Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"We are scaling back our volunteer capacity"

"Many thanks to those of you who submitted volunteer applications..."

With this email to the remaining volunteers at WPVM, MAIN's Executive Director Wally Bowen signaled the end of the community radio station WPVM, and the christening of a new station under the same call letters that has little or no ties to the community that created and funded it all these years. With a very few exceptions, the 60 - 70 volunteers from the community who have contributed thousands of hours of service have left - either in protest, or after being told (in the infamous words of one MAIN Board member,) "...there's the door." At least one longtime DJ was told he wouldn't even be allowed to do a farewell episode, leaving his regular listeners to tune in to a new syndicated talk show in his place.

From now on, all programming and scheduling will be decided unilaterally by the Executive Director. All editorial, operational, and governance decisions will be handled under a top-down, corporate-style authority structure, with all power resting with one man, Wally Bowen.

"Though we are scaling back our volunteer capacity at this time and
thus cannot accommodate all who applied, we hope many of you will
consider volunteering again in the future. In any event, we greatly
appreciate the contributions that so many of you have made to our
organization and to the community at large."

The fear and loathing demonstrated on a personal level by the Executive Director towards the volunteers belies this boilerplate pleasantry. A new group of volunteers is being recruited, with no experience or connection to the recent 'unpleasantness', and it remains to be seen whether the past will repeat itself...

Reportedly, those new volunteers, along with the few who decided to re-apply & were accepted by the ED, will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement. This will, in the future, allow the ED to eject anyone who voices disagreement with the internal management or strategic vision of the station.

more as it happens...

Again, thanks to those who have supported 'people-powered' radio in Asheville.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"We will be more selective in choosing volunteers. "

MAIN's Executive Director, Wally Bowen, after ejecting the majority of the volunteer leadership that has run WPVM over the past six months, and presiding over an exodus of other volunteers, has announced several major changes. After requiring the remaining volunteers to re-apply (including an essay on how much they support his 'vision' for the station,) he has announced that the station will become more news and information oriented, and that the remaining music programming will be more "strategic". Citing as an example the local music festival, "LEAF", it seems clear that this means a more homogenous and unchallenging mix of music programming will become the rule.

Sweeping aside any fiction of WPVM being a genuine community radio station, he made it clear in the email to station volunteers that future locally-produced shows will be under "contract" to MAIN, and his personal review, and that adherence to his strategic vision for MAIN/WPVM will be a condition for continued access to the airwaves.

"...we will be more selective in choosing volunteers to ensure a better fit between MAIN's strategic vision and a volunteer applicant's interests and abilities."

All of this flies in the face of MAIN's Board announced intention to adhere to former station manager Kim Clark's five suggestions (see March 2 entry below). These suggestions included bringing back the banned volunteers, removing the ED from day-to-day operations, and hiring a professional mediator to address the ongoing conflict. The current (or remaining) volunteers had, until recently, been waiting for the Board to act on this promise. The ED's recent email, and the 50 - 60% (and counting) departure of volunteers seems to finally close the door on any hope that WPVM will become the station we were striving to make it.

To all those who supported WPVM in it's previous (brief) incarnation as a community, "people-powered" radio station, thanks.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

WPVM Programs lost to the Purge/Exodus

Seven Layer Dip
Blows Against the Empire
Making Progress: News for a Change
Paris of the South
Jazz Caravan
Nighttime Swerve
The Strange Boutique
Thursday Morning Collaboraform
The Replacement Party
Freeform Filth
Absolute Slacken
Mental Notes
Activate Asheville
The Dr. Awesome Show
Tenor to Tabla
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
...And The Address
Sirens Muse
Off the Record
Simon Says
Tuesday Night with the Lark
Let Loose the Kraken
Roots & Consciousness
The Global Report Radio Edition

and counting...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

WPVM Chronology: August 2008-present

Though the lack of a viable structure at WPVM goes back to the very beginnings of the station, the purpose of this post is to present a timeline of the public events during the past 7 months.

This post will be updated with relevant information as it becomes available. While visiting any of the links below, you are also encouraged to read the comments section below most articles, and leave your own.

AUGUST 22, 2008

The locally-produced "Seven Layer Dip" program airs during MAIN/WPVM's "Free The Airwaves" fund drive. You can download the show here. Upon hearing the broadcast, the Executive Director of MAIN (the organization which holds WPVM's broadcast license), Wally Bowen "indefinitely suspended -- effective immediately" the hosts of the show for "using offensive language and deliberately attempting to undermine our fund drive and our organization's credibility."


The Mountain Xpress issues this article which brings the situation to the public eye.


A special meeting of the MAIN Board is held to discuss the ongoing situation at WPVM. Read the Mountain Xpress coverage here.


The MAIN Board issues this press release:

Press Release:
From Mountain Area Information Network Board of Trustees
9 September 2008

In action taken 8 Sep. 2008, the Mountain Area Information Network Board of Trustees:

Refuses the resignation letter of Station Manager, Jason Holland;

Recommends a new governance structure requiring WPVM to report directly to a subcommittee of the board;

Encourages the Executive Director to strengthen his oversight of the wireless ISP, media reform advocacy, and fundraising dimensions of MAIN;

And issues the following statement:

The Board of the Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN) wishes to thank Gillian Coats, volunteer at WPVM, for her remarkable contributions to the growth and success of the radio station, and the Board regrets the circumstances surrounding Ms. Coats' departure from the station. We will miss her leadership.

