Public Comment

Journalism, Ethics, and the KPFA Board Election

By Don Goldmacher
Tuesday September 28, 2010 - 11:48:00 AM

KPFA Radio, America's first listener-sponsored station, has an impressive history of groundbreaking journalism. Throughout its 61 years, the station has been justly famous for hard-nosed reporting, award-winning radio documentaries, cutting edge and wide ranging music, and coverage of some of the key events of our time—whether Iran Contra or the Iraq War.  

It has also been no stranger to conflict. The conflict that besets the station today, however, could remake KPFA into something quite different than listeners have come to depend upon for decades. The outcome of the current local station board election will determine what the station will look like a year from now. And it will determine whether the KPFA programs that listeners tune into in the greatest numbers will remain at all—programs like Letters to Washington, Against the Grain, and even the Morning Show. 

The slate that I am part of, SaveKPFA, believes that in a moment when professional reporting has become an endangered species in America, KPFA should set the standard for critical, ethical journalism. Consistently high quality programming takes labor and resources, as well as a commitment to fairness, accuracy, and a willingness to ferret out the truth. Radical journalism is ethical journalism. 

Our opponents revile professional journalism and openly have stated that they would like to get rid of the unionized staff at KPFA. They have long argued for a mainly volunteer station, where the door is wide open to 9/11 “truthers” of all stripes, Lyndon LaRouchites, and those who argue the government is spraying “chemtrails” on the U.S. population as a form of mind control. (Their allies have called for an investigation of Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman to find out if she is taking CIA money to cover up 9/11 “truth.”) The economic crisis of the past several years, which has hurt KPFA along with media outlets everywhere, has provided an opportunity for these people to bring their own brand of austerity to KPFA. Ethics and high quality journalism be damned. 

These two sides’ differing approaches to ethics in journalism can perhaps be best illustrated by a few examples involving the leader of the Independents for Community Radio slate, which is running against my slate. Tracy Rosenberg has used all candidate forums and on air spots to point out that she is executive director of Media Alliance, an organization whose stated mission is to promote “diverse, accountable and ethical media.” She has also been using Media Alliance's e-newsletter and postal permit to promote her own candidacy. Unfortunately for Media Alliance, it is against the law for the director of a non-profit to use its resources for personal gain. That’s a very serious matter for a 501c3 non-profit. The members of Media Alliance, as well as KPFA, deserve better. 

Last month in the Huffington Post, Rosenberg published an article in which she attacked the slate that I am running with, SaveKPFA. In a story on the lack of truthfulness in journalism, she inaccurately accused the slate’s members of circulating misleading information about an event they were holding. Bizarrely, what Ms Rosenberg neglected to disclose in her piece on media ethics was that she is, in fact, a candidate running against the folks that she assailed. In other words, she failed to reveal her personal interest in having these candidates lose—an enormous breach of journalistic ethics. 

If these breaches were not astounding enough, Rosenberg bought a website with our slate's domain name and deceptively posted an endorsement for her own slate on it. When challenged, she said that we might be able to get the domain name--if we named a price. This unethical practice, of extracting ransom money for a domain name, was the recent subject of a NY Times article and is called “cybersquatting.” Needless to say, we refused to bow to such extortion. 

KPFA listeners need to ask themselves whether they would entrust the station’s governance to people with such a flagrant disregard for ethics. 

If you support professional journalism, radical and progressive politics, and basic media ethics, I urge to you check out our website,, and vote for those running with me on the SaveKPFA slate. Our endorsers include Norman Solomon, Raj Patel, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Pratap Chatterjee, Carlos Munoz, Ignacio Chapela, and Jello Biafra. 

The SaveKPFA candidates are Matthew Hallinan, Margy Wilkinson, Suzi Goldmacher, Mal Bernstein, Terry Doran, Mark Hernandez, Dave Saldana, Jack Kurzweil, Tanya Russell, and Don Goldmacher.