Friday, October 19, 2007


This week's column, Amazing Gracelessness, is a must-read.

Here is an excerpt, complete with an ingenius idea:

So here's what I'm doing. For the first time, I'm contributing a nominal sum to WDUQ, in memory of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger -- just so Duquesne's balance sheet will remain tainted with the blemish of heresy. But I'll contribute double that amount to Planned Parenthood, on behalf of University President Charles Dougherty. (If you want to do the same, make your check out to "PPWP" and send it to 933 Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15222.) So way to go, Dougherty: You just made it easier for some poor couple to acquire birth control.

Way to go, Potter!


  1. Why did Planned Parenthood not disclose the content of ALL of its messages? It is my understanding that there were 10 different spots, and PP only shared the content of four. Why?????

    Duquesne University, for its part, appears not to care about the content of the messages, but rather the mission of the donor. The university's message is that it would not accept a contribution from PP if that message were to promote a bake sale or a walk-a-thon.

    Why did PP not disclose that it had engaged the services of an advertising agency in San Diego to place these messages? It's not FREE speech. It's PAID speech. PP, however, doesn't want you to see it that way.

    PP has been VERY disingenuous throughout this whole thing. The sneaky way that they have conducted themselves begs the question as to whether this entire episode was orchestrated in such a way for PP to be able to make PR hay.

    Full disclosure would likely not change anyone's position. Since that is so, why is PP so disingenuous? What are they hiding and why?

  2. How does paying for the publication/expression of your speech make it less free? People pay to print brochures and flyers and giant protest signs and stickers all the time. They pay printers, they pay graphic designers and they pay the Xerox guy.

    I'm quite sure the majority of the other underwriting spots were drafted by advertising firms who helped brand the companies.

    What could PP be hiding? The fact that they provide women access to safe, legal abortions? I think most people know that and don't know the other valuable services PP provides. Hence, the spots on WDUQ.

  3. My understanding is that the messages themselves were originally written by PP, and modified by DUQ staff, not that it matters much.

    What could PP be hiding? Exactly. They should have nothing to hide. Why, though, only disclose four of the the 10 spots?

    Was PP looking to get turned away so they could make a big deal out of this?

  4. Anonymous -- Have you ever eaten at a Sonic Drive-In Restaurant?

    They donate to Planned Parenthood.

    Should they have signs in their windows saying as much in the interest of full disclosure, so you can decide whether or not to eat that burger, because if you do, you are indirectly supporting abortion?

    And who among us here in Pittsburgh has never used the services of corporate medical behemoth UPMC?

  5. "It's not FREE speech. It's PAID speech."

    Remember this gem when award season comes around.

  6. Indeed, and the sponsor is Planned Parenthood. What they attempted to sponsor is owned Duquesne University. The university felt it could not accept the sponsorship.

    DUQ staff did not make this call, but they, and the listeners, will be the ones to lose out in the end. If you're a DUQ listener, you'll be among the injured parties.

    Looks like poor schlub who dealt with PP's ad agency (because the station referred PP's inquiry) is going to have to walk the plank. Hope someone's ready with a job offer.

    Other layoffs, and programming cuts won't be far behind. For those of us who listen, we all lose.

    Potter's Margaret Sanger pledges are a good idea. Then, the message comes across, but the station doesn't have to reduce the service we've all come to count on.

  7. It is my understanding that there were 10 different spots, and PP only shared the content of four. Why?????

    PP shared the contents of nine spots with me. I'll list them below, and you can decide for yourself whether this is evidence of being "sneaky" or "disingenuous." I'm not aware that a 10th one exists -- I'll double check -- but if it does, I'd be very surprised if it was much different from those below.

    Besides, if the problem was the wording of one, or even six messages, that's something that can be easily negotiated. (I've participated in similar discussions with another radio station; it's not a big deal.) The issue here isn't the wording of the ads. As you yourself say -- and as the university has made abundantly clear -- the issue is the identity of the sponsor. Your courageously anonymous attempts to accuse Planned Parenthood of bad faith don't change that fact.

    Anyway, here are the ads as PP provided them. (Each message ends with the tag "Planned Parenthood: Their mission is prevention." I left that out below for space purposes.)

    1) Support for DUQ comes from Planned Parenthood, providing healthcare services to more than three million women and men each year.