The Board holds itself responsible for the events that took place, since we failed to take action to resolve a longstanding disagreement over station policy between Ms. Coats, MAIN, and our Executive Director, Wally Bowen.

Given our lack of prompt action, Mr. Bowen had no choice but to take steps to bring the matter to a close. The Board apologizes to both Wally and Gillian for not having brought about a more graceful resolution.

George Peery,
Chair, MAIN Board of Trustees

Mountain Xpress' updated coverage of the story can be found here.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2008

UNC-Asheville's student newspaper "The Blue Banner" reports on the story here.

SEPTEMBER 26, 2008

Based on the September 8th action from the MAIN Board of Directors, this interim MAIN/WPVM structure is put into place.

OCTOBER 1, 2008

An op-ed piece by WPVM's Barry Summers appears in the Mountain Xpress.

OCTOBER 31, 2008

First day of the 2008 Fall Fund Drive on WPVM, organized completely by volunteers, which brought in a record number of donors. Listeners were encouraged to support "people-powered radio", based on the September 8th action from the MAIN Board.

NOVEMBER 24, 2008

WPVM's local news program "Making Progress" airs its last show. You can download it here.

DECEMBER 3, 2008

The article, "Some WPVM volunteers remain dissatisfied with station" appears in the Mountain Xpress.

JANUARY 14, 2009

"Organizing WPVM", a structural outline plan for the future of WPVM, was presented at the radio staff's monthly meeting. A unanimous vote was passed to present this plan to the MAIN Board of Directors, based on their September 8th action.

JANUARY 27, 2009

The MAIN Board of Directors votes unanimously to hear the "Organizing WPVM" proposal at their upcoming February 10, 2009 meeting.

FEBRUARY 10, 2009

Edwin Shealy, WPVM Managerial Board chair, presents the "Organizing WPVM" proposal to the MAIN Board at their meeting. Following the presentation, the MAIN Board goes into "Executive Session."

FEBRUARY 11, 2009

The Mountain Xpress covers the "Organizing WPVM" proposal story here.

Later that evening at the monthly WPVM radio staff meeting, MAIN Board member Robin Smith presented the following statement from the Board:

"The Board can not conceive a structure where the ED is not in charge of the management and daily operation. The Board has given the ED, Wally Bowen, the task to come up with a structure. The Board of Directors and staff of MAIN appreciate the input provided at the board meeting on 2/10/2009."

FEBRUARY 16, 2009

MAIN's Executive Director Wally Bowen announces Kim Clark as the interim station manager at WPVM. At the same time, Bowen suspends 9 longtime volunteers of the station. Read the Mountain Xpress coverage here, and visit this post on the WPVM Blogspot for more on this development.

The "Revolutionary Radio" program debuts on WPVM. The first episode takes a look at how non-profit boards operate and goes in-depth with the current situation at WPVM. Several of the nine suspended volunteers appear on the show, as well as Mountain Xpress reporter Nelda Holder. You can download this episode here.

FEBRUARY 18, 2009

A "Meet The Interim Station Manager" meeting is held at the Public Service Building on Wall Street in downtown Asheville. Audio from this meeting can be heard here.

That evening, Greg Lyon, host of WPVM's "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly", and also one of the nine suspended volunteers, was interviewed on WMBR's "What's Left" program. You can download the interview here.

FEBRUARY 19, 2009

A discussion between volunteers and Wally Bowen takes place on the WPVM Facebook wall. Please view both wall pages for the complete discussion which is chronicled in reverse order (newest to oldest posts).

FEBRUARY 23, 2009

MAIN's Executive Director Wally Bowen holds a presentation for MAIN 2.0 at the Pack Library's Lord Auditorium. You can download the audio of the Q & A session here.

FEBRUARY 25, 2009

This week's issue of the Mountain Xpress has several WPVM-related items. Please visit the WPVM Blogspot entry for direct links to each item.

FEBRUARY 28, 2009

MAIN's Executive Director Wally Bowen is interviewed on WPVM's "Drop Beats Not Bombs" program. You can download the interview here and read the WPVM Blogspot entry about this interview here.

MARCH 2, 2009

WPVM's interim station manager Kim Clark resigns. You can read her full resignation letter here and Mountain Xpress' articles concerning her resignation here and here.

MARCH 3, 2009

The volunteers of WPVM issue a statement of "No Confidence" in the Executive Director of MAIN. To date, the statement has been signed by a solid majority of the volunteers, as well as 4 former members of the MAIN Board and many listeners, supporters and donors.

MARCH 4, 2009

In this week's edition of the Mountain Xpress, you can read a Letter to the Editor from MAIN's Executive Director Wally Bowen, as well as another letter from a long-time supporter of WPVM. Additionally, there is also an article about the MAIN 2.0 presentation of February 23.

MARCH 10, 2009

Former MAIN Board member Randee Goodstadt-Evans releases a public statement in response to Wally Bowen's "Letter To The Editor" from the March 4th edition of the Mountain Xpress.

