Category Archives: Kevin Culbertson

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 Camelot Air


Fifty years ago today, the nuns at St. Giles school told us we were to go home when class started after lunch. I had no idea why.

I did know Sister Caelin seemed sad.

When I got home, I found my mother obsessively vacuuming the same spot on the living room carpet. Looking closer, I realized she was crying. It was the first time I ever saw her cry.

I wondered if I was in trouble.

The TV was on. Ma never had the TV on during the day. Simpler times, you know. TV watching was for night time, after work and dinner, school and homework, and all the day’s chores had been completed. Ma noticed me standing there, staring at her.

“Mike,” she said, dolorously, “President Kennedy is dead.”

Then I cried.

Dealey Plaza

Dealey Plaza Today

I knew who President Kennedy was. He was the boss of America, a man bigger even than Chicago’s Mayor Daley, a fact I was just starting to wrap my mind around.

I knew Mayor Daley could tell my Dad what to do. It was very difficult for me to grasp that someone could tell Mayor Daley what to do.

That night, I was sorely disappointed to learn that regular Friday night TV programming would be suspended in favor of wall to wall assassination coverage. I found it very unfair.

As the weekend went by, I came to understand the gravity of the killing of a president. I also came to understand how fragile all our hierarchies, relationships, and systems were. I saw Lee Harvey Oswald get whacked by Jack Ruby. I tried to get used to saying President Johnson.


The President?

I began to get that everything in this weird world — save the world itself — was temporal.

In these more hyper-sensitive, more protective days, a lot of parents might advocate shielding seven-year-olds from jarring news like the murder of a president. Kids have plenty of time to grow up, they might say. Kids aren’t prepared for that kind of reality.

To which I’d reply, no one is prepared for that kind of reality. And, I’d add, the weekend of John F. Kennedy’s assassination was the first and most effective introduction to the real world this little kid could possibly receive.

I have a lot of issues with the things my parents did and didn’t do in raising me. But the fact that they never shied from telling me the unvarnished truth about world affairs or family secrets wasn’t one of them.

For that, I thank them.

And On And On And On And….

The WFHB soap opera continues. As recently as Sunday, for instance, acting general manager Cleveland Dietz was pondering what he might do with the rest of his life.

Now, he knows where he’ll be spending his days at least through the end of the year. This week Board of Directors president Joe Estivill as well as regular Board member Richard Fish have approached Dietz, asking him to remain on the job through December 31st.


Estivill & Fish

The Board will vote on the extension at Monday’s meeting.

Meanwhile, insiders are certain the board will start the entire GM search process over again, meaning the community radio station won’t have a permanent boss until April.

Which is ludicrous.

This latest development, following the withdrawal of controversial choice Kevin Culbertson earlier this week, would mean WFHB will have gone almost an entire year without a general manager.

A state the size of California can pick its governor in less time. And, in case the Board doesn’t know it, California is bigger with a far vaster budget, and hundreds — perhaps thousands — of departments, bureaus, and offices. Plus, the job pays a hell of a lot more than WFHB will pay its future leader.

This whole “national search” business is a pretense the station can no longer afford. WFHB is a community radio station; its leadership should come, naturally, from a local pool of people numbering a minimum of 200,000, if the latest census figures are to be believed. If the Board can’t find a GM in that crowd — which, by the way, includes the students and faculty of a major university — they’re not looking hard enough.

In fact, the three finalists for the job from which Culbertson was plucked include a former GM of this very station and a proven fundraiser for non-profit organizations. Even if the anti-Chad Carrothers sentiment is deep enough to preclude him from ever getting the job again (a situation that, too, is ludicrous), why can’t the Board fall back on Dena Hawes?

The argument against her that she has no media experience is a red herring. Hawes can raise dough. That should be of paramount concern. Jim Manion can continue to run the Music Department and Alycin Bektesh can keep News humming. They’re both good at what they do. WFHB needs a top dog now. People with money burning holes in their pockets just might begin to wonder if this rudderless ship is worth investing in.

The Board Monday ought to commit itself to finding a general manager within a month. That’s it; 31 days. It can be done. Big organizations, corporations, and even governmental agencies do it all the time.

The Board would do so if it was smart. My guess is when Tuesday midnight rolls around we’ll still be looking at an April target date.

Word Trivia

Do you know what a snowclone is? Neither did I until just the other night, when I came across it somewhere, somehow.

It’s something you and I probably have used a dozen times recently. In fact, if you’re a fan of narrowcasting comedy-dramas, you likely have watched Orange Is the New Black. The title of that Netflix production is itself a snowclone.

