Category Archives: Friends of WFHB

Hot Air

Make Me Laugh

Can’t wait to get my hands on the new issue of Bloom mag.

Bloom Mag Cover


The Comedy Attic‘s Jared Thompson graces the cover. Inside, you’ll find out all about funny business in this town, natch, so grab one when you get a chance. You know, of course, that the Limestone Comedy Fest is fast approaching. This year the fest features as a headliner Patton Oswald.

Sure, he’s good, but can he rival last year’s appearance by Tig Notaro for getting Bloomington’s laugh-addicted pumped to the sky? Time will tell.

Spring Can Stink, Too

So I’ve been bragging and crowing about how fab these recent spring days have been. Y’know, sunshine, warmth, daffodils, forsythia, breezes, short pants, and the ebbing of crushing winter depression.

All true. Life has taken a decidedly more positive turn of late.

In fact, I threw every window in the house open yesterday. The months-old atmosphere redolent of garlic, olive oil, my socks, me, dog, cat, and other foulings of air were swept out forthwith and, within minutes, the joint smelled like a delightful cabin in the woods.

It was so warm last night that most of the windows were still open when Steve the Dog, Sally the Dog, Kofi the Cat, and I all fell asleep on the two living room sofas. It was as peaceful a sleep as four creatures could experience together, all of us lulled by the rustling of budding trees and bushes in the soft wind and the occasional distant hoot of an owl.

But then an unseen skunk shot a blast of self-defense at some threatening critter and the first wave of reek blasted the four of us out of the arms of Morpheus. Steve and Sally began barking and howling like mad dogs, my eyes began watering, and Kofi went so far as to stir, stretch, and resume his snooze.


Sleep Wrecker

I had to slam shut every single window in the house and somehow explain to the hounds that they weren’t going out no matter how much they begged and whined. My explanation consisting solely of the repeated words, “Shut the f_k up!”

So, I’m still pretty deliriously happy about spring, only I’m now reminded nothing’s perfect.

WFHB Board News

The WFHB Board of Directors will have a new look after the station’s annual meeting June 7. That’s when the general membership will vote to fill three open spots.

Current Board members Carolyn VandeWiele and Matt Pierce (also state representative from the 61st District) are giving up their seats and Hondo Thompson quit the Board a while back, with his seat filled on an interim basis by Richard Fish. Fish is running for a full term this time.

Here are thumbnail descriptions of the four candidates for the three open spots, as selected by the current Board’s nominating committee.

Sarah Borden is new to the WFHB  family but has been seeking the best way to volunteer her skills at the station for some time. She has a business background and offers skills in accounting, bookkeeping, tax filing, payroll, budget preparation and monitoring, financial planning, grant research, writing, submission, and management and specific HR duties which could be very useful to the station.

Richard Fish has served on the WFHB Board since March 2013 when he was appointed by the board to finish out the term of a member who resigned and is seeking re-election.  Richard is a founding member of Bloomington Community Radio and long time host of Bloomington Beware and The Firehouse Theatre. Richard states that he feels that he can “help most in the area of planning and visioning. WFHB is — and will be — facing some serious challenges and changes in the foreseeable future.”

Benjamin Loudermilk comes to us through the on-air appeal for persons interested in applying for the WFHB Board of Directors. He writes “I have been a proud supporter and listener of WFHB since it was launched on the airwaves 20 plus years ago. When I learned of the upcoming open seats, I was excited at the prospective opportunity to seek candidacy to serve on WFHB’s Board of Directors.” Benjamin is a native Bloomingtonian, currently employed as a Paraeducator at BHSNorth, and an IU alumnus. He has been active in the local Arts community for over 30 years. He feels his strongest skills are in communication, research and networking.

William Morris has been associated with WFHB for nearly five years – as a DJ (“Brother William”) on several music shows, as a roving reporter and news reader with the Daily Local News, and as an interviewer/producer on Interchange. He states “Now, I’d like to participate in a broader, more-constructive and (hopefully) more productive way as a member of the Board of Directors….  As an attorney, I believe I can help the station think through and resolve legal matters that it will face in the next several years. As a former journalist and big-time music fan, I hope I can help the station look at programmatic, artistic and creative decisions.  And, as a five-year member/volunteer of the station, I hope I can share my enthusiasm for WFHB with others in a way that fosters greater community, camaraderie and achievement.

