Pacifica relieves WPFW manager of duties, urges staff to keep quiet

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Pacifica has placed John Hughes, g.m. of WPFW in Washington, D.C., on paid administrative leave and appointed an outside consultant as interim g.m., according to a member of the Local Station Board.

In a Sept. 13 email, Summer Reese, interim executive director of Pacifica, urged WPFW and Pacifica staff to refrain from discussing Hughes’s employment status “on the air, in public, in email, social media or in the press,” according to the Washington City Paper. “If a caller calls in to express any opinion about John Hughes’ departure, including being pleased about it, the programmer should refrain from comment or agreement and simply thank the caller for his or her thoughts,” Reese wrote.

“The less said the better as I do not want the station to potentially incur any liabilities because of public discourse on this matter,” Reese added.

The City Paper also reported that Michelle Price, an outside consultant to Pacifica who helped facilitate the station’s temporary move to a central D.C. location earlier this year, has been appointed interim g.m.

The station’s relocation had been a source of friction between WPFW leadership and station volunteers, who blocked a plan to lease studio space in Silver Spring, Md., from a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications. The station moved into temporary studios in downtown D.C. this summer, but continues to seek a permanent home.

Hughes joined WPFW in 2011 and attempted to revamp the station’s program lineup and bolster its listenership. The changes riled many of WPFW’s volunteer programmers and longtime listeners. As the station’s financial condition worsened, WPFW increasingly turned to on-air pledge drives to stay afloat.

Along with New York’s WBAI, WPFW is one of Pacifica’s most troubled stations. During a July 25 conference call with the Pacifica board, Reese said WPFW is in a “pretty critical financial situation.”

Mike Janssen contributed to this report.

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