Trouble Intensifies at WBUR

Joseph Pappalardo
Sat Oct 2 09:43:15 EDT 2004

Many have said that they enjoy WGBH's Greater Boston program when they do
"Bat the Press".  One of the regular panelists is Dan Kennedy, who writes
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items will be delivered by email as they are posted.)

>From the Boston Phoenix Media Log Blog this morning....

TROUBLE INTENSIFIES AT WBUR. Thanks to an anonymous letter to Boston
University, all of the whispered, off-the-record allegations about the way
Jane Christo has run WBUR Radio (90.9 FM) are starting to come out.
According to the Boston Globe's Mark Jurkowitz and the Providence Journal's
David McPherson, the university, which is the license-holder, has received
information about Christo - the general manager of WBUR since 1979 - that
has led to an intensification of the investigation i nto the circumstances
surrounding 'BUR's planned sale of two Rhode Island radio stations.

According to McPherson:

  A BU source confirmed for The Journal that WBUR's hiring is one area of
the investigation. BU's online employee directory indicates that Christo's
son, Zachary Christo, is employed by WBUR.
  Also, former WBUR employees have told The Journal of at least 10 Albanian
immigrants employed by the station. Their names are included in the BU
online directory and are listed as WBUR employees.

  The practice of hiring Albanian immigrants is notable because Christo's
husband, Van Christo, is executive director of an Albanian immigration and
cultural organization, the Frosina Information Network. He is an Albanian
native himself.

  Other areas of inquiry, the BU source confirmed, include general spending
at WBUR, use of automobiles, a no-bid printing contract and the conduct of
WBUR's "Citizens of the World" travel program , which is supposed to raise
money for the station.

I can attest that these are precisely the charges that come up over and over
again in off-the-record conversations with current and former WBUR

I would urge some caution. I was told by several people, for instance, that
though the Citizens of the World tours might actually lose money - not
exactly what you're looking for from a fundraising event - they are also
valuable opportunities for Christo to schmooze with potential big
contributors. I was also told of at least one example in which the
schmoozing paid off.

Also, the issue with the Albanians - which Jurkowitz touched on in a harsh
profile of Christo in 1997 - has always been a difficult one. If they are
performing jobs that need to be done (a matter of some dispute), then there
isn't any obvious reason why there's something wrong with giving them a
helping hand.

This week, the Phoenix published an editorial calling on Boston University
to conduct a thorough investigation and to hold WBUR more accountable to the
community, which has done so much to support the station over the years.
Among our suggestions: greater financial disclosure, more frequent annual
reports (at 'BUR, "annual" doesn't always mean "once a year"), and a
community-based board with real oversight power. The Phoenix's Ian Donnis
updates the story with this.

Here is a piece that Ian Donnis and I wrote a week earlier on the mounting
troubles at 'BUR.

As someone who's listened to and admired WBUR for years, and has also heard
many stories about Christo's dysfunctional management style, I have found
the last few weeks to be both troubling and fascinating. It would be
foolhardy to predict what's going to happen - or, for that matter, to assert
with any confidence what the truth is. But it does appear, at long last,
that many questions people have been asking for a long time are finally
going to be answered.

Who knows? Before this is all over, maybe Christopher Lydon will be back on
the air.
Posted by Dan to Boston Phoenix Media Log at 10/2/2004 07:59:15 AM

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