From "Orange Is the New Black"


Here’s the definition, according to Know Your Meme®:

Snowclones are a type of phrasal templates in which certain words may be replaced with another to produce new variations with altered meanings, similar to the “fill-in-the-blank” game of Mad Libs. Although freeform parody of quotes from popular films, music and TV shows is a fairly common theme in Internet humor, snowclones usually adhere to a particular format or arrangement order which may be reduced down to a grammatical formula with one or more custom variables. They can be understood as the verbal or text-based form of photoshopped exploitables.

In common English, that means you can take a familiar meme or trope and substitute words that make it into a whole new cliche. One of the earliest examples was If Eskimos have a million words for snow, then [some other folks] must have a million words for [something common to them].

BTW: the Eskimo trope is false; they don’t have a million or however many words for snow. Nevertheless, that cliched statement spread like wildfire a few years ago.

Anyway, Orange Is the New Black morphed out of the original fashion world pronouncement, grey is the new black, after many generations of variations.

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.

Hot Air, Cold War

More On The War

A little more than a hundred years ago, the Hearst and Pulitzer newspapers did their best to make sure a war between the USA and Spain could proceed as scheduled. The final casus belli was the the sinking of a battleship in Havana harbor. William Randolph Hearst — the Charles Foster Kane of his day, tehee — splashed the incendiary slogan Remember the Maine; To Hell with Spain on his front pages.

From "Citizen Kane"

War Is Swell!

Next thing you know, this holy land was stomping the bejesus out of the Spaniards.

Flash forward to November, 2013. A battle has been brewing in the teapot that is the Bloomington community radio community (redundancy intended). So this bastion of yellow e-journalism did its best to pour gasoline on that glowing ember. (Are you digging my orgy of metaphor so far?) The apparent cas. bel. in this contretemps was Friday’s second posting (here’s the first) wherein the Pencil helped one respected and very active WFHB volunteer lay out an indictment whose list of particulars seemed to damn the new Firehouse Broadcasting general manager, Kevin Culbertson, to the eternal flames of hell.

Pencillistas responded en masse and the battle was met. By midnight, the Facebook Theater of Operations was littered with corpses.

Trench Warfare

The Enemy Advances

Allow me to clear up one important point here. Many anti-Kevin-ists have expressed concern that he’s going to come in here, stack the Board with acolytes of his choosing, and transform WFHB into a beacon for Jesus.


Try to chill, folks. Look, I’m not throwing a party to celebrate the anointing of Culbertson. I would have preferred the board to have selected a new big boss from, well, the community.

But Culbertson cannot alter the composition of the Board. Period. According to Firehouse Broadcasting’s by-laws, the general manager serves at the pleasure of the Board. They are, in effect, his bosses.

Not only that, there are only two ways for any poor sucker who actually wants to get on the Board (a desire, BTW, that should be ample evidence the applicant is short on sanity) to do so.

  1. The applicant must present her/himself to the Board and make a case that s/he is a swell human being, at which point the Board will either approve or deny the request, and then pass the applicant on to a vote of the general membership
  2. If there is a sudden Board vacancy, the board can listen to those lunatic asylum patients who want to fill said vacancy, and then pick the least deranged (or most qualified) applicant and appoint her/him to serve the remainder of open Board member’s term.

That’s it, peeps.

The GM has nothing to do with the process. Can a mole/spy/saboteur whisper into the ears of enough Board members to sway a vote? Sure. But that can happen whether Kevin Culbertson, Pat Robertson, or the Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei occupies the claustrophobic general manager’s office.


Not Just Yet

It’s a good bet WFHB will not soon become an outlet for Bryan Fischer‘s fundamentalist rantings.

That said, Hondo Thompson’s piece on Culbertson’s past is compelling and worth keeping in mind while we watch the Kevin Era unfold.

I Lied

Chatting with a WFHB-er who played a key role in the GM search Friday night, I promised not to write about the station and Culbertson again in these precincts for a long time to come. I was, I admitted, tired of the strife.

Hah! the person said.

Well, I got a bit huffy. What do you mean? I demanded.

The person told me I’d be writing another post on it all before I knew it.

Hah! I echoed, hoping to sting the rotter. You just watch. I’m finished with this thing. I’ve got plenty more to write about.

And, of course, the person said Hah! again, as did I, which caused the person to do the same, and so on until we Hah!ed ourselves offline.

I’m proud to say I kept my promise for an entire day and a half. That’s pretty good for a hot air balloon like me.

Lie To Me


Hot Air-waves II

[MG Note: The Pencil is posting for the second time today to accommodate breaking news.]

