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Local Politics Kills Another Salem OR IOPS Project

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By Sarah Owens


Originally posted January 30, 2018 in CANDO Archive under the title "KMUZ Politics Trumps Programming.")


Bill Smaldone, the president of the board of Salem's community radio station, KMUZ (100.7 FM in Salem), "confirmed" recently that the Willamette Wake Up Tuesday team was not fired because of the absent mayor segment, which he referred to as the "encounter with the Mayor." 

Smaldone was speaking at the December 8 meeting of the Salem Chapter of the International Organization for a Participatory Society (IOPS), which he founded in 2012.

Willamette Wake Up Tuesday hosts Michael Livingston and Sara Cromwell, and yours truly are also members of the Salem IOPS Chapter, aka Socialist Friends of KMUZ.   The group donated on average about $400/year to KMUZ in the form of challenge grants.  Smaldone said that, as a result of the firing, he would not be attending any more meetings. 

No reason was given for firing the Willamette Wake Up Tuesday team, but it came just three days after the absent mayor segment aired.  It was reported here and in Salem Reporter.  See Brynelson, T. "Community radio hosts fired following interview with absent mayor."  (13 November 2018, Salem Reporter.) (quoting Ken Adams as saying the team were not "good team players" and “There’s been problems in the past. They haven’t been very communicative, and that was one of the reasons we (felt), in the past, that if we brought things up, they would not listen.”)

The absent mayor segment, the audio file of which is linked in a blog post by Livingston titled "The Radio Days", consisted of Livingston asking Mayor Chuck Bennett questions about the faltering sobering center project and the City's Homeless Rental Assistance Program, without the mayor present.   

Normally, Bennett would have been in the studio.  For more than a year, he had appeared on the first Tuesday of the month, but in October, his executive assistant emailed Livingston saying,  "Mayor Bennett determined that he will not be participating in tomorrow’s show. He suggested that you meet for coffee at some point in the near future to determine his future involvement." According to Salem Reporter, Mayor Bennett felt that the Tuesday team "had veered from its goal of talking about all city issues and instead focused on homelessness."  Salem Reporter quoted him as saying, “One of the biggest issues is homelessness. It’s not the only issue. And we seem to have gotten into a one-note discussion.”

During his appearances on the show in August and September, Bennett seemed to have no problem  fielding questions about the recommendations of the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force, which had had just completed six months' work on August 1.  He was also asked about the Corps of Engineers’ proposal to construct fish protection structures at Detroit Dam and the changes to the State Street Corridor Plan proposed by Councilor Kaser.

What Bennett didn't care for, apparently, was the CANDO Archive blog posts about the interviews, which he referred to during the September show as "transcripts", saying he needed to "have written notes in front me if you're going to be writing transcripts."  See "Mayor Mulls Dtown Hless Recs" and "City Homeless Role Unclear." Despite repeated promises over several months to meet Livingston and me for coffee, Bennett did not follow through.  Then the email from his assistant, quoted above.  Livingston asked Bennett by email, "Chuck, Is that about the blog, or something else?", Bennett didn't respond.  That's when Livingston decided to ask his questions through the airwaves. Smaldone told the Salem IOPS Chapter that Ken Adams, who co-chairs the station's "Operations Team" with Pamela Kelly, did not have authority to speak for the station when he told Salem Reporter that the Tuesday team was "not communicative" and were "rarely 'good team players'."  Smaldone could not, however, explain the reason for the firing.  He suggested that the team might have been fired for not attending "all DJ meetings" and the perception that the team just did what it wanted to do.

When I reminded Smaldone that the Willamette Wake Up interim operating agreement adopted by the Program Review Committee in August of 2016 had made each day's team responsible for its own programming decisions and directed that, otherwise, everyone should "tend their own knitting" or go through the Executive Producer, Dave Hammock, he had no response.

Smaldone said he was not present when the board made its decision, but when it was explained to him, he agreed with it, based on his experience in the Salem United project, which he said Livingston and I had caused to fail five years ago.  See Bucklin, B. "Gardening in the Asphalt." (23 November 2013.) (Interview concerning the end of Salem United, which is referred to pseudonymously as the Nehalem Progressive Alliance.)  He admitted not having spoken to us about Salem United or "team player" perceptions, despite our being together at numerous Chapter meetings and other events over several years.  He also said he had not himself found us to be "unapproachable."

Salem United began in March 2013 and dissolved by a majority vote in November 2013.  See here. It was Smaldone who suggested that Cromwell, Livingston and I join Salem United.  Likewise, volunteering at KMUZ was his idea.  Both Smaldone and Cromwell stopped attending Salem United meetings weeks if not months before the group voted to dissolve.  Smaldone didn't say why he thought Livingston and I were uniquely responsible for Salem United's failure, or what it had to do with Willamette Wake Up.

"All DJ meetings" were held once or twice a year before pledge drives.  Livingston says he let Pam Kelly know when he couldn't attend and watched the video when one was available.  The show always aired pledge drive announcements and never received any complaints.  Not since the fall of 2016 had anyone called a meeting of the Willamette Wake Up team.  As recounted in Livingston's "The Radio Days", the week before the firing, Melanie Zermer, who at some point succeeded Dave Hammock as Willamette Wake Up's Executive Producer, wrote the Tuesday team to say that "starting in January, Salem City Watch will be a sponsor of Tuesday WWU for 2019.  Thanks for the great programming you all provide."  The week before that, Adams had written to Livingston and Cromwell to thank them for "continued coverage of the Homeless Issue."  No complaints, no warnings, no hint of a problem with "the station." 

