Letters to the Editor

Dowd's win was shocking; are "alties" all the same?


Letters to the Editor
April 20, 1999 9:56PM (UTC)

The other woman
BY MURRAY WAAS
(09/11/98)

Correction: New Yorker columnist and former Spy editor Kurt Andersen did
not know of Sidney Blumenthal's alleged involvement in the Bush affair
story, as erroneously stated in an article
posted by Salon News last September. The inaccuracy was introduced by Salon
editors, who apologize to Mr. Andersen and the reporter for the error. A
correction has been made.

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Hating Dowd for all the wrong reasons
BY JAMES PONIEWOZIK

(04/14/99)

James Poniewozik's media column on Maureen Dowd was insightful and
entertaining, but it didn't help me get over the shock that she won a
Pulitzer for her Lewinsky scandal commentary. Last year, I often made the
case to my friends that Dowd was probably the most self-contradictory
columnist in journalistic history. One week she would launch mean and
vicious personal attacks on Monica Lewinsky, and a few weeks later she would say she
felt sorry for her. One month she would shout from the rooftops: Where is
the outrage over Bill Clinton's behavior in this scandal? A few months
later she would write with great passion: Why won't Ken Starr stay out of
Bill Clinton's personal life? She was all over the map, and I
don't ever recall her acknowledging that she reversed her previously held
views. Shouldn't a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist display just a shred of
journalistic consistency and self-awareness?

-- Dave Kaplan

Look, Maureen Dowd does venom. And when she is on (maybe one column
out of four or five) she does venom very, very well. She is then
trenchant, on-target, biting and substantive. The rest of the time
she's just mean. Normally, I scan the first paragraph of her column to
decide if what is driving her that day is a hangover and dyspepsia, in
which case I skip the rest, or whether she woke up feeling reasonably
well and decided to write a real
column that day. In that case, I read on.

But worthy of a Pulitzer? No way.

-- Robert A. Becker

Baton Rouge, La.

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Project Censored's annual guilt trip is back!

BY JENN SHREVE
(04/16/99)

Great "Alt" feature. I was feeling the same way about the
Project Censored articles I saw all over the place, and I find it dismaying
the way altie articles of a certain type are circulated like AP stories, but with
extra passion, extra liberalism. Every medium-size city's daily leads with the same big news
story, but with slightly different headlines. I hate seeing alternatives do
the same thing. I know syndicated stories are a good way to address the
understaffed, overworked atmosphere at many of these papers, but publishing
original, relevant stories is supposed to be what these papers do -- they're not there simply to keep the bottom line healthy. Our paper is young and
similarly overworked and understaffed, but I'd rather run real stories about
real local people, that perhaps could have been better, than to run
syndicated material that may be cheap, slick as hell and perfectly PC, but will have little relevance to our readership.

-- Natalie Green

Editor in chief

Buffalo Beat

Buffalo, N.Y.

Heal thyself.com
BY ARTHUR ALLEN
(04/13/99)

Arthur Allen's article about Net-wise medical patients says, in part,
that colloquial advice is a great thing when it's correct, and very bad when
it's "biased, poorly informed or part of somebody's plan to make a
quick buck or push an agenda."

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This phraseology perfectly describes what I and many other
intelligent people think we're getting from our board-certified,
Medicare-blessed, HMO-trussed physicians. Can we do worse?

-- Eric Bickford

The main article by Arthur Allen on medical information on the Internet was
quite well done, and struck a good balance between what can be two warring
camps. But there was one bit of information that (given my occupation of medicinal chemist) I thought needed to be updated.

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Allen mentions in passing that "no one knows how aspirin works, either," but
this hasn't been true for about 20 years now. In fact, there have been
several news stories in the past few months about approval of new drugs that
inhibit one of the exact enzymes that aspirin does (cyclooxygenase, or COX),
but much more selectively -- the idea being that this could give you aspirin's
anti-inflammatory effects without affecting the stomach lining or blood
clotting.

It's certainly true, though, that aspirin went on for an awfully long time
as a mystery drug. It's been quite a spur to researchers over the decades for just
that reason. There are fewer and fewer of those out there, though. Most drug
companies (such as the one I work for) prefer to start with a more defined
molecular target, a specific enzyme or cell surface protein, and work up from
there. Things that seem to work, but for no known reason, tend to make people
like me jumpy -- not just because I'm bothered because I don't know all the
details (although I am), but because in such cases I have no idea how to make
things work better.

