New Interim General Manager Takes on KPFA

By Judith Scherr
Friday April 14, 2006

The oft-embattled flagship Pacifica radio station, KPFA, seems to be cruising into its 57th birthday—tomorrow, April 15—on relatively calm waters, with fundraising goals met, the last beleaguered-short-lived general manager gone, a permanent executive director at the national level in place and, last week, the appointment of Interim General Manager Lemlem Rijio. 

Rijio calls her new role “a worthy challenge.”  

Born and raised in Ethiopia, with a B.A. from UC Berkeley, Rijio worked in fundraising for socially-conscious organizations before becoming KPFA’s development director about two years ago. 

She’ll continue her role as development director at the same time she takes on the temporary GM job. 

“It’s hard, but it’s very important. I’m honored to have the job for a few months,” said Rijio, who does not plan to toss her name into the hat for the permanent post. 

“I’m sure there is an older and wiser soul that will take on the job,” she said. 

Rijio was among the 15 women accusing former General Manager Roy Campanella II of gender-biased behavior and calling for his removal.  

The station is “a lot calmer now,” Rijio said. “Staff morale is up and tensions seem to be easing up a bit.” 

Rijio said her main focus will be working with staff to create a more harmonious environment. She said she hopes to be a unifying force that will bring the staff together to educate the community for peace and justice “as the founders intended.” 

It was Executive Director Greg Guma’s job to appoint the interim general manager, which he did with input from board members and staff. 

She is “somebody who already understands KPFA and has the respect of the staff,” he said. “The staff likes her and she seems pretty honest and centered.” 

On the other hand, Guma said he’d like to see a “fresh face” in the position of the permanent general manager.  

Like Rijio, Brian Edwards-Tieker, staff representative to the Local Station Board and board treasurer, said the station climate is calmer. 

“Things seem to have settled down. People can focus on work now, more than six months ago,” he said, underscoring that it is too early to assess the interim general manager. 

With tensions waning, Edwards-Ticker said it is the right time for the Local Station Board to focus on projects such as fundraising and community outreach. 

“This work has fallen by the wayside with factional in-fighting,” he said. 

The next task for the board will be selecting finalists for the permanent general manager position. The Pacifica executive director makes the final call. 

“I want someone with radio administration experience,” Edwards-Ticker said, “someone who understands community radio in particular.” 

The individual should understand new technologies such as podcasting and digital. 

Like the others interviewed, LSB Chair Richard Phelps said things appear calmer at the station. “Everything’s in a holding pattern, while we’re busy looking for a new general manager,” he said. 

A member of the search committee, Phelps said this time he hoped they would select someone with media experience, noting the last two general managers lacked that knowledge. The individual should also be good at conflict resolution and able to establish clear rules, so everyone is on an even playing field, he said.  

As the station enters its 58th year, Guma said he was particularly excited about the network coordinator position recently budgeted by the national board. 

That means “taking local programming national,” he said. And developing new programming, which has not been done in years, he said.  

Edwards-Ticker pointed out that the simple existence of KPFA after 57 years is a triumph. 

Even though the station seems “driven by conflict 365 days a year,” he said, its progressive programming remains “something of an example for the rest of the country.” 


Photo: Lemlem Rijio, KPFA’s new 

interm general manager