MARCH 18, 2009

In this week's edition of the Mountain Xpress, you can read a "Letter to the Editor" from former WPVM Management Board chair Edwin Shealy, as well as this short letter from someone viewing the ongoing situation.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Former MAIN Board Member disputes ED's claim that Coates suspension was upheld

Former Mountain Area Information Network Board of Directors member Randee Goodstadt-Evans has disputed that the Board reviewed Wally Bowen's firing of Gillian Coates and upheld it.

From Mr. Bowen's March 4th letter to Mountain Express:

"Most volunteers are not aware that a behind-the-scenes power struggle—smoldering since 2003—intensified in early 2008, culminating in the August suspension of a volunteer who sought WPVM’s independence from MAIN. This was the first disciplinary action against a volunteer in the station’s five-year history. The board reviewed 14 documented incidents and upheld the suspension. "

Randee Goodstadt-Evans responds:

"I was a member of MAIN’s Board from August through November, 2008, and was never involved in any review of the so-called “documented incidents.”

"Likewise, the Board did not “uphold the suspension.”

"Actually, the Board sidestepped the issue entirely, issuing an apology for letting the conflict between the volunteer and Bowen get out of hand, and turning over general supervision of the station to a committee comprised of four board members: Josh Jourdan, Robin Smith, Terry O’Keefe, and myself. (At this time, Sept. 8, and shortly thereafter, the station still had a manager.)

"The Board’s goal at the time was to take Wally Bowen out of daily involvement with the radio station. I possess documentation to support that."

Randee Goodstadt-Evans

March 10, 2009

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mountain Area Information Network Board of Directors Watch

Since the current turmoil started at WPVM in August, MAIN's Board has lost:


Directors. One's term expired, one due to health problems, Five to...well, would YOU want to be a part of what this Board is doing? This leaves six active members, with at least one inching closer to their term being up, and at least one privately hinting they want no more of this mess. This could bring them to, or below, the legal minimum of five. See the current (sort of - at the time of posting, at least two of those eight still listed have apparently resigned) makeup of MAIN's Board here.

The process for recruiting new Board members is unclear; the bylaws require that any and all new Board prospects be brought forward by a duly constituted Nominating Committee of the Board. It appears that this process has not functioned for some years, and the flow of new members seems to have come solely from the Executive Director himself (a questionable practice).

The Board has finally begun a Performance Evaluation of the Executive Director, something they are required by the bylaws to do annually, but this also has not been done in some years.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Interesting Statistics

Due to the recent purge of volunteers at WPVM, as well as the loss of several shows and hosts who stood in solidarity with the banned and other recent events at the station, WPVM has lost:

15 original programs

19 hosts of original programs

37.5 hours of original programming each week

69 combined years of experience and history at WPVM

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

No Confidence Statement

Below is a No Confidence statement drafted by the volunteers at WPVM. If you would like to electronically sign the statement, please send your name and your capacity (volunteer, donor, listener, supporter, etc...) to, as a solid majority of volunteers and a growing list of former MAIN Board members have. Thanks!

On February 16th, nine longtime volunteer leaders were fired ("suspended" without recourse) from WPVM by Wally Bowen, MAIN's Executive Director. The previous, arbitrary firing ("suspension" without recourse) of a longtime volunteer in August still has not been adequately addressed; instead it has been greatly magnified. The subsequent manipulation of the Board process by MAIN's Executive Director has not justified the actions he has taken; rather, these actions punctuate the failed and dysfunctional leadership that has led this fine organization into its current state of crisis.

Therefore, we reluctantly yet emphatically state our vote of no confidence in the continued leadership of the current Executive Director. His failed management of this valuable community resource is a betrayal of the trust placed in him by the listeners, donors, subscribers, staff, and volunteers that make up the MAIN/WPVM family. Asheville deserves better, and the volunteers of WPVM stand committed to serve the community, in spite of the ill-advised actions of one man.

We invite all interested members of this community to let your voices be heard. MAIN's Board of Directors need to understand the disastrous course their Executive Director has taken them on, and change that course immediately. This attempt to divide, conquer, and ruin will not stand.

The "Offer"

It's really hard to deal with someone whose approach to truthtelling is more aspirational than actual. They want to tell the truth, but ... something always precludes that as a realistic option. History, for them, has no real occasions, and is in a constant state of revision.

Today the WPVM website has a post by the current Director of MAIN that contains this proposition:

Since May, 2008, staff has made three attempts (late July, mid-September, Jan. 5, 2009) to obtain documentation of station operations — currently known only to a handful of volunteers — in order to make these instructions more widely available. All three attempts failed.

On Feb. 24, we proposed that the suspended volunteers begin documenting their knowledge of station operations as a “good faith” first step toward their return to WPVM. That offer still stands.

Now, coming across that, the casual reader might assume that, you know, there was an offer actually made as recently as last Tuesday to the nine "suspended" volunteers: just document what you know, and we'll begin to think about letting you back in the station (leaving aside for now the fact that the volunteers haven't actually left the station, and that Kim Clark in her wonderful, gutsy, and insightful letter of resignation - notably not posted on the WPVM site, but posted below - acknowledged that she'd been grateful for their commitment and technical support). You might think that, dear reader, but ... how can I say this delicately? you'd be wrong. I've checked, and while I've not heard back yet from every one of the nine, I have heard back from seven; no such offer was made to any of those "suspended" volunteers. The Director might wish it had been made, but ...