The decision to fire the Willamette Wake Up team was precipitous, without warning, and with no plan for how to fill the Tuesday slot, or to notify people lined up to appear on the Tuesday show.  Livingston wasn't even allowed to post the podcast of the excellent interview with Troy Gulstrom that also aired on November 6. 

In the days after the firing, Zermer responded to letters of concern from the community by saying "The KMUZ governing board reserves the right to terminate a show if it no longer serves the interest of the station."  Salem Reporter recently quoted her as saying, “I think it’s important that the community is able to report on itself, talk about itself,” she said. “I think it’s more genuine and gets more people engaged.”  See Brynelson, T. "Radio producer provides venue for community issues."  28 December 2018, Salem Reporter.)

Whatever it might mean for a community to "report on itself", it apparently doesn't include asking mildly tough questions of government officials.  If the replacement Willamette Wake Up Tuesday segment is any indication, it consists of hastily thrown together community events coverage and friendly chats with, as Adams put it, "people who come up and talk to her [Zermer] about things people need to be aware of."        

It's curious that "the station" can't just admit that the Willamette Wake Up Tuesday team was fired over the absent mayor segment because it didn't fit "the station's" milk toasty sensibilities as to what is appropriate for good community radio.  But, give "the station" credit for knowing the decision couldn't be justified to anyone outside the KMUZ cabal.

KMUZ: petty politics over quality programming.  Not my community radio.

Discussion 16 Comments

  • Boulder Dash 10th Feb 2019

    Into the buzzsaw!!! So it extends all the way into community radio. Who would have thought?

    So a still functioning IOPS chapter. You guys should really post your meetings on the home page. At least sometimes. Now and then. Show a pulse. Ok, maybe not. Stick to the local post. Keep your reputation as normal rational social activists at arms length from the plethora of complete nonsense, well, I can only talk about myself, that I post on the home page. Talk about the church of the subgenius!

    You the only chapter still functioning?

    • Boulder Dash 11th Feb 2019

      “But, like most of the contributors to "Into the Buzzsaw," he did his job too well and the powers that be hurled him onto the other side of the looking glass. "And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been," he writes. "The reason I'd enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn't been, as I'd assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job ... The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn't written anything important enough to suppress."”


  • Sarah Owens 11th Feb 2019

    Oh cool, we have a reputation. You want like meeting notices? or the notes on meetings? Can't believe you haven't taken over site-wide admin role. Or broken in at least. Lambert lost his touch?

    • Boulder Dash 11th Feb 2019

      Yeah, bit presumptuous. More like a low profile which is probably better to keep as Dustin Hoffman suggested to his son in Accidental Hero. Couldn’t think of anything worse having a role here, nor have the capabilities to break in, but Irie probably could so I vote he take over....as far as Lambert goes, I shot off an email to inquire as to his state of being. It is odd he hasn’t at least chimed in once, even with a quip, but it has been rather insane on the home page, like a YouTube channel, since Irie fired this place up again.

    • Boulder Dash 11th Feb 2019

      As to meeting notices or notes on meetings, perhaps not. But perhaps a blog or two about the radio program or even Michael’s own website and activities or writings. Here and there. At least until the money runs out for this site...

    • Alex of... 12th Feb 2019

      hmm.. noted in my NOTES, not really sure what IS the current FINANCIAL STATUS 'round here. 2 years ago, was almost out. plus, not sure why the hosting plan is that much. you have some different info on that? i've not asked around directly.


      "Currently the little money we have left is still with Jason Chaplin. Based on an update of six months ago, we will have until the 2nd of April until we have run out of sufficient funds. There will then be around 44 dollars left. We will need around 41 dollars extra to cover expenses for the rest of April (monthly payments for the hosting is 84,64 dollars)."


    • Boulder Dash 12th Feb 2019

      No, no info on it. Just know it will run out eventually. So it seems a month and a half it is.

    • Alex of... 12th Feb 2019

      a month and a half from FEB 2017. so, who has been paying? (that is the question at least)

    • Boulder Dash 13th Feb 2019


      The Salem Chapter????

      Joe Rogan?????

    • Boulder Dash 13th Feb 2019

      The Church of the Sub Genius?

    • Boulder Dash 13th Feb 2019

      William Buffett?


      The Intellectual-it’s just a joke name-Dark Web?

      Michael Albert?

    • Irie Zen 14th Feb 2019

      The National Security Agency?
      The Department of Homeland Security?


  • Dave Jones 11th Feb 2019

    The same core group that was an IOPS chapter still meets weekly here in Montana. We fell back on our original name, Zootown Zapatistas, but still informed by Participatory principles. Still promote the concept. We were actually invited to produce a show on local radio, but never pulled it off. We could have been Chapo trap House, except we aren't punchy enough.

    by the way, I am ordained by the Church of the Sub-Genius and available for weddings, invocations, blessings, rites and passages. Sliding scale.

    • Boulder Dash 12th Feb 2019

      In the words of British comedian Noel Fielding, genius.

    • Bat Chainpuller 13th Feb 2019


    • Michael Livingston 6th Apr 2019

      As you can tell from our local chapter postings, we meet about every 6 weeks, or so, but, with the exception of the absent professor story in blog above) we're the same core group. One of many positive consequences of our being fired from the radio station is that we've created our own website where we podcast our interviews: https://midvalleycast.com/ Our "revolutionary" activities consist, primarily, of rational discourse in our blogs and podcasts and running our community garden. As Mark Twain said: “It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”