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KPFK LAB member Julie Thompson responds to LA Weekly piece on KPFK

by Julie Thompson Thursday, Mar. 28, 2002 at 6:55 AM

A response/rebuttal to Ella Taylor's March 22, 2002 LA Weekly article on KPFK, "Family Feud."

Dear LA Weekly Letters:

I read with dismay Ella Taylor's piece on the situation at Pacifica Foundation and KPFK. It was full of distortion, half- truths, and bald faced falsehoods, albeit with attribution. While it is certainly noble that Ella supports her friends, are we to simply accept that as a journalistic position? Further, the piece contains such a tone of smugness and self -satisfaction about a group of journalists, pundits and critics the author regards as intellectuals -- witty and charming to a person -- who represent the worst kind of self-contained coterie of self re-enforcing opinion. It's this kind of clubby arrogance (journalists talking to other journalists in a congratulatory way about their work) which served to help KPFK lose some of its edge in its drive time public affairs programming.

Ella's piece doesn't even pay the print equivalent of lip service as far as searching out the position of the "other side."

A good example of that comes when she proffers Marc Cooper's assertion that none of the Local Advisory Board, of which I have been a member for four years, has anything useful to offer the station. She accepts that at face value while ignoring the wide breadth of commitment, skills, and services brought to KPFK by the LAB. Four members have extensive media experience, either in radio, television, or new media technology (Ella should know some of this, since I was a media consultant at the LA WEEKLY for five years, working with her, among many others at the paper). Another LAB member comes from the world of advertising and public relations. Others are scientists, lawyers, teachers, union organizers and business people. All members of the Local Advisory Board are activists who have helped to build progressive grassroots organizations. The fact that that doesn't count for anything to Marc Cooper says a lot.

Furthermore, it is most disturbing the way Ella chooses to frame this debate.

The debate is outlined as a jousting where, supposedly, the deluded, dour hard-line Marxist/activists take on the spunky, fun-loving intellectual journalists. Her portrayal of the Local Advisory Board and those who support our position as "hard line Marxists" tars with a brush as broad as a street sweeper, and also, I must regret to say, roller blades very close to red baiting. At this particular time in our country's history where tolerance for dissent has reached a nadir, I take great exception to throwing around the term "Marxist" as a pejorative, and to having our politics and activism ideologically demonized as dangerous because they do not fit with writer's vision of the world.

As for Marc Cooper, the self-appointed Presa Canario of this particular mauling, I can only say that I have no problem with him interviewing people such as Robert McNamara and Patrick Buchanan on KPFK. But I was supremely disappointed he did not take the opportunity to challenge them and their racist, warmongering histories and attitudes. On a station founded on pacifist principles, to treat Robert McNamara with such kid gloves, so cordially, as if he were just another insider flogging his book, is criminal by omission.

As for the assertion that the Local Advisory Board shouted at or harassed the staff of KPFK, the truth is 180 degrees opposite. We at the Local Advisory Board tried to work with Mark Schubb and Marc Cooper, only to be shouted down, and I can provide the names of current staffers at the station who will back me up. We were ignored or thwarted at every turn, because Mark Schubb did not think he had to listen to or countenance anything we had to say. In initially wanting to engage him collegially, we were a threat to his power base and any communications thereafter was impossible.

We think that the potential listening audience of KPFK represent a rich tapestry of cultures that were not being adequately served. Nor were activists and grassroots groups getting equal time with other journalists, authors and media pundits. We have every right to our opinion and now we have every opportunity to

make adjustments, to be adventurous, and to try and reconstitute a professional, multi-cultural free form radio station, where you might not always like what you hear, but at the best of times, you will be challenged to think and you will get a panoply of information and opinion available no where else in our media landscape.

Julie Thompson

KPFK Local Advisory Board

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