[MG Note II (December 17, 2014): The person who submitted the following letter has requested her/his name be redacted. After much wrestling and negotiation, I’ve decided to accommodate this person.]

Culbertson In at WFHB

Kevin Culbertson has accepted the job of general manager at community radio station WFHB.

One of my sources for today’s earlier post about the GM search and selection was [NAME REDACTED]. [S/he] tells me the other two candidates were informed last night that they didn’t get the job.

[S/he] also authorized me to use the following piece. “Feel free to use it in any way you see fit,” [s/he] wrote. [NAME REDACTED] did the work; I’m just providing [her/him] the venue. I do not vouch for any of the research just yet.* The goal is to provide a forum for one respected WFHB volunteer’s non-authoritative investigation into the professional history of the station’s new general manager. Here are [NAME REDACTED]’s impressions:

*[MG Note: Now that I’ve had a chance to look into all the links, [NAME REDACTED]’s research seems to be based on good public documents and previously published newspaper and magazine articles. Ergo, I withdraw my mealy-mouthed distancing from [her/his] work.]

So, it’s official! The WFHB Board of Directors, in the face of the pleadings of many within our community to the contrary, has announced that they have chosen someone who has never been part of our community, to come to our community, and run OUR community radio station.

Well, let’s get to know our new GM, shall we?

First, google: Kevin Culbertson.  Nothing much comes up, does it? Why would that be?  The other candidates come up in dozens of results related to their professional experience.  Also, try to find him on Facebook or any other professional networking sites and you get a similar lack of findings.

Actually if you try really hard, you’ll find extremely little to no association with any of the entities Kevin claimed to be associated with, except for KHHB and KEEN.  So, then, zoom in on those two and you’ll learn who our new GM really is (and you’ll soon find another station he never told us about too!)

KHHB Launching January 2006

“Culbertson is the general manager of KEEN-TV in Las Vegas, which was named the National Religious Broadcasters 2005 Low Power Television Station of the Year. It is owned by Total Living Network, which airs Christ-centered programming.”

“The (Hilo) TV station, straight up, happens to be owned by Christians,” Culbertson said, but his station won’t merely be a satellite of the Total Living Network.  It will be “safe for the entire family in terms of the values, in the sense of the language and everything else, but it is not necessarily only a Christian product in the sense of promoting or popularizing a specific religion,” he said.

source: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, October 13, 2005

It seems that KHHB was a TV station similar to Indianapolis WTTV-4, not a community station in terms of programming choices or governance. They showed syndicated comedies like “Soap” and “Mad About You.”  Their primary “News” was limited to 30-second news updates. Culbertson promised half-hour newscast but never got beyond 5-minute drop-ins. This is not at all “hyper local” as he claims. In fact, Hilo Hawaii Broadcasting Ltd soon lost its local ties and became Nevada-based under Kevin’s leader/ownership.


When Kevin claims to have “sold” KHHB to Stephens Media LLC. His claim is in direct conflict with the statement made by the “purchaser”:

Michael Ferguson, vice president and chief operating officer of Stephens Media, does not consider this a purchase.  “We’ve formed a new company that will manage the station,” said Ferguson, who is president of Hilo LP TV LLC, formed with Culbertson for the deal.

In fact, the application to transfer the license of KHHB refers to a “contribution agreement”, versus the usual asset purchase, or asset sale agreement.  Stephens will pay (donate) $242,000 for its first step into broadcasting, but Culbertson “is still the owner … He’s the TV guy,” Ferguson said.

“Watchdogs are alarmed the deal would decrease diversity in media ownership and potentially silence an independent news voice.”

source: &

FCC records, including an ownership report filed by Kevin himself, indicate that he was still a one-third co-owner years later.


When Kevin “sold” KHHB to Stephens Media LLC, the ownership transfer application did not disclose that the buyer was a newspaper. He draws widespread criticism in June 2007 for that shady deal that made Hawaii’s only daily newspaper publisher co-owner of KHHB:

Federal law currently prohibits newspaper publishers from buying full-power television stations in their markets, but that law does not extend to low-power stations, which normally have output of less than 1 kilowatt.  Watchdogs were alarmed as the deal would decrease diversity in media ownership and potentially silence an independent news voice. 

Media and telecommunications attorney Chris Conybeare believes cross-ownership, even of a low-power TV station, is a disservice to the community.  “Even if technically there is not a violation, the spirit of the rule is being violated to the detriment of the people of the island of Hawaii,” he said.  Las Vegas-based Stephens Media LLC, which publishes the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, West Hawaii Today as well as the Big Island Weekly, did not disclose that it is a newspaper publisher in the ownership transfer application filed with the Federal Communications Commission.  “It really smacks of hiding the ball,” said Wayne Cahill, administrative officer of the Hawaii Newspaper Guild, which represents newspaper workers.


