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Laufer/KPFA recap

peter lauferSeveral days ago I posted some information about Peter Laufer’s dismissal as replacement host of Larry Bensky’s Sunday morning show on KPFA. The comments to that post reflect a range of views. Following are highlights; for the full comments, see the original post. (Disclosure: As editor-in-chief of Mercury House I published some books by Peter Laufer.)

  • Anthony Garrett: “No media professional should be treated the way KPFA’s Sasha Lilley treated Peter Laufer.”
  • Nancy: “Unwelcome news … it seemed to be in the KPFA tradition.
  • Mac: “Laufer’s attempts to downplay or counter the concerns, fears, anxieties, and anger that some of us have with his (to me, fascistically) chipper, feel-good drivel — the world is going to hell, but C’MON, wasn’t that sunrise this morning just gosh-darned lovely! — instead provoked me to flip the dial in disgust.”
  • Eden: “As a staff member of KPFA– though not involved with Peter’s dismissal– I thought I might be able to shed some light…. The resistance of the KPFA audience to Laufer was unanimous. Neither was he embraced by those who loved Larry, nor those who hated him.”
  • Margaret King: “I am very disappointed that KPFA apparently did not value his program as much as I did. I will be one of the many loyal listeners who switch to GREEN 960 on Sunday Morning.”
  • James loughborough: “I believe that encouraging listeners to feel empowered and hopeful and, rather than helpless and hopeless, is advantageous personally, politically and socially. I’ll be tuning in to Green 960. How can KPFA have screwed this up?”
  • Doug Maisel: “C’mon, Peter. This isn’t your first radio!… It was ever thus at KPFA.”
  • Kathryn Page: “This firing is in the new tradition of KPFA that causes me to cancel a 30-year subscription…. I too was a devoted fan of Larry’s and at the beginning of Peter’s time there I missed Larry’s curmudgeonly edge, but soon came to appreciate the power of Peter’s profound civility.”
  • Mac (2): “I found Laufer to be obnoxiously pushy and rude: interrupting guests and callers, talking over others, cutting off a caller who criticized him.”


Comment from Peter Laufer
Time: November 29, 2007, 8:34 am

Hey, Tom. Thanks for the ink. Did you see this?:

East Bay Express, November 28, 2007

“Too Mainstream?”
KPFA Host Loses His Sunday Show
By Wendy Patterson

Printer-friendly version | Send a letter | E-mail story
November 30, 2007
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

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

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.