-called “cult
of the victim.”

Notions like justice are quite out of vogue among the chic set of right-leaning
postmodern nihilists who pass as public intellectuals today. Apparently what's
in fashion for Taylor, at least is to uphold programmers at KPFK who support
Dubya's little wars, who “wittily” promote U.S. foreign policy initiatives from
Serbia to China to Palestine, and who can't seem to get enough of interviewing
their sources from the CIA.

One might not bother to argue with Taylor if we were talking about mainstream
media outlets, but Pacifica and KPFK were founded by people of principle, pacifists
and radicals, many of whom were imprisoned for their beliefs. They set out to
found a radio network committed to exploring the causes of war and racism in
order to end them, not to promote them, not to serve as yet another outlet for
the official story. That's a job for Ted Koppel. If Weiner, Cooper, Osbourne
and Ian Masters want to do that job, they should do it. Elsewhere.

Rafael Renteria
Former program director, Houston Pacifica station KPFT
Los Angeles

Ms. Taylor engages in the same kind of simplistic thinking commits she accuses
the new people at KPFK of engaging in. She sets up the false dichotomy of the
good journalists who are responsible, sophisticated and fun-loving against the
strident, humorless unprofessional leftists. She then proceeds to prove her
point by exaggerating the weaknesses of one side and overlooking the defects
of the other. For example, she says that Amy Goodman only puts on Noam Chomsky,
etc., and ignores that Goodman recently had on James Wolsley, former head of
the CIA, and that she frequently has on representatives of the government and
corporations. If I were to cite Barbara Osborn's recent programs about the dog
show and Winnie the Pooh as representative of the good journalists' programming,
I would be as guilty as Ms. Taylor of exaggerating the importance of some of
the new programming on the air. There are many viewpoints about this situation,
and I encourage the LA Weekly to report on them all, and I encourage
its readers to tune in to 90.7 FM and decide on the station's relevance for
themselves.

[

Kathy McGuire
Huntington Beach

The recent story on KPFK by Ella Taylor was deeply disappointing. For someone
who purports to value high journalistic ideals, her story was amazingly full
of errors and omissions. Ella Taylor says she went into the story with a “neutral”
perspective, but that is untenable given the manner of her research and what
she chose to emphasize. The snide tone of the article is obvious from her faint
praise of interim manager Steve Starr as being affable with the qualifier that
he was once an agent, so he’s had years of practice “dishing out PR.”
She doesn’t mention after quoting former general manager Mark Schubb extensively
that he was an actor and was well known in the station for his talents at spinning
stories to his advantage. The hatred she and Marc Cooper have for Ron Wilkins
is mystifying to me. I used to enjoy his program Continent to Continent
and was listening the night he was unceremoniously removed in the middle of
his program. I didn’t agree with everything he said, but I never heard him make
an anti-Semitic statement, and it was shocking to hear that Marc Cooper called
him a racist and an anti-Semite on his program the next day. Not to mention
Cooper’s chastising of Jim Lafferty and Starr on the air, which was incredibly
unprofessional. Did Ella Taylor talk to Mr. Wilkins? Has she had enough interactions
with him to know he is a black separatist? He served on the national board of
Pacifica, which to me indicates that he wishes to have a dialogue with a broader
community. What are her conclusions about him based on? We never hear in her
article.

Her characterization of the two sides as “’60s activists who have become
intellectuals” as opposed to “’60s activists, mostly hard-line Marxists
or self-appointed guardians of minority identity” is meaningless because
it is so simplistic and just plain wrong. I mean, where did Fidel Rodriguez
of the Schubb-banned program Seditious Beats fall? He is in his 20s.
I’m sure many of the programmers do not consider themselves member of either
group, even if they may have allegiance to some people who are. Also, there
were many “’60s activists who have become intellectuals” who were
opposed to the previous management of KPFK.

