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Letters to the Editors

TV's spin on news turns off viewers

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 24, 2002


Re: Aging anchors, audience spell trouble for evening TV news.

Re: Aging anchors, audience spell trouble for evening TV news.

For the first time in many months, I walked down to my neighborhood box to buy a Sunday paper because I just felt like holding one in my hands. I read with amusement Howard Kurtz's article about the dwindling market share enjoyed by network TV news. It was like reading a stegosaurus' critique of a triceratops' broadcast. Kurtz went on about the networks' inability to compete with cable TV, with a one-line mention of former viewers who have switched to the Internet, "essentially becoming their own editors." Gasp!

Missing was any mention of the major media's pervasive bias -- I doubt if Kurtz is even aware of it -- and FOX's concomitant rise from nowhere. The discussion by network insiders about formats, budgets and time slots just shows that they have no idea what's happening around them. Kurtz writes, "The audience is shrinking . . . Most younger people never acquired that habit (of watching the evening news) or are just plain less interested in news . . ."

Why? Isn't it strange that young people would be uninterested in the world around them? Could it be that they are not interested in a steady diet of spin and lies. The stegosaurus and the triceratops will never figure it out because they'd rather go down with the ship than admit they're wrong.
-- Peter Thorp, Crystal Beach

Listen to Cronkite

Re: Aging anchors, audience spell trouble for evening TV news, by Howard Kurtz, March 17.

A few months ago I was a part of a panel that studied and discussed the topic of declining viewership of local news. Locally, the League of Women Voters of St. Petersburg was asked to be the lead partner in the area and to work with the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and WFLA-Channel 8 to provide a forum for public input.

The general consensus was that, yes, TV news is in trouble. Howard Kurtz's article missed the point of declining viewership by focusing too much on the "talking heads" such as Peter Jennings, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw. His premise is that they are the key elements to credibility and "prestige" of the nightly news and that once they retire it could spell doom for the network newscasts as we know them. Actually, the nightly news shows sealed their doom a long time ago.

These gentlemen are already part of the problem with the news and it isn't because they lack stature. Walter Cronkite's assessment was on target. He feels it's the programming choices being made and the soft stories that are being featured like "Your garbage can and mine" and "Your beauty and mine." Cronkite's sarcasm is apropos, especially when you consider that Comedy Central's The Daily Show probably is the newscast of choice by generation Xers and all the other "Dinformation Age" (now that's funny) generations.

At least there is a sense of truth when you watch Jon Stewart satirize national and world news. After watching decades of Saturday Night Live newscasts, I can at least be semi-informed about current events with a laugh. I'm being semi-informed by TV news as it is.

I think some poll or market study or research team dissected us to death and fed the results to the advertisers who pay for TV news. Those advertisers pretty much see us as lab rats. Isn't that what the problem really is all about. As Daniel Schorr stated, "there isn't any sense that they have to fulfill an obligation to the public." Of course, it's up to us to decide who "they" are and if "they" have an obligation to us.

Theoretically we own the airwaves. In the meantime, I'll keep watching the satire, read the paper, and, be grateful for the Internet.
-- Nancy Whitman, Indian Shores

Path to office is open

Re: Race summit is for regular folks, by Bill Maxwell, March 17.

With statements such as "lily-whiteness and near-lily-whiteness are normal conditions in many parts of our culture, especially in the higher echelons of the corporate workplace," I must say that Bill Maxwell sounds like a bigot himself. In order to be elected to either a governorship or the office of senator, two things are necessary:

A person must run for office.

A person must be elected to office by the majority of the votes from a given state.

There's no race-quota system (as yet) in place to guarantee a black (or, for that matter, any other person of color) the right to hold an elected office if he or she was not elected to that office. Maxwell forgets to mention that President Bush has two blacks as important advisers in the highest echelons of political power: Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, two people who serve as fine examples for all Americans to emulate.
-- Joe Mackay, Seminole

Ironic juxtaposition

Re: Race summit is for regular folks.

I am sure that the irony of Bill Maxwell's typically whiny column sharing the same page with the feature on Sierra Leone refugees escaped the majority of his loyal fans.

Yeah, Bill, you folks sure got it rough here in the good old U.S.A.
-- C.T. Maynard, St. Petersburg

Voting is the answer

Re: Race summit is for regular folks.

Bill Maxwell is quick to note that out of 50 governors and 100 senators none of them are black or Hispanic. Nowhere in his article was there a reference to what percentage of black or Hispanic people are registered voters or how many of those registered voters vote. This is the root of the problem.

When it comes to politics, yes, there is a good old boy network in place, but it never will change if you whine about unfair treatment. The only way the good old boy network can be taken down is with information and voters voting!
-- Scott McKown, Palm Harbor

We must protect ourselves

Re: Bulldozing the Constitution in a misguided effort to fight terrorism, by Robyn Blumner, March 17.

I believe Robyn Blumner is confused about the enemy. President Bush is not our enemy. Congress is not our enemy. It is a known fact that the terrorists have infiltrated our country and their intention is to destroy "the infidel," the American and our way of life. Why do we need to protect those persons who admittedly come here to destroy what they also use to protect themselves? We are not bulldozing the Constitution but taking away some of the obstacles that have been put in the way of our protecting ourselves. Yes, we must protect our freedom. We also must protect our country and our lives.
-- M.A. McLachlan, Clearwater

A needed voice

I have noticed that the Robyn Blumner column has been relegated further and further back in the Perspective section of your paper. Please move her to the front page of the section again. Her voice needs to be heard. Though you have many excellent columnists, Blumner is not afraid to report the facts as she sees them -- and as we all need to see them -- which is seeing clearly through the smoke and mirrors.

My hat is off to Robyn for her courage in writing the March 17 column, Bulldozing the Constitution in a misguided effort to fight terrorism. She so succinctly points out that in the name of patriotism the government is whittling away at our civil rights. If we are truly fighting terrorism to defend democracy, then we must not let our government take away the democracy we claim to be fighting to keep.
-- Deborah Goodenough, Brooksville

Points of agreement

Seldom do I agree with premises advanced by Martin Dyckman, but it happened twice in his March 17 column (A voice of sanity in Senate committees, but not for long).

First, in my view, state Sen. Jack Latvala is one of the most effective legislators I have ever known. He can be trusted to do (at least attempt) what he says he will do.

Second, term limits are the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the voting public. How did it happen? Perpetual discontents kept whittling away until they finally persuaded enough voters to impose their will on the majority -- the 80 percent of eligible voters who are not sufficiently interested in how their government (at all levels) operates.
-- F. L. Gus Cooper, Dunedin

Required reading

The perceptive column, Just what does it mean to "fully normalize" relations?, by Times senior correspondent Susan Taylor Martin should be required reading for those seeking clarification of the recent Saudi Mideast peace proposal. Martin clearly cites the deceptive features contained in the proposal, which was formulated to take the heat off the Saudi involvement in Sept. 11.

It should be obvious that the Arab governments in their present form will not tolerate a democratic country like Israel in their midst.
-- Norman N. Gross, president, PRIMER (Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting), Palm Harbor

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