Sep 1 2008

Letters to the Editor

Dubious Responses

Jacqueline Bacon’s article on the debates (“Dubious Debates,” Extra!, 7-8/08) only further documents my reaction as I watched them. My question, however, is: Why did the candidates meekly put up with those questions? When someone is asked why he still runs when polls show he has very weak support, the answer should have been something like this:

That’s a question only the voters can, and should, answer. They want to know what my positions are. Then they can decide if they want to support me. Ask questions about what I want to do about healthcare, the economy, or the Iraq War. Here are my views on health insurance.

The first candidate who showed enough leadership to answer that way would almost certainly have risen in the polls. Yes, the questions were terrible, but the candidates should not have put up with them.

Peter B. Denison

Somerset, Mass.

Style Advice

I am a high school journalism teacher who for years has gotten excited every time I get an issue of Extra!, because each time I see a headline for an article, I just know I will be able to use it in class—only to realize once I finish reading the article that I won’t be able to use it in class because of the way it’s written.

If your purpose in writing your articles is to just catalog the right-wing bias and perpetuation of falsehoods by the corporate media while taking a few, well-chosen shots at conservatism as you preach to the choir, then please continue with your writing style.

But if you would like your point of view to be understood by those who don’t subscribe to Extra!—people like my students who are the ones who need to learn what you are demonstrating about the corporate media—then you will have to do two things:

1. Take out all explicit shots at conservatives and just let the facts speak for themselves. Your information is so good that no reader can come away without seeing the media’s obvious right-wing bias. But all an article needs is a few unneeded jabs at the right-wing for my right-of-center students to have an excuse to tune out the message because it obviously was written by the “other side.” But those are the kids I want to reach.

2. Please improve the quality of writing. Only media geeks, journalists and academics can slog through most of your articles that read like laundry lists with agendas. There is nothing wrong with using transitions or a nice turn of phrase or providing some scene-setting or background information. It would really help you reach the people you should be reaching, because even my most left-wing students would find your articles dry and boring.

You guys do great work that needs to be done. But you need to finish the job if you want to reach people who don’t already think the way you do and know what you know.

Charley McKenna

New York, N.Y.

Newsroom Diversity

I am a big FAIR fan, have been for nearly 20 years now (for perspective on my comment). This is the first time I have been compelled to write you with my comments.

About the “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” SoundBite from the June 2008 Extra! Update: I understand the statistics and your reporting them, but I do not understand the viewpoint. Are you suggesting there is a giant batch of blacks out there, or Latinos, or Asians, just champing at the bit to get into those newsrooms?

I feel certain that the so-called problem is not that newsrooms are shutting out these journalists-of-color, but that the trend of becoming less representative lies in the communities and culture of color. Where are they? Do you think they are interviewing for news jobs and getting blown off for whites? Seriously, probably not, don’t you think?

So, my opinion, don’t blame the newsrooms (please keep blasting them for their routine ineptitude and bias), but look at the probable cause for this absence of representation. My feel for the issue is that it presents a good representation of the interest or care levels in these communities, or a deficit of, but not a deficit or failure of whites.

John Perkins

Robbinsdale, Minn.

The editors respond

As Lee Becker of the University of Georgia has pointed out (, 9/12/02), more than enough people of color graduate from journalism and mass communications programs seeking daily newspaper jobs to fill every newsroom opening every year.