June 01, 2021

KNKX Leader Resigns as the Radio Station Turns to Political Advocacy

 Public radio station KNKX is in trouble.

 Last month, KNKX Director of Content, Matt Martinez resigned.   Online access to the station is plummeting.  KNKX news content has become highly politicized. Racial and identity politics has made deep inroads into the station.  Diversity of viewpoint is being suppressed.  And a new social justice reporter is spreading anti-Israel tweets.


Resignation at the Top

 A month ago, Matt Martinez, Director of Content for the station, resigned abruptly, leaving a highly powerful/responsible position to become a producer at On Being, a non-profit Minneapolis podcast producer.   There was no official announcement of his leaving KNKX.

 Over the past five years, Mr. Martinez has supervised all station content including news, music, on-air production, and web offerings.  During that time, the newly reborn station has suffered steady declines in on-air ratings and online traffic.   But most seriously, Mr. Martinez took the station in a politicized direction rather than provide a venue for diverse viewpoints and ideas.  And the citizens of the region are much worst for it.


KNKX was reborn as a new station in 2016, with the potential to grow and invigorate public discourse.  Instead. its listener and on-line followers have declined and the station has lapsed into identity politics.  KNKX management bears responsibility for this lost opportunity to serve the community. 

Racial profiling at KNKX

 A revealing example of Mr. Martinez’s priorities was found in his interview on Current.Org, where he discussed “uncomfortable truths about race in public radio.”    In that interview, he complained about KNKX’s “very white audience”, “white-led organization”, “mostly white newsroom”, and “all white announcers.”    After lamenting about the racial make-up of the audience and KNKX staff  he noted that he “was shaking while I was saying those words.”  

Replace white with another race and you see how inappropriate his comments were.  Furthermore, they were inconsistent with the truth.

In his interview (you can watch the video at the link above), he admitted that the racial make-up of the KNKX audience almost exactly matched the demographics of the region.  Since he, a self-identified “person of color", was one of the two key leaders of the station, it could hardly be claimed that the station was “white-led.”  Furthermore, the KNKX News Director is also a “person of color” and the Board of Directors has members of all races and backgrounds.   His statements were without a factual basis. 


There is a term for downgrading people of some races and wishing to give preference to individuals of other races.  It is called racism.  

And such attitudes have no place on a public radio station or anywhere else in a democratic society.   Mr. Martinez’s perspectives about race pervade the station’s diversity statement, which states that public radio stations have been white-centered and have catered to mostly white audiences, staff, and donors. This has been the case at KNKX and KPLU throughout our history.” 

Not only is this fixation on racial profiling ethically repulsive, but it is particularly inappropriate for KNKX, a long-time jazz station that has featured and fostered multiculturalism for decades.  Disturbingly, the diversity statement includes a sentence of universal guilt ("we have fallen short").  Surely, Joey Cohn, the long-term leader of the radio station, knows better.  His staff deserves kudos, not unfair criticism of their appreciated efforts.

Bias in the newsroom

 But the politicization of the station does not end with inappropriate racial comments and attitudes.   During the last few months, Mr. Martinez hired a social justice reporter, Lilly Ann Fowler, who has an active Twitter account that expresses highly politicized views. Specifically, she has repeatedly retweeted messages critical of Israel, such as:


And there is Ms. Fowler’s history of tweets calling for an end to Israel or criticizing ultra-orthodox Jews.

One might ask whether individuals calling for the end of Israel and making fun of religious Jews should be on the news staff for a major National Public Radio (NPR) station.  

The NPR code of ethics is quite clear: members of NPR news staff should not use social media to express their political opinions.  Doing so undermines the confidence of NPR listeners in the objectivity of NPR as a news source.   The NPR Ethics Handbook states:

“Refrain from advocating for political or other polarizing issues online. This extends to joining online groups or using social media in any form. Don't express personal views on a political or other controversial issues that you could not write for the air or post on NPR.org”

Rejection of viewpoint diversity and factual information when it contradicts the political narrative

 KNKX, under Mr. Martinez, has skewed politically in its coverage and tone, evincing substantial bias in its journalism.  And part of this trend has been the suppression of viewpoints not popular to those with a far-left perspective. 

