LETTERS: Debating the future of 'Pepper & Friends'

Thursday, July 23, 2009 | 11:32 a.m. CDT

Editor's note: Dan William Peek, a Columbia resident, submitted the following letter to the editor in regard to the decision to cancel long-running KOMU talk show "Pepper & Friends." Peek sent his letter to the Missourian, several other media outlets, and to MU System President Gary Forsee. The letter was then forwarded to MU Chancellor Brady Deaton, who wrote his own response to Peek. Deaton's letter, as well as Peek's response to Deaton, are all included below.

Paul Pepper may have saved a child's life. In June, I was a guest on his show to talk about a Grandparents and Others on Watch fund raising event. We did not spend a lot of time on GrOW's mission of keeping molesters away from children. But a few days after the show, Paul got an anonymous letter reporting a child molester. He forwarded it to the authorities. God bless him.

I don't know anything about Marty Siddall, except that he has made a very arrogant public statement about what a strong "decider" he is (Siddall was quoted in the Tribune on July 6: “The decision has been made. I worked on it very hard, and I didn’t make the decision with the intention of changing it.”). I imagine that many are as angered as I am that Siddall has moved here from whatever McCity he is from with the gall to try to make us over in his image. We have a strong, long tradition here in outstate Missouri of community arts and music. We have writers and journalists who celebrate the community and our life here — some of whom are employed by your paper. We have a preference for community-based media, such as KOPN and the Tribune. Paul and James are important members of that media. There has always been a locally produced, community-centered show on KOMU and we cannot allow an outsider come in and change that.

Move on Siddall, go back to Stepford and be the decider there. Take "Access Hollywood" with you. There are other TV outlets in this ADI. We'll boycott every one of your advertisers if you cancel "Pepper & Friends."

— Dan William Peek

President Forsee forwarded to me your e-mail dated July 15 regarding the cancellation of "Pepper & Friends." While we here at MU are extremely proud of the show's history and the contribution it has made to our community over the years, we are also mindful of the need to make difficult operating decisions in this challenging economic environment. It is with sadness that I must reaffirm the decision to air the final "Pepper & Friends" show on September 18 of this year.

I want to personally assure you that, for at least the last 10 years, everyone at KOMU 8 worked diligently to financially support Pepper & Friends. Despite those considerable efforts, we've finally had to acknowledge that the high cost of production makes the show economically unfeasible going forward. KOMU no longer has the resources to continue to underwrite the program.

Additionally, I need to point out that this issue is not unique to "Pepper & Friends." Weeks prior to the announcement to end the show, 13 jobs at KOMU were eliminated because the station no longer had the advertising revenues to support them. As I'm certain you can appreciate, these are very difficult decisions for everyone involved.

I can also assure you that this was an extremely difficult decision for Marty Siddall. By the tone of your letter, I must conclude that you don't personally know Mr. Siddall. If you did, you would know that he has been a very active member of our community for more than 10 years. He raised his children here, and he has amply and repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to our community.

Marty served as chair of the United Way Campaign and the United Way board of directors. He served as chair of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, and for 10 years as a board member of Great Rivers Council of the Boy Scouts. He currently serves as community chair of the Friends of Scouting campaign.

Marty is also co-chair of the Score Against Hunger campaign for the Central Missouri Food Bank, serves as a board member for CrimeStoppers and the Jefferson Institute, and commits his personal time to numerous other boards and committees in our area.

As KOMU viewers know, "Pepper & Friends" is just one of many components of KOMU's broad-based community service initiative. I want to personally assure you that the cancellation of the show does not diminish KOMU's commitment to serve the public interest. KOMU will continue to honor the spirit of service that hosts Paul Pepper and James Mouser have brought to our community. In fact, KOMU will continue a number of elements of the show in other locally originated programming.

Beginning this fall, KOMU will feature a segment within its morning programming that will include issues and events that have been regularly covered during the talk segments of "Pepper & Friends." The station will also introduce a similar segment in its 5 p.m. newscast.

