The director of the Pacifica Radio Archives is resigning following budget cuts that have cut staff hours and triggered losses of outside support.
Brian DeShazor, who has directed the archives for 19 years, told Current that he decided to resign as of June 30 after his salary was reduced 25 percent. In a public Facebook post on June 14 he said that the Pacifica Foundation also reduced work schedules of the rest of the archive staff — Pacifica’s website shows seven staffers, including DeShazor — to three-quarters of their usual time.
Pacifica’s staff and board of directors did not respond to numerous phone calls and emails requesting comment.
Budget issues are nothing new at Pacifica. Last January, Pacifica said it planned to make cuts at all five of its stations and would reduce staff at the archives unless new revenues could be raised. At the time, the board said the archives needed to cut spending by $108,000.
“It is demoralizing to the staff,” DeShazor told Current at the time. “We’re definitely in a pickle, and I’m not sure how we can get out of it.”
At least one advocate for the archive believes the staff losses could put the collection at risk.
“Our fear is that the archive will cease to exist,” said Josh Shepperd, director of the Radio Preservation Task Force of the Library of Congress and professor of media studies at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
Shepperd heads a partnership between the Pacifica Archive and academics, who volunteer their time to help the archives apply for funding. Professors from 10 institutions have been helping to access grants for the archives. With DeShazor’s departure and staffing cutbacks, Shepperd said task force members can no longer apply for the grants they were hoping to secure, such as funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
American Archive of Public Broadcasting is also pulling back. After learning about the latest cuts to the Pacifica Archives, AAPB withdrew its resident who was helping with digitization efforts.
“Unfortunately, due to cutbacks in the Pacifica Foundation archive staff, WGBH cannot ensure that strong mentorship experience and has decided to secure a new position for our resident initially assigned there,” Casey Davis, project manager at AAPB, told Current in an email. “She will be reassigned to a new station that we know can provide the level of support and caliber of experience we seek for all of our residents.”
Davis added: “WGBH Media Library & Archives remains dedicated to supporting Pacifica in its efforts to preserve and make accessible its significant collection of archival materials, and hope that we find ourselves in a position to work together again in the future.”
The archives is one of the best centralized collections of media advocacy history by sound in North America, according to Shepperd. Last year, DeShazor discovered among the archives a recording from 1964 that is thought to be the only full recording of a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Pacifica Radio Archives has restored thousands of historical recordings since it began in 1999. In 2013, it had only digitized one-fifth of its materials. Shepperd said that some of the tapes are endangered with a shelf life of only 15 years.
“If they lose these archives, Pacifica has erased its own history,” Shepperd said.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the year of the Martin Luther King Jr. speech that DeShazor discovered in the archive.