Just as a clown’s pancake make-up eventually wilts under the heat to reveal a sad sack on the verge of a breakdown, so too has the boss of our local radio station been unmasked as an emperor whose clothes (and nerves) are fraying.
Veteran broadcaster Marshall Miles, who presides over the self-described “smallest NPR station in the nation,” is currently gloating over an opinion from the FCC that he did not violate regulations against tax-exempt public broadcasting stations endorsing specific candidates for office. The FCC’s opinion was in response to a complaint from Region 1 assistant superintendent Diane Goncalves, whom Miles has repeatedly harassed since her arrival in the region three years ago.
OK, so Miles did not violate the law because he inserted a weak disclaimer that the opinions he read on-the-air last fall were his and his alone — even though Miles is the station. He runs it. He’s president of its board of directors, which includes only two other people: his partner and principal source of capital, Jill Goodman, and her father James, a wealthy New York art dealer who is scarcely seen in these parts. But remember: the on-air endorsements, read aloud from the studios in Sharon, were merely the opinion of the station’s general manager and board president, not the station itself. Got that?
However, it does appear that Miles, slow-witted though he may be, has learned something from this episode. He has moved most of his aggressive commentary away from the public airways and onto his hideous new blog, The Region One Report. Free from the inconvenient constraints of public radio, which you and I pay for through our tax dollars, Miles vomits forth a daily dose of ridicule and mean-spirited attacks on those who run our local school district.
I’m a columnist and a former reporter, so I take a back seat to no one in believing sunshine is the greatest disinfectant and that public officials should be held accountable for their actions.
The problem here is that Miles’ motives appear to be entirely personal. He shows up at school board meetings and snaps grainy unflattering photos of his enemies and posts them on the blog. He urges his audience to vote against the proposed budget referendum next month. Look, I’ve voted against a couple of them myself when I’ve objected to certain programs being cut or unnecessary positions being added to the payroll. But why does Miles object to this budget? Well, he whines about the way administrator contracts have been handled and he doesn’t like their annuities. In other words, he is quarreling over procedure and about $20,000 in a total proposed budget of almost $15 million.
If Miles had brought up other concerns about programs or policies and procedures that actually affect the quality of education in the district, then I would applaud him for his efforts. But his focus on relatively trivial matters, coupled with his interminable attacks on administrators and board members, is prima facia evidence that he is engaged in a personal vendetta or — worse yet — acting out of self-aggrandizement to boost his listenership and underwriting revenue.
Make no mistake: underwriters and listeners who open their wallets to the station bear some responsibility for this vitriol and intimidation directed at volunteer board members. And consider this: I know for a fact that other administrators across the state are watching in horror at what’s become of this district. Once the superintendent and her staff have left Region One, who will want to take their places and expose themselves to the likes of the venomous Miles?
But as surely as the sun sets over downtown Sharon, Miles will get his comeuppance. Stay tuned for the next installment of this Shakespearean tragedy: The Tears of a Clown.
P.S. And don’t forget that this is not the first time Miles has tangled with the FCC. In December 2010, Tri-State had to fork over $15,000 (PDF) to the federal government for violating regulations governing underwriting announcements, which at WHDD more often resemble full-scale commercials than donor acknowledgments. I suspect we haven’t heard the last of those complaints.
P.P.S. Does anyone else find it interesting that the two administrators most often the objects of Miles’ ridicule and harassment are women? Why doesn’t the broadcasting bully go after business manager Sam Herrick, who stands at well over 6 feet and ripples with muscle from head to toe? Just asking …