A note to aspirational truthtellers: when giving an aspirational reinterpretation of history, it's a good idea to choose dates far enough in the past that no-one remembers what actually happened on the given day, and may have lost whatever records they made of it at the time. Just sayin'.


Update. 3/4/2009: Just as I thought: I've heard from all nine of the banned now, and none received the "offer" Mr. Bowen claims he made. We can now declare that claim totally aspirational!

Monday, March 2, 2009

WPVM's Interim Station Manager resigns


Effective immediately, I am withdrawing from my interim appointment as WPVM station manager.

As I said at our introductory meeting a couple of weeks ago, I accepted the position of Interim Station Manager of WPVM because I wanted to help move the station in a positive way from its current state of turmoil and to help it get on a solid footing for the future. I now believe that this is not possible at the moment, and that my continuation in the interim position could be doing more harm than good. I am the band-aid and the aspirin that delay that inevitable trip to the doctor, who will tell you that you really need major surgery if you are to survive.

In my opinion, the problems at WPVM that have spilled out onto the public square are deep and systemic, and need to be addressed by MAIN's Board of Directors before progress can be made. The relationship between MAIN's Executive Director Wally Bowen and the dozens of volunteers that make the radio station work is almost totally broken down. This has been made much worse in my opinion by Wally's recent decision to suspend nine members of WPVM's volunteer staff. I can't judge the reasons for the suspensions, because I'm really not clear what the reasons are. But I can judge the effect that the suspensions are having on WPVM's operations. For the most part, these nine volunteers represent the institutional knowledge and memory of WPVM, and make up the station's engineering support as well. The first day I was at WPVM, we had a major automation failure. Every radio station has a list on the wall somewhere that says “In case of emergency, call...”, and I quickly found WPVM's list. However, all the names were of volunteers who were “banned”! But...some of those same banned volunteers came into the station later, “under cover of darkness”, and helped solve the problem. Their support- some clandestine, some not- to the station and their fellow volunteers has continued over the past two weeks. It has weighed heavily on my conscience knowing that volunteers who have been told to stay away are being asked for, and are giving, their help. So much so that last week I went to Wally and asked him to lift the suspensions on the grounds that the suspended volunteers had shown good faith by providing the assistance to keep the station properly functioning. I felt that if we responded with good will and brought them back, we could really move WPVM forward, and I could stop worrying about basic technical concerns and get on with the business of truly providing some management direction. Wally gave my request respectful consideration, but then told me he “just couldn't go there.” I felt that the most promising door to success closed with that decision.

I have at other times glimpsed what success at WPVM could look like. I had those glimmers of hope when I was talking with the volunteers who were coming in to do their shows or to take care of their station “chores”. Their passion for the mission of the station (and for MAIN's mission as well) and their dedication to their role in it is inspiring. Honestly, coming into this, I expected to cross paths with a bunch of anarchists who didn't want anyone telling them what to do. That's not what I found at all. I have had in-depth conversations with 15 or more volunteers, and every single one stressed the need for more structure in the station's day-to-day and overall operations. “Procedures” and “policy” are not dirty words to them. But...there is currently no foundation on which to build or rebuild a solid operational structure. It is all too broken. (In going through old station records, I found evidence that there had been a pretty strong structure at one time, but it seems that it all began to unravel a year or two ago.)

I feel I also have to mention that nearly every volunteer I spoke with-even the ones who are on the periphery and basically just come in to do their shows- felt strongly that the nine suspended volunteers are urgently needed back in the fold, and were unclear about the reasons for the suspensions in the first place.

I am inspired by Wally Bowen's vision of service to the community for MAIN and for WPVM. (All the volunteers I talked with are highly supportive of it as well.) I attended Wally's Main 2.0 presentation and was very impressed with his plans for providing affordable access to cutting-edge technology, and for making WPVM a hub for professional-quality citizen journalism. He does strongly believe in WPVM. When tossing around options, I even threw out the idea of shutting down the station temporarily, letting the smoke clear, and then rebuilding it in a way that might be more to his liking. As I recall, he said that that would not be fair to many of the volunteers.

So, here we are- with a fantastic vision, and a volunteer staff that most non-profit organizations would kill for. But the battle lines are drawn hard in the ground, there's plenty of legitimate ammo, and lots of land mines are strewn about in the middle. I don't think you can hire someone to “manage” WPVM out of this situation. Very basic structural and systemic issues need to be addressed first.

My suggestions are: (1) Get the suspended volunteers “officially” back into the radio station. Their absence is making basic operations more difficult, hurting morale, and keeping emotions high. If there are some that Wally feels shouldn't be brought back, then be clear about why and allow for some type of appeal process. (2) The Board of Directors needs to consider carefully to what degree it is healthy (for the organization and its people) for the Executive Director of MAIN to be involved in day-to-day operations of WPVM. Then the Board needs to be clear and consistent on this issue. Establish a grievance procedure (even a temporary one) ASAP. (3) Bring in a professional mediator. And not a “kum ba yah” team-building mediator. This will need to be hard-nosed stuff, where everyone (Board members, volunteers, Executive Director) lays their baggage out on the table, and there are signed understandings and agreements at the end. (4) Then....hire a manager. Avoid the “interim” path. You'll need someone who is fully invested in the future of WPVM and MAIN. Give that manager the authority to truly run the station, within guidelines and goals set out by the Executive Director and the Board. (5) To the degree that it is financially possible, upgrade WPVM's broadcast equipment. The sub-standard condition of the station's equipment and computers is having a negative effect on broadcast quality, consistency, accuracy, and morale, and is creating training/compliance issues.

