In the grocery store parking lot, soon after the KPFA “Ramparts Magazine” event—a panel of three on a new book about the short-lived but powerful magazine of 30-40 years ago—I waited for Renee Asteria to return to the car before I took her home. Renee is KPFA’s funny, diplomatic, disarmingly creative, hard-working—and young—local election supervisor. I picked up a Planet and was a bit shocked to find an article publicizing two KPFA candidate forums, in Richmond and South Berkeley, where locals could meet candidates running for the hotly-contested KPFA local station board.
As we had lost steam in trying to get recent publicity, we had been too burned out to think to call you, who published this unbidden, to inform you that we had to cancel these forums to make way for some KPFA fundraising events.
I was very grateful to you, but this just added to the stupid sadness of this whole sequence of (non) events.
The forum scheduled as you said for last Thursday, Sept. 24 and listed on the back of the KPFA candidate ballot mailed to over 20,000 KPFA subscribers, was arranged back in early July. Renee booked two bands, planned it carefully, checked the KPFA calendar first, and found no conflicting events. She sent it to the KPFA calendar Bob Baldock, KPFA’s longtime and also creative and hardworking public events coordinator, carefully checks when arranging his KPFA events. Not hearing an announcement on the air or seeing it on the calendar, Renee sent it at least three times, and also to KPFA’s general manager, Lemlem Rijio, urging her to please see that it be announced and listed. But KPFA management declined to get it listed on the calendar, or announced so Bob Baldock never saw it, and booked a KPFA public event for the same night.
The idea for the canceled event started out seeming kind of um—angly to some of us, but grew on most of us as an interesting KPFA-promoting idea, even aside from its function of introducing the public to candidates, and vice versa. The plan was for a. spoken-word—that means driving, energetic, urgently delivered hip-hop-type stuff, so it seems to a fogey like me—competition with candidates invited to address the gathering at intervals. Most, but not all, of the candidates are over 50, so it sounded pretty cute to me. One 50s-aged candidate I know said “at first I thought this was going to be really weird, but then I kind of got into it…” KPFA diehards of all ages—mostly older yes, but notable are younger staff and management there—are often seen and heard pacing and hair-pulling to get younger listeners for the station. In a world—such as the “spoken word” world—where young people are appropriately concerned about our current shared and unshared sufferings, it seemed that promoting a station whose mission is to report the elsewhere marginalized core stories seemed, well, inspired.
Not one announcement was ever made of the forum on the air, at least not between programs—maybe Renee herself made one of her professional-quality “carts,” and was able to play it during an election forum.
Eventually, Renee was urged to cancel her event in deference to the need to promote more fundraising. The Ramparts magazine event set for the same night would be a fundraiser for the station.
Our efforts to point out that community-building, promoting a sense of involvement in these atomizing times, including reminding listeners that they actually have a stake in the station and can vote for the board—that all this might surely be a good a fundraising scheme—this was to no avail.
No announcement of the forum. No announcement about voting during the fund drive. Period.
The Richmond event is canceled as well, for a similar reason—there’s a public KPFA fundraising event the same night.
I’ve left out a lot of good tying together because I just could not face the emotions I feel writing this. But one thing I did leave out that I’ll let you know now: About 50 paying people, if that many, attended the Ramparts magazine event, including Renee, who promoted it widely the last few days, carefully writing up something urging candidates and all on her mailing list to buy tickets, attend and support the station.
While no candidates bought tickets that I could see, Renee did. She even stayed, despite its speakers having almost nothing—I’m saying almost but it may be absolutely—nothing to say about the world of today. Except that media is different now with the internet. Despite Ramparts having had a “bomb in every issue” this event had absolutely nothing to say about the world of today except this: you can reach 30,000 a day minimum with a blog, versus maybe 5000 a year with Ramparts. The Independents for Community Radio (ICR), and candidates Judith Gips, Stan Woods, Jim Curtis, and possibly others running for the KPFA board have promoted a more interactive website than the current KPFA blog-less website, most of whose archives have even been removed without an adequate explanation.
And one last thing: as if having heard some of what we were saying about community-building being a way to fundraise for the station, Renee was promised a two-minute spot at the podium for the Ramparts event.
Well, she quietly stayed through the whole nostalgic—for me, not for 27-year-old her—event, and, despite sitting almost next to Bob Baldock, was never invited by him to take the stage. It felt like a slap, but, as he is extremely busy too, it may have been an unfortunate oversight.
Virginia Browning is a Berkeley resident.