My case is a potent one.    Because some misinformed environmental activists did not like the peer-reviewed science expressed on my blog and radio segment, they put pressure on KNKX management to end my weather program.   In response, I was told to refrain from talking about climate change during my radio segment.   KNKX listeners were being denied the best information on climate change because uninformed special interest groups objected.

Then the 350Seattle social justice advocacy group circulated an online petition to get my segment terminated.  Instead of defending good science and diversity of viewpoint, Mr. Martinez agreed to have my science, BOTH in my weather segment and in my blog, reviewed.  And he assigned the responsibility to oversee the review to a long-time member of 350Seattle.   In the end, even the reviewer had to agree that my science was solid.


The message was clear:  KNKX management gave little weight to truth, science, or democratic principles. They were more interested in placating activists and proving their “progressive” credentials.


Mr. Martinez and Station Manager, Joey Cohn, would soon take appeasement of the mob to a new level. On August 5, 2020, I published a blog (Seattle: A City in Fear Can Be Restored) that examined the decline of Seattle and the lack of political leadership. In that blog, I spoke out against political violence and noted similarities to 1930s Germany.  Within hours of the release of that blog, I received a call from Mr. Martinez and Mr. Cohn telling me that my weather segment was terminated.

They also put out a non-factual, hurtful statement on the KNKX website accusing me of “distorted, offensive parallels between protesters and Nazi Brownshirts”.  Diversity of viewpoint was clearly unacceptable to KNKX leadership.   Neither was the truth.  KNKX became the poster child of Cancel Culture.

Canceled

The truth is clear and powerfully supports my blog.  

The violent, black-bloc rioters I described have a political agenda to destabilize democratic society.  Just as the brownshirts had in undermining the Weimar Republic. They have brought Portland to its knees and done immense damage to Seattle.   Recently, a group of these individuals attacked Jews in Seattle (discussed here and here) and during the summer they preferentially targeted Jewish-owned businesses.  The destruction had the implicit support of several members of the Seattle city council, not unlike the brownshirts working with the Nazi party.  

The violent protestors had an agenda very different from the peaceful BLM protestors concerned about police violence and in promoting a more equitable society: the replacement of American society by a socialist/Marxist entity.  KNKX management took a side on this, implicitly supporting the violence.

Diversity of viewpoint is something you will no longer find at KNKX.  Their front page is dominated by social justice stories dealing with identity politics.   Take a look at a representative example below.    KNKX covers few stories on key issues, such as the pandemic, leadership failures, environmental issues, public safety, and the like.  Stories on identity politics are everpresent.  No wonder competitor KUOW has surged ahead of them in virtually every measure of audience interest.


 Interest in KNKX Declines

KNKX is losing online traffic.   As shown by the Google trends website, interest in KNKX has declined greatly during the five-year tenure of Mr. Martinez (see below, click to expand)

Confirmation of the profound loss of web interest is provided by the Amazon Alexa rankings site for the past 90 days, which shows a ranking loss of over 50,000  (see below).   KNKX advertisers must surely be noticing this.


Time to Reform KNKX

With the exit of Mr. Martinez, there is both a need and opportunity for KNKX to remake itself to better serve the community.   Joey Cohn, the General Manager, has particular responsibility for what now happens.

Political bias must be rejected.   Diversity of viewpoint should be respected.   Better programming that allows the community to engage in honest and fact-driven interactions should be fostered (such as panel discussions of important issues and call-in programs).  KNKX leadership must not longer be enthralled by the far-left mob and identity politics.  And yes, hopefully, my weather segment will be re-instated.

Media organizations, such as KNKX, have a special responsibility to maintain the foundations of our democratic society.  Democracy is a vulnerable institution.  It depends on the protection of diversity of viewpoints.  And it depends on factual information being communicated without the obstruction of political bias.

 Each of you can play an important role in transforming KNKX into something better.