Other candidates can still get in on the fun through a petition process. One of those is Maryll Jones, who started the Friends of WFHB Facebook group. The Friends arose in reaction to the Board’s selection of Kevin Culbertson as general manager last fall. Culbertson’s nod sparked a firestorm of controversy when it was revealed he’d been instrumental in operating a number of Christian radio stations out west and that he wasn’t a member of the Bloomington community. Jones is collecting signatures at this time.

Speaking of Jones, she applied to the nominating committee but was rejected. Word is the Board is keeping its distance from her because she’s the boss of Friends. Because of the negative reaction to Culbertson’s hiring in Friends and his subsequent decision not to accept the position, there’s been talk he could, if he so chose, institute some type of legal action against the station. If anything, the scuttlebutt goes, Culbertson could claim something on the order of workplace religious discrimination. When he informed Board President Joe Estivill he wouldn’t be taking the job in a letter dated November 20th, 2013, Culbertson wrote:

Never in my 30 plus years of working in broadcasting and media have I seen such hostility in a work environment.  The slanderous statements and cyber bullying have passed the point, in my opinion, which any reasonable person would believe there would be an expectation of being able to accomplish the objectives of the station in due course.

WFHB honchos are hyper-sensitive to the possibility that Culbertson might file suit. Even a suit without much legal basis would have to be answered in court, meaning the station would incur potentially devastating expenses. It’s been decided that since Friends is an independent entity, the station shouldn’t have any connection with it as long as WFHB still has exposure to legal action. Ergo, Maryll Jones won’t be getting an official imprimatur from anybody connected with Firehouse Broadcasting any time soon.

Hot Air, Cold Day

Tough Crowd

Just a reminder, The Pencil has forwarded a communique to Kevin Culbertson, newly-named general manager of radio station WFHB, offering him an opportunity to introduce himself to Bloomington here.

Keep watching this space for further developments.

Meanwhile, the new Facebook group, Friends of WFHB, has garnered nearly 200 members as of this morning. WFHB volunteer member Maryll Jones has been running herself ragged administering the page as well as keeping certain group members from tearing each other limb from limb. Who’da thunk the selection of a GM would arouse such fire within the populace? Anyway, the discussion on the space is lively, if at times a little hair-raising.

Scene from "Frankenstein"

Passionate Radio Listeners

Along those lines, one disgruntled WFHB listener apparently sent an email to station Board members, threatening physical violence. The missive scared the bejesus out of the Board-ers. Jones has issued a Code of Conduct for Friends of WFHB members although it’s not known if the threatener is himself a member. (And, to be sure, it was a guy, wouldn’t you think?) In any case, the cops are snooping around to find out who sent the email.

Oh, one more thing. Personal to Maryll Jones: Pick up your guitar, woman!

Braves’ New (White) World

Worry not, Pencillistas, this is not really a sports story. It’s about racial politics and business in the Deep South.

That out of the way, it was learned yesterday that Major League Baseball’s Braves will be leaving their relatively shiny new home in downtown Atlanta for the greener…, check that, whiter pastures of Cobb County.

Historical Marker

The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, NBC Sports, and other Olympics sponsors built the Braves’ current home, Turner Field, for the 1996 Summer Olympics. It was called Centennial Olympic Stadium that year. The next year, the Braves moved in. So the team has been playing in Turner for a total of 16 years.

The Braves plan to move into their new digs for the 2017 baseball season. Turner Field cost $209 million to build. After the Olympics, Atlanta sunk another pile of dough into retrofitting the place to accommodate big league baseball and just shy of ten years later the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority dropped another huge wad of cash into renovations for the place, including what was hailed at the time as the world’s largest high definition video screen scoreboard.

The A-FCRA says it will demolish the stadium after the Braves leave. So, the joint will have had a useful life of fewer than 20 years. All for a pricetag well north of a half billion dollars, of which taxpayers footed a sweet $300 mill.

