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Air waves 

When public radio stations explode, they do so with great force. Generally speaking, public radio stations have among the nastiest, most poisonous political atmospheres of any type of organization imaginable. Think of when Pacifica Radio blew up a few years ago. The recriminations went on for months. At Berkeley Pacifica flagship station KPFA, one programmer accused another of attempted murder. She was convinced that her water glass had been tampered with.

Well, SoHum public radio station KMUD went through another of its periodic mini-upheavals a few weeks ago, when the station decided to boycott the upcoming Reggae Rising festival. Thus, the station took a side in the all-pervading SoHum Reggae War(or was merely accused of taking a side, depending on how you look at it.) There was some heated talk — a few people accused each other of being sneaks, dupes or phonies — but it seems to have blown over.

Now to KHSU. Earlier in the month, management from the Humboldt State University side of things abruptly fired Charles Horn, the station’s long-serving development director — the main money-raising man. They also canceled his Friday night show, “The South Side.” (KHUM radio has since picked it up.) And this seems to have sparked something of a mini-rebellion inside the KHSU community.

Longtime KHSU volunteer Brooks Otis announced that he would be quitting the station, partly out of solidarity with Horn and partly because of the “dysfunctional” atmosphere within KHSU. Otis mostly blames Humboldt State’s new corporate culture for the dysfunction, but he also seems to think that the problems are inherent to the left end of the radio dial.

“I don’t know what it is with public radio, but the turmoil is never-ending,” Otis says.

Will the recent KHSU strife be long-lived? Station Manager Elizabeth Hans McCrone, the person who fired Horn, thinks not. “The best thing is for the station to move forward from this,” she says. “And I think it will.”

Perhaps. But we’re also getting word that the station’s volunteer programmers, who seem largely behind Horn and not McCrone, are planning to follow Otis’ lead and to protest in other, perhaps more spectacular ways. It could be a long, hot autumn up at KHSU.

What is it withpublic radio stations? Why is the turmoil never-ending?

“Because they’re all staffed by liberals, and nobody’s more vicious than a liberal,” says Bruce Anderson of the Anderson Valley Advertiser. “They’re all closet Leninists. Or Stalinists. They’re like Gurkas. They don’t pull a knife without using it.”

Yes, you heard right — that’s Bruce Anderson of the Anderson Valley Advertiser. As the front-page cartoon put it a couple of weeks ago: He’s baaaack. Which is all the warning you need to either cancel your subscription or renew it indefinitely.

It’s been three years since Anderson, the last outraged American, handed the influential Mendocino County weekly over to one of his former contributors. He and his long-suffering wife, Ling, migrated from Boonville up to Eugene for a while, where Anderson started up a short-lived Oregon version of the paper. When they were run out of town they moved down to San Francisco, where Anderson finished two manuscripts on Mendocino County history, tentatively titled “The Mendocino Papers.” The AVA, meanwhile, lost a big piece of its appeal.

But Anderson’s been back in the saddle for four issues now, and the paper’s already starting to feel like its old self again. He brought a bunch of his old crew back into the fold — the hallucinogenic sports/advice columnist Zack Anderson (son), the gonzo reporter/novelist Robert Mailer Anderson (nephew) and the trenchant concert organist-cum-literary critic David Yearsley. The paper slipped down to eight pages in Anderson’s absence; he hopes to bump it back up to 12, presumably while retaining the tiny type. “Of course, with newspapers dying all over the country, it might be a bad time...”

How has Boonville changed in the last three years? Maj. Mark Scaramella, the AVA’s longtime second-in-command, all but spits in disgust. “Oh, it’s awful,” he says, speaking of the forms of life inhabiting Boonville’s town center. “You get all these old guys walking around in Hawaiian shirts and shorts, licking ice cream cones and staring at the clouds.”

Anderson takes a different tack. “It’s not exactly yuppified,” he says. “It’s more schizophrenic. You have very wealthy wine people living in the hills, and then you have vineyard workers and their families stuffed in lean-tos on the Valley floor.”

The next big thing on the Anderson agenda appears to be the Mendo County Board of Supes, which recently awarded itself big, Humboldt-style raises. “It’s funny,” Anderson says. “Maybe it’s this way in Humboldt, too, but in Mendocino County, it’s almost as if the Board of Supervisors doesn’t exist. They don’t do anything relevant to people’s lives.”

Pick up your copy at Arcata Liquors, Northtown Books or Redway Liquor and Deli. There might be one or two more local outlets that haven’t yet tossed the paper out on its ear, but I’m not sure which.

Andrea Arnot,have you forsaken us? That’s what we heard around town — that you’d upped sticks and moved to the tony Portland suburb of Lake Oswego. We heard it, and we died inside just a little bit. Humboldt County society, we sadly figured, would never be fabulous again.

Vicious lies! Or sort of. Yes, says Andrea, the Arnot family has shifted its principal place of residence to the Beaver State. Trophy husband Steve Arnot landed a hell of a gig up there, apparently. But Steve is keeping his Humboldt County legal practice open, and he and Andrea — the doyenne of the Pacific Lumber public relations office, the former “About Town” society columnist for the Eureka Reporter, the local benchmark for all things chic and sassy — will be commuting down once a month or so.

Why? ’Cause Lake Oswego isn’t as Andrea-worthy as we are. “It’s a good place, but Humboldt — Humboldt’s terrific,” she says. Wow!

And Andrea’s keeping her gig at Pacific Lumber, too, so you haters out there can go right on hating. She’s going to “telecommute.” She’ll still write the company newsletter, and she’ll still occasionally deal with all the biased journalists who pester the company with their unfairness.

You know what? She misses us already.

“Only good things have happened to me in Humboldt,” Andrea says. “All good things. There’s so many open-minded people that have such good ideas. I was able to do things that I wouldn’t be able to do anywhere else.”


“The Arkleys. They started up the Eureka Reporter, and I went to them and said, ‘But I don’t have a journalism degree!’ But they said ‘Get in there, we’ll give you a chance.’”

Bottom line? “We’ve moved our home, but not our hearts,” Andrea sez. And do you want to know what? Their friends are all taking bets on whether or not they’ll be back, permanently, by this time next year.

Well, here’s a rayof sunshine for the bright young things toiling away for peanuts over at the KIEM-TV news operation, covering dreary government meetings while dreaming of their big break. (In the spirit of the North Coast.) Turns out that there’s life beyond Eureka after all, and even beyond Duluth or Terre Haute or Schenectady. In a Tuesday story on personnel shifts at the major networks, the Hollywood Reporter let drop that CBS News reporter Lee Cowan, who is making the jump to NBC, was himself a KIEM reporter once.

When? Presumably a long, long time ago, but the Hollywood Reporter didn’t say. We called up the one guy who we figured could probably tell us — KIEM honcho Bob Browning — but he’s out of the office for a couple of weeks. Does anyone else remember the guy?

The Hollywood Reporter notes that Cowan has covered the Sept. 11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami. For some reason, it left off his seminal reporting on the Eureka Parking Place Commission.

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Hank Sims

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