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Posted by: Doug Henwood | August 12, 2013

The decline & fall of WBAI

My piece on the decline and fall of WBAI (“The Excruciating Demise of WBAI”) is up at the New York Observer. I wouldn’t choose the word “demise” myself, since it’s not over yet.

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Responses

  1. Read the story. It is concise, informative, with just the right amount of the Doug Henwood sharp wit.

    I see that the whacko miracle cure guy with the smooth voice is the radio personality with the single largest block of time, and that block is mid-day. And he is listed in the “Health” category, not “Magic Snake Oil”. I thought you said the station has a good new interim director.

  2. Hello Doug!

    Read your piece in the OBSERVER, and I could not agree with you more. Great piece, by the way. Don’t recall if we ever met………

    I used to work at that shop, in the newsroom. First time 1987 to 1992. Then, returned to work as a paid staff member from 2001 – 2008. Of the News Division, it was one of the saner places there. This saddens me. TREMENDOUSLY. But I saw the writing on the wall for years. One key sticking point, FOR ME, was the ‘advisory board.’ MOST non-profits have anywhere from seven, to a maximum of nine voting members. At WBAI they had an astonishing, un-workable, and absurd, 23 freaking members! One more time, TWENTY THREE FREAKING MEMBERS, with NO working Broadcast experience under their belt to speak of, on their advisory board, in the biggest media market on earth. THAT DOOMED the station from the git-go. SAD.

    Like an NHL contest, the meetings resembled an ice hockey game where there is a fight, and a meeting ‘breaks out.’ AMAZING! What a sad exercise of negative, and counter-productive energy those gatherings produced. Good Lord! And those meetings represented an under-current of a lot of other stuff, as well.

    As old man Stan Brooks of 1010 WINS News would say on this: “Stay Tuned.” I do hope there is a positive outcome on this, and the station remains active on the New York scene.

    For the record, I know Andrew Phillips. He is a good guy. I now live in his hometown, Melbourne, Australia. I left New York, in 2008, after winning an excellence in journalism award the year before, from the SOCIETY OF THE SILURIANS, one of New York’s oldest press clubs.

    All the best!

    -Eric

  3. Comment sections are dying. There may be real “debate” on Facebook, for all I know, since I will never join it, but here there should be contestation, but folks seem to have given up.
    WBAI was a presence during Occupy, and has had a long-running show with that name, but since Occupy is dead, and Left Business Observer was one of Occupy’s Bronze Sponsors, does not the tag of futility, here affixed to BAI, apply to all leftie endeavors, including critiques of critiques?
    Secondly, “interview” shows are too much book-tour PR – where’s the real back-and-forth, a la Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley on the Mike Douglas Show? The station board candidate shows should not be the only ones to air public disagreements.
    The solution? Interview John Zerzan, the finest podcaster of the Internet Age. Of course, I have no idea of on whose behalf he continues his quixotic crusade, but with a dead Left, he is the best opposition you can find.

  4. Ok, “behind the News” was one of the better shows on BAI when it was on. I do have some quibbles with this piece, though. Why have this run in a an outlet like the Observer, where baiting of “Black Nationalist Cabal” types feeds into the existing biases of that paper’s Upper West Side audience? You couldn’t find a better publication from which to attack a left institution (however bad)?

    Also, BAI did dedicate a pretty good amount of coverage to both the RNC and OWS. Were they “relevant” to OWS? Was any traditional media? Certainly the NY Observer wasn’t relevant to folks at Zuccotti. Honestly, what percentage of OWSers were plugged into LBO? Aside from the handful of people around the Brooklyn Rail/N Plus One crowd, probably very few.

    Also, I’ve listened since Andrew Phillips and Summer Resse have come onboard, and they are a bit patronizing and dismissive of democracy at BAI. Phillips repeatedly talks about competing with Imus and Howard Stern. He gives no indication of how this would be done, and I presume he’s talking about reaching an audience of regular people, and not turning the format over to strippers and shock jocks. I wouldn’t put too much hope in those two, much as I want them to succeed.

    Yes, BAI had become mostly unlistenable and loony over the last two decades, but your piece lacked the usual depth and thoroughness I would usually expect.


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