"Too Mainstream?" 

KPFA Host Loses His Sunday Show

The strife at Berkeley's KPFA radio station continued again this month with the firing on November 15 of Peter Laufer, the host of a two-hour Sunday morning talk and call-in show. Laufer, who sent an e-mail to media about his firing, said he was fired via telephone by Interim Program Manager Sasha Lilly, with very little explanation.

Laufer said the most substantial reason Lilly gave him for his dismissal was "negative audience feedback." In a subsequent interview about his firing, Laufer said "I wish I knew why," attributing the development to the station's "bizarre management behavior."

Lilly said she "can't comment on personnel matters," but did acknowledge that the firing was her doing. However, Laufer was known to cut off callers when they complained on air about his style or his politics, which some considered too mainstream for a radical Berkeley audience. For months, the Berkeley Daily Planet has printed lots of complaints about Laufer by KPFA listeners and even an editorial by editor Becky O'Malley. Laufer responded in an equally acerbic July 27 letter.

Laufer, who had only been at the station five months, had taken the place of Larry Bensky, a longtime KPFA host and former Express contributor who was mostly well liked by listeners. Laufer, who has a long career in radio and TV, including thirteen years at NBC, says he "cut his teeth" on early talk shows including at KNEW in Oakland. Still, the 57-year-old journalist acknowledged that his style may have raised some eyebrows. "Talk radio is part P.T. Barnum and part Edward Murrow," he said, referring to the revered CBS TV reporter of the 1950s.

Interviews with some staffers at KPFA indicate that Laufer's hiring had reflected disagreement within the station. Dennis Bernstein, host of KPFA's Flashpoints program, said Lilly essentially appointed Laufer without considering other candidates because she and Bensky favored him. He said Laufer's selection was an example of the lack of democracy at the station. Bernstein figures that Lilly was forced to fire Laufer, whom he said he didn't know personally, due to the ire of listeners and KPFA staff and volunteers.

"Peter Laufer represented an attempt to get NPR-style radio in," Bernstein said. "This provoked an uprising. ... Many of us had been hoping it would go to a young person or a person of color."

For his part, Laufer said he tried to "inject professionalism and optimism into what is too often an illiterate mess on the airwaves," adding that the "station's negativity is turning away listeners."

Laufer, whose extensive resume includes several books and numerous magazine articles, is not too upset about the firing. "It was just two hours a week," he said, adding that he is very busy with radio consulting and book projects. His next project: Launching a new Sunday morning talk show on AM radio's Green 960 starting December 2 at 9-11 a.m., the very same time slot as KPFA's morning show.


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will be removed.

Latest in News

Author Archives

Most Popular Stories

Special Reports

The Beer Issue 2020

The Decade in Review

The events and trends that shaped the Teens.

Best of the East Bay


© 2020 Telegraph Media    All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation