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Longest running KHSU volunteer, Tom Cairns, has been with KHSU for the last 47 years and said the dismantling of KHSU "was wicked and shameful". | Photo by T.William Wallin

KHSU protest in the plaza

The last remaining KSHU staff members resign, join a peaceful gathering of a few dozen held during weekly farmers market

The last remaining KSHU staff members resign, join a peaceful gathering of a few dozen held during weekly farmers market

Forty-eight hours after the artery of the community was severed, a few dozen KHSU supporters took to the plaza in protest during the weekly farmers market.

Natalya Estrada resigned her position this afternoon as the last remaining paid staff member of KHSU. Estrada’s resignation came after administrators at Humboldt State University decided to fire all volunteers and terminate all but two paid positions at KHSU on April 11. David Reed was the second of the two remaining employees but resigned on Friday, April 12.

Estrada was at the protest to show support and said staying in the position would not only compromise her career in journalism but affect her overall health.

“There comes a time in life when you need to make a decision in life and I made that decision,” Estrada said. “I knew what I was going to do but I needed to know how and when.”

Local artist Lisa Enge holds a sign in support for KHSU during a peaceful protest at the weekly Arcata plaza farmer’s market on Saturday April 13. | Photo by T.William Wallin

After Reed resigned Estrada was the last staff member running the station. Estrada said when the California Report came on she put on Caroline King and cried at her desk.

“It was very lonely being the last person left,” Estrada said. “It felt like 48 hours on the 405 during rush hour traffic.”

Tom Cairns was one of the volunteers to be let go during the dismantling of KHSU, but he isn’t just any volunteer. Cairns has been with KHSU for 47 years, making him the longest running volunteer at the station.

Community member, Carrie Slack, and former host of Jazz with a Groove, Rob Enge, hold signs in support for KHSU during a peaceful protest at the weekly Arcata plaza farmer’s market on Saturday April 13. | Photo by T.William Wallin

Cairns was at the protest because he felt the way everyone was fired was wicked and shameful. Cairns felt the audit report done on KHSU was just an excuse for firing everybody and HSU administrators were planning this even before then.

“The way they handled it was bold face lies,” Cairns said. “They had checks written out already even before the meeting. They had it all planned.”

In the 47 years as a volunteer Cairns has seen KHSU have its ups and downs but “it’s always continued and was never shut off the air.” Cairns said the unfortunate thing about the station now is it has become a typical NPR station with all news and very little music.

“Basically it’s just another McDonald’s public radio station,” Cairns said.

Public citizens, Mark Mueller and Lisa Hockaday, hold signs in support for KHSU during a peaceful protest at the weekly Arcata plaza farmer’s market on Saturday April 13. | Photo by T.William Wallin

When asked what he felt the biggest loss was Cairns said the community of the station. Cairns said those that work with KHSU are very active in the larger northwest community and engaged in the arts, food, and news.

“The music, public affairs, and local programming is what made KHSU unique and a viable source for the community,” Cairns said.

A few dozen protesters gathered with signs during the Saturday farmer’s market at Arcata Plaza to show support for KHSU on April 13. | Photo by T.William Wallin

Rob Enge, former host of Jazz with a Groove, was a member and sustainer with KHSU for 25 years and agreed with Cairns. Enge said this has been a loss of a community forum where connection was made.

“This was a good place for people to put their energy,” Enge said.

Enge moved to Humboldt in 1992 and the first thing he did was get connected with the local radio station. Enge was an avid listener of KPFK in southern California and said public radio stations are an important way in getting connected with community.

“This has been an erosion of community,” Enge said. “This isn’t social media from out of the community, this is real people talking locally and when we lose that its a shame.”

Community members show support for KHSU during a peaceful protest at the weekly Arcata plaza farmer’s market on Saturday April 13. | Photo by T.William Wallin

Local artist Lisa Enge has also been a supporter of KHSU since 1992 and felt the loss of KHSU was like losing a friend. She said KHSU was a treasure in the community and it was a cruel way that it was cut.

“Cutting volunteer and staff is unconscionable, shameful really,” Lisa Enge said.

Jax Stuber (left) has been listening to KHSU everyday for the last six years and said she will miss all the music and diverse programming. | Photo by T.William Wallin

Lisa Enge said once general manager Peter Fretwell fired KHSU program director, Katie Whiteside, the love for KHSU waned. She said as an artist the radio kept her company while she worked and she didn’t feel so lonely.

“The people, DJs, and programmers became friends,” Lisa Enge said. “It’s like losing a friend, or a family member really.”

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