    2) Support for DUQ comes from Planned Parenthood, offering healthcare services to men, including screenings for cancer and STDs.

    3) Support for DUQ comes from Planned Parenthood, teaching adults how to talk to their teens about sex.

    4) Support for DUQ comes from Planned Parenthood, providing comprehensive sexuality education, including lessons on abstinence.

    5) Support for DUQ comes from Planned Parenthood, whose community educators empower teens to make good choices by teaching self-esteem.

    6) Support for DUQ comes from Planned Parenthood, whose community educators empower teens to make good choices by teaching responsible decision-making.

    7) Support for DUQ comes from Planned Parenthood, offering cancer screenings for women and men.

    8) Support for DUQ comes from Planned Parenthood, working to educate the public and community leaders on issues of women's health.

    9) Support for DUQ comes from Planned Parenthood, reducing unintended pregnancies through comprehensive sexuality education.

    -- Chris Potter

  8. There is a tenth spot. And even now, the one PP doesn't want you to see is the one that deals with contraception. What's the big deal?

    If the content doesn't matter, why do they hide that?

  9. If the content doesn't matter, why do they hide that?

    You're the one posting anonymously; if anyone knew about hidden secret agendas, it'd be you.

    Anyway, here's the 10th spot PP submitted -- the one they supposedly "don't want me to see," but nonetheless furnished about 2 minutes after I asked.

    "Support for DUQ comes from Planned Parenthood, reducing unintended pregnancies by improving access to contraception."

    PP originally sent me only the ads that they knew had been pulled ... and to be pulled, an ad had to first be approved. Apparently, this spot was flagged as a potential problem early on, and so PP wasn't sure it had ever run in the first place.

    Which just goes to prove my point: PP didn't raise a stink about the fate of this particular spot. One could, in fact, argue that they were too willing to cave to the university's censorious impulse on this spot. I wouldn't have blamed them if they started raising the alarm even earlier -- when it became apparent that Duquesne was exercising this sort of control over the radio station. That is, after all, what everyone is upset about.

    But in any case, PP didn't raise a stink until the ENTIRE CAMPAIGN was killed, with no regard for the messages contained in those spots. Again -- by *the university's own admission*, the campaign was killed not because of the wording of any given ad, but because of the identity of the sponsor.

    You're welcome to your conspiracy theories about this, of course. I'm going to leave you to them, and bow out of this discussion. For the rest of the audience, I'll ask this question: Does anyone here seriously think PLANNED PARENTHOOD would try to conceal its efforts to tout contraception?

    -- Chris Potter

  10. Nice try Potter. Either you are lying, or PP is lying to you. The 10th spot actually read:

    "Support for DUQ comes from Planned Parenthood, browbeating innocents into sacrificing young souls on the altar of Mammon."

  11. No one ever questioned the tenth, or any of the other spots. I never thought it was a particularly big deal, but have to wonder why PP didn't include that spot with the original four, let alone the other nine.

    No suspicion of conspiracy. Just questioning the spin, when none was needed.

    My point is that no one is completely pristine in this situation.

    DUQ gets victimized thrice: First, it can't take PP's money. That's bad. Secondly, it suffers a ham-handed move by the president, engendering much negative affect, and however misguidedly, calling into question the news operation's independence and editorial integrity. That's bad, too. Finally, the station loses additional support, from people and organizations (encouraged by PP to withhold their support) who value the station's service, but can't stomach the actions of the university. Bad, again.

    The university doesn't feel the pinch at all, since it doesn't touch donations earmarked for DUQ. DUQ gets hurt, and the listeners, ultimately, feel the blow.

    I'll bow out, too, since anonymity is a problem, and revealing my identity would compromise my sources at DUQ.

  12. I agree with your assessment that DUQ is in a double-bind here. In the long run, I do think this will hurt the radio station far more than it hurts Planned Parenthood. But I see no evidence to suggest, as some earlier posts imply, that this was Planned Parenthood's intent. To suggest that they concealed or spun facts in a deliberate effort to boost themselves, at DUQ's expense, just isn't supported by the facts as I see them. (Nor is it supported by my conversations with PP staff, who early on seemed more befuddled than anything by what happened.)

    Obviously, you have sympathies to people on the DUQ staff, some of whom you apparently know. I'm in the same position. But from all the evidence before me, it's the university administration that put DUQ in this spot, not Planned Parenthood. And so that's where I'm directing my fire.