First, let the station manager, Joey Cohn, know of your disappointment with the station’s trajectory (jcohn@knkx.org1-877-677-5659).  Similarly, Claire Grace (info@knkx.org), the head of the KNKX board.   Their listener support email is info@knkx.org and phone 1-877-677-5659.   

Second, if you are a financial contributor to the station, you might make further donations contingent on reform. 

KNKX can be repaired, but only if listeners and the community take a stand.

29 comments:

  1. I met Martinez once in Tacoma. He was clearly a racist and a radical. One of these postmodern leftists full of ideology and devoid of common sense. The complete opposite of classical liberalism. I made a mental note to avoid him at all costs. Nothing good comes of toxic people who are full indoctrinated.

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  2. You lost me where you found her desire for equality of Palestinians to be an example of racism. The IKEA one was bad, though.

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    1. Glint... I never suggested that the Palestinian issue had anything to do with racism. My point is that such hyper-politicized tweeting is not appropriate for an NPR news reporter...and contrary to NPR Ethics standards. I should note that calling for the end of the state of israel is beyond the pale...cliff

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    2. What am I missing? The tweet about IKEA doesn't include any value judgements, it just factual reporting that IKEA issued an all-male catalog for the Orthodox community and that there was backlash. Reading that tweet I have no idea how Lilly Ana Fowler feels about the issue.

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    3. Alex.... there are substantial values judgements in the several tweets she has made..... most negative about Israel. This is entirely inappropriate for NPR news staff, and contrary to the NPR ethics guidance....that is my point..cliff

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    4. I was a professional journalist for 11 years. My father was a reporter in the 1950s. I was editor of my high school paper, and worked on the college paper while freelancing to a ouple of general circulation dailies. Educated at two of the country's top journalism schools in the 1970s, and went on to work for three daily newspapers. Having been raised with printer's ink in my veeins and then toiling in the salt mines for quite a while, I know what I'm talking about.

      To be crytal clear: The media have always been a mixed bag. To quote one of my editors, "Ours is the product of daily dissatifaction." Anyone who's been in that business has cringed at this or that story they wrote, kicking themselves for the flaws. I sure as hell know I did. Even worse were the times when I had to write a correction. I took those very seriously, no matter how trivial. They were my failures, and I didn't like to fail.

      That said, the standards of the profession did hold a great deal in check. Those basic standards no longer exist, and everyone is poorer for that. And then the Media Worthies wring their hands over the growing lack of trust in their output? Give me a break!

      Who do they think they're fooling? It's not only the one radio station. I look across the media landscape, and sometimes wonder if they have a figurative death wish. Credibility is at the heart of "the news," and it rests on a commitment to facts, the use of logic, and the pursuit of objectivity. Abandon those, and collapse WILL follow.

      The media increasingly are nothing more than websites, shoving out opinion to like-minded readers and viewers. We'll survive the demise of some NPR station, but the demise of all four broadcast networks, all of the cable channels, the major national print operations (AP, NYT, WaPo, Bloomberg, Reuters) is another matter, not to mention the ongoing tailspin at what's left of general circulation newspapers.

      If you think it hurts now, just wait. It's going to get much, much worse. An old song captures it well.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2595abcvh2M

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  3. "One might ask whether individuals calling for the end of Israel"

    So, someone tweeting that Israel can be a home for both Jews and Palestinians is "calling for the end of Israel"?

    Well they're F*** then because that's a pretty popular position in America, we called it the "Two state solution" until apparently yesterday.


    Don't get hyperbolic in your attempts to call out others being so.

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    1. Branden....this is not being hyperbolic. My point is that calling for Israel to be ended and replaced by a unitary country is a HIGHLY political stance, inconsistent with NPR ethics guidance and inappropriate for NPR news staff to be tweeting....cm

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  4. I;ve been one of your fans for years. But you may have gone too far. There is a difference between holding Israel accountable and calling 'for its end' as you say. That old trope must stop. Israel and Palestine got there together. Each has a part to play in any solution. Sometimes that means Israel must be held accountable too. Or even, heaven forbid, criticized! It's not hyper-political nor is it calling for the end of Israel. I found her comments very mild.

    It seems you're in this to settle some old scores? Maybe you should let go of all that?

