November 21, 2002

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Resource Board members criticize Keep WYSO Local

Several members of the WYSO Resource Board strongly denounced Keep WYSO Local in a statement released last Thursday, saying the group has been engaging in “reprehensible behavior.”

Signed by seven members of the board, which oversees WYSO, the statement claims that members of Keep WYSO Local have generated “a steady barrage of e-mails forming vindictive and hurtful personal attacks upon station management and board members.”

The move seems to have sparked even more controversy around WYSO, the public radio station that broadcasts from Antioch University, as one member of the Resource Board and members of Keep WYSO Local issued their own statements objecting to these accusations.

The original statement was signed by WYSO Resource Board president Randy Daniel, and members Joe Colvin, Jeffrey Dundon, Ed Humphrys, Nancy Nash, Chuck Vella and Alex Williams.

They also called on the administrations of both Antioch University and Antioch College to support the board members and “make decisions based upon the kind of values we expect to be demonstrated by an institution of higher learning.”

The board members also urged the administrators to “reinforce your position with conviction and backbone” and “proclaim” the actions of Keep WYSO Local members “for what they really are — mean spirited, self-centered, manipulative and destructive in their assaults on individuals.”

Not included among the signers are board members Char Miller, Fay Ellis Jones, Bonnie Parish, Neil Meermans, Dione Kennedy and Glenn Watts, who is also the vice chancellor of Antioch University.

The statement “makes the whole board process a sham,” said Miller, the former Resource Board vice president who lost her position last summer after she criticized the board’s decision-making process.

At the time, Miller criticized the board for being a passive body that simply agreed with decisions already made by WYSO General Manager Steve Spencer and Watts. Although the board is mandated to provide oversight of the station and its budget, board members had not been shown a budget for over a year, she said.

In its last fiscal year, the station recorded a deficit of more than $100,000.

Only some of the board members were involved in the process of drafting the statement, Miller said.

“The pressure of differing board member opinions and the voices of Keep WYSO Local have culminated in the formation of a ‘WYSO Shadow Board’ which makes decisions and crafts press releases which do not reflect the opinions of the entire WYSO Resource Board,” said Miller in a statement she released in response to the initial statement.

“Overall, the entire statement of the WYSO Shadow Board is a lame attempt to deflect the blame for the mismanagement of WYSO from Steve Spencer, where it clearly belongs, to a group dedicated to making the station live up to its fundamental obligation to the communities it serves,” she said.

Daniel, the spokesman for the Resource Board, could not be reached for comment.

Keep WYSO Local formed last spring in response to Spencer’s decision to cut several long-running volunteer hosted shows. Since then the group has raised concerns about the resource board’s decision-making style. The group has raised about $40,000 in an alternative pledge drive.

In response to the Resource Board statement, Antioch University Chancellor Jim Craiglow in an interview expressed frustration that his five-point “manifesto,” which attempted to address a multitude of concerns raised by Keep WYSO Local, “does not seem to have provided satisfactory results.”

“My objective all along,” Craiglow said, “has been to help WYSO recast its uniqueness and educational focus while also maintaining a deep concern for its fiscal viability and survival. On the surface, I felt that would be relatively easy to do. Clearly, it appears I was mistaken.”

At this point, Craiglow said, “I’m going to attempt to dodge the missiles and go back to the drawing board.”

Craiglow also said he has been a victim of personal attacks related to the controversy. “I have seen and directly experienced hateful and vitriolic behavior from people who claim to be supporters of Keep WYSO Local,” he said. “It has not been helpful.”

While Keep WYSO Local did encourage those dissatisfied with the changes at the station to express their feelings to university administrators, the group does not and never has condoned uncivil communications, said Keep WYSO Local’s Steve Bognar.

Bognar also said he was frustrated because he did not know the source of the e-mails cited by Craiglow and the Resource Board.

In an interview, Miller said she has never seen hurtful or vindictive e-mails from Keep WYSO Local members.

Responding to the original press release, Bognar and Mel Marsh, another Keep WYSO Local member, said in a statement, “The harsh language in this letter is inaccurate and hurtful. It is unbecoming of respected citizens of the Miami Valley and of members of the WYSO Resource Board. The station is arguably in a crisis at this time, and it is disappointing that we are being blamed for the problems. Keep WYSO Local did not cause members of the public to be unhappy with the changes, WYSO did that on their own. We are, however, trying to work with the station and its management to bring listeners back.”

They also said they want to “return to supporting the station” and that they are “ready to compromise — something we have been saying for months.”

“We ask the board and leadership of the station to listen to their listeners and to work for resolution,” Keep WYSO Local said in its statement.


—Diane Chiddister