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Strike ends, rebuilding network next task for radio news reporters

By Devona Walker, Daily Planet Staff
Monday April 01, 2002

Goliath has officially cried uncle. 

The 26-month-old strike against Pacifica Network by many of its news staff is over.  

And now with two of the most visible protesters against the network, former news director Dan Caughlin and former anchor Verna Avery Brown nestled comfortably into the helm of Executive Director and Deputy Director of the network, journalist say it is time to revive the financially-strapped network and move on.. 

“This all began in January of 2000 when Dan Caughlin ran a 30 second story about the protest and he was basically fired, and we all walked out in support,” said Vanessa Tait, unpaid news staff for KPFA, a Pacifica owned radio station here in Berkeley. “ 

Tait said the protest and strike that began with 40 grew to 150 and many Pacifica affiliates pulled out on the network. 

“Now we’re not on strike — so we are trying to keep this great grass roots program on the air,” she added speaking of the Free Speech Radio Network, a news program founded by the journalist during the strike.  


FSRN has effectively replaced the Pacifica Network News which was cut about a month ago for budgetary reasons. 

But some might ask how does one go about reviving a beast that took more than two years to slay and has bled more than $5 million worth of debt — largely contributed to the former board of the network. 

According to Tait the support has already started to come in from member stations, like KPFA, who have been pleased with FSRN as a decentralized grass roots alternative to PNN. 

One of the early issues that arose at Pacifica was the more mainstream approach of PNN. During the strike the radio journalist were in fact reportedly replaced by Feature Stories News and the same reports going out on air were being broadcast on FOX and ABC. 

“KPFA has been very supportive. They are basically fund raising for us — and it’s been great because the popularity of Free Speech Radio helps them to raise funds,” Tait said. 

According to a prepared statement released by Pacifica, the network has agreed to recognize the journalists as being a vital part of the success of the network and they have also pledged to never censor news reports again. “Censorship, firings and bannings had become a way of life at a network nicknamed ‘the voice of the voiceless,’ ” the report stated. 

“With all of the problems with Pacifica Network News, we found FSRN the only real option in terms of a progressive national newscast,” said Denise Manzari, news director at Pacifica affiliate WPKN in Bridgeport, Connecticut. 

“When the Pacifica freelancers went on strike, we were afraid their voices would be silenced. But with FSRN came the opportunity to air these reporters again, and we’ve been really happy to carry it.” 

The financial strives of Pacifica may take a while to put a dent into the $5 million debt but according to Tait there has already been a great amount of improvement in the quality of the news broadcast — but she admits that she is not the most objective judge. 

“I think we’re doing a pretty good job,” Tait said. “It’s just so much better and the reason it is so much better is that we are going more extensive in-depth grass roots coverage of peace and justice issues around the world.”