Media people

Cindi Burkey vs. KCRW

For eleven years, Cindi Burkey was the local voice of NPR's All Things Considered on KCRW. Last month, she got yanked off the air and she says was humiliated by being assigned to work the boards for her replacement. Burkey quit instead, and now gives her side on an ad-hoc blog that begins, "If you were wondering what happened to Cindi Burkey..." As usual at KCRW, the story involves general manager Ruth Seymour.

Fast-forward to early April: Ruth calls me into her office, tells me I am stumbling and generally sounding terrible on the air, and says the situation has forced her to take me off, and replace me (permanently) with Ken Borgers. This would be effective in one week...Ruth told me my voice had changed: It sounded different, strained, thin. She strongly suggested that I see an ear, nose and throat doctor...[She] went on to probe me as to whether I was having some sort of problem that was rendering me incompetent on the air. She seemed convinced that something was wrong, emotionally, psychologically, whatever--and didn't accept it when I told her that I was actually probably happier than I've ever been in my adult life.


As for my relationship with Ruth, a few months ago, she took me out to breakfast and then showed me her new home, which is less than 100 yards from mine. I live one block away from the station. Also, in January, I received an unasked-for raise---something I know not everyone got...

Anyway, I found it hard to believe that my abilities had really deteriorated that rapidly and dramatically--but, for the moment, assumed there must be something to the allegation. Over the next few days, I listened to tapes of myself on the air, and talked to as many colleagues and friends as I could---none of whom agreed that I had developed a terrible stumbling problem. Ruth, however, was convinced--she told me adamantly, over and over again, "We've got to get you off the air"...

Maybe I should consider this abrupt invitation to the door as a badge of honor--because I'm in really excellent company. More interesting talents than I have been booted off the air, at unexpected times. That would include, most recently, the clever and funny raconteuse, Sandra Tsing Loh; the mighty Joe Frank; former "To The Point" producer Kyle McKinnon, and several of the TTP staff.

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