Thursday, August 30, 2007

OPB & anti-gay politics controversy

Sometime last week, I began hearing OPB's ads for the Ira Glass's upcoming appearance in Portland . . . er, Clackamas. I was surprised to hear he would be speaking at the suburban mega-church New Hope. I attended New Hope in junior high during the late 1980s and know it to be very active in anti-gay politics, so it seemed like a very unlikely venue. Yes, logistically, New Hope is an attractive suburban venue with a large sanctuary, comfy pews, good sound, plenty of parking and easy freeway access. However, conservative, suburban, Clackamas? It doesn't seem like the stereotypical progressive-leaning, urban, public radio audience venue.

After reading a entry about Sienna Architecture's business with New Hope last weekend, I sent a whiny late-night complaint to

I was very surprised and disappointed to hear that OPB is presenting the Ira Glass event at New Hope Community Church on October 7, 2007. New Hope is a politically-active organization that actively opposes gay rights legislation and regularly hosts politically conservative events. While I support OPB radio and am a fan of Ira Glass, I would not feel comfortable entering New Hope's facility especially at this politically sensitive time.

I suspect many OPB listeners and Ira Glass fans would have similar reservations about the New Hope venue. Can OPB assure event attendees that they will not be soliticited political petitions at the venue. If not, will the venue allow opposing political views at the event? Can OPB assure that event fees will not benefit New Hope's political activities?

Thank you for consideration.

I hate writing whiny e-mails and had second thoughts about whether I was making a big deal about nothing. I received a response Monday afternoon (underline added):

Thank you for emailing us about the Ira Glass event. I'm sorry that our choice of venue for the event is causing you distress.

The New Hope Community Church was the only space available of the size we needed for the date that Ira would be able to come to Portland.

I certainly understand that you disagree with their political outlook. Given the large and diverse audience we serve it is inevitable that there will be conflicts of opinion. I believe one of the values of public broadcasting is that it helps create a space where conflicting beliefs can respectfully co-exist.

The hall rental is not an endorsement of the church or it's political viewpoint. The church is not a co-sponsor and will have no part in the program. If they have material in the lobby (such as they do for youth groups and other activities) it is not part of the OPB event.

I hope that you consider attending.

Please let me know if I've addressed your concerns. Thanks for your support.

So in other other words, no. New Hope may very well have anti-gay signature petitions as reported by the Merc and no, OPB cannot guarantee that the ticket sales will not benefit New Hope's political activities. A disappointing response, but I resigned myself to thinking, 'well, I tried'. However, I apparently was not the only annoyed Ira Glass fan. Portland Mercury reports that Roey Thorpe sent complaints to OPB last week and Lelo in NoPo has also been leading an effort to have OPB change the venue.

Yesterday, Ira Glass's agent, Steven Barclay, apparently announced that Glass had requested that OPB request a change in venue (although last night OregonLive reported that OPB would not change the venue). Today, the Merc confirms that Ira Glass will not appear at New Hope.

What is most disturbing is that OPB handled their screw-up so poorly. First, why in the world would they do any business such a controversial, political organization? Secondly, instead of admitting they screwed-up, OPB tried to defend their unpopular and offensive decision. Now that OPB is changing the venue, it seems that an apology would be in order and some guarantee that OPB will do a better job choosing who it associates with.


LeLo in NoPo said...

Norm-Way to act on your original gut response by contacting OPB. Yes, what a disappointing response to have received from them. And while it's now a perfect opportunity to admit a mistake and move on, it looks like they're continuing to bungle it. Becky Chinn at OPB is currently quoted as saying:
"We could have been stubborn," Chinn said. "But the ultimate thing was that this issue was starting to distract from Ira's visit." I guess we should all praise OPB for not being stubborn? Ridiculous.

Norm! said...

Thanks LeLo and keep up the great work!

I can't believe how poorly OPB is handling this -- not to mention their own news division has yet to cover it. Although they have added a page in their forum.

LeLo in NoPo said...

The good news is that I'm meeting with OPB face to face on Friday, and truly hope I can walk away from that meeting inspired by my public broadcasting affiliate and their good intent. I'm keeping a positive outlook for that the meantime, it will be entertaining, if anything, to see the comments on their set-up in their forum. Well stated comment you made over there, btw.

Norm! said...

Wow! That's great to hear that they're going to meet with you. I'm also hopeful that OPB will be able to live-up to what we want it to be. I look forward to hearing about it on your blog.