Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Topic: Alan Chartock and control of WAMC's annual $6 million coffers: When is bilking not bilking?

New York's newspapers have reported extensively on how State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has charged former New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso with bilking the not-for-profit NYSE. Understandably, the general public (and numerous editorial pages) have also been outraged that NYSE's Board of Directors could let Grasso get away for years with such patently outrageous compensation from a non-profit.

Other than the size of the actual paycheck, how is Alan Chartock's bilking of not-for-profit WAMC Northeast Public Radio's coffers any different than Mr. Grasso's actions at NYSE? (SEE: Chartock's $52,000 raise!) A crook is still a crook whether he steals $102 million or a mere $52,000. (The fact that Mr. Chartock is on-air/in print daily ranting against politicians -- usually Conservative Republicans -- he thinks are crooked only shows the degree to which Mr. Chartock's hubris has gotten totally out of control.)

Just as culpable in this matter is WAMC's Board of Trustees and its utter failure to act responsibly to keep check on Mr. Chartock and his excesses. Its absolute allegiance to Mr. Chartock can be pinned on the simple fact that for the twenty-five years of its corporate existence, Chartock alone has hand-picked each person who would sit on his governing board (at the same time being on the receiving end of that Board's generous largess).

(And remember, this isn't the first time the ignominious professor has engaged in bilking an inept and compliant bureaucracy. Until his recent early (read forced) retirement from the State University of New York - UAlbany, Mr. Chartock double-dipped for twenty-five years two weekly paychecks -- the first from SUNY, and the other from WAMC -- in direct violation of SUNY's anti-moonlighting, anti-double-dipping policy. SEE: "The Burke Memorandum". Why AG Spitzer isn't now seeking to recover from Mr. Chartock 25-years of ill-gotten SUNY compensation plus the hefty pension that goes with it plus interest makes one wonder whether the Grasso prosecution is just for show.)

At least at NYSE, the dues-paying member firms of the Exchange had the right to vote for the individuals sitting on NYSE's Board, the same board which then allowed Grasso's excesses to occur -- the money to Grasso coming from a portion of those few 'exchange fee' cents added each time a stock sale transacts over the Exchange. Whereas at WAMC, dues-paying listeners, those in the general public who generously fork over cash to support the station's thrice-annual 'begathons', cannot even claim this basic right of control over the radio station's presently non-elected, and inept, corporate board.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have noticed WAMC has drifted significantly to "main stream," where Chartock exerts such a micromanaging control style, that more progressive viewpoints are censored. I have actually seen or heard this done on multiple occasions.

Although listeners commonly think WAMC represents the liberal media, which is true in the broad scheme of things, closer scrutiny of what does not get aired at the local level strongly suggests a lot of otherwise important viewpoints are quashed at the executive level.

some examples
- Dion Robbins-Zust, who had recently lost in his run for state senate in '96, was abruptly cut off by Roundtable hostess Susan Arbetter. Robbins-Zust was trying to make the point that the media was giving selective attention to two other candidates, one of whom (Downing) did win. While I have doubts that Robbins-Zust would have won with fairer treatment, the fact is his treatment wasn't fair. Arbetter more eloquently made Robbins-Zust's point when she hung up on him.

- WAMC recorded an opinion piece I wrote on the recent beef recall. The opinion's angle had to do with humane treatment of animals, rather than the food safety issue to humans. After all, everyone was talking about food safety, but nobody paid much attention to the animals. In my one sentence bio, I referred to myself as "heretic and iconoclast". The opinion strangely never aired. (read it here: http://blog.newsketeer.com Sick food, sick society)

- In a case involving a teenager who was arrested for selling marijuana within a so-called school zone, the teen blundered yet again, but was additionally charged with selling the psychedelic mushroom known as psilocybe, which Chartock rather cavalierly stated as, "even more dangerous." But, his saying it does not make it true. I have heard many equally valid opinions that psilocybe, and the whole DEA Scheduling structure should evolve to a more enlightened decriminalization approach, rather than harsh punitive measures for drugs that have never actually been proven dangerous, except by popular media anecdote. Whether psilocybe is more dangerous than marijuana, or perhaps neither are dangerous, we won't hear on WAMC, which has given its moral imperative on the subject...not a popular view, therefore, main stream! Not liberal, and hardly objective.

On other occasions, I've known people who sent letters to his weekly show The Media Project. Where such letters might be seen to favor the print media (Times Union) represented by editor Rex Smith, over the radio media or Chartock's own station (case in point had to do with subject of blog liable on the TimeUnion web site), Chartock will consistently pass letters critical of his station (or, letters that question whether WAMC is equally liable where call-ins might make slanderous statements).

Of course, listeners would never know this was happening. After all, do you know what letters Chartock is reading, and which he is not reading? I would suggest that WAMC simply post all letters to their own web site, that way we, the public, can draw our own conclusions.

The problem becomes conspicuous once you learn that not all voices and opinions are allowed air time. Not all should, as we know, but certainly Chartock is hiding the most embarrassing to himself.

In conclusion, I think what is lacking is a more democratic content management. Chartock does give one the sense of being the little dictator, at the expense of what a broader base of listeners would like to hear. I don't think this was always true, but sadly, it becomes increasingly apparent.

These are all little things, perhaps, I realize. But they are only a few of lots of little things that are adding up. I like listening to WAMC, but I think it could be more fairly managed.

More and more I find myself tuning the dial to competitor radio station WFCR (Amherst) or WRSI (Northampton) when I've had enough of the whining and ranting. Truthfully, one grows weary of being bombarded with one man's ego.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008 11:22:00 AM  

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