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    1. Fleetwood, the point you are neglecting is that NPR news staff should not be tweeting about political matters. It is against the NPR ethics requirements. Regarding old scores, clearly I believe KNKX has gone off the rails and has been politicized. My blog was not an analysis of the Israel/Palestinian situation. But I did note that calling for a unitary state is a HIGHLY political statement...and not appropriate for NPR news staff to be tweeting.

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  5. Cliff: KNKX chooses to wade into politics as do you in your wonderful weather blog. Politics may detract from both. Regarding the Israeli and Palestinian situation, it is heartbreaking. I would actually like to see a total embargo of weapons to the Middle East. Demilitarize the region as much as possible. Instead, the US sells huge quantities of weapons to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. This is great for the defense industry, but disastrous for the people of this region such as those in Yemen, as well as those in Gaza and Israel.

    The only way to get past the race/religion issue is to acknowledge the devastating impact prejudice is having both in the Middle East and here at home. You can't will it away. The fact that Israel has little choice but to exist as an apartheid state if it wants to exist at all is a sad commentary on the state of human affairs.

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    1. What you say is quite wrong. Israel is NOT an apartheid state. It is the Jewish homeland. Its roots go back thousands of years. The UN created modern Isreal and there has been attempt after attempt to destroy it.

      Regarding my blog. I have always used about 1/10 of my blogs to discuss other matters. This is my personal means of expression. If you just want to read weather-related blogs skip the ones that don't interest you. KNKX is not a personal blog. It is a PUBLIC RADIO STATION with a news operation that is supposed to be objective. VERY DIFFERENT.

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    2. Cliff, I empathize with the Jewish people as I do with all indigenous people around the world who have lost their homelands due to invading hoards, genocide, and persecution. (The Native Americans come to mind. I actually support many of their land claims. But returning territory to all these groups surely would displace many other people now. While I support Israel's right to exist, I also understand the grievances of the Palestinians.

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    3. Lucas...I appreciate your comments. Keep in mind that the Jewish people are the indigenous people in this situation. They have been attached and displaced several times over the past several thousand years from groups including the Romans to the Arab conquerors hundreds of years later. Israel would have been content to stay within the 1948 UN boundaries, but the Arab armies invaded anyway. Israel tried an experiment is giving up Gaza. You see how well that went...cliff

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    4. The "historic claim to land" argument doesn't wash with me, but for a very different reason than typically discussed.

      The historic reality is that everyone lives on stolen land, with the only questions being when it was stolen and how many times it was stolen. Anyone who bothers to crack a history book knows it.

      Modern Israel is a zionist construction that never would've gotten too far off the ground but for the Holocaust. The "progressives" can wring their hands, which would be more convincing if they'd give the Puget Sound back to the natives and clear out. "Who, us? But we're Good!"

      Modern Israel is a fact of life. Seattle's "progressives" want Israel wiped out. Israel disagrees. NPR also wants Israel destroyed, and Israel disagrees.

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  6. Equating seeking a one-state solution with "ending Israel" is hyperbole. A pro-Palestinian view is not by definition anti-semitic. Both Israelis and Palestinians have a right to live in peace. Stick to the weather, Cliff.

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    1. Rob.... not hyperbole at all. Being pro-Palestinian is NOT being anti-semitic. Yes, both groups have the right to peace. But a one state solution is certainly the end of Israel as a Jewish homeland. Period. And the key point you are missing is that NPR News staff should NOT be making political tweets. Against NPR ethics rules. That is my point.

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    2. When I was a professional journalist, it was verboten to engage in political activism, regardless of the direction, and NPR's rules say so, although like most partisans, they will enforce it against only those who don't live up to their "progressive" requirements.

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  7. It seems like Mr Martinez is viewing diversity as to not include whites. This is wrong. Any movement toward diversity must include whites. Anything else is racism. He is advantageously using this current movement toward equality for a leg up and a hand out. The problem is he, among with many others, is more intent on settling scores and excluding and demonizing an entire race to swing the pendulum the other way, rather then actually seeking true diversity which is done through equality of opportunity.

