WVXU Supporters Mostly Hold Fast

Braced for listener hostility to news of WVXU's impending sale, officials at Xavier University were relieved by the paucity of canceled donations. The tightly held secret was unveiled to employees

Apr 27, 2005 at 2:06 pm

Braced for listener hostility to news of WVXU's impending sale, officials at Xavier University were relieved by the paucity of canceled donations.

The tightly held secret was unveiled to employees and members shortly after the station's semiannual fund drive, in which listeners were urged to dig deeply to retain their favorite programs. Then everyone learned that WGUC would make those decisions after the license transfer passed federal scrutiny.

I'm sure I wasn't the only supporter who felt he'd been had and considered calling my credit card company and canceling my semiannual donation. For once, however, reason triumphed. It would take months for the FCC to move the paper, and I wanted my favorite programs to continue. That meant money.

XU spokeswoman Kelly Leon says, "As of mid-April, we had 30 members, out of 1,900 pledges to the spring fund drive, ask for refunds. We prepared for an onslaught of calls, but they didn't come. In fact, we had more public reaction to ending our rifle team program than selling WVXU.

We think this may be because the WVXU audience understands the rationale for the sale and appreciates the efforts we made to keep WVXU as a local public radio station."

The 30 lost donations were worth about $5,500, Leon said.

Leon dismisses any suggestion that XU defrauded donors.

"Any money that came in during the last fund drive is being used to keep the station on the air until the license transfers," she says. "No one knows how long that will take. Initial estimates were 90 days or longer. The likelihood of changing programming while the sale is finalized is slim. 'GUC is currently surveying listeners to get their input before making decisions about programming.

"The pledges support current programs; and if a program someone likes is eliminated by 'GUC down the road and a listener's membership is still ongoing, they can request and receive a refund from Xavier University."

Leon said she knew of no employees rejecting WVXU's severance packages, nor could she confirm that some employees have hired attorneys because of the sale-related dismissals; none had contacted XU.

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Curmudgeon notes
· Why do our local news media often tell us more about the lives and families of kidnapped and murdered young girls in Utah, Colorado and Florida than about the young men shot down on our streets?

We learn if they are the 23rd or 83rd homicide of the year in the city of Cincinnati. Rarely do we learn more about them or their killers, also commonly young black men.

If these men were carriers and victims of meningitis or measles, the news media, families, churches and communities would be screaming for action. Maybe we have to start treating this lethal pathology as a public health problem rather than a public relations challenge.

· Have you missed screw-ups on two of the nation's better dailies?

The Detroit Free Press is home to Mitch Albom, the franchise sports columnist, author (Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven) and star of his own radio show and ESPN. He faked a column, got caught and the chattering classes have spent the past three weeks debating whether he should share the fate of any first-year general assignment reporter who lied to his editors and readers: dismissal.

Albom wrote that Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson, former Michigan State basketball players now playing professionally, attended a Saturday NCAA Final Four game to root for their former team. He even described where they sat and how they dressed in MSU colors.

Based on what the men told him, Albom wrote the column on a Friday — the day before the game — to run on Sunday, the day after the game. But Cleaves and Richardson changed their plans and didn't go to the game.

Because he is Mitch Albom, Freep editors knowingly ran his faked story and his syndicate knowingly distributed it to client papers to run on Sunday even though he could not have seen what he reported.

They should all be fired. The Freep suspended Albom (with pay) while an internal investigation looked into his work. He has been reinstated after some undefined disciplinary action, Publisher Carole Hutton wrote last week. Four others also were subject to unspecified discipline, she said. Clearly, Albom's value was important to the decision.

"We took into account many factors, including the seriousness of the offense, the importance of our credibility, the history of those involved and Albom's 20 stellar years at the Free Press," she wrote.

Then there was veteran freelancer Barbara Stewart's gory story for The Boston Globe about the violent start of the controversial baby seal hunt in Canada. Knowing she was in Boston, Globe editors put a Halifax, Nova Scotia, dateline on her story to heighten the realism.

They didn't require sources for the bloody details, although she could not have seen the shooting. And they didn't know, until the Canadian government complained, that none of it happened. Weather canceled the scheduled start of the hunt.

She's been fired. Editors who allowed the story to appear unchallenged need a wake-up call short of dismissal.

Ben L. Kaufman teaches journalism ethics at Northern Kentucky University.