    In any case, I'm sorry if I was rude to you earlier.

    -- Chris Potter

  13. Actually, I don't see where Planned Parenthood gets hurt at all. They save $5K, and get FAR more play for their message and mission than they could ever have hoped for had the messages aired on DUQ without incident.

    They also get tremendous sympathy and goodwill from outraged people, whether or not they ever tune to DUQ.
    The story received national play on NPR, and it has been picked up by AP. The New York Times ran a story. Front page coverage in the P-G and Trib (albeit on a Saturday) gave it a boost, too. Then, there is Potter's Field in the City Paper. There was also major play on Lynn Cullen's show. There was an op-ed in the P-G penned by the spouse of a PP staffer (himself a DU grad student), and a few letters to the editor.

    PP couldn't have bought that for $50K, let alone $5K. Not that the attention is undeserved, it's just the eventual outcome of the controversy.

    DUQ still loses in this thing, in just about every way imaginable, and at the end of the day, the station's staff had nothing to do with the decision.

  14. This is the first time my column has ever been mentioned in the same paragraph as The New York Times, and for that I thank you.

    I won't disagree that DUQ is the victim. But the role of victimizer here belongs to Duquesne University administrators, and I think it's important to bear that in mind. PP didn't ask for any of this, yet it seems like most of the ire you're expressing is directed at them.
    That's where our disconnect is.

    -- Chris Potter

  15. I'm not angry with PP, although I wish they had just played the whole thing above board from the get go, considering they did what they felt they had to do, just as the university did.

    My beef with PP, and those directing their ire, on PP's behalf, at DUQ, is that their actions are directed at the wrong target. It's Duquesne University that has my dander up, and, so, too, should it have everyone else's dander up. That's where to direct the campaign... not at the radio station... not at those of us who count on DUQ for services it may well no longer be able to provide.

    We have much less of a disconnect than it may seem. DU should be held accountable. DUQ is simply a pawn in a spat between PP and DU.

    Since no one can figure out how to get the message to DU without crippling the radio station, the path of least resistance leads to the "Boycott DUQ" campaign.

    I still think the "Sanger Memorial Pledge," advanced in Potter's Field, is a sensible approach. The message will indeed be received, and the pledge acknowledged on the air.

  16. I rec'd numerous emails from PP, both of the "official" nature and from staff members regarding this issue & not a single one of them in any way/shape/form encouraged people to with hold donations from DUQ. They asked that people contact the station manager & Duq. U's President to express their feelings. I also heard Kim Evert, Pres. of PP, on the radio on two separate occassions and she, also, didn't ask that people refuse to donate to DUQ.

    As for calling into question the independence & editorial integrity of the station, well it does give one pause. I heard that the university's only influenced programming once, and that was to "make" DUQ carry Duq. U basketball games. I don't consider that a big deal or worrisome in any way.

    But once they start meddling in who can advertise, how long before they start meddling in what stories are told, or how stories are told? Duq. U. "owns" the station afterall. Although I thought it was we, the people who own the airwaves.

    I agree that, although unintended, this has resulted in a positive PR bonanza for PP & that it has hurt DUQ staff & operations. I feel sorry for the staff, I enjoy listening to the station.

    But I'm a little queasy.

  17. i'm wondering how it is that upmc bails out mercy but mercy can stay a catholic hospital?

    serious question here, if i were to raped and taken to mercy, would i be given medicine to prevent a pregnancy or would i have to have someone else get it and bring it or would i have to be transfered to another upmc hospital?

  18. Even in commercial radio, there's a strict firewall between sales and programming, and in particular, news departments. There's nothing to fear about DU meddling in programming, especially in news.

    Kimberlee Evert, in the P-G 10/13 (

    "I don't believe that donors realize that when they support public radio, they are actually donating to Duquesne University. According to this logic, WDUQ can't accept donations from anyone supportive of reproductive choice."

    on Channel 4 (

    "I think it opens a can of worms. We had many donors contact us and say what happens if I support birth control? Does that mean my money is dirty and cannot be accepted by Duquesne University?"

    In the DUQ News story (, Ms. Evert said that donations to the station, from anyone who disagrees with Catholic doctrine, should be returned.

    I believe the broadcast e-mail said something along the lines of, "WDUQ is currently running a pledge drive asking for your money, but they've decided they won't accept ours."