-- Derek Lowe

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More power to low-power!
BY DOUGLAS WOLK

(04/15/99)

I have been involved with low-powered FM (LPFM) broadcasting for some
time through the Community Radio
Coalition,
but was reminded of the desperate need for this service when I
went on a 4,000-mile round-trip drive last summer. I heard town after
town's radio stripped of any local identity in favor of cheap national
satellite feeds put out by large station groups -- a way to save money and
justify the outrageous prices they paid to buy these stations.

Meanwhile, local businesspeople and others who might wish to provide
local programming find themselves outbid by the large groups if they
attempt to buy or start a new radio station.

This disastrous state of affairs can be laid squarely in the lap of the
Congress for passing the horrendous Telecommunications Act of 1996, which
basically deregulated radio station ownership, and the president for
signing this horrible piece of legislation.

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I would encourage anyone who cares about this issue to send comments to
the FCC (information on how to do this electronically can be found at
the FCC's LPFM site), and write their congressman. As things
stand now, a number of prominent Republicans are trying to kill the
FCC's LPFM initiative, so as much public input as possible is needed.

-- Tom Desmond

McKinney, Texas

Concerning your article on the FCC opening up the FM frequency
spectrum to low-power FM radio stations, I can only respond with, "It's
about damn time!"

As a resident of the largest city in Alaska, and a former announcer
in the commercial radio business, I have seen a vibrant radio market
deteriorate from one that contained many musical and programming choices
to one of homogenized, lowest common denominator programming. As
individual stations are snapped up by the bigger conglomerates they
begin to sound alike -- a radio programmer looking to save his career
must either choose to copy other successful local stations or otherwise die. How many "classic rock"
stations can a market of approximately 300,000 persons support?
Apparently three or four, judging from the current choices we have as we scan
the dial here in Anchorage. How many stations exist in this market that
cater to the needs of a fairly large Latino community? Zero. How many
specifically target the large Korean community within Anchorage? Zero.
Will commercial radio ever cater to the needs of those communities? This
is highly unlikely because there's no profit in it.

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In fact, very few FM stations within this market even claim to try
to offer programming, news and information to the other 350,000 people
in this state who live in remote areas. As you can well imagine, there
are a lot of remote areas in Alaska. By its very line-of-sight nature,
FM radio is the embodiment of local, community-based broadcasting.

A
recent victory on the part of local low-power FM station operators
located in Girdwood, Alaska, is encouraging. For over a year, a small but
dedicated band of community volunteers operated a 100-watt station in
this tiny ski resort town, located about 30 miles south of Anchorage.
Girdwood is surrounded by mountains, and doesn't
receive FM signals from Anchorage. There were absolutely no radio
stations serving this community before Glacier City Radio popped up on
the FM dial in Girdwood. After around a year of on-air operations, they
were served by the FCC with an injunction to stop broadcasting. A public
outcry and a slew of serious community protests and petitioning forced
the FCC to reverse its position and officially grant the station a
valid low power license.

On the other hand, an equally dedicated team of people in Spenard (an old neighborhood within Anchorage) chose to start
up an alternative oriented low-power FM station without FCC approval and
were shut down permanently. They, too, filed for a legitimate license but
were denied, not because of a cluttered FM dial but because of the
powerful lobbying forces of the two or three major players who own all
of the commercial radio stations within the Anchorage area.

In the meantime,
some of these more powerful stations continue to splatter the FM dial
with bad signals and overlap because of dated, flawed and/or inferior
technology, while complaints to the FCC in Anchorage about their
multi-harmonic signals go unheeded. These are the legacy players in
Anchorage and because of their longevity in the market they serve, they
carry greater influence with the FCC.

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I believe there is plenty of room for all players within this market, no
matter what their size or influence with the FCC. I also believe that
this is not a situation unique to Anchorage. In a world where
commercial broadcast radio is increasingly marginalized by Web
broadcasters, MP3 audio and other technologies, the use of public
airwaves can and should be handed back over to the public so that we can
use them to serve our local communities.

Besides, who really wants to listen to some cheesy DJ play yet another bad pop
song when we can download
some of our favorite music off the Web and
carry it around with us on our portable MP3 players? Certainly not me.

-- Randall Warner

Anchorage, Alaska

To live and lie in L.A.
BY CHARLES TAYLOR

(04/15/99)

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I can't help smiling at some of the critic's conceits in Charles Taylor's review of "Goodbye Lover." I haven't seen the film myself, but judging from his comments, Taylor has not only seen it but was present all through the development process and on the set as well. How else can he so confidently assign the director responsibility for certain things in the film, and the writers specific other things? And he gives the cinematographer full credit for how the movie was shot, both the tone and the style. Doesn't the director also have some responsibility in this? I think it's nice that some people other than the director are actually being acknowledged, but this presumption of knowing who did what is just silly.

-- Mitch Moldofsky


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