Turner Field

Ancient, Crumbling, Decaying, Nearly Empty Turner Field


A not-quite 20-year-old stadium is merely a young punk when compared to such geezers as Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles (51 years old this year) and the Coliseum in Oakland (47), as well as Methuselahs such as Wrigley Field (99) and Fenway Park (101). The Braves swear their current home is dilapidated and so old-fashioned that the team can hardly make a penny playing there.

Which is utter horseshit.

Let me go out on a limb here and tell you the real reason the Braves want out of their new-ish stadium. It stands in downtown Atlanta just off I-75 and near many of the city’s other public and cultural institutions. It’s also surrounded by black Atlanta.

In Georgia, that’s bad business.

Almost very other baseball stadium built since 1991 has been located in downtown areas (that’s 19 out of the 30 in use today). Sports franchises want to play games in downtown areas because, unlike the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, those areas now are vibrant, rejuvenated, exciting places to be.

Decades ago, whites shunned big city downtowns because they were scared to death of catching cooties from Negroes. In the ensuing years, America has witnessed a gradual acceptance of mixed-race couples, has embraced a black woman (Oprah) as pied piper for the housewife set, and has even elected a brown president.

What were once deserted downtown streets after 5:00pm everywhere from Chicago to Cleveland now are destinations for dining, entertainment, and shopping.

Oh sure, many, many, many black residents were pushed out of these downtowns and surrounding environs by gentrification, but even that process required white people to at least tolerate seeing black faces while the demographics changed. And in those cities where downtown gentrification is complete, middle- and upper-middle class blacks are welcome to live there.

The nation has changed a bit.

But not Atlanta.

For all it’s self-advertisements as a beacon of modernity of the South, Atlanta is still full of…, well, Georgians. And very few places are more Georgian than Cobb County. Which is where the Braves are moving.

The Braves released a chart revealing most of its season ticket-holding base lives in that most Georgian of locales. It’s a gang that isn’t terribly pleased about riding into downtown Atlanta to watch a baseball game. It is, remember, full of Negroes.

I have a new team to root against now.

Hot Air-waves III

WFHB: A Spot Of Joy In The GM Dust-up

Everybody’s got a dog in this race.

WFHB Button

The selection of Kevin Culbertson as new general manager of WFHB touched plenty of raw nerves among the community radio station’s volunteer membership. Those who host shows or otherwise contribute to the on-air product at Firehouse Broadcasting have mixed it up with each other as well as with folks who haven’t really thought much about the 20-year old Bloomington non-profit until now.

The good news is people are thinking about WFHB more than ever before. Those who love the station hope that will translate into more participation and — gasp! — more contributions.

The Pencil broke the news Friday morning that Culbertson had been hired. WFHB’s Board of Directors followed a few hours later with its official announcement. Activist volunteer member and former Board member himself Hondo Thompson didn’t like the selection one little bit. His bill of particulars against Culbertson ran here as well.

The next thing anybody knew, a new Facebook group called Friends of WFHB had been started. As of this morning, it has about 150 members with that number growing by the minute. WFHB is the talk of the town.

Friends of WFHB

And the Pencil aims to keep it that way. We’ve been covered the GM search for months. Stay tuned here and on Friends of WFHB for further developments.

Our good friend Joy Shayne Laughter told the Pencil she was working on a response to Hondo Saturday night. We invited her to run it here and she’s graciously agreed to do so. Here it is:

I have a feeling that friends and volunteers at WFHB are learning more about their participation rights this week than they ever have before.

Of course the fuel for this blaze of interest has been the drawn-out search for a new General Manager, and the match tossed into the tank was Hondo Thompson’s essay published here on November 6.

I am glad Hondo did his digging and paid for a company to do a background check on the finalist candidate for WFHB General Manager. The piece stirred up a lot of questions for me, since I am a longtime WFHB volunteer, news reporter, and was on the GM Search Committee, just as Hondo was.  Just like Hondo, I had privileged, confidential access to Culbertson’s resume. Unlike Hondo, I was present at both of Culbertson’s interviews.