The station has undergone extensive management and personnel changes, and Ella
Taylor is surprised that there are empty time slots? I would be surprised if
there weren’t. She also never discusses the dozens of programmers and volunteers
that Mr. Schubb got rid of and that left empty time slots during his tenure
(FolkScenes, to list one of many examples). There were canned programs
during these times as well, until new programs could be brought in place, yet
she is impatient now. She was critical that the LAB didn’t have specific suggestions
about programming, yet she says that they are controlling the programming. What
she didn’t listen to and I’ve heard this discussed by members of the LAB many
times is that the first priority of the station manager, and LAB in particular,
is to put in place a fair process for evaluating and deciding what programs
get put on and stay on the air, not actually choosing the programs per se.

Pacifica is usually at its strongest when the society is in turmoil. Taylor
mentions the big audience during Watergate, but it was also big during the Gulf
War and the post September 11 world also is providing a boost because of the
mediocrity of the mainstream media. She then trots out that tired urban legend
of a KPFK activist willing his time slot to another programmer, perpetuating
misinformation from John Dinges. Matthew Lasar thinks that this story is based
on an ironic comment made by Harlan Ellison about inheriting the science-fiction
radio show Hour 25 from Mike Hodel after the latter passed away. Maybe
science-fiction programmers are activists to Ella Taylor, or she just doesn’t
understand irony. She also compliments Mr. Schubb for getting rid of sectarian
programming, which is blatantly false. How about IMRU the gay-and-lesbian program
Feminist Magazine, or the disability-awareness show Access Unlimited?
Do these not appeal to specific groups? I can only conclude that Ella Taylor
favors programs about some groups but not others. Her use of the word “ghettoized”
is illuminating here.

Pacifica certainly has a much smaller audience than NPR, but I think she boasts
too much about NPR’s success. NPR has become more and more dependent on contributions
from the government, corporations and private foundations. The money treadmill
is intoxicating but potentially dangerous in economic downturns or in periods
of sharp political focus. I would love to see studies on the audience growth
of NPR since its inception. She also doesn’t mention that NPR was modeled
after Pacifica. More people read Newseek and Time magazine than
read The Nation. Does that mean The Nation isn’t significant or
doesn’t make an important contribution? I agree that Pacifica needs to expand
its audience, but I think it can do that without toning down its politics and
community involvement. In fact, increasing community involvement is critical
for its expansion.

[

Taylor paints an incorrect picture about the station’s audience and finances
during Mr. Schubb’s tenure. The number of listeners fluctuated up and down over
the last six years. The station has raised more money, but from fewer listeners
than they had in the past. The increase in net income may not be so great when
you factor in the increasing amounts spent on premiums, and a good reporter
might have raised this issue. We just don’t have the numbers.

Then we have this bizarre and unverified quote “[Schubb] says he hired
more people of color during his tenure than had ever been hired during the station's
history, though he freely admits that it's hard to find talented black, Latino,
Asian or other minority journalists when the pay at Pacifica is so lousy.”
So only white journalists work for lousy pay?

In the end maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised by Ella Taylor’s article and
its support by the L.A. Weekly. Marc Cooper is a contributor to the paper
and, I’m sure, a friend to many on the staff. Ella Taylor calls herself an occasional
contributor to Jon Wiener’s program, so I would say that she has some conflicts
of interest. It’s obvious why she is a media critic and not an investigative
reporter. She is pretty good at the former (I do enjoy most of her reviews),
but really bad at the latter. I got the strange feeling that Ella Taylor really
hasn’t listened to KPFK very much at all. For me, as a long time listener to
KPFK (11 years), I knew things were bad when programmers stopped saying, “I
don’t agree with everything that is said on the air but . . . ” and community
voices were eliminated with no explanation. The station was too dependent on
Marc Cooper for programming, which limited the breadth of viewpoints. Anyway.
Marc Cooper is still producing Radio Nation, so his voice remains on
KPFK. I, for one, am very happy about the removal of the previous management.
I am optimistic about KPFK’s future direction and have renewed my support.

Andres Collazo, Ph.D.
Los Angeles

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