POLK AWARD WINNER ROBERT KNIGHT FIRED
SLATED FOR THURSDAY, 5:00-7:00 PM AT WBAI
NEW YORK, (July 26) -- Robert Knight, one of Pacifica Radio's
most distinguished news reporters and program producers, was fired
by WBAI's interim general manager Utrice Leid last night.
Knight went to Pacifica station WBAI in New York City to do his
regularly- scheduled Earthwatch show after preparing a tape on the
drug war in Tulia, Texas, to find a memo from Leid. The memo reads
"This is to inform you that effective Thursday, July 26, your
program Earthwatch is canceled. You are no longer a host of this
program or any other program at this time. You may not co-host,
substitute as host, produce for, or contribute to any other program
at this time."
Robert Knight received the George F. Polk Award, one of the most
prestigious journalism awards, for radio reporting on the 1989 US
intervention of Panama. He has also been honored by numerous other
organizations for his work, including the National Association of
In the 1980s, Robert Knight was WBAI News Director and later
co-hosted a nationally syndicated morning program "Contragate" about
the Reagan-era scandals in Central America. The program broke
several important stories. Most recently, he has been covering the
struggle over the future of Pacifica Radio, and has been a critic of
the direction of the Pacifica Board and the current WBAI management.
This latest move adds to the purge of more than 20 on-air and
off-air WBAI staff, which began with the December firing of 20-year
station veteran and Wake-Up Call, morning-show host Bernard White
and Wake-Up Call producer and union-shop steward Sharan Harper.
During this "Christmas Coup," Pacifica's national executives
changed locks in the middle of the night and restricted access to
the station. The ruthless staff purge that followed this Coup
included many of WBAI's most politically-active programmers,
including Janice K. Bryant, Rosalie Hoffman, Al Lewis, union
organizer Ken Nash, Cerene Roberts, thirty-year veteran programmer
Mimi Rosenberg, and news reporter Eileen Sutton
Amy Goodman, who has won the top awards in U.S. broadcast
journalism for her reporting in East Timor and Nigeria, was fired by
Leid as co-host of Wake-Up Call in March. Goodman remains at WBAI --
at least for now -- as anchor of the nationally distributed
Leid has also recently installed private security guards, a
state-of-the-art surveillance system, imposed a gag rule, and has
prohibited the public from entering the station for the
listener-comment period of Local-Advisory-Board meetings. Many
staffers say they now work in a climate of terror.
PLEASE TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION CALL, FAX, PICKET AND E-MAIL
1) CALL AND/OR FAX THE PACIFICA BOARD MEMBERS LISTED
BELOW. Ken Ford is the acting Board chair and Wendell Johns is
another of the Board majority members (a vice president of Fannie
Mae, the federal home loan financial giatn). Protest the arbitrary
firing of one of Pacifica's most distinguished journalists and call
for the return of all the fired and the banned at WBAI. Please also
demand that these board members resign today. The turmoil has gone
on too long. Please be polite and keep the message simple.
Acting Board Chair Ken Ford
Board member Wendell L. Johns
2) PICKET WBAI THURSDAY, JULY 26, 5:00-7:00 PM Location:
120 Wall Street, downtown Manhattan. Take the 2, 3 or the 4, 5
trains to Wall Street
3) Call in to any program that accepts calls at
212-209-2900 to protest and announce actions and meetings. Also call
the station at 212-209-2800 to protest.
4) ATTEND AN EMERGENCY MEETING OF CONCERNED FRIENDS OF
WBAI ACTION AND OUTREACH COMMITTEES SUNDAY, JULY 29, from 1:00-2:00
pm. Location TBA. Please call 1-800-825-0055.
Cut the below list of email addresses, paste it into the To: line
of your email composition form, and then cut and paste the text of
the letter or compose your own, and send it. Also go to: http://www.progressiveportal.org/letters/pacifica/resign/
Dear Pacifica Board member,
The arbitrary firing of award-winning WBAI news reporter Robert
Knight on July 25 shocks the conscience of the entire WBAI
Robert Knight received the George F. Polk Award for radio
reporting on the 1989 U.S. intervention of Panama. He has also been
honored by numerous other organizations for his work, including the
National Association of Black Journalists. He is one of the most
distinguished journalists in the Pacifica Radio network.
But, sadly, his name is now added to the more than 20 on-air and
off-air WBAI staff who have been purged from the station since the
December firing of 20-year station veteran and Wake-Up Call
morning-show host Bernard White and Wake-Up Call producer and
union-shop steward Sharan Harper.
This act of retaliation against Robert by WBAI interim general
manager Utrice Leid will not go unchallenged. It underscores the new
for new leadership at WBAI and the Pacifica Radio network. And it
will only fuel the determination and commitment of the WBAI and
larger Pacifica community to reclaim the network for those who
respect labor rights, free speech and Pacifica's historic mission
for peace and social justice.