Native journalists suspended in management dispute

Posted: Friday, March 03, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Two veteran Native radio journalists said Thursday that they have been taken off the air at Native-oriented KNBA for challenging management decisions about a new program.

Nellie Moore and D'Anne Hamilton said they objected to an order by Koahnic Broadcast Corp. president Jaclyn Sallee that two corporate supporters be regular guests on a planned statewide call-in program on Native issues called ''Pathways.''

Moore and Hamilton said Sallee's order amounted to excessive interference in the program's editorial direction, and that the presence of the corporate supporters violated journalistic ethics.

''We were told these people who were working on funding for the program were to be included,'' Moore said. ''We didn't want to be in that close contact (with sponsors).''

Their objections were met with an indefinite suspension with pay, they said.

Moore is producer and host of ''National Native News,'' aired on about 130 radio stations around the country. Hamilton is director of Koahnic's training center for young journalists.

Moore said the ''Pathways'' issue tarnishes the station's journalistic credibility. KNBA has aired sponsor-driven shows in the past that created anguish among the staff journalists, she said.

''If we put them on, people would say it was just another PR program,'' she said.

Mark Kroloff, general counsel for Cook Inlet Region Inc., was one of the two corporate supporters identified by Moore. But Kroloff said he has had nothing to do with fund-raising or development of ''Pathways,'' and didn't know anyone wanted him to appear on the air.

The other person Moore named was Vicki Otte, executive director of the Association of ANCSA Regional Corporation Presidents and CEOs. The group is funded by Alaska's 13 Native regional corporations and represents its common interests.

Otte said she thought ''Pathways'' was a good idea. She drew up a sponsorship proposal that her member corporations are still considering, Otte said. She said she had been approached to appear on the weekly show once a month.

''But I just volunteer to go help find funding. That doesn't mean I'm a 'corporate supporter,''' Otte said.

Otte and Kroloff hosted a call-in program on Native justice issues that went off the air late last year. At the time, Otte headed the Alaska Native Justice Center.

Sallee said Moore and Hamilton were misrepresenting the reasons behind the dispute.

''This is strictly a personnel issue, and not a struggle centered around programming, as it's been portrayed,'' she said.

Sallee would not identify the personnel issue, citing advice from Koahnic's lawyers. But she said there have been no ethical violations by management or staff.

Thursday's edition of ''National Native News'' was produced before Moore's suspension. On Friday, the program will consist of feature stories that have been aired previously, Sallee said.

''We're working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible,'' she said. But Sallee wouldn't say whether the station's relationship with Moore and Hamilton could be patched up.

Several KNBA journalists have lined up behind Moore and Hamilton. Long-time Alaska broadcaster Len Anderson, who also works at KNBA, said he turned down Sallee's request that he take the helm at ''National Native News'' in Moore's absence.

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