City Desk

WPFW Staff Declare No Confidence in GM

Staffers and volunteer programmers at WPFW, the D.C. "jazz and justice" radio station that is also Washington City Paper's neighbor one floor below, have declared no confidence in the station's general manager John Hughes, they announced in a press release this evening:

“Mr. Hughes has shown a willingness to circumvent station bylaws, ignore process, and demonstrated an aloof and dismissive attitude to WPFW’s volunteer programmers and paid, union staff – whose salaries were cut by more than half in an austerity move – while the HR Director, Development Director and Business Manager maintained their full salaries,” said Robyn Holden, host of the “Robyn’s Place” program.

The list of grievances outlined in the ‘Letter of No Confidence’ included concerns about the station’s Development Department and its failure to pursue grants and secure other forms of off-air funding for the station, as well as a decision by Mr. Hughes, to increase on-air fundraising just prior to the year-end holiday season with an extra drive that follows on the heels of an on-air drive completed in October 2011.

According to the release, Hughes "has refused over the 10 months of his tenure to call an All Station Meeting with WPFW programmers, in order to share his vision of the station’s future." The 80 on-air programmers who signed the statement also accuse Hughes of failing to address the station's need to move next year, when the building it shares with City Paper is demolished.

This isn't, of course, the first time the D.C. outpost of the Pacifica chain has seen staff discontent. Members of the largely volunteer programming corps organized last August following the firings of WPFW's station manager and programming director.

Read the full statement after the jump:

WPFW-FM’s ON-AIR PROGRAMMERS AND UNION STAFF DECLARE ‘NO CONFIDENCE’ IN GENERAL MANAGER

Unprecedented ‘No Confidence’ Statement Delivered to WPFW Local Station Board Decries GM’s Lack of Leadership and Vision.

WASHINGTON, D.C. On-air programmers and union staff of Washington, D.C.’s “Jazz and Justice” Radio, WPFW 89.3 FM, have declared ‘No Confidence’ in General Manager John Hughes after ten months of lackluster leadership.

On Wednesday evening, November 9th, members of WPFW Programmers Association – a non-profit organization representing a broad cross section of volunteer on-air hosts, producers and programmers at the station – presented a list of grievances at a meeting of the listener-elected Local Station Board (LSB), regarding a sense of “rudderless” management at the Pacifica Foundation-owned public radio station, precipitated by a lack of vision and leadership from station GM John Hughes.

In a statement read into the LSB’s public record by Jazz programmer Willard Jenkins, the ‘No Confidence’ letter stated the programmers are “aggrieved that GM John Hughes has performed in a manner that is incongruent with the principles of democratization that are the cornerstone of Pacifica’s core mission and by-laws, and has refused over the 10 months of his tenure to call an All Station Meeting with WPFW programmers,” in order to share his vision of the station’s future.

The two page ‘Letter of No Confidence’ – endorsed by more than 80 on-air programmers at the station – listed a wide array of grievances against Mr. Hughes, formerly a program executive at Howard University’s PBS-TV station, WHUT-TV Channel 32, who had also been a Program Director and GM at Clarke-Atlanta University’s radio station. The statement said Mr. Hughes has refused to meet with programmers at any time during his ten month tenure to share his plans to revamp WPFW’s faltering development department, and address the need for the station, operating in the recently sold City Paper Building in Adam’s-Morgan, to relocate before a July 2012 deadline.

“The station’s programmers are concerned that Mr. Hughes has not been transparent regarding the se issues and are confused by his rejection of the Local Station Board’s hands-down recommendation of long-time WPFW programmer and Operations Director Bob Daughtry, to serve as Program Director,” said Miyuki Williams, host of WPFW’s “Sunday Kind of Love” program. The board’s selection committee gave its highest score to Mr. Daughtry for the position.

“Mr. Hughes has shown a willingness to circumvent station bylaws, ignore process, and demonstrated an aloof and dismissive attitude to WPFW’s volunteer programmers and paid, union staff – whose salaries were cut by more than half in an austerity move – while the HR Director, Development Director and Business Manager maintained their full salaries,” said Robyn Holden, host of the “Robyn’s Place” program.

The list of grievances outlined in the ‘Letter of No Confidence’ included concerns about the station’s Development Department and its failure to pursue grants and secure other forms of off-air funding for the station, as well as a decision by Mr. Hughes, to increase on-air fundraising just prior to the year-end holiday season with an extra drive that follows on the heels of an on-air drive completed in October 2011.

“Our concern here is that in a tight local, national and global economy, our generous new members and loyal, long-time renewing listener/supporters are being abused. By all accounts, we, the programmers can attest from calls of complaint we take in the studios, our listeners are suffering fatigue and tuning out from a constant barrage of on-air begging by our news, public affairs and music programmers,” said Jim Byers, host of the “Classic Edition of the Latin Flavor”.

“The programmers at WPFW collectively represent the lifeblood of the station,” said WPFW Music Director, Katea Stitt. “The programmers are the frontline of integrity between our community of listeners and the station, so as a Pacifica Foundation station, how can we say we stand for principles of peace, social justice and righteous change when we’re faced with the antithesis of those principles right here in our own house?”

The Executive Committee of the ‘PFW Programmers Association (whose name reflects a longstanding tradition by Washington, D.C. area listeners of dropping the “W” from the call letters), have invited and received acceptance from the Local Station Board to hold a closed meeting to discuss these issues and find a satisfactory path to resolution.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

Comments

  1. #1

    The Saturday (11-12-11) night jam-fund raiser at the Masonic Hall was so inspiring served with great fanfare and delicious food and I ahd a great time at my table for 10 and the dancing was off the scale.
    Now, to hear about the dissent makes me sad and if Dude Hughes is not up to task he must resign and quit giving us begging programming weekly.

