Sunday, February 15, 2009

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?


  1. It sounds like the MAIN board of directors is pretty dysfunctional. Are they hand picked by the executive director?

    Larry Hines
    Asheville, NC

  2. the station seems to be going thru alot, with this ongoing struggle...but folks on all sides need to realize that the only true winner in this struggle is the mainstream media. the more everyone's creative energies are directed toward this struggle, the less of that creativity can be focused into doing what needs to be done--i.e. showing that non-mainstream, local, media works. who really benefits from this organization's continued dysfunctionality?

  3. The individual directors have been picked by the Executive Director, for the most part, if not exclusively. The by-laws require that a Nominating Committee select and bring candidates to the Board, but my understanding is that it has only ever existed on paper. At the volunteers last meeting, the Board's acting Chairman was asked about the composition of the Board, and possible future members. All he would say was that he THOUGHT there was a Nominating Committee...

  4. Barry, I'm really glad you posted this.
    The Board's response to the proposal just made no sense, given what the proposal actually says.

    It's kind of confounding, on the face of it, but perfectly consistent with what I've seen of that board, on the other hand.

  5. As to who benefits from MAIN's continued's a very good question. I know this appears to just be an internal squabble that, if only saner heads could intervene, it would all be settled. I am saddened at the lost energy and damaged reputations, the wasted potential of this community resource. And I have to admit to my share of dysfunction and poor communication. But there truly is an important concept at the heart of this - whether our local independent media will be truly grassroots, with input and participation from the ground up, or will it just be a small-scale imitation of the corporate top-down model that we have found leads to such poor service to the community? I have come to the conclusion that the Executive Directors plans for MAIN/WPVM are exactly that - a stunted, pyramidal structure that will never grow larger than he can personally control and take credit for. This is truly wasted potential, and unsustainable to boot. The Unitary Executive model that WPVM had been running under collapsed last September, when the Executive Director found that the volunteer force that actually does all the work, wouldn't stand for him acting unilaterally to remove someone who was a valuable longtime member of the station, for reasons that were more personal than anything else. These aren't just personality issues - this crisis grew out of a vision for the organization that simply failed. Those of us who know how this radio station works, and have direct connections to the community it serves, deserve to have a role in determining it's course. The volunteer proposal, Organizing WPVM, spreads the authority and decision-making for the programming and operations across more hands and more minds, guaranteeing a fairer and more sustainable future for the station. That's worth fighting for.

  6. I'd like to suggest that the Board's response makes more sense than it might seem at first glance. As barry points out in his initial post, the model offered as "Organizing WPVM" does in fact provide for direct oversight of the station by the two paid staffers, namely the MAIN Exec and the station mgr.

    I read the Board's statement as not excluding the "Organizing" model at all, UNLESS it is the intention of the Board to eliminate the paid position of Station Manager.

    The Board should be asked if that is the case. Obviously, without a paid station mgr., the "Organizing" concept falls on its face.

  7. The Board made it clear to us that they were rejecting the proposal made by Edwin Shealy (Organizing WPVM), and were giving the go-ahead to the Executive Director to form his own structure for governing the station. He has already said that he intends to hire a "Media Manager" for MAIN/WPVM, and that this position would be split between the radio station and MAIN's other activities, all under the Executive's complete control. (Ask former Station Manager Jason Holland if his job could be done part-time.) This assumes even more volunteer labor for necessary station work than ever before, while giving even less input on decisions like programming, editorial policy, etc. The notion of free labor without decision-making authority (taxation without representation?) is a big part of why this failed in the past, and why it will fail in the future. People don't like to be told, "Okay, produce content, take out the trash, raise money, promote MAIN, stuff envelopes, etc.", BUT "don't argue if the ED simply takes you off the air with no recourse, or decides to abrogate your work on the program schedule because it conflicts with his personal listening habits, or pressures you to give up your scheduled airtime because he wants it" (all things that happened to us under the ED's authority). This doesn't motivate independent, talented people to contribute their time and energy to a worthy cause. This motivates people to get frustrated and leave, as they have, for years.

  8. I agree that the proposal, " a serious compromise between outright volunteer control vs. outright Executive control."

    I am a little confused by the word document showing the proposed organizational structure for WPVM. It looks like a list of committees but I don't really see how they relate to each other. Can someone make a diagram or something to help us visualize it?


  9. Thanks for your reply, Barry. Apparently the Board has made its rejection of the "Organizing" plan much clearer than the statement posted here would indicate. Is this action minuted and publicly available?

    I note that Mr. Bowen has in fact hired an "interim station manager", though it is not clear whether this position coincides with the "Media Manager" position you mentioned in your reply. I have just listened to your interview with Veronica Gunter, and I support your decision to decline the "invitation" to stay away from the station. That is where you will be most able to exert influence and advocate for a more democratic structure.

    Now there is a staff person with whom you can advocate. This is an important step forward. In the face of Mr. Bowen's unilateral cancellation of the planned mediation, Ms. Clark becomes your de facto mediator. She is your conduit to the obdurate Mr. Bowen.