Radio volunteers deserve praise

I am stunned at the letter Wally Bowen, MAIN’s executive director, sent to nine WPVM-FM volunteers, expecting them to leave the station for a “cooling off” period of six weeks. (I expect that six weeks will expand into eternity, should Mr. Bowen have his way). I understand that the rest of the volunteers’ participation at the station will be “revisited” as well. I see this as doublespeak for what will likely be a purge of all WPVM volunteers who have ever criticized or questioned the actions of MAIN and its executive director.

Ironically, the nine WPVM volunteers who have been asked to leave are the very people who helped shape and grow WPVM from the start—the very people who championed MAIN’s mission and devoted countless hours to running the radio station and creating an eclectic, exciting mix of local programming that has made WPVM popular, despite its problems with spotty reception.

Earlier this year, I discontinued my participation as co-host of a WPVM radio show (Making Progress). My co-hosts continued to devote countless hours to keeping the station going after the station manager quit and was not immediately replaced. Their actions were consistent with MAIN’s policies as articulated by the board, which in September removed Mr. Bowen from direct oversight of WPVM and tasked the volunteers with running the station. There is documentation proving this.

I left the station because, sadly, I knew this day would come: the day when Mr. Bowen would manage to regain direct control over the radio station. I knew he would consider the considerable efforts of the WPVM volunteers and—because they differed from his agenda—he would at best disregard these volunteers, and at worst, sabotage them. Dedicated volunteers are the backbone of organizations like MAIN. They deserve praise and encouragement and, when necessary, guidance—certainly not the vilification these have endured.

Though the board of directors is supposed to be the governing body of MAIN, Mr. Bowen seems to be calling all the shots. I urge the board to reassert their authority and act swiftly to restrain the misguided impulses of Mr. Bowen and create a more democratic model that would support and encourage the efforts of all those connected with MAIN and WPVM.

This is a complicated story, and a good deal of misinformation has already clouded the truth, which makes it challenging for outsiders to understand what has occurred. I think the question that begs to be asked is: What happened here? What transformed Wally Bowen from someone dozens of volunteers respected and supported into someone they now perceive as a saboteur they can no longer trust?

Did dozens of radio-station volunteers band together out of sheer greed and attempt some sort of power play, as Bowen would likely assert? Or were they in fact loyal and dedicated volunteers who, after being mistreated, denigrated and maligned, could tolerate it no longer and felt they needed to speak out, both for the good of the station and for the benefit of MAIN?

I firmly believe that as more light is shed on this conflict, most people will come to realize that the latter is the more likely scenario.

— David Lynch
Asheville

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