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Stone Free Radio: Protestors gather outside WAMC in Albany to demand that state wildlife pathologist Ward Stone be returned. to the air.

Photo: Chet Hardin

Listener Feedback

Supporters of controversial state wildlife pathologist Ward Stone rally outside WAMC

People want Ward Stone back on the air. On Monday evening a group of those people rallied in front of the WAMC studios on Central Avenue in Albany to show their support for Stone and his long-running program In Our Backyard, which was suspended in early May due to allegations that were brought against him in an article by Times Union reporter James Odato.

Before the rally could really get underway, Dr. Alan Chartock came out of the WAMC building and invited in the protestors to address the station·s executive board during the public-comment period of their regular meeting. Once inside and before the board, they made their message clear.

Lynne Jackson, a volunteer for Save the Pine Bush, said they were ·very distressed· about WAMC·s decision to suspend Stone·s show. ·In Our Backyard offered a great deal of information about the environment which has come under extreme attack these days,· Jackson said, adding that Stone·s program was accessible to people, that WAMC was the ·organization that represents what progressive people want to learn about,· and that she hoped that they would reconsider putting the program back on the air.

·We have said from the very beginning,· Chartock responded, ·that the minute these very serious charges are cleared up, Ward comes back.·

In Our Backyard was suspended partially because one of the allegations made in the TU article was that Stone abused state resources in the course of appearing on WAMC, Chartock later told Metroland.

Lewis Oliver, Stone·s lawyer, argued that the allegations against Stone were not very severe, pointing out that ·there were no criminal charges against Stone and they couldn·t be rationalized as serious charges. . . . There weren·t even real disciplinary actions filed by the DEC against him that place his job in jeopardy.·

He alleged that the charges were motivated by complaints from the Lafarge Cement Plant to the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Last year, Stone undertook an investigation into the effects of the cement plant·s operations on the surrounding community. Stone said that he had asked his superiors at the DEC for $2,000 for the research needed, and they declined his request. Stone pushed forward, and his findings report considerable environmental damage, including mercury contamination, in the land surrounding the plant.

According to Oliver, Lafarge has lobbied the DEC, along with other parts of state government.

Stone said that he understood the position Chartock is in: ·The problem here is that I think he [Chartock] needs to be careful, because he did have a person before who didn·t have a show but was on [WAMC] a lot who had a problem.·

Stone was talking of Scott Ritter, the United Nations weapons inspector who was arrested in a Pennsylvania sex sting, and Stone said he believes that Chartock might just be trying to avoid any potential issues in the future.

Stone also pointed out that Chartock has a lot of listeners in state government and that ·he likes to interview powerful people in state government who may not like me very well.·

Chartock dismissed the possibility of being influenced by anyone in government. ·That·s absolutely ridiculous,· he said, ·that we would be representing the state·s interest. Come on.·

Stone explained that they were able to do In Our Backyard because it could be recorded before work, which, he said, had been done in many cases. ·We did get permission, and I did use the state car to go to it. But I must say that I felt a bit put upon by outside forces, not Chartock. WAMC is a very wonderful radio station and unique with a lot of very good people in it, producing good shows; however, it does leave a bad taste in my mouth to think that I was removed overnight.·

Another thing that Stone said didn·t sit quite right with him was TU editor Rex Smith·s involvement in WAMC·s The Media Project with Chartock. As Stone pointed out, Smith is Odato·s boss, and said he couldn·t help but feel that there might have been a conflict of interest there.

But Stone·s feelings about the suspension from radio and the accusations are the least of his worries. ·In my little mind, those are not big things to me. I·m getting to be an old man and my views of the world are changing. There·s less optimism, for me anyways, and more of a need to do battle.·

Stone said that he believes that scientists need more freedom and need to be less bogged down with the ·bureaucratic garbage· that takes away from the time to be creative and find things. ·I·ll be 72 this month, so it·s time for me to pick up the pace, start saying things and doing battle.·

·W.T. Eckert

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