So how did Mr. Culbertson’s five years at KHHB help the station?  Actually it destroyed it.  The last KHHB broadcast occurred on May 6, 2011, and the license was cancelled on July 25, 2012 for failure to transmit a signal for a 12-month period.  (The station’s entire lifespan was just over five years)



A close review of both KEEN and KHHB shows that Kevin was not a real station manager, had no real radio experience, but was, rather, a MEDIA BROKER;

“VMG Broadcasting Company acquired KEEN in September 2003, transferred control of the station to Christian Communications of Chicagoland two months later, then sold the station outright in September 2004.”


FCC Violation at KEEN

Legal Name of the Licensee






But Wait, There’s One More Station He Didn’t Tell Us About

Another station comes up in the FCC database related to Kevin’s name — WXOC.  This station seemed to have operated fine for eight years until Kevin came in as the new sole owner to broker another of his deals.  The station was located in Salisbury Maryland. Kevin, in California, was listed as “Owner”.

Their home office contact listed as:

PO Box A,

Santa Ana, CA

92711-2101 / 714-832-2950 /  (Trinity Broadcasting Network)

Its license was cancelled in February of 2013.

sources: &

Additionally, a thorough background check reveals:

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

So, In A Nutshell:

1997-2000: Kevin is director of operations for Total Living Network, Chicago, Il

2003-2007: Kevin is General Manager for Total Living Network, Las Vegas, Nevada

Total Living Network’s Vision Statement: “To communicate the need for a total relationship with God (body, mind and spirit). We believe each person was created by God, needs God and through God can live a vibrant, healthy and wholesome life that is a blessing to themselves and a positive spiritual influence on others. We consider electronic communications to be a strategic tool for communicating these truths.”

2006-2009: While still General Manager for Total Living Network, Las Vegas, Nevada, Kevin manages to be Co-founder, President, and General Manager of the new KHHB-TV in Hilo, Hawaii.

2007: Though called “hyper-local” Kevin brokers a deal that sells his KHHB-TV to his TLN friends in Las Vegas. He receives a $242,000 “contribution” and retains the management position. The local Hawaii article says “while it was not illegal it was very upsetting that an out of state owner had taken over” and “Watchdogs are alarmed the deal would decrease diversity in media ownership and potentially silence an independent news voice.”

2010: Kevin files a Chapter 7 (full liquidation) bankruptcy in Arizona.

2011: The last KHHB broadcast occurs on May 6.

2012: KHHB license is cancelled on July 25.

Somewhere in all of this (and undisclosed to us) Kevin also acquires, from California, WXOC, a radio station in Maryland. He is owner and the station is now part of the Trinity Broadcasting Family. Yes, TBN, of Jim and Tammy Faye Fame!

TBN’s self-description: “TBN is the world’s largest religious network and America’s most watched faith channel.  TBN offers 24 hours of commercial-free inspirational programming that appeal to people in a wide variety of Protestant, Catholic and Messianic Jewish denominations.”

February 2013: WXOC’s license is cancelled.

September 2013: Within months of the collapse of the last known station with which Kevin Culbertson was affiliated, he begins to target WFHB; a little Midwest station without a General Manager; a station that didn’t make their last fund drive goal, and with a board short two people, and the seven that are left not even representative of the volunteers, but rather, either appointed by the board to fill vacant seats or elected to positions in elections that offered volunteers no choice (two openings / two candidates – each selected to run by the board itself). All in all WFHB looks weak, an easy target.

You might be pondering some questions right about now.

Why did our Board, knowing all of this information, select this candidate over two local, highly qualified others? And why did they do so, when so many within the community voiced their support for the board to do otherwise?

And, why would Kevin Culbertson, a man with long standing associations with the most right-winged evangelical broadcasters in our nation want to come here to live and work among us filthy liberals?

Should we really think he is going to stick around WFHB for long?  Or just long enough to do the damage revealed in his history of hopping from project to project, buying/selling stations whenever an opportunity arises.

His very presence in our organization will hurt our credibility. And when that happens, how will it hurt our fund drives? And when we suffer financially to the point that we must begin to seek out big assistance to survive, who will we turn to; Kevin’s financial friends in Las Vegas or Ivy Tech Community College?

The wolves are at the door good citizens.

Goodnight, and good luck.

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