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Rant Radio: RFT readers weigh in on the meltdown at KWMU


Editor's Note
An ad in our May 1 issue attempted, unsuccessfully, to clarify the various honors this paper and/or its readers have bestowed upon two local steak houses, Mike Shannon's Steaks and Seafood and Tucker's Place. To clarify: Mike Shannon's Steaks and Seafood was our editorial staff's pick for "Best Steak House" in the 2007 "Best of St. Louis"® issue.

Tucker's Place finished first in the RFT advertising department's "Restaurants 2008" readers' poll, as it has every year since 1999.

Now, what's for dinner?

FEATURE, MAY 8, 2008

Meltdown at KWMU

"That awful woman": Count me in among those former employees traumatized by my time spent in the clutches of That Awful Woman. ["Radio Active" by Chad Garrison.] This story barely hints at the insanity so many of us witnessed and the bullying we endured. The Captain Queeg comparison was apt. Sounds like things remain very, very wrong there. My suggestion is that you re-interview the former interim chancellor, whose claim that he knew nothing of what was going on there rings as hollow today as they did when he was That Awful Woman's supervisor. I suspect HE could shed light on Wente's ability to elude the university scrutiny until now. There's much more to uncover here. I could go on, but it's giving me unpleasant flashbacks.
The Stories I Could Tell, via the Internet

Hit 'em where it hurts: I will not give another dime to the station until there is accountability at the top. This is not Enterprise Rent-A-Car. She is NOT the CEO of a for-profit business that she owns. This is a public radio station. Her salary is paid for through public funding. You should care how your money is being spent. Where is your sense of ethical responsibility? It is clear that the only thing the university will respond to is dollars coming in to the station. So hit them where it hurts until they do something about her. I urge everyone to NOT give to the station until this is handled. This article only scratches the surface of the mismanaged funds at the station.
No More Donations, via the Internet

Jim's had it: So, I give this station $50 every year so she can sit in a spa? I guess I just gave them my last donation.
Jim, via the Internet

Tip of the iceberg: Indeed, a great article, yet as a former employee I can say it merely scratches the surface. I hope the University of Missouri system takes a very close look at what's going on at KWMU and responds accordingly, including reprimanding those at UM-St. Louis who allowed Wente free reign all these years.
ElleDorado, via the Internet

Such an embarrassment: Sadly, this kind of behavior is not uncommon at the upper levels of many public radio stations. I've worked for similar bosses and I only hope that more stations are forced to undergo this kind of investigation. It's misleading to listeners, a misuse of public funds and utterly embarrassing for employees.
Jen, via the Internet

Finally, the story is told: About time this stuff hit the light of day. I have heard about these goings-on for years! I love NPR, but no more money to KWMU now. I guess I'll give it to KDHX.
Paul, via the Internet

Reign of terror: Wow! This is truly infuriating, especially for us dedicated listeners who have given thousands of dollars and hours and hours of our time to this station in the name of the betterment of our community. Patty Wente's reputation certainly precedes her, and it's completely deserved. It's a terrible shame that this wonderful station has such awfulness in the upper echelon of management. And trust me, Wente is not the only person guilty here. Further, I have yet to work a shift on the phones at a fund drive where we volunteers did not field multiple complaints of her and her cronies' on-air antics. The worst shame of it all is that Wente knows how to surround herself with an amazing staff (with exception to one or two of those highest-ranking individuals old and new), and if the place were to suffer because of their mismanagement and reign of terror, the innocent and wonderful staff would surely suffer as well.
Dave, via the Internet

"Mismanagement" style: Your recent story on the shenanigans over at KWMU sounded like one of many I have heard anecdotally over the years about Patricia Wente. In that time, a lot of talented journalists and personalities have left the station for greener, less contentious pastures, unhappy with their treatment or the way the station was run. When the powers that be at UMSL gauge the station's success under Wente, do they consider the brain drain she has been responsible for in her corner of the local media, or are dollar signs all that matter? There are few things more offensive to me as a member of the workforce than when legitimate complaints about managerial behavior are met with the response, "No, she is not universally loved, but each of us has our own management style." Sexual harassment, drunken tirades and spending donor money on personal expenses do not constitute a management style just because a manager is the one doing them. That particular management style is better known as "mismanagement."
Jim Mroczkowski, St. Louis

Wente can't claim credit: Excellent article. It's about time the university system took a serious look at Patty Wente. There is one more thing that I would point out that should bring into question the claims of Wente being responsible for turning KWMU into a "powerhouse." Much of KWMU's success is the result of the growth that NPR has enjoyed everywhere. In other words, KWMU grew despite Wente — not because of her.
Shula, via the Internet

Patty must go: I second the notion that KWMU has grown in spite of Patty Wente. KWMU has always has a great staff that manages to get the job done well, despite all the chaos she causes. To my knowledge, the staff's allegiance lies with the station and not Patty.
Anne, via the Internet

Ken Lay of the airwaves: I am anther former employee who witnessed it all first hand. Given St. Louis' talk-radio enthusiasm, generous charitable side and market size, KWMU underperforms when it comes to fundraising. It's sadder yet when it cheats and still underperforms. Listenership and market share are easy when you're the only game in town. And it's no secret that she's a train wreck with the station's money. I'd call her the Ken Lay of public radio, but she'd have ten jokes about screwing in the queue as soon as she heard the word "lay." By the way, I'm framing the cover.
Just Another Malcontent, via the Internet

Not yet guilty: As an avid public-radio listener and supporter I applaud the investigation into the allegations brought forth in this article. However, I hope those reading realize that they are just that — allegations. Until the University of Missouri finalizes their internal process, I will wait to pass judgment on Wente or KWMU. I also sincerely hope that those who have supported KWMU will continue to do so. While another reader commented that she has given her last donation to the station, I feel compelled to support the programming and staff even more.
Pub Radio Fan, via the Internet

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