    It was Ms. Evert, in the AP story, and elsewhere, including DUQ's own story, who called the station's editorial integrity into question. (

    In the NPR story, Ms. Evert says, "I think it's raised questions for supporters of the radio station about whether or not there is the needed independence for news reporting."

    Does PP say "don't pledge to DUQ," or "call them and cancel?" No.

    Is that message strongly implied? Absolutely.

  19. Anonymous,

    I don't know the context in which Evert made that statement. However, in the interviews I did hear, she said that she & PP had heard from many supporters who raised the question of independence & editorial integrity, which is what she's referring to in the quote you pulled. Neither Evert nor PP initiated the independence/integrity discussion.

    As to the message being strongly implied that donors should not support DUQ, Evert is again responding to donors' questions, which take Duq. U's logic in refusing PP's underwriting to what many believe is its logical end.

    PP was correct in sounding the alarm that Duq. U refused its underwriting. Once that alarm was raised, donors, many of whom support(ed) both organizations had questions and arrived at their own answers.

    I've heard several pro-life callers on talk radio praise Duq. U for its stance. It will be interesting to see if they pick up the slack & send in donations to DUQ. Some said they were sending donations to Duq. U, not realizing, perhaps, that that's not the same as contributing to DUQ.

    I bet that the pro-life callers are conservatives who'd find it difficult to contribute to NPR.

    As you have contacts at DUQ can you ask to see if they've had any influx of pro-choicers' money? A "yes" answer is problematic, if the pro-choicers become a significant portion of the supporters, it very well may affect content. During pledge week I learned that only 13% of DUQ's budget comes from government and Duq. U. 87% comes from listener/members.

    A "no" answer will be hard on DUQ's ooperations.

  20. I offered context for all of Ms. Evert's comments by providing links to all of the stories, including audio in her own voice.

    PP has every reason to be upset, but Ms. Evert goes beyond the pale when she absolutely does initiate the questions about the station's editorial, and, for that matter, fundraising integrity (implying that the university really gets the money). She never claims that she is simply sharing information from callers.

    DUQ's budget breaks down approximately as follows:

    Direct listener support: 56%
    Program underwriting: 29%
    Corp. for Public Broadcasting: 7%
    Duquesne University: 6%
    Other grants: 2%

    As for the pro-lifers increasing support, that's difficult to determine. Anecdotally, there were a few, but not many, pledgers who identified themselves as pledging in support of the university's decision.

    Things broke loose for the drive yesterday. Approximately $107K was raised in 21 hours of pledging. Yesterday was one of the largest fundraising days in DUQ's history. Today was one of the best Saturday mornings ever.

    The end result is that the drive fell about $14K (about 5%) short of its $275K goal. That figure is significantly beyond what anyone would have predicted as late as Thursday. Some had expected to fall nearly $100K short.

    The drive was certainly affected by the controversy, but, purely from the perspective of the station's short-term bottom line, began and ended in splendid fashion.

    Some callers, indicating they were not pledging in protest of the refusal to accept PP's contribution, said they were sitting out this drive, but would be back in February. Others have vowed never to give as long as the university owns the station, or until it would reverse it's decision. The long-term effects of the university's decision are clearly still to be determined.

  21. " October 19, 2007 5:20 PM
    Gloria said...

    I rec'd numerous emails from PP, both of the "official" nature and from staff members regarding this issue & not a single one of them in any way/shape/form encouraged people to with hold donations from DUQ. They asked that people contact the station manager & Duq. U's President to express their feelings. I also heard Kim Evert, Pres. of PP, on the radio on two separate occassions and she, also, didn't ask that people refuse to donate to DUQ."

    I knew it in print somewhere. Here's Jodi Hirsch, from Planned Parenthood, on the Iceland Spar blog(

    "# Jodi Says:
    October 12, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Hiya. What we’re recommending people do at Planned Parenthood is refuse to donate, and explain why. If you’d like to see the kind of messages that WDUQ has refused to let us air, check this site:
    They’re pretty innocuous messages. Thanks for paying attention to this troubling issue. We used to be pretty big supporters of “public” radio too. :("

    Absolutely, PP is attacking DUQ and encouraging people who use the service to withhold support.

    I guess it's deserved, but the station, and all of us who listen, get hurt, while the university plods along with impunity. Doesn't the adage that "two wrongs don't make a right" apply here?