The University Record, July 23, 1996

LETTERS

WUOM announcements
lacked sensitivity

While appreciating some of new programs from WUOM, I deplore the manner in which the staff changes were announced. The community owes a debt of gratitude to Peter Greenquist, Alan Young, Gerald Brennan and Mary Ellyn Cain for their years of work at WUOM. This debt, completely ignored in the recent WUOM mailing, was harshly rejected by the curt tone of announcements in the Ann Arbor News and The University Record that these professionals had been "fired" or "released" with no recognition given for their accomplishments. Everyone understands that staff turnover will occur as times change and as priorities shift, but these announcements of staff change were unproductively harsh. One might say (correctly, alas), "That's the way it goes in the radio business; people just drop off the radar screen," but that is not a standard to which the University of Michigan should aspire. Time and again the University has shown that personnel changes (even when long overdue) can be made with some sensitivity for feelings and reputations. We would all gain if this sensitivity, so evident in changes of faculty and senior administrators, were also evident for those in less protected positions.

 

Jens Zorn, professor of physics

Open Letter to Donovan Reynolds,
station manager, Michigan Radio

I'm writing to express my feeling of betrayal by the recent "exciting changes" at Michigan Radio. The University of Michigan has always, in my mind, stood for a degree of quality and excellence. The music presented by Michigan Radio reflected the same quality and excellence. You have betrayed what the University stands for by abandoning the production of local music programs.

It is also a betrayal of the listeners to Michigan Radio. Extending some of the existing news programming some months ago already insulted us by presenting us with often repeated non-news. Now you offer us talk from dawn to dusk (and beyond) under the guise of "intelligent" talk shows. We have already experienced the "dumbing down" from NPR. If some is good, then more is better?

You have also betrayed your contributors if not defrauded them. We heard during the fund raisers, "If you value this kind of programming you should support it." We valued it and supported it and now you change it? If a retail business were to do what Michigan Radio has done under your leadership would it not be called fraud? Or "Bait and Switch"? I have volunteered for many of the station's fund raisers. Never have I heard the contributors ask for more "talk."

You have certainly betrayed the four producers that you laid off. Were any of them ever told, "We are posting a job for a new broadcast producer, do any of you want to apply?" Or was the scenario more like: "Let's post this job quietly and hope that none of them apply." Or was the job description written in such a way that only God and Joan Silvi could fill it? How did you ever manage to lay off three broadcast producers and one broadcast director and turn around and hire a new broadcast producer? And the new one earns $5,000/year more than three of the broadcast producers "fired!"

You especially betrayed Alan Young. I use him as an example since I know his situation best. Many of the things you propose doing, he was doing already: interviews with visiting performers and including artistic and historical aspects in his award-winning documentaries. You want to hire yet another producer to do these things? That would mean that it took two people to do what he did by himself. Possibly each being paid $5,000 per year more than you paid him?

In June several volunteers who had worked on the production of special programs were invited to a reception at the studio. We were all presented with the nice certificates by you to show how much our efforts were appreciated (sure). None of the programs that these people worked on will ever hit the airwaves again on Michigan Radio, even the much vaunted "Mud Pie Cafe." Did you tell David Zinn when you presented the certificate, "Here's mud in your eye?" If you didn't, you should have because a scarce few days later that's what you did to him, to the four fired individuals, to the rest of us "volunteers," to the contributors as well as the listeners and the University that the station represents.

There are several further points that I sent you for which there is no room here but I will repeat the last: I feel a little sorry for you---a VERY little. As the hatchet man you will also wind up as the scapegoat. It's just too bad that Michigan Radio will be ruined by the time everyone comes to their senses.

 

Helmut Schick, senior engineering technician, Department of Physics