After a week of high winds and steady rain, warmer temperatures made the trip to Willits on January 9th a bit less treacherous for those who attended the KZYX Board meeting. Of high interest to the 15 attendees who braved the inclement weather was a chance to greet Jeffrey Parker, the man who replaced Interim GM, Diane Hering on December 1st. The meeting's agenda included a vote to approve Parker for the permanent position as station manager.
Board President, Meg Courtney described 2016 as a roller coaster year, having to navigate the ups and downs of finding a replacement for the station's previous GM, Lorraine Dechter who, challenged by multiple staff changes, departed from KZYX in August after seven months. Among her achievements as GM were the strengthening of the news department, the establishment of a news production facility in Ukiah as a first step towards a full broadcasting capability, renewed emphasis on community fundraising events and her advice to the board to adopt rules to guide its meetings.
Parker was selected after the Board's initial choice, Terry Green declined the position due to what Courtney explained as a "failure to come to terms" with him. Parker is from Santa Rosa but spent summers with his grandparents outside the town of Mendocino. His résumé includes experience in journalism with Reuters as well as other news agencies and fifteen years overseas, in part spent fostering health care services both in China and India.
Courtney outlined a number of projects that did not get done due to the Board's preoccupation with finding a long term GM. One was the production of a membership newsletter which has been on the table since 2014. The task was taken on by Director Jane Futcher, a writer, who managed to get a newsletter out in December 2015 about the collaborative effort of the KZYX news team with other news agencies in covering the Lake County fires. Unfortunately, due to website difficulties, the newsletter was not widely distributed. Futcher described subsequent delay due to new software installation and training. Input for text is now being sought from staff, membership and Board members. However, no member of the Board volunteered to guide the project. Director Azzaro commented that a volunteer could be recruited that would not necessitate Board participation. Also planned for 2017 is the updating of the station's policies and procedures, long term strategic planning and an overhaul of the website.
Parker outlined several plans to improve the quality of programming including building a steering committee for a community affairs program focused on strategies for local community and economic development. He also sees the need to adopt a standard protocol for program production to keep up with changes in studio technology. Training programs that include certification will be implemented to ensure a high standard for quality and consistency. He places a high priority on cultivating young news gathering talent and intends to provide a collaborative program in community radio news development that will include local and regional partners such as KMUD, the Willits News, the California Report, Capital Public Radio from Sacramento and VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster)—affiliated with North Coast Opportunities, (NCO). Other possible collaborations could include the Coyote Band of Pomo Indians and the Good Farm Fund.
The News team now consists of Sherri Quinn and Jason Morash, the latter recruited from Lake County's print media. Valerie Kim is on maternity leave after the birth of a baby girl. Former road condition and weather announcer, Nina Gerona, has returned to her native state of Colorado. Another program change is the frequency and time change of The Discussion Program which will now be heard weekly on Monday evenings at 7p.m.
The core of Parker's vision for improving station infrastructure is to use emerging technology to upgrade the KZYX&Z signals to be more efficient, redundant and affordable. The need for backup support in operations to provide a depth in expertise of very complex systems has been recognized. A technical operations training program is planned.
During the severe storms of early January, two backup systems failed—the uninterrupted power supply (UPS) and the generator. The former has been replaced and the latter repaired.
Some of the equipment upgrades planned for 2017 include:
* Restoration of broadcast capacity to the Philo production studio * Installation of a production phone system
* New UPS for the Web Streamer, production and main studios.
* Installation of IT systems to better monitor transmissions at the Laughlin Ridge and Cold Spring towers. Outreach and Fundraising
The website will be revamped to include breaking news from both the KZYX news team and NPR as well as station information, current programming schedules and fundraising links.
The station will continue to have three major on air pledge drives a year— the upcoming one scheduled for mid February. KZYX 's first online pledge drive, organized by the Nat'l Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB), brought in $5700 which earned the station a top three ranking out of forty participating stations and a $300 prize bonus. Committee Reports—Election
Director Middlebrook, though absent due to illness, conveyed the information that thus far, one application has been received for the District 3 seat (Willts, Laytonville area) and one for the At- Large seat (in county or contiguous counties). No applications have been received for the District 4 (Fort Bragg and the coast). Applications must be received by January 30th. Unless at least one seat is contested, there is no requirement for an election vote by members. Contact info: 707 895- 2324 during business hours or kzyx@org.
Finance— Due to an influx of Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) funds and income from the Fall Pledge Drive, KZYX has a net income over expenses of $55.6K. The outstanding balance on the line of credit remains at $71.3K and aged payables (program fees and tower rents) are $82.4K. The bank balance is $94.2K which will be used to pay down current bills.
The six month budget revision had to allow for a $30K decrease in projected revenue from the approved July budget. Primary cuts were made in the areas of salaries ($25K), professional services ($2.7K) and auditor approved depreciation deferment ($19K). The revised budget allowed for increases in the areas of banking charges, programming fees and telephone and internet costs for a total of $21K additional expense.
There is uncertainty in regard to the degree of federal funding to be expected under the current Congress. The amount has been decreasing and small stations are planning for the possibility that funding could be eventually eliminated.
Action Item—Approval of Revised Budget
Public Comment—I pointed out that the line item of " other consultants" (the cryptic language in which the station budgets for its news reporters) was missing from the November 2016 income statement. In its place was a figure for staffing, formerly known as Gross Employee Wages. Treasurer Campbell confirmed that the news staff were still independent contractors but their pay was included in the staffing category. I felt it was inappropriate and perhaps illegal to fold them into the staff category as independent contractors are not entitled to the same benefits of health coverage and vacation pay as salaried employees.
