Monday, July 22, 2019


Grace Aaron controls the fate of Pacifica

During a meeting of the Pacifica National Board (PNB) on Thursday evening, July 18th, board member Grace Aaron announced that Maxie Jackson had resigned as Executive Director of the organization. 

Aaron also announced that she was now in charge of Pacifica as the interim Executive Director. 

No one on the Board made any comment or asked why this was happening. Perhaps they already knew.

Roughly thirteen minutes into the board meeting, Aaron read this 45-second scripted statement:

“Maxie Jackson III resigned from the position of Pacifica Executive Director effective July 5, 2019. The Foundation wishes him the very best in his future endeavors.”

“The Pacifica Foundation is in the process of hiring a highly qualified radio television and multimedia professional to hold the interim position of Executive Director. More information will be forthcoming.”

“A formal search for permanent executive director is already in progress.”

“By California law the board chair automatically assumes the position of temporary Executive Director if no other Executive Director has been engaged.”

“Therefore, please direct pertinent correspondence to me as I will be acting in the capacity of temporary executive director.”[our emphasis added]

The change felt more like a takeover than a transition. Jackson was hired as Pacifica’s Executive Director only nine months ago. During the past nine months, Aaron had been a devoted critic of Jackson.

The change is yet another indication of turmoil within Pacifica, once one of the most influential public radio groups in the U.S. There have been five interim or “permanent” Executive Directors in the past four years.

Maxie Jackson
By all accounts, Jackson’s tenure as Executive Director had been troubled and contentious from the start. Jackson took the job after a lengthy national search by Livingston & Associates.

In February 2019, we reported [link] that Jackson was in the process of dealing with Pacifica’s core problems. At a meeting of the PNB on January 31, 2019 he told the board about conversations he had with officials of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) the reasons CPB will not provide funds to the Pacifica Foundation:

Jackson: “Pacifica is over governed. That there is too much governing structure involved. I think everyone on this call knows the exorbitant amount of money for these elections.”

The elections Jackson was referring to are at the heart of Pacifica’s problems. Members elect other members to serve on various committees and boards. The groups make decisions, large and small, for the entire organization.

The results of this arcane system include operational paralysis, dithering, the lack of accountability and endless backstabbing. Plus, most of the people on the boards and committees have no experience in broadcasting, management or public media.

Jackson also told the PNB at the January 2019 meeting that there is a disconnection between the board and the people who operate the stations:

Jackson: The tragedy is that, when I go around to the stations and talk with the staff, I have yet to meet a person who says the board serves them in any way that is productive.

Jackson told the PNB that Pacifica’s governance system causes a lack of fiduciary responsibility:

Jackson: “One thing that is abundantly clear is that we have a lack of skilled and qualified personnel in many of our shops handling business management. We have a track record of poor financial management at the station level. If you go and look at the CPB documents as far back as 2012 [it] is really clear in the report is that all five stations mismanaged their reporting of their finances.

Jackson said Pacifica must change its system of governance. He said Pacifica must end the "governing" boards and committees and turn them into advisory groups. Plus, he said the place should be run like a nonprofit business

This was a tough pill for Aaron and her associates to swallow. Jackson’s candor may have cost him his job.  Now Aaron is in charge of Pacifica.

Aaron has been a part of Pacifica for many years. She has a long association with KPFK in Los Angeles. She was a member of the PNB from 2008 until 2016. Aaron returned to the PNB last year.

KEN SAYS: The key phrase in the “dismissal” of Maxie Jackson is when Grace Aaron says:

“Therefore, please direct pertinent correspondence to me as I will be acting in the capacity of temporary executive director.”

She has the power she always has wanted. Perhaps she should be careful about what she wishes for.

Pacifica's trend line points  directly at DOA. 

The organization owes millions of dollars. Listening and member support are at all time low points. Aaron has alienated almost anyone who could help turn it around.

Will Grace Aaron be forever known as person who killed Pacifica?


  1. I wrote this about a month ago. Maxie did not create these problems:

    KPFK and Pacifica: Update 2019

    I remember listening to one of their streamed meetings where Maxie told the board: "A programmer said to me, 'I don't have to listen to you. I have friends on the board.'"

    Despite Pacifica's demonstrably failing operations, the board seems to be confident they're actually geniuses and everyone else is just wrong.

    Correction: Aaron was on KPFK's board from 2003-2009 where she rose to iED for her last nine months and returned in 2015. She did not distinguish herself with good decisions the first time around. By my count Grace is the 10th ED or iED since 2014. If, in fact, they bring in another outsider to be a sock puppet, er, iED he will be the 11th and is sure to have been vetted for his ability to be micromanaged by the board with a smile.

    - Kim Kaufman

  2. 1 of 2
    Most of the Th18July Grace Aaron statement that you carry at the top of your article, & published in your Friday piece, re-appeared on Pacifica's homepage, in a statement dated Sa20July.

    'Most' because there was crucial new info: "[t]he PNB has agreed to hire a media professional as interim Executive Director. His name will be made public when the contract between him and the Pacifica Foundation has been fully executed". Executed. Ms Aaron just couldn't stop the non-conscious word association, the effervescence, here spilling out as ink onto the page – red ink.

