Monday, September 27, 2010
268 / Farewell To The Land Use Report
The management of KUSP Radio has decided to terminate my “Land Use Report," which has been presented as a local "insert" into NPR's "Morning Edition" program for the last nine years.
That placement of the Land Use Report, during "drive time" on Morning Edition, gave land use policy issues a high visibility on KUSP. I very much appreciate having had the opportunity to "spread the word" about the importance of land use policy, and I am going to miss the opportunity to provide these 90-second commentaries. The land use policy decisions we make, at the local government level, are critically important to the economic and environmental future of our local communities, and they have a big impact on whether or not we will accomplish our social equity goals. Without a doubt, our land use decisions do “legislate” the world in which we most immediately live.
The staff person who informed me of the station's decision to terminate the Land Use Report said that KUSP had concluded that a “preponderance of discussion of land use policy is not appropriate throughout so much of our schedule.” From my perspective, a 1.5 minute comment each weekday morning (even if repeated once, as it has been, adding up to 3.0 minutes per weekday morning) is not what I would call a “preponderance” of land use policy programming, appearing “throughout” KUSP’s programming schedule. There have definitely been some other factors at work, too, beyond a concern that the station is giving too much coverage to issues of land use policy.
As I understand the chronology, KUSP's decision to terminate the Land Use Report, and to reduce the visibility of land use policy issues, began with complaints about me. City and/or University representatives have apparently complained about Land Use Reports focusing on UCSC growth and City water policy issues. In addition, and much more specifically, advocates of a proposed Monterey County wildfire protection plan, sponsored by the Monterey County Fire Safe Council (the President of which group serves as the Vice President of the KUSP Board of Directors), apparently came to a KUSP Board meeting and complained that I had made misstatements about the plan, and demanded that I be removed from the air.
Surprisingly, I was never informed of the complaints, or allowed to respond to them, but the station did investigate the complaints independently, and concluded that no actual misstatements were made. I also provided "transparency" statements on the air, at the request of the station, to document my employment related relationships with both the UCSC/City water and growth issue and the wildfire protection plan issue.
Decisions about what sort of programming to feature on the station, and when and where to feature it, are absolutely the prerogative of the station management, and I do wish KUSP well with its replacement programming. From what I have been told, there will be a staff-produced feature discussing land use, but it won't be daily, and it won't appear during "drive time" and Morning Edition. To me, that sends a pretty clear message that station management doesn't think that citizen involvement in land use issues should be as “high profile,” or as “big a deal” as KUSP has implicitly indicated they were in the past, by running the Land Use Report so prominently each weekday morning. Since I do think land use policy is a "big deal," vital to our future, I'm sorry to see the station head in the opposite direction.
In addition, to the extent the station cares about this (and I think it ought to), the facts here send a message that someone who doesn’t like a particular programmer, or something that the programmer said on KUSP, may be able to get the station to remove the programmer, or to change the station’s programming mix, by making loud complaints to the Board, the Station Manager, or other staff (even if the complaints turn out to be unjustified). In this case, complaints about my supposed "misstatements" were not only successful in having me removed personally as a programmer, they are going to result in a new programming mix that puts less emphasis on land use policy. While those who complained got to play a role in the decision making process that has resulted in the termination of the Land Use Report, I didn't have a chance to participate in that process, nor were listeners ever consulted, to see what they thought.
To my mind, this is probably not a good message to send, if you are trying to protect the station’s editorial independence.