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.