It's funny the twists and turns life takes. I thought I would help WPVM by being its Interim Manager, but it seems I will be most helpful by withdrawing from that post so as not to delay the real work that needs to be done. I hope my insights have been useful.

Kim Clark

Blue Banner Article from 9/18/08

Check out this article from The Blue Banner, UNC-Asheville's student newspaper, published September 18, 2008.

Here's an excerpt:

On Sept. 8, MAIN's Board of Directors held an emergency meeting. The following day the board announced a new governance structure for the station via a press release that also refused Hollands' resignation.

"We are hoping that by changing the structure and the way the board does business with WPVM, volunteers will feel they're on the same page and not have the sense of working at cross purposes with MAIN," Chair of the Board of Directors George Peery said. "We, by not paying attention to them, allowed that perception of neglect to exist."

Peery said the board proposed a new structure which requires WPVM volunteers report to a subcommittee of the board, rather than directly to Bowen.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

MAIN's Executive Director on WPVM

Last night, Wally Bowen appeared on WPVM to answer questions from listeners on "Drop Beats Not Bombs", the popular hip-hop show hosted by Molly McDonough-Leota and Lucia Daugherty. The audio (minus music breaks) can be downloaded here.

Among other notable comments, is the exchange between Bowen and McDonough-Leota at timestamp 47:50, where a listener emailed in a question that started with a section of the September 8th resolution from MAIN's Board, which removed Mr. Bowen from station operations:

Molly: "...the Board recommends a new governance structure requiring WPVM to report to a subcommittee of the Board." And the question is, does that statement stand today?

Wally: That doesn't sound like the statement that I saw come out of Sept. 8th - I just don't think that's an accurate statement.

There's no question that it is accurate - it comes straight off the MAIN website:

On the audio clip, Mr. Bowen goes on to blame the controversy on poor communication and wishful thinking on the part of the volunteers, ducking the question completely. The fact is, that his own Board said in so many words, on HIS website, that they were recommending "a new governance structure requiring WPVM to report directly to a subcommittee of the board."
This is inconvenient, so Mr. Bowen is pretending that it didn't happen, raising serious questions about accountability and honesty.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This week in the Mountain Xpress

This week's edition of the Mountain Xpress has several WPVM-related items of interest:

1) An article by Jason Sandford entitled "WPVM dials in new interim director, temporarily tunes out nine volunteers" can be read here.

2) Five "Letters to the Editor" can be read here: 1 2 3 4 5.

3) The local parody/entertainment page, The Asheville Disclaimer presents its take on the situation here.

You can also read comments from readers (and leave your own) below each item on their website.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Audio from "Meet WPVM's Interim Station Manager" meeting, 02/18/09

WPVM's Greg Lyon on WMBR's "What's Left"

Greg Lyon, host of WPVM's "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly", and one of the "WPVM 9" was interviewed on the "What's Left" program on WMBR (Cambridge, MA) on Wednesday, February 18th. Greg discusses the recent problems at WPVM with host Linda Pinkow. You can listen to the stream here. The interview begins at 64:30 into the broadcast and lasts for approximately 20 minutes.

Someone knew, even then ...

When I was doing some maintenance on the station website last week, I came across a proposed organizational chart for MAIN dated 2004. The portion that relates to WPVM bears a strong resemblance to what the volunteers proposed to the MAIN board this month. Even at the beginning, then, someone realized that the organization required an articulated structure. Sadly, none was ever effectively implemented.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Response to Wally Bowen's Posts on Mediation

Wally Bowen, MAIN's executive director, posted the following to the WPVM Facebook wall today after being questioned about his postponement of mediation:

I asked the Mediation Center to re-schedule the Feb. 9 mediation, and here's why. At the Jan. 27 meeting of the MAIN board, these volunteers showed up unannounced. It appeared that our new acting chair, Robin Smith, coordinated their surprise visit. During "new business" he allowed them to ask for a special board meeting to "just listen" to their proposal.

I argued against this special board meeting on the grounds that: 1. The board had already unanimously approved the "MAIN 2.0" process, so entertaining a separate "radio only" proposal would confuse the integrated-media "MAIN 2.0" planning. 2. I had been calling for mediation for five months, with no response; therefore, any proposal BEFORE MEDIATION would be coming from a place of anger and conflict. 3. The "just listen" caveat was disingenuous, as the group would certainly demand a board decision on its proposal. Also, at least two volunteers that day expressed doubts about the value of mediation. (to be continued)

Mediation (continued): On Jan. 9, I wrote to Edwin Shealy about MAIN 2.0 and said that "it makes no sense to put a proposal on the table and risk the perception of it being 'rejected,' thus possibly spurring another round of angry and dysfunctional rhetoric. I think we all agree that we don't need any more setbacks. As always, I'm willing to meet and listen and talk, around a table or on the air. It's been strange to have all these exciting breakthroughs in Washington shaping and energizing our future, yet hearing so little about these historic developments on WPVM."

