Monday, July 9, 2018


Leonard Lapote at WNYC
A friend in need is a friend indeed, sums up the radio marriage between Leonard Lapote and WBAI. Lapote has been looking for a way to get back on New York radio since being turfed and escorted to the door at WNYC in December 2017 amid allegations of inappropriate conduct (which he denies). WBAI wants to change the subject from its questionable management and financial irresponsibility.

According to the Facebook page WNYC: Bring Back Leonard Lopate [link], Lopate will begin a new Monday – Friday talk and interview show on WBAI on Monday, July 16th. Leonard Lopate at Large will be airing daily from 1:00pm – 2:00pm. The show will also be available as a podcast.

Lopate is a bankable host with over 40 years on New York radio, particularly at WNYC AM/FM where he became a city legend. He has won numerous awards for his interviews of philosophers, scientists, artists, journalists, economists, farmers, musicians, historians, authors and politicians.

The new gig brings Lopate back to WBAI, the station where he began his radio career in 1977. Lapote says his first guest on the July 16th will be New York Times veteran journalist Clyde Haberman.

KEN SAYS: Both Lapote and WBAI should benefit from this arrangement. However, it is important to keep Lapote’s move in context.

WBAI is hoping that WNYC listeners will hold their noses about Lapote’s alleged misbehavior and flock to 99.5 FM.  Of course there will be curiosity when Leonard Lopate at Large debuts. But WBAI is no WNYC.

According to Nielsen Audio, WNYC-FM had 942,500 estimated weekly listeners in May 2018, the largest noncommercial radio audience in America. WBAI hasn’t subscribed to the Nielsen ratings for years but is thought to have fewer than 20,000 weekly listeners.

At WNYC, Lopate had the benefit of being part of schedule of very popular programs. A lot of people heard him simply because he was on WNYC. 

At WBAI Lapote’s lead-in will be The Gary Null Show, a conspiracy-theory daily rant by a pill and potion pusher. In addition to his questionable ethics, Null’s show sounds awful. So Lapote will need to build an actual audience on his own.


Katie Whiteside (courtesy of 
Kevin Hoover, Mad River Union)
In late June KHSU’s Community Advisory Board urged Humboldt State University, licensee of KHSU, to part ways with its General Manager Peter Fretwell. The Board’s action was another public display of the anger KHSU supporters have expressed about Fretwell’s management decisions, particularly the dismissal popular PD and Ops Manager Katie Whiteside. (See our previous coverage of this story here.)

According to a local press report [link], the Community Board sent a letter to university leaders asking them to terminate Fretwell. 

The letter said, in part:

“Members of the public, the community of listeners who engage daily with KHSU and those who support KHSU have spoken loudly, repeatedly, and with great passion with regard to their concerns, the strained relationship between Humboldt State University and KHSU, and their lack of confidence in the KHSU General Manager...and respectfully requests his termination.”

There is a troubling lack of transparency from HSU with regard to community relations in regard to KHSU. The community hopes that HSU understands how important KHSU is to all of us. The listeners and volunteers, in partnership with HSU, have kept KHSU vibrantly alive for over fifty years. Many of us are HSU alumni and consider KHSU to be our most important link to HSU.

General Manager Peter Fretwell
The KHSU Community Advisory Board has no legal standing in this dispute.  Only Humboldt State University can make a change in an employee’s status. So far, the university has not taken any action except for a public apology for their poor handing of the situation. Fretwell and Whiteside has made no public statements, perhaps a sign there are lawyers involved.

However, the Community Board’s action certainly increases the pressure on the university and Fretwell.  Eureka/Arcata is a small town where public officials are on a first name basis with constituents.

Folks protesting Fretwell’s actions, particularly the firing of Whiteside, seem determined to keep the pressure on the university administration.  Already the situation has hurt KHSU’s fundraising.  The most recent pledge drive was cancelled. KHSU’s biggest local donor has pulled their support.

Perhaps the most telling message about the impact inside KHSU came in a recent letter to the editor from a Fretwell supporter who is still employed at KHSU:

“I am responding to recent letter to your paper asking that KHSU members and underwriters withdraw their financial contributions to the station to force the re-employment of Katie Whiteside and the firing of the General Manager Peter Fretwell.”

“I say: Please do not do that.”

“I can't believe that Katie would want the financial stability of the station to be jeopardized by her departure. [Katie’s] friends and co-workers whose employment could be compromised with significant reductions in station revenues and support.”

“Personnel matters are confidential and the KHSU public may never know the circumstances surrounding her departure. Please do not cause short and long term harm to KHSU by withdrawing your support.”

No comments:

Post a Comment