    The speed of this new appointment process shows two things. First, the successor was already chosen. Second, the Pacifica National Board is much more politically homogeneous than a year ago: nothing has replaced the largely timed-out group spearheaded by Casenave-Diaz-Heerwagen-Lark. For quite a few months, ED Tom Livingston had used his recruitment firm to do an ED search, placing Maxie on a shortlist. Why bother to replicate that when it's obvious who's best for the job?

    The Saturday statement was another missed opportunity to *explain* why Maxie Jackson left. The PNB majority, even with upcoming elections, feel so impregnable that they act as unaccountable to no-one, least of all to Pacifica listeners & Pacifica staff, least of all to Pacifica members. Their arrogance & contempt seems to know no bounds. In their view, all that listeners are good for is to be milked for cash.

    Crucially, what Maxie Jackson stumbled into wasn't just a vipers' nest but *the politics of technique*. In the case of Pacifica there were two main expressions, one ordinary, the other extraordinary: how to diffuse technical competence within an organisation; how to tailor technique to valued peculiarities of Pacifica. Maxie came across far too often, abstractly, as a management consultant, &, concretely, as an agent of NPR-lite. That's what happens when a technician speaks to those who fundamentally fear what they're hearing. Even in a communications industry, communication is less about what one says than how one is heard.

    For far too many Pacificans the messenger was an interloper, a foreign body, an ideologue of the 'soft' MSM, the mainstream media of NPR, of MSNBC, of CNN on a pinko day. Morning Maxie would have brought in strip programming, kicking the quiltpatch programming out of the Pacifica playpen. That cherished one hour a week would have been liquidised into a predictable thematic schedule, perhaps even standardised across the five-station network, promoting the Pacifica brand, not the station. This was revolution – & Maxie is no Sanderista Bernie Bro. The messenger had to go.

  3. 2 of 2
    Technique. Technical competence is the basis of substantively rational human organisation, of the attempt to satisfy needs & perceived wants. Ends are one thing, but the means have to be not just compatible but efficacious. It means that what one wants to achieve politically can only spring rationally from sound foundations. Maxie was fully aware of this, as illustrated by the final words of his presentation to the KPFK Local Station Board, in LA, Su23June, his very last LSB recording. Remember, nine days later he supposedly resigned: bunkum. No, he was ousted:

    "[b]est practices need not keep you from your mission, OK. Just because we employ best practices does not mean we can't be the most radical, progressive, liberal, whatever you want to call yourself, content creators in the system. It just means that we're applying proven methods to attract audience & keep 'em." (2:34:56,

    By contrast, far too many in Pacifica, & throughout the so-called left, fail to understand this. They fail to understand not just the utility but the *necessity* for competence, even expertise – and that this requires a great deal of learning, of effort, of dedication. A requirement is that one is aware of one's lack, of one's ignorance. It requires humility.

    Maxie had been misunderstood. There is a fundamental difference between a technocratic approach & a technical one: the first is a mode of ruling, the second is competent performance & its enabling conditions. Unfortunately, all too often it is those who haven't *mastered* an organised set of skills, a competence, who fail to recognise what is lacking in current endeavours. Ignorance is bliss. Pervasive wishful thinking only helps those who have brought us all to this place, it protects them from justifiable criticism of their irresponsibility.

    But far too many incumbents resent the suggestion that they need to improve, to change their ways. And as the tensions intensify within the organisation, rather than face reality, rather than engage with the pain of change, it's always much easier to get rid of the irritant, to get rid of the messenger.

    The ousting of Maxie is a tragedy for Pacifica, a tragedy very few are aware of.

    Finally, note that 'interim', interim ED, interim CFO, is meaningless in PacificaWorld. As Eugen Leviné said in a different context, at his final trial in Munich, "wir Kommunisten sind alle Tote auf Urlaub", 'dead men walking'. ('Auf Urlaub', 'on holiday' as the martial 'on leave'.)

  4. Is this the same Kim Kaufman removed by the Pacifica board for malfeasance or somesuch?

  5. Ahhh, here comes Pacifica's favorite pastime... character assassination... from a Mr. Anonymous who won't leave his/her name. The somesuch was whistleblowing to the CA AG - and the malfeasance was theirs. But: votes are votes and that's all they need. Purging, harassing, censuring board members who won't be obedient or quiet is sport for the dominant faction at Pacifica - whichever faction it is. I've called out both factions for their incompetence or willful malfeasance over the years. Documenting the decline of Pacifica embarrasses those decision makers in power and, I get it, nobody likes that.

    Do you have any factual issues with my article, Mr. Anonymous? Please state, if so.

    - Kim Kaufman

  6. My question is: why do these people still have FCC licenses? Isn't there some rule or regulation somewhere that rampant, high-level mismanagement is punishable by revocation of privileges (ie: licenses)? I think I'd rather see some religious satellator group own these stations than the firetrap that is Pacifica.