Still, the board agreed Jan. 27 to hear the proposal as a courtesy to these vols. A few days later, in a contentious phone call, acting chair Robin Smith accused me of not wanting "to listen" to the vols. I replied that I had called for mediation for five months, had offered to meet and talk on the air with any show host, yet had been removed by these vols from the WPVM listserve, "Who's not listening?" I asked. I then challenged Robin to use his influence to bring us to mediation rather than interfering between staff and vols. That afternoon Edwin emailed saying they were ready to mediate, asap. I immediately accepted, and we agreed on Feb. 9, one day before the special board meeting. However, I soon learned that their idea of mediation was 14 vols -- one of whom I didn't know and two with whom I had no history of conflict. On Feb. 3, I told a fellow board member how odd this seemed. She asked why board and staff weren't invited. The next day it snowed . . .
Having been at the Jan. 27 meeting of MAIN's Board of Directors, I have a few observations/queries:

1. Is he blaming the volunteers for the actions of the Interim Chair of his own Board of Directors? Or is he blaming his Interim Chair, Robin Smith? And what exactly is he blaming his Chair for? Not following proper procedure? "Coordinating" a surprise visit by volunteer leaders to an open meeting of his own Board? Interfering between staff and volunteers? Does he really want to malign his own boss this way? Does he really want to walk down this path regarding the improper procedures of his own Board? What other procedures has his own Board not followed? Where are the minutes to all the Board meetings since September? Inquiring minds want to know.

2. To the best of my knowledge, none of us was ever contacted regarding mediation before the process was initiated by Edwin Shealy. If Wally Bowen, the Executive Director of the organization, wanted mediation for months and months, why did he not set it up? Indeed, why did he never reach out to the volunteers, as a good manager of a volunteer organization should, instead of fuming about the "lies" being told about him and complaining that he was not asked to give his side of things on the air by the volunteers--which itself is a lie; he was given the opportunity for airtime on the station, but did not acknowledge the authority of the democratically elected, MAIN Board Subcommittee-sanctioned Programming Committee that offered him that time.

3. Doubts about mediation were well-founded. Why shouldn't people have doubts about mediation, and why should they be excoriated for vocalizing those doubts? Mediation, in order to be meaningful, has to have clear goals. Additionally, it has been my personal experience since I first came to WPVM that Wally Bowen is extraordinarily deficient in his capacity for dialogic listening, which I believe was notably displayed in the onair staff meeting Wednesday night. That said, we were willing to try mediation, and it was postponed indefinitely by Wally Bowen. Edwin Shealy will have plenty of information to refute Wally's assertion regarding who all should be involved in the mediation. I was told that you, Wally, added my name and others (including Steven Howard), for instance. I certainly did not ask to be involved in the mediation, as I was not serving on the WPVM Managerial Board at the time. But I was willing to go once I was invited. Your version of events regarding mediation bears no resemblance to what Edwin shared with me, but again, I'll let him clarify that.

4. The volunteers were tasked with coming up with a station structure by the Subcommitte of the MAIN Board in charge of the radio station almost immediately after the Sep. 8 resolution. Months of hard work went into that proposal. Mediation was scheduled for before the presentation of the proposal and was cancelled by Wally Bowen. We were told explicitly by Robin Smith that Wally and the majority of his NEW Board would not be at all receptive to the volunteer proposal. He was right. It should be noted that the Board lost 3 of its members since the Sep. 8 resolution (including half of the WPVM Subcommittee), not to mention that it currently has no full set of officers.

5. I have personally discussed the exciting news regarding the FCC rulings and other Washington developments MANY MANY times in depth on my radio show without any prompting by the Executive Director. Plus, all the Executive Director would have had to do was to write a radio-friendly (i.e. not overly long) press release and ask the Managerial Board to have it read on the air, and I have no doubt that this would have been done. I heard MAIN PSAs discussing the upcoming FCC vote on election day MANY times on the air, and I read it myself numerous times, extemporaneously elaborating the importance of it. I discussed the results of the FCC vote as well. The volunteers have continuously been characterized as not caring about MAIN's endeavors, and this is a complete distortion of reality. The accusation is one of many tactics on behalf of the Executive Director to make the volunteers look bad. I hope the public sees through it.

6. I will leave it to others to discuss the onair listserv. If at any point Wally Bowen had anything constructive to say, e.g. a call for a special meeting of the organization to discuss and constructively work through differences in an open forum, I believe I would have heard of it. There were other channels of communication. Did your own Board prohibit you from reaching out positively? If not, who else is to blame?

--Greg Lyon

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cecil Bothwell's statement from MountainX blog

(Reprinted here with Cecil's permission. Opens with
reference to anonymous pro-Wally Bowen posters.)

First, as usual, I think we can safely ignore the comments of those who hide behind aliases. Honest discussion requires that we identify ourselves.

Second, I think it is extremely telling that Bowen has forced out most of the people who built the radio station, starting with Gillian Coats last summer and moving forward. I worked for the station for more than five years and was in on the early planning for local news programming before it went on the air. I donated a lot of money in every fund drive (until the most recent one) and did a weekly, three hour show for nearly five years and was named MAIN’s Volunteer of the Year a couple of years back. I believed in the station and MAIN’s mission. All of this DESPITE Bowen’s extremely shabby, behind-the-scenes behavior toward me in regard to the Rolling Thunder event I funded and organized in May 2003. (Many of you who were involved in that effort know what I’m talking about.) I swallowed my anger and my pride and moved forward because of my belief in democratic media.