I sorely wish these issues had been made available to the Search Committee and the Board BEFORE the Board’s hiring decision on October 28th, and not AFTER.  I have had a few conversations with WFHB Board President Joe Estivill, and he said he received the results of Hondo’s digging on November 5th — more than a week after the Board’s vote. It would have been completely appropriate and welcome for a member of the Search Committee to say, “Hey, wait a minute,” much earlier, and make us aware of further questions to ask our candidate, either at the final interview or the Board’s hiring discussion. I really wish that had happened.

Estivill made a call to Culbertson on the night of November 5th, and asked direct, hard questions about everything Hondo found. Estivill relayed the issues and Culbertson’s answers to the rest of the Board within 24 hours. According to Estivill, the Board felt that the facts behind these issues did not affect their decision, so no further action was taken.  
That being the case, it’s possible that the facts of the matter — coming from the source — mean things are not as dire as Hondo wants all of us to believe.

Here is the troubling matter for me. While Estivill was still informing the Board of the issues and Culbertson’s responses, Hondo submitted his piece to the Electron Pencil – without having any knowledge of Culbertson’s side of the story.

That makes Hondo’s piece an op-ed, a highly personal and emotional response — not journalism, not reporting, and just barely factual.

As Big Mike told us in the opening paragraph of that post, the piece is “non-authoritative … impressions” about a decision that had not even been made public yet — it was still a close secret among the WFHB Board, set for release that afternoon.

Everyone is free to have an opinion. Everyone is free to express an opinion. Everyone is free to have emotions about a situation they are involved in. Everyone is free to make a call to action that they believe is necessary.

Those who read or hear that opinion and that call have the responsibility to read with discernment and thought. And they have the right to question what they read.

Of course my own initial reaction to Hondo’s piece was sharp dismay, as I was one who interviewed Culbertson initially and had highly positive impressions of his resume, experience and personality. I went through all of Hondo’s links and was left wondering. None of the linked articles gives any account of Culbertson’s actions that support Hondo’s narrative and warning call.

How does Hondo know, to such an intimate degree, what Culbertson’s motives and moves were, during his 30 year career and the failure of a few small, low-power station ventures? (I would like to know what the WFHB Board heard from Culbertson that reconciled them with these failures, I really would. I hope I do.)

Only the KHHB articles from Hilo, HI quote Culbertson at all. The first two are complimentary, and the last three describe the murky legalities around the sale of the station and the disappointment that Culbertson’s plans for a hyper-local TV station just didn’t pan out. (I hope to hear that sale deal explained in detail, because it sounded like it anticipated an expected FCC ruling that would relax regulations and make it legal. I know businesses of a certain size conduct deals this way all the time, but still.)

The KEEN link is to a Wikipedia entry that doesn’t even mention Culbertson. The KEEN FCC violation notice says that KEEN “was late by six days in filing its children’s television programming report for the second quarter of 2004.”

This is a hanging offense? Or would it sharpen Culbertson’s resolve to make damn sure it never happened again on his watch? What would you do, as a professional, with this on your record?

The WXOC links only show general market data and that the station’s license was cancelled.  
The current Google result for WXOC reads:

“WXOC-LP is a low-power television station in Ocean City, Maryland, broadcasting on local UHF channel 63 and virtual channel 26. Founded in 2003, it licensed to WXOC, LLC. It is an affiliate of Me-TV, a television network that airs classic television sitcoms, dramas and classic commercials from the 1950s through the 1980s. Started in Chicago, Illinois in 2005, Me-TV’s classic TV format was created to present a wide variety of the iconic series, stars and genres that have defined pop culture and television for decades. Its sitcom program list includes “M*A*S*H,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “I Love Lucy” and “The Bob Newhart Show.” Dramas on the network include “Perry Mason,” “The Big Valley,” and the original “Hawaii Five-O” series.   Visit the TV station’s website Network: Me-TV WXOC-LP Digital Channel: 63”

There is no factual indication in any of this that WXOC “was operating just fine” (as Hondo asserts) for eight years before Culbertson became its owner. There are no archived articles anywhere on the net that show it had any kind of relationship with its market. So what did the station ever do? What was the license that was cancelled? Possibly an analog broadcasting license, I don’t know.  We will have to ask Culbertson about that in person. If we do ask, he will probably also explain why WXOC is not on his resume. That would be nice to know. Still, I’m not sure why a station’s change of platform and ownership justify such harsh judgment on the former owner.