Given the higher viewing levels at these time periods, I have been assured that KOMU's community service commitment will actually be expanded.

It is my sincere hope that our community will spend the remaining weeks of the show celebrating the accomplishments that everyone associated with the production of "Pepper & Friends" deserves.

In closing, I have a request of you: Should you choose to continue your complaint by distributing the letter you penned to President Forsee, would you please also copy my letter to you? I trust you agree that it is only fair that people have an opportunity to hear both sides of the situation.

— Brady Deaton

Dear Chancellor Deaton: Thank you for your response. I will copy your letter on all pertinent correspondence — and there is going to be a lot of pertinent correspondence. I must tell you that I doubt my doing so will change anyone's position one bit.

And let me reaffirm something to you. A viewer boycott and a boycott of KOMU advertisers will take place, and a community-wide movement in support of what we have always thought of as our show is already underway.

Mr. Siddall may have resided here for 10 years, but in that time he apparently has learned nothing about the character of outstate Missourians. He has flatly stated that he did not make his decision with a reversal in mind (not an exact quote, but pretty close — as reported in the Tribune). Not a fair or open-minded way to express himself. His tone and attitude throughout has been arrogant and faithless. There are United Way Campaigns and Boy Scout troops in most cities and towns. But there is only one "Pepper & Friends" show. And that is here in Columbia.

If you look out your residence window and squint a little, you will glimpse Columbia and, beyond that, outstate Missouri — it's on the other side of the columns. On a more positive note, it appears that the administration at MU is generally doing a good job. I hope that the wisdom to simply correct Mr. Siddall's misjudgment can somehow be found.

— Dan William Peek

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Charles Dudley Jr July 24, 2009 | 4:58 a.m.

Dan William Peek how in the hell are they supposed to finance something if there are no finances to cover the costs?

Maybe your group of citizens should go before City Council and beg for money that is not there either like other private entities have done of late. Maybe you should contact every 501c3 in the county and beg for money that is not there either. Maybe you can get some of the CMHS money to help fund the show that we all know that the money is not there either.

Why don't you try getting CAT3 to run it as a half hour show or get P & R to run it in a time slot with the money that is obviously not there.

Maybe ask for a spread sheet on the break down of the costs of running that show on air daily might help you to understand finally that the money is just not there and as alot of citizens have stated that obviously it is time to move forward.

Money is tight everywhere and if you think it is bad now just wait awhile it can and could get alot worse.

Just wait till Bill Watkins throws out the numbers for the FY2010 City Budget coming out soon. Then you will see real crying begin.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 24, 2009 | 11:14 a.m.

If this decision was made strictly along financial lines I agree with the views expressed by Chancellor Deaton. This show has had a long and productive run, but history and common sense suggest that all things must eventually end.

KOMU does very strange things. Rolla, Missouri is a part of "central Missouri" - or at least the KOMU weather map and the weathermen's presentations suggest that's so. There is a campus of University of Missouri located in Rolla now for 139 years!

But alas! Apparently no news happens in Rolla, Missouri except the weather, because KOMU cannot bring itself to report any news, especially any good news, from Missouri University of Science & Technology. News information is packaged and available.

Yet KOMU has a booster unit, or whatever it's called, specifically to bring its signal into Rolla, and I'm sure KOMU solicits merchants from the Rolla area for advertising.

Does something appear strange here? Mr. Peek is concerned about somebody being cancelled; we're concerned about even having some recognition. The station may have "MU" in its call letters, but doesn't it belong to the university in total?

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand July 31, 2009 | 11:19 p.m.

Ellis, I just searched KOMU's archives for "Rolla" and found dozens of stories about the city and MS&T, including a July 9 one about a $3.2 million grant and a July 15 one about a study on the New Madrid fault.

As "Joe Miner," you used to whine about this all the time on the old Tribune Board, and other posters would routinely provide links to KOMU (and Tribune) stories about Rolla. Give it up already. It's a flat-out lie that "KOMU cannot bring itself to report any news, especially any good news, from Missouri University of Science & Technology."

(Report Comment)

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