I say none of this to self aggrandize, but simply to point out that those of us who have been pushed aside in recent months are extremely dedicated to volunteer community service and poured thousands of hours and thousands of dollars into this project.

As for MAIN 2.0, I sincerely hope it succeeds, but Bowen has always been a great salesman. Sometimes he delivers. As for me, I am preparing to dump MAIN’s hosting of my business and non-profit Web sites. There are other local ISPs I can support without helping to fund the autocracy and high-handedness I have witnessed in recent months. I encourage others who are using MAIN’s services and who share my disillusion to do the same.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Letter to MAIN's Board from David Lynch

posted here with his permission:

Dear MAIN board members,

I am stunned at the letter MAIN's executive director sent to 9 WPVM volunteers yesterday, expecting them to leave the station for a period of 6 weeks (Who are we kidding here? That 6 weeks will continue into eternity should Mr. Bowen have his way). I understand that the rest of the volunteers' participation in the station will be "revisited" as well.

I can't help but characterize Mr. Bowen's actions as petulant, in blatant disregard of the participatory democracy specified in MAIN's mission statement, and in contradiction of the recent actions of this board. As I understand it, Mr. Bowen does not have the authority to issue such an edict; it should have come directly from you, MAIN's board.

The WPVM volunteers have been acting in good faith based on the instructions of the MAIN board. During the last few months, they have run the radio station conscientiously and professionally. To allow the Executive Director to force them out unceremoniously and without opportunity for recourse would be a serious breach of that faith.

Earlier this year, I discontinued my participation in the radio show (Making Progress), that I co-hosted with Barry Summers and Veronika Gunther. My co-hosts went on to devote countless hours to keeping the station alive after the station manager quit and was not immediately replaced. Again, their actions were consistent with MAIN's policies as articulated by you, the board.

I left the station because, sadly, I knew this day would come: the day when Mr. Bowen would consider the considerable efforts of the WPVM volunteers and at best disregard them, at worst, sabotage them. Dedicated volunteers are the backbone of organizations such as yours. They deserve praise encouragement and when necessary, guidance - certainly not vilification. I think you'll Mr. Bowen's attempt to gut WPVM will prove to be a huge impediment to the progress of both MAIN and WPVM should it be allowed to stand.

Though Wally Bowen is the founder of MAIN, you - the board - are its governing body. I urge you to be mindful of MAIN's by-laws and mission statement and remind Mr. Bowen that he does not have the authority to decide the fate of WPVM's volunteers. That is your responsibility. I only hope you move to correct this injustice and behave with the same sense of fairness and good will that the WPVM volunteers have demonstrated throughout the past few months.

I urge you to act swiftly to defuse the misguided impulses of Mr. Bowen and give WPVM's volunteers the consideration they deserve.

–– David Lynch

February 17, 2009 9:32 AM

"The Nine" on 'Revolutionary Radio'. Download here.

Listen here to the first episode of 'Revolutionary Radio', WPVM's newest program. Several of the "Gang of Nine", the long-time volunteers fired by Wally Bowen, participate in a roundtable discussion of the issues underlying the current controversy at WPVM.

WPVM Volunteers fired by MAIN's Executive Director

At approx. 5:30 pm tonight, MAIN's Executive Director Wally Bowen picked out nine volunteer leaders and fired them from WPVM. He sent personal emails to each asking them to stay away from the radio station, to allow his newly-hired Interim Station Manager to take over operations.

It's not clear why these nine were singled out; the only unifying characteristic is that they have each challenged the Executive Director's leadership in one way or another over the past six months. These nine represent the bulk of the long-time volunteer leadership of WPVM. In addition to receiving these emails, they were deleted from the station's onair listserve, cutting them off from communicating with the rest of the volunteers.

At the same time, an email was sent to the remaining on-air volunteers, announcing a hastily-called radio staff meeting two days later. The announcement ended with a requirement that volunteers RSVP and state their intention to attend, otherwise they too would be deleted from the onair list, and presumably, from the air as well.

Most of these nine defied the invitation to abandon the radio station they have poured their energy into for years, and instead went on the air with other volunteers to make the case for a genuine community radio station where one man cannot unilaterally throw longtime volunteers off the air on a whim.

Opposition to this arbitrary and unfair act is taking form; stay tuned to this blog for updates, and we invite your comments.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Letter To The MAIN Board

This letter has been posted with the kind permission of its author, David L. Rickman:

RE: Grassroots or Top-Down?
Monday, February 16, 2009 12:55:03 PM


Over the past few years I have become a loyal listener of WPVM. I have lived in nearly half of the United States, but settled down in Asheville when I realized THIS is home. THIS is where I will live for the rest of my life.

One of the aspects I love about this area is WPVM. Its grass-roots approach to broadcasting reflects the diversity and all that's best of Asheville. But now I see that there is a proposal to give authority and decision-making solely into the hand of the Executive Director. As I see it, you are trying to fix something that's not broken. Asheville is so diverse that, with all due respect to this "Executive Director", there is no way that the decisions of ONE person can possibly reflect the spirit of the Asheville area.

