Friday, May 19, 2006

Signature NOT forthcoming

Once a week I record a short news segment for the local public radio station. It’s about three to four minutes long and includes some of the headline stories from the week’s newspaper.

Because I record these segments, I’m considered a station volunteer. Although technically accurate, I hesitate to use the term “volunteer,” especially when you compare me to the other people who donate hours upon hours of their time to the station. They’re the ones who deserve that designation. I feel more like a very small contributor, at best.

But on paper, I’m a volunteer. So this week I got a packet of forms to fill out because the station is apparently updating its paperwork.

It is pretty mundane stuff, except for one form which is an “Agreement” I must sign to be continue to be part of the station’s “listserve.” That’s basically an e-mail list that goes out to all the volunteers. You can respond to topics or create topics and everyone on the list receives a copy. It’s a good tool for communicating between large groups of people.

Most of the “Agreement” form is boiler plate material – I won’t be an inconsiderate asshole, I’ll refrain from posting naked photos of Jennifer Lopez, and I won’t use the listserve to solicit victims for a Ponzi scheme.

But then, in bold letters, the agreement reads “Additionally, I agree to keep the list content confidential.”

That jumped out at me. This is a public station funded with taxpayer dollars. The “listserve” is paid for with tax dollars. It’s hosted at a public university, paid for with tax dollars.

About 99 percent of the material on the listserve is boring and not even worthy of much conversation or response – people look for subs to host their shows, complaints about garbage being left in the studio, kudos or mild complaints about different programming.

It’s the kind of material that remains confidential due to the mere fact that nobody cares.

But what if a sinister plot was revealed on the listserve? What if there was material regarding a misappropriation of public funds? What if there the listserve revealed an abuse of power?

I can think of hundreds of different scenarios that could be revealed on the listserve that would require me to violate the confidentially agreement.

Some of them may seem farfetched. But consider this: The fellow who was in charge of the same station several years ago was arrested for felony embezzlement! He was exaggerating pledges and donations. He stole money and apparently used some of it finance sex romps down to the Bay area where he rendezvoused with his lover.

Something scandalous not only could happen, but it has happened.

To suggest that a similar situation won’t happen again in like saying that a White House intern will never again give a president a hummer again, and a Commander in Chief will never again lead the nation to war based on bogus reasons.

Let’s not be naive. These things happen, and will happen again.

And I’m supposed to agree, no matter what, to keep the contents of this listserve confidential?

Bullshit. Ain’t gonna happen.

I’ve informed station management of my thoughts. The responses have been vague and almost non-responsive, although I'm not revealing them here

I suspect I will soon be removed from the listserve. My participation will cease.

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