  2. #2

    What this article doesn't say is that under the current GM the station has made leaps and bounds towards addressing its debts, begun to meets its financial goals for the first time in years, and invited the public, including programmers, for weekly meetings. It (and the Programmers Association) also fail to note the increase in station special events, renewed outreach to major donors, and the cultivation of a planned giving program, all under John Hughes leadership.

  3. #3

    What Rpope doesn't say is that the agenda of weekly meetings to which programmers and the public are invited are limited SOLELY to planning for on-air station pledge drives! And even at those meetings Hughes typically shows little interest in ideas arising from the programmers. When a recent fund drive was going poorly, it was ideas put forth by the very guy Hughes just fired (interim PD Bob Daughtry) that led to successful conclusion of the fund drive.

  4. #4

    What also isn't noted is that there was a retreat held with an ALL STATION CALL to include Community Advisory Board, Paid Staff, Programmers(those members of the association and those who are not), Local Station Board, Pledge drive volunteers, office volunteers, media, public radio experts & consultants as well as other WPFW constituencies. The purpose of that retreat was to invite all factions of the station in on the planning process. So All Station meetings have been held. Perhaps what is being requested is a GM & Programmers Assoc only meeting. At that retreat and elsewhere the plans for how WPFW will attempt to raise more off air revenue has been presented. The assertion that the Development Dept has not pursued grants is an untruth. ALL aspects of increasing the revenue budget that are within WPFW’s legal & mission dictated means are being pursued most aggressively now but have always been pursued. December/Holiday Season asks by non-profits are not new. It’s a proven and effective way to earn money by most non-profits and specifically public radio. In regards to the iPD not being chosen as the permanent person, I understand the questions as posed by the PA, myself, and others but the fact remains that it is a personnel issue. As its representative, John Hughes doesn’t have an obligation to disclose information about personnel issues. In the beginning statement of the declaration which includes "...Union Staff Declare..." This gives the impression that the union members of the staff took some sort of vote. It should say some members of the union staff. Its an effort to present an image of all union members being united against the GM and with all of the PA’s complaints. In actuality I know for a fact that a couple of those union members never heard of, saw, were asked about, referred to, or pointed in the direction of this letter of no confidence before it appeared here. So to basically name a group of participants without indicating that in this context only a faction of its whole is represented is neither accurate nor an honest presentation of the truth. Including all union members in a blanket Union Staff category considering some of those members were never presented with, asked their opinion about, or even encouraged to participate in this letter is a violation of the principles of democracy and transparency and by some of the same people accuse John Hughes. Furthermore, the lifeblood of the station is its community which includes the listeners, volunteers, hosts, staff and other groups.

  5. #5

    The more things change the more they remain the same>>>Billy Ray

  6. #6

    The biggest issues at WPFW may be that both the business model and the structure may be unworkable. It has a very ambitious design of of a volunteers' collective while desperately needing firm management and planning - the latter is probably not possible given the 'political' aspirations and culture of the station. I cannot fault the GM for the station's failure to generate an adequate endowment over the past 30 years or to secure a permanent home.

    *** Who at WPFW 5,4,3 years ago didn't think the station would be priced out of Adams Morgan? Purchasing a secure location should have been a campaign that started YEARS ago, when bonds and tax credits were more plentiful. ***

    So a valid question is who ultimately controls UDC? Is it not the Mayor who names the UDC President and I bet, influences who joins the UDC Board? Can WPFW be pressure free, really independent if its landlord has an interest to protect the current mayor?

    The LS Board (and some executives) have seemed weak in fundraising expertise, vision and commitment for many years. Example: No apparent major gifts program. Has WPFW received any grants over past 5 years?? How would the listeners know if they did? Where is the 'state of the station' report shared with audience? How does one even find the financials for the station? There needs to be a governing board peopled with those with the hard skills, passion and commitment, able to make decisions, not a board of just those most agitated who want to serve mostly for protecting or influencing programming.
    It doesn't help that Pacifica has been broke and in disarray for years.
    It's not 1970 anymore.
    Since the Pacifica board is mostly made up of locals interested first in their own station, who on that board is truly invested first in the bigger picture, the national network or footprint of Pacifica?
    UDC of course at one time did have its own (great jazz) radio station which was sold off in budget stress, by city fathers to CNN for $1M. so a fair question could be will UDC, if ever it gets deep pockets, one day offer to buy and own WPFW? And then sell for a profit in 3-10 years? Will UDC faculty and staff resent WPFW getting valuable territory on UDC campus?
    The other challenge for WPFW is that with such diverse programming, some great, some very weak, it's audiences are silo'd so branding and marketing and continuous listening loyalty are hard to achieve.
    The hard truth about WPFW, is though the region's population has expanded and diversified and though WPFW does enjoy very good airwave reach, its audience share is stagnant and I suspect, quite aging. The audience size and economic demographics are troubling. This is a fundamental challenge to the station.
    Hughes appears to have made some progress under very tough circumstances, getting the ship righted, more on a path. Yet such a large vote of no confidence is troubling.

    When down on your knees, not a good time to be kicked.

  7. #7

    Another thought: City Paper told of the severe complaints with General Manager Hughes, so where is the follow up by CP giving the GM a platform to respond? Did they try to get his story? Did he try and respond? Doesn't journalism require such an effort? Yet no mention of even trying to reach the GM that I can find.

  8. #8

    Move WPFW over to the Gateway Arts District! i.e., Brentwood, Mount Rainier, or one of the other towns nearby. Real estate is reasonable, and there are other amenities, and more to come.

Comments Shown. Turn Comments Off.
...