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Letter to Bernard White re reaching out to listeners, suggesting online forum

Mr. Bernard White 
Wake Up Call 

August 3, 1999

Dear Bernard,

I have supported BAI since the mid 60's. I have little money, but for most of those years I have been a paying "listener sponsor" and I have also donated extra when able.

I was troubled by your attempt this morning to discourage listeners from attending the Local Board meeting. The one thing that I find most disturbing in any organization is when those who work for it find rationales to keep the proles at a distance. I am sure you mean well, but I think your words were ill-advised and, unfortunately, sound all too much like the message being telegraphed by management.

Instead of encouraging the listener to get together with those who want to contact the Board and find a way other than a PUBLIC Board meeting to do it, why don't you or somebody else in administration facilitate such dialogues? You do have the means of contacting the listeners. The whole point of coming to Board meetings is to participate in a real-time give and take. I, for one, have tried writing to board members and let me tell you that is one time-consuming method of communication and, when one gets a response (if any at all) from one member and has no idea what the others are thinking - well, maybe you could understand the frustration. I have been to probably 6 Board meetings - always when there is controversy - and I have not seen one of them where the Board did not get to conduct its business and the listeners allotted their meager, though appreciated, 15 or 30 minutes of public comment. Perhaps you have seen some disrupted, but you gave no examples. If you have not seen any disrupted, then, as a listener, I must say it reeks of elitism to assume that we out here can not behave ourselves.

I might not be so disturbed by your words and attitudes were not for my long-running complaint that the station, if not shutting the listener out, does blessed little to include us in. Current policy regarding the Folio, Report to the Listener and lack of meaningful modes of BAI station business dialogue are the areas that need genuine attention.

Every marathon some mumbling will be made on-air about reinstituting the Folio, but it does not happen. (I believe I have heard you utter such half-promises yourself once or twice.) Please bear in mind, I do not usually have the $75 for premiums, but in the past I have been inspired to "buy" a gift subscription for a friend. This served the dual purpose of donating an extra few dollars and introducing the station to someone who might not normally listen. This option was made pointless with the dropping of the Folio. Also, the Folio usually had some listener letters which I found useful and helped give a sense of real community.

Is the station currently offering Report to the Listener? If it is, it is promoted as it has been for many years now - hardly at all. This is a real joke. If BAI were serious about listener input this series would be aggressively promoted, and the slots would be arranged so that working people could tune in. The way Report to the Listener is handled is a bad joke on the station's supporters.

There is no way to communicate electronically with BAI administration. While I realize that it could be very time consuming to answer email from listeners (even if there was this option on the station's website - which there isn't), some sort of bulletin board where listeners could post messages would be a genuinely progressive use of this new medium. We would be able to see listener comments - as would the Board and staff - and we might actually develop a genuine give-and-take, Unfortunately, and this is what has me most ticked off, I don't really believe that the BAI administration or main staff people really want this.

What do you think?

Frank Fitzgerald


I received no reply from Bernard White.

Toward the end of 2000, numerous crisis seemed to be bubbling up, including the reported attempt by Pacifica management to censor Democracy Now. After a demonstration in support of DN!, I decided that the time was ripe for BAI listeners to have a convenient way of communicating with each other and getting involved in the fate of the station. I designed and set up the WBAI Issues online forum and, at a demonstration for Leonard Peltier, gave out the first flyers announcing its launch. I also emailed some producers. 

Needless to say, the December 2000 "coup" created considerable interest in the forum and the resultant protests provided convenient arenas to make its existence and location known. The forum grew in useage, with some 700,000 pageviews per month marking its busiest time in the summer of 2001.

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