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Author Topic: Papers & Letters to editor: great source of information  (Read 5660 times)

Zxcv

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Papers & Letters to editor: great source of information
« on: December 24, 2002, 06:46:45 pm »

I've been poking around in the Idaho and Wyoming papers, and I highly advise this exercise to get people to take a pulse of the states we are looking at.

Please note I don't think of newspapers as a source or reliable information - in my state I call the leading paper our "Ministry of Propaganda". "The only words that are not lies are the classifieds", and so forth. But you can get a lot out of reading between the lines. Consider the following Wyoming example (you have to dig around to find the letters page):
http://newsdirectory.com/go/?f=&r=wy&u=www.trib.com
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If we build it, the racist church will come

Editor:

The indignation of citizens of Riverton, Lander, and the rest of Wyoming over the announcement that the World Church of the Creator intends to make Fremont County their "international headquarters" seems just a little late in coming. Folks are questioning why these supremacist creeps would pick our wonderful state as a location to spread their hate, propaganda and violence, and act as if their move here is some kind of a total surprise. Come on folks, get real!

The radical right, anti-government movement has been strong in Fremont County and other areas of Wyoming for quite some time and has been largely ignored by the kinder, gentler citizens (and those who fear their venomous rhetoric) or embraced by those who find conspiracies under every bush to feed their insecurities.

Why would radical groups not pick Wyoming for their future activities? And why would they not pick Fremont County as an ideal spot for the dissemination of their cesspool rhetoric? Consider:

Members of the Fremont County Commission have taken the stand that federal laws does not apply to them unless they agree. Their idiotic and childish stand was given wide coverage across the United States by the very press they abhor. Surely their overzealous anti-government posturing would never give any right wing, anti-government radicals encouragement to come to this area. Surely!

We see weekly letters from a Lander couple to the Star-Tribune, anti-everything, never offering solutions to anything, and filled with vilification and ridicule heaped on those they perceive as disagreeing with their propaganda or being some part of their imagined conspiracies. Surely this wouldn't make a hate-filled radical "church" think this might be a cozy spot to spew their rhetoric from, would it?

During the recent election we saw two members of the major political parties, running for governor, the top elected position in the state, sitting side by side in their debates with a non-taxpaying radical clown, flaunting his illegal nonpayment of federal and state taxes and laughing about it to the delight of all the other radical clowns. Neither of the major political candidates can muster up the guts or indignation to even call him on it. Now one of them is our governor. Surely that would not encourage folks to come to our state who may flaunt our laws, would it?

Pick up the Casper Star Tribune any day and turn to the editorial page. You are likely to see column after column of right-wing, hate-filled, anti-government drivel. Gee, I wonder why Wyoming might look like home to right-wing, hate-filled weirdos, don't you?

KTWO Radio, one of the most powerful radio stations in Wyoming, spews out daily doses of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Reagan day after day, substituting political rhetoric for entertainment to garner the almighty dollar. And these two propagandists are the guys so horrified by the insidious conspiracy of the "left wing press," spending the majority of their time on the air vilifying anyone who doesn't buy into their plans for the world. Surely no right wing dingbats would think that they would feel welcome in a place whose public loves to listen to this constantly, would they?

Well, folks, enjoy your new neighbors. We invited them here by our own cynicism, intolerance, complacency, and/or government paranoia, or their perception of it anyway. Now we're all stuck with them, like any other filthy disease, it'll take some luck and hard work to get them flushed down the stool or otherwise exorcised from our culture.

TRAVIS BENNETT , Riverton

(This letter was shortened. The word limit was waived.)
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Translation: a religious sect is moving to Wyoming and has this writer upset. The Fremont county commission thinks the Constitution should still mean something. The state's largest (?) paper has an editorial board that is not fond of government. One of the big radio stations there run Rush Limbaugh and Michael Reagan (shocked, shocked!  ;) )

Looks like the writer will have something more to say when FSP comes to town, doesn't it?  ;D

Anyway, I highly recommend getting google to find "Wyoming newspapers" or whatever other state you are interested in, and dig around. It really gives a flavor of what the state's all about!
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Zxcv

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Re:Papers & Letters to editor: great source of information
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2002, 07:07:56 pm »

Here's another interesting one from the editor of the letter-to-the-editor page, same paper, Dec 17 letters:
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Season's greetings to Star-Tribune letter writers

To all of you who send letters to the editor -- Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, and if none of the above applies, Happy New Year.

