WBAI interim program director Bob Hennelly is fired

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Bob Hennelly. (via CUNY)
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Nicole Levy

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WBAI general manager Berthold Reimers has fired the radio station's interim program director, Bob Hennelly, according to an email Hennelly sent colleagues this morning.

Hired by the noncommercial, listener-supported station at 99.5 FM in December with a decade of experience reporting for New York's NPR-affiliated WNYC under his belt, Hennelly led an initiative to retool WBAI's programming during the afternoon driving hours. As Capital reported yesterday, he replaced public affairs programs imported from WBAI's sibling stations in California with new call-in programs hosted by volunteer producers from New York.

Since the station's winter fund drive began on Feb. 3, the same week it aired new programs like "Health Styles" and "PolitiSIZE," Hennelly was assigned to raise $500,000 by the end of the month. He particularly appealed to labor groups for donations.

Hennelly gives as the main reason for his firing "Pacifica's dysfunctional governance and the trouble WBAI business model," which gave him, he wrote in his email, "no running room."

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Reimers and his superiors at Pacifica Foundation Radio, the nonprofit that owns WBAI, were not pleased with the amount of money raised so far, as Hennelly noted in a email he sent to supporters this weekend: "The drive is not doing well ... The indication from management is that the station is broke."

Reimers did not return a call and email for comment on the termination of his interim program director.

At 8:39 a.m. this morning, Hennelly tweeted the news, adding, "The program should always be the premium. Thanks WBAI producers."

Hennelly's email to his colleagues is in full below:

Dear colleagues,
This morning I was fired by our GM. I wanted to thank you all for your support and commitment to the listeners.
I want to give a special shout out to Michael G. Haskins who worked so hard with me to re-establish our critical relationship with our audience.
Once we opened the lines back up hundreds responded but Pacifica's dysfunctional governance and the troubled WBAI business model meant we had no running room.
For those of you who stepped up and created call in afternoon drive time programs out of thin air, thank you, thank you. I listened to them all and am so proud of what you did.
For those of you who gave up the bi-weekly silliness and embraced a weekly schedule, I hope they let you stick with it.
Ironically, I had just announced that DC 37's executive committee had voted to give us $5,000.
In 90 minutes I raised $1,900 calling folks.
As producers, continue to explore ways you can fund yourselves. I will be glad to do whatever I can to help and promote the important work you do.
I do believe there are 100 groups, unions and individuals, that would pay $5,000 to keep us on.
I also know that, had I had a chance to continue to execute my approach, we would have gotten underwriting from organizations like the Municipal Credit Union.
I do think that the Pacifica governance model has profound structural problems which keeps it inwardly focused on itself, instead of on a nation and a world that so desperately needs its full attention.

Yours in solidarity,
Bob Hennelly

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