Sep 1 2010

Letters to the Editor

Concern for Kindle

I love Extra!, but I have a concern with the August 2010 cover. Having the titles of the three main articles appear inside the Amazon Kindle leads the reader to assume, as I did, that the articles are critical of Amazon’s book reviewing, Amazon stealing literature from the public and Amazon’s profits and propaganda. I love Amazon and was disappointed when I saw this cover.

I went on to read the articles and was pleased that they were not an attack on Amazon. But I was then confused as to why you would have set the titles of the three articles inside a Kindle. Only the third article, “E-Book Profits & Propaganda,” dealt at all with Amazon or the Kindle, and then, far from being negative, it was actually a discussion of articles (almost five months old) in the New York Times and the New Yorker that had attacked Amazon for pricing books at $9.99. Sadly, book publishers with the help of Apple have now triumphed, and books that used to be $9.99 on the Kindle are now $13 and $14.

I wish you had not juxtaposed the Amazon Kindle with the title of those three articles, as it was misleading and confusing.

Thank you for an excellent publication, I always look forward to reading Extra!.

Mike Dunlavy

Tooele, Utah

Political Books Get Short Shrift at NYTBR

In addition to white-male dominance in book reviews you noted in the August issue of Extra!, I have deplored for years the fact that the New York Times Book Review reviews five or six second-rate novels each week but stints on reviews of critical books about politics and public affairs.

The conservative bent of the Times news reporting also seeps into book reviews.

Jake Highton

Reno, Nev.

Text Books are Media, Too

I was wondering if you might consider expanding your definition of media for part of an issue to include text books. There are concerns that states with very large student numbers can influence what material is included/excluded in/from text books in public schools. Re-cently (5/21/10) the Guardian Weekly (“U.S. diary,” by Chris McGreal) addressed this issue, though it has been around for some time.

For many young people, the main media from where they get information on history, economics, science/technology, politics etc. are their school texts. A hard look at how the industry interacts with school boards would be informative.

Thanks. I enjoy your publication. Aloha.

Bob Kinzie

Kane‘ohe, Hawai‘i

Mary Shepard,

Longstanding FAIR Activist With a Passion for Justice

FAIR founder Jeff Cohen writes a tribute to Mary Reed Shepard, one of FAIR’s longest-serving and most effective local activists.

I met Mary Shepard, an incredibly energetic activist and media critic from Minneapolis/St. Paul, when she was young—about 70-years-young. “If we had a Mary Shepard in every city,” I thought, “we’d be on the verge of (nonviolent) revolution.” Mary passed away peacefully on July 17; she was 91.

Born into privilege, she worked 24/7 for decades for a redistribution of wealth and power away from traditional economic elites—which is what should happen in well-functioning democracies.

In the early years of FAIR, she was a huge inspiration to me. A moving force in Women Against Military Madness (WAMM), Mary became an instant force for FAIR. Tireless and blunt in telling local corporate outlets where they were wrong—whether on issues of nuclear weapons or Central America—I was amazed at how many journalist friends she had at those outlets. They respected her integrity and passion for justice.

In the 1990s, WAMM protested a speech by NBC anchor Tom Brokaw in Minneapolis, accusing NBC of a conflict of interest in Iraq coverage because of the huge profits corporate parent GE was making on aircraft that were bombing Iraq. I’ve never forgotten Brokaw’s response when a local daily asked him about the conflict-of-interest charge: Brokaw said, according to the paper, “he did not know if GE-made weapons were used against Iraq.” That’s a breathtaking admission of lack of interest in powerful institutions. Some journalists know about the dubious conduct of their parent companies and look away; Brokaw apparently knew not to look there in the first place.

Mary Shepard never looked away. She knew of the inequities and cruelties inflicted by the powerful, and she spread the word—in spite of the gatekeepers in corporate media.

by Jeff Cohen