KPFK Interim Program Director’s Response to the article “Sparring over what KPFK should be” by James Rainey. L. A. Times on March 27, 2010
I was grateful to see Jim Rainey acknowledge the tremendous potential of KPFK Radio in his recent article on the station. KPFK/Pacifica Radio is certainly unique: committed to real free speech and social justice, the station is absolutely free from any corporate, business, or big-money influence -- an exemplary model of democratic discourse. In this regard, it is unrivaled amongst significant media outlets in America. And, as the Founding Fathers themselves understood, real democracy is brilliantly untidy.
Indeed, almost all polls suggest that Americans are profoundly dissatisfied with both the political system and the mainstream media. I posit these frustrations stem from feeling disempowered – that the institutions of our democratic society don’t work for them, that they don’t have a voice. KPFK/Pacifica exists to give people a voice. It may seem messy for those that value protocol above insight; but I posit that this practice, combined with fact-based journalism, works wonders for us.
Taking an example from history, the litmus test for journalistic and civic integrity is not whether a media outlet covered Martin Luther King in 1963 (everyone covered him by then), but whether someone saying the exact same things a decade or two earlier was given coverage. Look at the record, KPFK/Pacifica passes that test time and again; while NPR and, yes, the L. A. Times consistently fail it. More recently, look at the build up to the Iraq War, or the bubble that preceded the financial crisis, or the gaming of the system that produced the California Energy Crisis, the entire two terms of George W Bush, or Obama’s first year in office – we got those correct, NPR consistently did not. It’s not because we’re prescient but because we allow the full breadth of social discourse to be heard. Social progress invariably occurs by allowing voices outside of the mainstream into the dialogue.
Mr. Rainey's article focused on several challenges facing Southern California's original public broadcasting outlet, particularly the acrimony that all-too-often defines the station's democratic governance structure. It is important to note, however, that the chaos of KPFK's Local Station Board meetings does not appear on our airwaves.
These days, KPFK's programming reflects the station's commitment to re-establishing itself as Southern California's premier progressive media outlet, firmly grounded in the highest journalistic standards. KPFK remains equally committed to giving voice to communities largely absent from other media; to airing the full range of contemporary social critics; and to providing a forum for cutting edge artists, comics, and musicians. This combination of inclusiveness with a renewed commitment to journalistic rigor has led to the substantial increase in audience that Mr. Rainey noted.
As for the gruesome length of our recent fund drives, there's only one antidote: continue to improve regular programming so that more and more people recognize KPFK as essential to their lives.
In my current position, I strive to manage the challenges of a diverse body of content; maintain our dedicated listeners who tune in for spirited, but accepting, discussions; and expand our audience by developing new, incisive programming.
In a society as complex as ours, it should be no surprise that there are many competing visions for how best to improve society. In the coming years, expect KPFK to provide the essential information, as well as the best forum, for people seeking to build a just society here in Southern California.
KPFK Interim Program Director