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Inside KEET



As a KEET volunteer of over 15 years and employee for just under three years, I read your article ("KEET at the Crossroads," June 20) with interest. I left the station in October of 2012 under circumstances which were both puzzling and sad. I loved my job at KEET. Probably too much for my own good. So what I am about to relate could be characterized as sour grapes.

That said, I am a true believer in the station and in public broadcasting. However, going from volunteer to employee was an eye-opening experience. Senior staff seemed more focused on running out the clock than advancing KEET's mission. In my opinion, KEET's leadership almost completely lacked (and lacks) the energy, motivation and insight for the many challenges ahead. Leaders at KEET have adopted a deer-in-the-headlights approach to the onrushing media sea change and financial crunch. With predictable results.

Mr. Schoenherr pegged Corporation for Public Broadcasting support at 46 percent in a February 2011 San Francisco Chronicle article. Perhaps the one-time gift of $200,000 has brought that down to one-third of the annual 2012 budget, the amount he mentions in your article. But this is an event not likely to be repeated and not a basis for a solid financial future. He says a merger is unlikely. He doesn't say that the station may have very little choice in the matter.

Even more troubling, it seemed very much like the people who cared the most were treated the worst. Many of us joked about "working on the plantation." That was very much the prevailing attitude of superiors. Staff meetings were rarely held. When they were, the word was often put out beforehand that certain topics were off the table. New ideas were discouraged or given short-shrift. Fundraising goals were never openly stated and presumably never met. With the possible exception of the two most high-profile events, the director of development and the general manager were rarely present at fundraising activities. For such a small station, all hands must be on deck to be effective. This was almost never the case, in my experience.

A callous disregard also extended to station volunteers. Certain long-time volunteers and community members were deemed "unsuitable" and simply never asked back to fundraising events. Others were more directly disrespected and devalued. As a result, it became difficult to recruit them for fundraising activities. This led to the curtailing of the twice-yearly local pledge nights — down from seven to 10 days in the past to as little as three days today. It was decided that it was simply easier (less work) to put up the national fundraising feeds than to find and schedule community members. This was a crucial misstep. The station was simply left to the mercy of government for major support, making the least effort possible to be involved in or relevant to the community it supposedly serves.

The station's local productions were (and continue to be) among its bright spots. But even these were a challenge to mount as senior staff seemed openly hostile to them. I was told by the station's engineer that they were "more trouble than they are worth." In one case, the former outreach director was reprimanded for buying food for the hardworking volunteer crew of North Coast Sessions. Yes, some great local television got made — of which the station can be very proud. But only in spite of itself.

Also plaguing the station was (and is) a singular lack of oversight. I found KEET's board of directors to be both lazy and inattentive, meeting once a month to swallow wholesale whatever platitudes were served up by senior staff. They set fundraising goals which they did not meet and which once unmet were simply abandoned. The board did not behave like a body charged with making hard decisions. There is no better evidence of its poor stewardship than the mess the station finds itself in now.

Even so, I would urge your readers to continue to support KEET. It is a treasured resource and one that would be sorely missed. However, such support should be made conditional on the replacement of KEET's tired leadership and the deadwood on its board. KEET needs people who are ready, willing and able to it into the future. Otherwise, it seems unlikely there will be one.


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