Hondo also holds these details as grounds for suspicion (his words):

◗ 17 different addresses in seven separate states
◗ A filed Chapter 7 (full liquidation) bankruptcy in Arizona in 2010

Me, I’ve lived in three separate states at more than 20 different addresses (ten in Indiana, ten or twelve in Washington, and three in New York). I also filed for bankruptcy in 2004, and I bet many readers of this blog have been there as well. If traveling around for work and school and hitting a rough financial patch are so common, why should they be criminal indicators when Culbertson does them?

Then there’s the whole Christian broadcasting scare. You know what?

I could not care less.

Why? First, if Culbertson were out to evangelize Bloomington through radio, he would have applied to WVNI Spirit 95.

Second — and I said this in the comment thread of Hondo’s piece — WFHB is set up to prevent takeover by a third party. The GM has no ownership rights. The Board elections are set up to keep terms staggered, so no group can swoop in and create an instant majority.  And (as they are already demonstrating) the WFHB membership would be three-deep dead in the streets before they allowed such a takeover to even bubble up.

Third, consider this: One of WFHB’s stalwart news show producers served proudly in the military, and I cannot think of anyone who is less of a warmonger — in fact she is a fighter for peace and tolerance. I know a lot of other military veterans who are peaceniks, and my two decades in corporate administration left me with an allergy to cubicles. So evidently, where you work for a while — even out of interest or conviction — does not mean THAT is what you are, forever after.   

This is where my discerning reading of Hondo’s op-ed turned into critical dissection — because I really dislike witch-hunts. I have seen witch-hunts conducted by Buddhists, Unitarians and LGBT pagans, corporate offices and New-Age fluffbunnies, and the smoky fragrance is familiar.

One thing that I like about Bloomington is that although there is a lot of Christian real estate around here — and individual assholes do emerge — the population by and large is far more invested in service than in sales pitch. Look at Monroe County United Ministries, the Interfaith Shelter, the shelter work at First Christian Church, Shalom’s first home at First Methodist. The walk matters more than the talk.

I have spent time with Kevin Culbertson in interviews and drove him around town to introduce him to Bloomington. My own impression of Culbertson is that he is a Bloomington kind of Christian. Service, not sales pitch.

As an aside, WFHB needs to increase its listener (and donor) base beyond Bloomington into our six-county broadcast area, a region which is awfully rural and deeply-churched. Would it really hurt the station so much if the GM has insight into how this potential listenership thinks?

I have no idea whether Kevin Culbertson will work out in the long run as GM for WFHB. I have a lot of questions remaining, from reading Hondo’s op-ed.  But I am willing to give the guy a chance — mainly because the WFHB Board is populated by grownups with deep experience as responsible professionals in their fields, with a lot of non-profit experience between them. The majority of them are active broadcasters at WFHB. They are not fools, nor are they naïve, and through the development of the Strategic Plan they are well-versed in what the station needs to do to grow and thrive in the next 20 years. Also, there’s that personal contact with Culbertson that I had as part of the Search Committee. I encountered a real human being. I believe that when I ask the questions I need to ask, he’s going to respond like a human being.

Part of the opportunity in this moment is for the WFHB community of volunteers to step up to fill empty Board seats, commit to committees, and actually show up for Membership meetings. Now that we have your attention, the governance and by-laws documents for WFHB are available to all here (scroll down to find the pdfs. Info on the Board is here (at the bottom of the page; note: “Pam Raider” should read “Pam Davidson.”) Volunteer orientation is the first Saturday of every month at 11 am at the Firehouse, Quarterly Meeting minutes are here. Finally, Strategic Plan documents are here. Also see Facebook group Friends of WFHB.

I still think Hondo was right to do his digging. I just wish he had done it a month earlier. As a dear old friend of mine whispered in my ear yesterday, “Bless the agitators – without them, the laundry would never get clean.”

Shayne Laughter
Co-anchor at WFHB Daily Local News

As of this moment, The Pencil is trying to reach Kevin Culbertson. We hope he’ll agree to introduce himself to the community here.

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