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  8. I believe KNKX was wrong to fire you over your post about the CHOP district. It showed they favor a specific viewpoint, and punished you for yours.
    But you have done the same with your criticism of Lilly Ann Fowler. Her post showed news items, such as the fact that Ikea published an all male catalog to appease religious fanatics, She was reporting something I didn't know - the very definition of news, and you want to punish her for reporting news you personally don't favor.

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    1. You are missing my point. She is a member of the news staff of an NPR station and they have clear ethics guidelines about social media. Don't tweet about matters and subjects that might be part of the news. That was the problem. She is news staff and was repeatedly tweeting about the middle-east conflict from one point of view.

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  9. Thanks for this a very detailed account. I like KNKX because I like jazz but I do think local reporting is necessary, and KNKX staff should not be tweeting their own political opinions. Just a minor comment here, I thought the statement you said called for the end of Israel appeared to call for the end of Israel as a Jewish state, which is different. It's hard to say exactly what the writer was thinking and I wouldn't want to speculate.

    Your blog post from last summer comparing what happened last year in downtown Seattle to Kristallnact makes sense as an analogy, but it seemed KNKX took it literally. While you were treading tricky territory there, I'm really sorry they took your weekly weather spot off the air. They should not have done that.

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  10. Going up from KNKX to NPR at a national (network) level, it has always had a liberal skew, and as a left-of-center moderate, I was fine with that. But in recent months, NPR as a whole has "gone woke" and I find myself listening less and less.

    For example there has recently been a ridiculous virtue-signaling over-representation of guests and story subjects from "marginalized communities"; a recent specific case is that in 2 out of 3 consecutive weeks in May, the featured guests on the comedy program "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" were trans individuals ("Symone" on May 8 and Jenny Finney Boylan on May 22). Is including persons of unconventional sexual identification and expression on programs a valid aspiration? Sure, but in proportion to their share of the population, which surely does not mean 2 weeks in 3.

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  11. Full speed ahead, Cliff! I don't agree with you about some things (mainly global warming) but I have a huge degree of respect for your scholarship, integrity, and courage in the face of outrageous attacks by Seattle's racist, violent "progressives."

    Thank God you have tenure! You certainly put yourself on the Seattle Times's enemies list by single-handedly destroying their dream of winning a Pulitzer for that phony series about ocean acidification and Puget Sound's oyster beds.

    Iron Law: You can always tell a Seattle "progressive," but you can never tell a Seattle "progressive" a single thing. They think they know it all.

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  12. The reason NPR is more left-wing in today's world is because guess what, it's better to take the side of the people who are being killed than the killers! People deserve to live! Please, it doesn't matter if NPR is supposed to be "politically neutral" or whatever, while people are dying because Israel is killing them! And before you say Palestine is too, Israel is killing far more, to the point the UN called it an APARTHEID. Yes indeed the UN said that, look it up if you don't believe me. So I wonder who's just doing self defense and who's the bad guy here.

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    1. Unknown.... I hate to say this...but you are not well informed about Israel and the conflict. Hamas are the killers, not Israel. Hamas sent thousands of missiles towards populated areas of Israel to kill and maim. You are blaming the victim not the aggressor. Anyway, you need to read some history....cliff

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    2. Ironically, if you read some history and objective news like Cliff suggests, you’ll be better equipped to determine who is the “victim” and the “aggressor”... and it turns out both Israelis and Palestinians are victims! History is nothing if not a cycle of violence.

      The future is more flexible. But it seems that Israel can’t decide what it wants - surely not a one-state democracy - but whether to commit to a two-state solution, or to try pulling off a one-state solution that denies full citizenship to West Bank Palestinians. Maybe Hamas wants Israel to choose the latter, and uses its rockets as tools of persuasion.

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  13. That station is like anything else. Approval/disapproval is best expressed with your wallet/feet. In other words, if their message is an issue, don't tune in or donate.

    EVERYTHING is biased and politicized now and the public seek out echo chambers for affirmation of their already solidified, unwavering beliefs. Certainly not for information or to learn anything new. The USA is simply not interested, thus media outlets are what they are.

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