I have read the Statement from the MAIN Board of Directors embedded on the WPVM web site and it scares me. When I read the words, "standard model for organizational accountability in the nonprofit, blah, blah, blah...", that concerns me. You can see just by the way it is written that this will not be good for WPVM. As I read it, you want WPVM to become an ordinary station, when it's already an extraordinary station.

I have also read "Organizing WPVM". That's what I want to see. That is what I support. That is what Asheville is all about.

Please don't screw this station up. Keep the accountability in the hands of those who already make this station great. I listen full time at home, at work, and in my car. I never change the dial. Don't make me change my mind. Please support "Organizing WPVM".

David L. Rickman, Age 49
Citizen of Asheville

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy As A Toad

As one of the newest volunteers at WPVM, I can't speak to my past experiences or grievances at the station. As a matter of fact, I'm happy as a toad that I'm getting a chance to enhance the Asheville community by being a volunteer here. So what a shame it was for me to find that right as I was walking in, many were walking out. (I've taken Cecil Bothwell's job of being the volunteer coordinator of Democracy Now.) I actually get to be "on air" for about three minutes a week. While Amy Goodman breaks, I read weather predictions and such, which thrills to no end. So my concern is that the station will keep operating and continuing to bring great programs like Democracy Now to the city (there's a lot of great programs -- check the schedule).

A great communty radio station can be one of the best features of a great town. It's like a big bulletin board that plays good music, or a great music outlet that keeps you well informed. Either way, it's an important asset.

I'm writing now to support the volunteers who are trying to keep WPVM going strong and free during the power shift that is occuring. As people look away from top-down corporate media outlets, some are turning to volunteer-run, grass roots, democratically organized community-based media. I support the volunteers' hard work on coming up with an excellent structure for maintaining a fair, free, and open radio station that serves this community.

I've been wonderfully impressed with the level of dedication, devotion, and plain hard work that this group of volunteers has shown me and I'm hoping to become more like them.

Generally, when volunteers come to the community for help it's the usual financial kind, but now we're asking for something even more precious: your trust and your vote of confidence. The volunteers have a real handle on what is and isn't needed at WPVM. They are more than capable of taking this station to the next level.

I hope you will look into the situation and see that the volunteers need your help in resolving this governance crisis. Contact a MAIN board member and let them know that you, too, support volunteer-run community radio. It's only gonna' get better.

Scotty O, WPVM Volunteer.

Future (minor correction)

“Delegating (the Board’s) authority to paid staff is the standard model for organizational accountability in the nonprofit world. Volunteers, by definition, are free agents and are not subject to the same degree of accountability as paid staff.”

For the record, the volunteer proposal, which you can link to at, clearly states that authority for station management stays under a committee made up of three MAIN Board members, the Executive Director and Station Manager (two MAIN staffers), and two volunteer representatives. This committee oversees and approves all station policies and operations, ensures compliance with FCC requirements, ensures coordination with other MAIN initiatives, etc. The Station Manager (a paid MAIN staffer) then directly oversees station operations. How is this like turning the keys to the station over to a bunch of unaccountable volunteers? (Actually, the station has run smoothly under volunteer control these past 5 months, you’re welcome, but we’ll let that pass.) This proposal is a serious compromise between outright volunteer control vs. outright Executive control. Why is that not acknowledged by the Board?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Future, Continued

In the statement from the MAIN board now on the WPVM home page you'll find this:

The MAIN board has ultimate authority over all aspects of our organization, including WPVM. Delegating this authority to paid staff is the standard model for organizational accountability in the nonprofit world. Volunteers, by definition, are free agents and are not subject to the same degree of accountability as paid staff. MAIN will continue to operate with a high level of openness to volunteer involvement and input, and we are excited about the future as we move into the “MAIN 2.0″ phase of our development.

The point that the statement makes about the relationship of staff to volunteers is probably appropriate for 99% of volunteer organization. After all, in most cases staff will have not only accountability but the critical skills that the work of the organization requires.

The situation at WPVM is quite unusual, though, and one of the ways it's unusual is that in its case the "volunteers" are actually the skilled staff, and the "staff" (which would be MAIN staff, since WPVM currently has none) are unskilled when it comes to station operation. Until very recently, in fact, they didn't even know the location of the station's transmitter. And that's just for starters ...

The Future of WPVM: Grassroots or Top-Down?

As many of our listeners know, the governing structure of WPVM has been the subject of much discussion lately. Two different visions for the future of this radio station are forming. One is that of the volunteer radio staff. We call it "Organizing WPVM". It was created by the folks you hear everyday at WPVM, folks that have many years of experience in community radio. This proposal puts control of station programming and operations in the hands of the volunteers and listeners of WPVM, while reporting to an oversight group that includes the Executive Director and members of the Board of the Mountain Area Information Network, which holds WPVM's license. The other vision is that of MAIN’s Executive Director. His vision concentrates authority and decision-making in the hands of one person, the Executive Director. We encourage you to download (Word document) the volunteers' proposal, “Organizing WPVM" then let MAIN's Board of Directors hear from you, our listeners, on the kind of station you'd support in the future. Please send a “cc” to as well, if you could.

We also encourage our listeners and supporters to contact local media, such as the Mountain Xpress and the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Thanks for listening. Your voice is important to us.