Sunday, October 8, 2017



Max Wycisk, President of Colorado Public Radio (CPR), announced last week that he is retiring as of June 30, 2018. Wycisk is a member of what I like to call Public Radio’s Greatest Generation – the men and women who built and established what public radio is today.

KCFR HQ 1970

In 1970 Wycisk was a graduate student at Colorado University in Boulder. At around the same time Denver University (DU) had acquired a construction permit for a low-wattage campus station. A friend told Wycisk about a possible part time job at the station. He started as a part time announcer at the new KCFR – the call letters stood for Colorado Free Radio.
Soon, Wycisk was KCFR's program director.

KCFR then was sort of a hippie-dippy affair that rode the counter-culture wave that was prevalent at the time. National Public Radio (NPR) knocked on KCFR’s door in 1973 and convinced Wycisk and others at KCFR to be part of NPR’s new national network. KCFR was one of a couple of dozen stations that broadcast the first edition of All Things Considered that year.

Wycisk worked his way up and became the General Manager of KCFR in 1978. He became recognized as one of public radio’s best, brightest and most innovative leaders. Wycisk served on the board of National Public Radio twice. Observers compared Wycisk to Bill Kling, the leader of Minnesota Public Radio.

Max Wycisk in the mid 1990s

Wycisk became convinced that the best way for KCFR to move forward was to become a community licensee. He led the effort to amicably separate the station from DU in 1984. 

KCFR’s move from being a university licensee to a community licensee would influence other stations to make the same move.

KCFR moved off the DU campus and became a spunky independent organization with big plans to increase service for Colorado. Through the 1980s, KCFR added translators across the state and built KPRN 89.5 FM in Grand Junction, on Colorado’s western slope.

In 1991, the boards of directors for KCFR and KPRN merged to form Colorado Public Radio (CPR). Wycisk and his team built CPR by climbing rung by rung. 

CPR added a NPR News/Talk second program stream on an AM frequency and waited for the right opportunnity to acquire another FM frequency. Classical KVOD 88.1 FM went on the air in 2001. In 2008 CPR purchased an FM signal. Then, KCFR’s NPR News/Talk programming moved back to 90.1 FM.

CPR launched a third program service, OpenAir, a Triple A music station, on AM in 2011. Soon OpenAir moved to KVOQ 102.3 FM where it is today.

Wycisk and CPR have also had disappointments and criticism over the years. Wycisk handled problems with grace and gratitude.

Max Wycisk in 2017
In the press release announcing his retirement next year, Wycisk gave the credit for CPR’s success to others:

“While the world has undoubtedly changed over the past 40 years, CPR’s mission has remained steadfast…The organization is stronger than it’s ever been, a testament to our dedicated staff, the donors who support us and the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on us each and every day.”

Well done, Max.


Last week’s court decision in favor of the Empire State Building started a process that will determine the future, and if there is a future, of Pacifica and WBAI. The $1.8 million dollar judgment (plus legal fees yet to be determined) against Pacifica will likely cause the organization to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Filing for Chapter 11 protection will stop Pacifica’s creditors from trying to collect money until the bankruptcy is resolved.

WBAI’s General Manager Berthold Reimers recently said he had a plan to relocate WBAI’s transmitter to the 48-story Conde Nast building at 4 Times Square [link] but no one is taking this notion seriously. WBAI is known as a deadbeat organization that is constantly surrounded by the stink of self-inflicted controversies. No one will rent to them.

Reimers is coming under increasing scrutiny for his failed management of WBAI. One contributor to a New York radio bulletin board put it this way:

“Much of the blame belongs to Berthold Reimers, which makes his whining and ludicrous rationale all the more idiotic. He should have been fired a long time ago. [Instead, Reimers] reduced [WBAI] to a third-class outlet for racist rants aimed at a small segment of the area's black community.”


I agree with this assessment.  It should also apply to Reimers’ enablers, the people in control of WBAI and Pacifica. They failed to do their due-diligence with Reimers. They allowed him operate WBAI in a manner that was not in the public’s interest.

The board and executive staff of Pacifica are ultimately responsible for this mess. They permitted WBAI and Pacifica to become public media's most embarrassing, dysfunctional and disappointing organization. This will be their legacy.

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