continued At the same time, Michael Flaster, the station's associate general manager for programming since 1995, announced he was retiring. In an interview last week, Flaster said he departed "because it was the right time to part ways, and my vision had already been realized to a great extent." He added that he "didn't feel entirely comfortable with the direction, managerially or financially, that the station had been going in."
In the KPBS release, Myrland blamed the crisis on "the pressure of a changing economy. As budgets shrink for local businesses, they have less to spend on underwriting. We've also felt the pinch in membership as well, as San Diegans are more conservative with their discretionary income."
Some station insiders blamed what they said was the continuing influence of Weber and his insistence that KPBS be so closely identified with SDSU. According to this version, both corporate and individual donors have been turned off by the tie. They have expressed repeated concerns that such continuing control by the state university jeopardized the station's independence. They also felt it subjected its news programming to the suspicion, justified or not, that Weber was pulling strings behind the scenes for the university's benefit.
Critics also draw an unfavorable comparison between KPBS and Minneapolis Public Radio, which is run by an independent, nonprofit foundation. MPR goes to great lengths to disclose its financial reports and conflict-of-interest polices on its website. KPBS, on the other hand, discloses virtually nothing.
For example, the Minnesota stations feature a pledge, entitled Ten Tenets from MPR News, declaring that "as an independent news organization, we stoutly resist interference of any kind, whether from government or corporations or foundations. Within MPR, we have established the principle of a firewall to insulate journalistic decision-making from other company considerations."
The stations have adopted "Guiding Principles for the Journalist," which say, "Seek out and disseminate competing perspectives without being unduly influenced by those who would use their power or position counter to the public interest."
MPR also says it has adopted a stringent conflict-of-interest policy for its employees and board members, which is posted on its website. "A person who has a Conflict of Interest shall not participate in the Board's discussion of the matter except to disclose material facts and to respond to questions. Such person shall not attempt to exert his or her personal influence with respect to the matter, either at or outside the meeting." Critics of KPBS say Weber could never meet such restrictions.
In addition, the Minnesota foundation provides independent audits of its financial statements for each of the previous five years. KPBS, on the other hand, directs website visitors to a page called "KPBS Annual Report." Instead of a written document or audit report, however, the station offers a brief promotional video that a KPBS spokeswoman acknowledged had not been updated since 1999.