Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – Matt Knight, host of KHSU's Alternative Therapy show since February 2000 has been fired from the station.
Knight, whose radio name is "Mad Doctor Matt," is one of the members of the station's volunteer community who have been unhappy with General Manager Peter Fretwell and Vice President for Advancement Craig Wruck since the May firing of former Operations Manager Katie Whiteside.
Knight had sent an email over the weekend to the station's engineer, Kevin Sanders, suggesting that he "discover problems that might take weeks" to fix during the transfer of the station's broadcast facility from the Theatre Arts building to Feuerwerker House. While he later retracted it and apologized, the university wasn't enthused about his contrition.
In an email message to station staff (see below), Fretwell, states that "Humboldt State University has terminated Matt Knight’s privileges as a volunteer at KHSU following published reports, confirmed by Mr. Knight, that he urged a State employee to interfere with the operation of the radio station."
Continues Fretwell, "The University takes seriously all threats against the University or any of its employees. We have an obligation to preserve and protect State property including KHSU facilities. In addition, as a federally licensed broadcast facility, the University has a special obligation to ensure that KHSU protects its ability to provide broadcast services."
Knight and others allege that the university is attempting a purge of the station's longtime volunteers with the goal of "delocalizing" the station. The dissidents further object to Fretwell/Wruck's management style, casting it as remote and abusive to station personnel.
HSU officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Knight, who provided the emails below, had a number of things to say in the wake of his termination.
"Obviously I regret what I did there and I tried to take it back," Knight said. "I brought this on myself, I guess. It was 100 percent wrong, what I did."
Still, Knight sees his firing as revenge, and possibly a signal to other dissidents.
"The bottom line is, it's retribution," he said. "They're trying to make life as difficult as possible for critics."
Knight noted that he never interfered with station operations or advocated damage to station facilities.
"I didn't actually interfere with anything, nor did I suggest that they break things," he said.
He said one of his biggest regrets is drawing Sanders, who has been steadfastly apolitical through multiple stormy station controversies over the years, into the current imbroglio.
"I feel bad about putting Kevin in that position," he said. Noting that Sanders turned the message over to authorities, Knght said, "I don't blame him one bit. That's what he was supposed to do."
Knight wasn't reserved in his characterizations of Fretwell. "Just like all of his decisions, he's hiding behind the skirts of HSU," Knight said. "A man would stand up and say, 'I don't like this, get out.' But he hid behind the CAB [Community Advisory Board], Wruck and now HSU."
Knight further alleged that the seismic retrofit of the Theatre Arts building, which is forcing the station to move to new lodgings, still has no contractor nor any firm timetable. That, he suggested, casts doubt on the legitimacy of the urgent KHSU move.
Frank Whitlach, associate vice president for marketing and communications, dismissed Knight's suggestions. "I'm pretty sure that we're not spending tens of millions of dollars as a ruse to move KHSU," Whitlach said.
He said contracts were being finalized and a construction schedule firmed up. "Work could start in the next couple of weeks," he said.
Whitlach said Fretwell's rationale, as stated in the emails, needed no elaboration. "I think Peter's message speaks for itself," he said.
He said he found curious what he called the "random gender stereotyping" in Knight's negative characterization of Fretwell.
Knight said Fretwell had requested a personal meeting with him, but Knight told Fretwell that he wanted whatever he had to say in writing.
The first email to Kevin Sanders by Matt Knight
I know you want the KHSU move to be your legacy, and I admire your dedication to the station. The plain fact is - there may not BE a station worth that legacy - once your psycho boss's is done with it. He is clearly bent on pile-driving KHSU into the ground as part of his sick revenge fantasy. Craig Wruck seems to be very much on board with this idea. These are two twisted, little men.
You may be able to stop it. They cannot make this move without you. I am not saying flat out refuse to complete the move. Even though - if you did - they could not touch you. You are beyond their reach. But if you to - say - threw out the anchor - discover problems that might take weeks - and weeks - and weeks to rectify - they would HAVE to back down. I know it's a lot to ask. But I'd would like you to think about this carefully. You are literally the only person on staff with the juice to stand up to them. They can do nothing without you.
I've always respected to your immense ability and common decency. So I am asking you - no - begging you - to use your power. It's time to stick it to them. Otherwise, they are going to get away with this, and this great radio station is going to come to a very nasty end.
Yours Very Truly,