It is a little known fact that the News Director was a salaried employee until 2012 when former GM, Coate offered then Director, Brooksher, a proposition he was certain would be refused—a reduction of broadcast time by two thirds with a corresponding demotion to independent contractor status with less pay and no benefits. Even less known is the fact, gleaned from the station's public files that same year, that the FCC had informed Coate that it planned to conduct a random audit of the station's financial records. When Brooksher resigned, the station had less than five full time salaried employees which put it into a category exempt from an FCC audit. Five years later, the hardworking news reporters remain in a second tier limbo which is compounded by the sleight of the pen in playing a shell game of combining two obviously unequal situations into one with the hope that it would go unnoticed. Doing so also denies the public the knowledge of how much the news department costs the station, information the previous GM had freely given. Despite my observation, no member of the Board made a recommendation to amend the revised budget to include the deleted contractor line item. It was approved by unanimous agreement.
Action Item— Approve Jeffrey Parker as permanent Executive Director/General Manager
Public Comment—Several members welcomed Parker as station manager including myself and former Board member, David Hopmann. I felt his experience in working with community groups was an asset.
I objected to the inclusion of Executive Director in the contract as unnecessary as Director Campbell, in the previous Board meeting had stated that the title had no added responsibilities. I informed the Board that I had a copy of the contract that was given to John Coate in which the title was first inserted by then Board President, Hopmann. I thought it unusual that the contract contained no definition of the E. D. title nor any clarification of what parameters the added title entailed. I felt that in the past such looseness of terms had led to assuming power not specified which had the effect of putting past Boards in a compromised position of being a rubber stamp for the GM's decisions rather than fulfill their mandate as elected representatives of the members.
The Board approved Parker as ED/GM by unanimous agreement. CAB Report— Community Advisory Board member, Ellen Saxe felt the CAB could have a more effective relationship with the public, suggesting that consideration be given to having its members refreshed and increased. She stated that recommendations can not be brought to the Board without a vote at a public meeting and that there has not been enough attendance of CAB members at meetings to make that happen. Saxe reported that consistent input from the public emphasized a desire to have more local programs including more local news as well as more two way communication between the listener and the station. She also felt CAB members should be given more respect by the Board, noting that she had first learned of the postponement of the January 2nd meeting through an on air announcement.
Saxe did not include a summary of a CAB meeting held on December 7th in Ukiah which drew seven people including herself and CAB member, Tom Melcher.
Director Middlebrook also attended. The following suggestions are from her notes:
* Advocacy of bilingual apprentice program in collaboration with Mendocino College through a credited course.
* Shows with public officials should be more than one hour to allow for greater public input.
* Create an hour program to be rotated among community members.
* What criteria is used to assess the viability of programs over time?
* Would having a program statute of limitations create more fluidity in programming choices?
* Opposition to having musical 'beds' under weather reports as a public safety issue.
* Have news and weather reports be dated so as to be clear on whether it is current information.
Public Comment — Randy emphasized radio as participatory democracy and wanted more diverse viewpoints and free programs such as WINGS (Women''s Internat'l News Gathering Service). Tim commented that the news had been better in the past when it had more local stories. He added that involvement with the community was a question of whether it was approached passively or aggressively. Wally commented that the county had a lot of sharp people with a feisty lefty hippie viewpoint and wanted balanced programming that reflected alternatives to conservative right wing opinions. Bob Bushansky announced leading a Board Training workshop at the Coast campus of Mendocino College. He, along with Michael Grady and John Allison will teach the skills needed to serve effectively on non profit Boards. The course runs from Feb 6th through May 8th on Monday evenings. I once again read to the Board parts of Section 3 of the Policy Manual that pertains to Board Accountability. "All meetings shall be open to anyone who wishes to attend." Meetings shall be noticed on air and at the main studio at least five days in advance. On Documentation: "Minutes shall be kept of all meetings of the Board and be available to anyone desiring copies" for a nominal fee.
To her credit, Courtney has continued the practice begun in August of attempting to respond to questions and issues raised during public comment. She stated that the reason for not holding open public meetings in 2016 was due to the fact that they all involved personnel discussions.
Courtney has hosted several Committee meetings in the privacy of her home, excluding the public except, of course, her husband, CAB member, Bushansky.
I objected forcefully stating from my experience as a reporter that the correct procedure was to hold a closed session of a public meeting when personnel issues were to be discussed. The meeting ended on an almost comical note with Courtney, her hand poised directly above the friendlier Roberta's Rules of Order with its cover depicting a gavel with the familiar circle and slash line through it, threatening to gavel me. On the other end of the long Board table, Directors Keller and Azzaro urged her on saying "Gavel her"," Do it"!
Sitting in the front row, I pointed to the rule book and said, "You might as well just throw this book out, if you are not going to follow the rules."
Fortunately, a member of the audience, having served on small Boards, affirmed my account of correct procedure and calm prevailed.
Welcome to KZYX, Jeffrey Parker! The next Board meeting will be held in Fort Bragg on March 6th, "most likely" at the Redwood Coast Senior Center. The rotation schedule for Bd. meetings for 2017 was announced as follows: Fort Bragg—Anderson Valley—Point Arena—Ukiah—Willits. Meetings occur on the first Monday of every other month unless otherwise specified.