December 12, 2002

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Strange signals from WYSO

Things continue to be amiss at WYSO. Now with members of the station’s Resource Board in the midst of a public war of words, it seems Antioch University’s public radio station needs a strong jolt of leadership more than ever.

Of course, it is not surprising to observe the upheaval at WYSO. This has not been a good year for the station, starting when one-third of its volunteer-hosted programs were cut, sparking a long-running protest. This was followed by news that WYSO ran up a deficit by the time its fiscal year ended in June. The Resource Board, which is charged with overseeing the station’s operations and management, reacted to the heat it was receiving by issuing a gag rule that said only the board president, Randy Daniel, could speak to the media.

The policy seemed to be an effort to check dissenting opinions from board members who did not like what was happening on the board and at the station. Either the board has agreed to drop the policy or its members are now ignoring it, because several board members have talked to this paper and others in recent weeks. If the policy has been reversed, it’s all the better for the board and WYSO. It was foolish to begin with and ran contrary to Antioch’s tradition of encouraging debate and respect for different viewpoints.

This fall things grew worse when the station’s news director, Aileen LeBlanc, resigned over problems she was having with the management officials at the station. Then last month, 7 of the Resource Board’s 13 members issued a public statement chastising Keep WYSO Local, a group of listeners who have been critical of the station’s management. Mr. Daniel said the statement was a sign of the board members’ “desire to move forward.” Given its hostile nature, however, the statement is a weak attempt to do anything but fuel the conflict surrounding WYSO.

The statement was followed by the release of a counter-statement from one board member, Char Miller, who said the Resource Board is being run by a small group that does not speak for the entire board. She also said it was an attempt to deflect criticism of the station onto Keep WYSO Local.

Ms. Miller has been at the center of some of this controversy since, last summer, she criticized the Resource Board for being a passive body. It certainly appears that Ms. Miller had at least one thing right: the Resource Board is a reactive body more interested in criticizing its listeners than actually working with them.

—Robert Mihalek