Putting the Other Side Out There
In response to Marc’s post on the DJs’ being fired from Roger Williams’s WQRI, program director Mike Martelli has left the following comment (which I’ve also read his expressing in an email that reached me through a series of forwards):
As the Program Director of WQRI it is my responsibility to determine what content is inappropriate to be aired on the station. After much discussion with the entire air staff I have come to the conclusion that the infamous phrase, “nappy headed ho” should not be repeated over our airwaves. I have given the air staff a lot of freedom with the content of their shows. However, when Dee Jays have pushed the envelope sometimes I have to bring them back to a reasonable level.
At the air staff meeting we discussed the First Amendment issues regarding the Imus phrase. It was at this meeting, which took place on Wednesday April 18th, we discussed whether or not the air staff felt as if they would be censored if I asked them not to repeat the Imus phrase. Mr. Peloso and Mr. Porter were not in attendance. The consensus from the air staff was that there was no problem to the ban. I had to call a special meeting with Jon Porter and Dana Peloso on Monday the 23rd in which I passed on the order. We were all in agreement that the phrase should not be said.
I don’t think that the phrase needed to be said again, especially since the Imus incident had taken place more than 2 weeks prior and was no longer newsworthy. I also felt that phrase could be offensive to some and with WQRI’s FCC license up for renewal I did not want to risk offending the community. We are a music station and we have spent lots of time trying to build up a reputable image with the community and have successfully done so.
The issue here is that the College Republicans have failed to comply with direct orders and station policy. My decision was based on WQRI issues only; my personal beliefs had to stay out of it. It is unfair that the media is pulling my blog posts and taking them out of context. The only reason I chose to suspend and fire Dana Peloso and Jon Porter is their blatant insubordination. The First Amendment was not an issue here as there was an obvious disregard for WQRI policy and leadership.
The accusations that I acted in collaboration with Vice President John King to censor the College Republicans is completely false and completely ridiculous. I have stood against VP King on many occasions and I can describe our relationship as professional but not one of great chemistry. VP King and I have clashed on issues of Student’s Rights and I have consistently stood as an advocate of these Student Rights. The issue with King and the CR’s has been misunderstood. VP King had only mentioned in passing to our General Manager that the content of the show might not be the best to display during the Accepted Students Day, and I completely agree.
VP King never, I repeat never, gave us an order to take any kind of action against Mr. Peloso or Mr. Porter. In fact he never even suggested that anything should happen to the College Republicans. Just because he mentioned that the content was not appropriate for Accepted Student’s day does not mean he wanted us to give the CR’s the Axe. He is an ambassador for the University and he has the right to comment. The comment had nothing to do with my decision. At no time did VP King or any other Administrator tell me what to do.
Jon Porter and Dana Peloso were suspended because of insubordination and have consequently been fired because they did not have the patience to take part in an investigation by the station’s student run executive board. If Jon and Dana let us examine the tape of their show they would also have had time to defend their actions in front of the board. Since they decided to jump the gun and go to the press I am lead to believe that this has little to do with concerns of censorship and has more to do with gaining attention. Jon and Dana mentioned the Imus Phrase more than 30 times in 28 minutes, they did little to actually discuss the first amendment and it was quite clear that Jon and Dana were trying to cause trouble. Their actions were irresponsible and had no journalistic character. This is the reason I have decided to let them go. The University has nothing to do with this decision, it is 100% mine.
WQRI Program Director
(401) 254 3282
Personally, I’d be interested to hear the offending tape, myself (and if Porter and Peloso wished, I’d be happy to host a streaming version on Anchor Rising). From what I’ve read so far, although one can argue the merit of each decision leading up to the firing, my impression remains in sync with the instinct with which I received the initial “breaking news” announcement: I worry that coastal conservatives — by necessity a countercultural lot — can too easily be manipulated by attention-seeking yutes. That a particular incident reinforces our beliefs or advances our cause doesn’t mean that we ought uncritically to pounce on it.
It might arouse less suspicion if the students were out in the public offering their own intellectual position and explanation, as Mr. Martelli is, rather than merely pointing to the fact that they’d been canned.