I began listening to Everett's community radio station, KSER 90.7, FM soon after it first went on the air in 1991. I loved the eclectic mix of music (including many local artists and frequent live on-air performances), local public affairs programming, and BBC news. I became a member not long afterward. Over 15 years ago I became a volunteer program host on the Sunlit Room.
Like other dedicated volunteers, I put in many hours per week for my show, as well as helping with numerous events and fund-raisers including concerts and dances, which also helped to spread the word about KSER. This outreach and enthusiasm enabled us to raise much of our operating budget from individuals; people who cared about the station, not just a tax deduction. In the past, individual community members were considered essential to maintaining KSER's independent nature.
KSER seems to be veering sharply away from this course. The station no longer maintains a presence at local events reaching out to its constituency. It no longer engenders a passionate commitment in the volunteers, nor listeners. We are no longer partners with management. Instead, the Board of Directors holds meetings to talk at rather than listen to the community the station is mandated to serve. It does not operate with transparency as declared in its stated values.
Instead of concentrating on producing quality local, independent and unique programming that would serve its listeners, management has reduced such programming in favor of expensive nationally syndicated shows. Much of the diverse music programming that originally drew me to the station has been replaced by talk radio and pop music that can be found anywhere on the dial. Recent staff changes have favored sales personnel over programming direction.
The recent abrupt termination of a longtime volunteer and staff member brought home to me just how far KSER has diverged from its beginnings, its stated values, and most importantly for my involvement, from my values. I have deeply enjoyed and at times thrived on my experiences at KSER. It has truly been a pleasure to serve the community by volunteering there. But I can no longer find joy in being a part of the organization. It was with deep regret that I came to the decision that, in order to maintain my own personal integrity, I must cease my volunteer service at KSER.
Numerous people who have asked me about my reasons for leaving the station were unaware of, yet surprised and dismayed to learn of these changes -- particularly the staff changes which did not include a music director. I urge anyone who feels similarly to contact the station manager and board of directors (see www.kser.org for contact info).
Kathy Johnson lives in Marysville.
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