Even people who believe in the same thing can have completely different attitudes. Once, I observed two equally religious men at a Seder: That they were both dressed alike in brown jackets and gold ties underscored their contrasting attitudes. One looked as jovial as Santa, ready to dance and fiddle on the roof at every word. The other young man was intensely rigid with scathing eyes on Elijah's cup of wine, wishing aloud that Elijah would come down from on high and drink it dry so the world would be over and done with.

As letters editor, I see interpretations of those two personalities on the letters pages. Of course I am grateful for the ones who have enough joy in their hearts to value public discourse, or who have enough hope in their hearts to have the patience to inform the rest of us without personal attacks.

And I have been proud of your participation so many times. I remember the pages and pages of letters that literally ran a white supremacist's agenda out of our state in 1989. Daniel Johnson's message was that all dark Americans could be exported to their country of origin (light Hispanics would be allowed to stay. How kind.) Johnson actually thought he could do the David Duke maneuver and grab Wyoming's seat in Congress when then-U.S. Rep Dick Cheney was appointed secretary of Defense. Johnson was surprised when Wyoming balked.

Bless you for balking. That very same year you also balked when the Casper City Council tried to close down the swimming pool in north Casper at the same time it planned to add waves to the pool in Paradise Valley. The north Casper pool stayed open.

And who can forget the readers' reaction in 1991 when John Dorrance tried to set up an exotic game farm, illegally importing hybrid deer? The whole issue of game ownership became far more than a hunter's issue. Letters convinced legislators that exotic game farms were as welcome as nuke dumps.

Your page works. That's the good news. The bad news is you will always have to write in, you will always have to participate in order for the legislators, decision-makers and trouble-makers to get the message.

Your page is also a gift. In 1982, five Star-Tribune editors ago (counting one interim editor and one co-editor) Star-Tribune Editor Dick High and Publisher Rob Hurless decided that one way to network the state would be to publish all the letters to the editor that could be published. All the signed, secular, legible letters that contained no blanket condemnation of an entire race, did not incite violence, did not confess to a crime, did not libel or threaten someone else would be published. It would be a huge commitment of money and time but it would be a public service. The premise: If all the letters that can be run are seen, the people will have indeed spoken and the legislators and decision-makers would take note. And if all informed persons have a place to present their ideas, the stumbling blocks could turn into building blocks.

And let's face it. There are plenty of stumbling blocks in Wyoming. Since our towns are small, Wyoming money and resources bleed out from every corner of the state as we shop in Billings or Salt Lake or Denver. People who work in Jackson live in Idaho, people who work in Cheyenne live in Colorado. The money for amenities goes elsewhere. And when our gorgeous summer ends and cold winds prevail, many of our retired citizens go elsewhere.

So the mission on the letters desk is to keep Wyoming voices from being lost in the shuffle or trampled in the dust of policy and law. Charles Levendosky, who believes in the widest possible interpretation of the First Amendment, came on board as Star-Tribune's first Opinion editor in 1982 to pound out the Letters policy. In 1988, I was moved from the Wire desk, where I spent nights watching for late-breaking news -- and praying the Pope didn't die on my shift. Dick High moved me to Letters after going to one of my poetry readings. None of my poems were about trying to herd cats in a hard-hat area, but Dick knew a match when he saw one. I will miss the greatness and the quirkiness of this desk long after I am too feeble to create your headlines on deadline.

Our Letters policy would be tweaked as the page evolved. Legitimate letters that complained about the policy of a certain business ended up being a three-step process of calling the business, reading the letter to the manager and waiting a week or two to see if the problem could be solved between the client and the business; if not, the business had the option of running a note below the letter or a running letter of its own.

Religious letters ended up being the tar baby of the letters desk but the guide is to cut out the superior pronouncements of one religion over another with the same eye that cuts out the nastier pronouncements of atheism. The few Bible quotes that are commonly used in everyday language would be allowed.

As far as style goes, it's sort of a combination of AP style and that person's voice. I call it Associated Persons. We don't capitalize for emphasis, and recently tried italicizing some words for emphasis, but have gone back to plain script.

The word count for letters also was reduced from the original 450 to 350 words, using the word count as a guideline rather than a decree. And the three letters per month per person later, with the advent of e-mail, became two letters per month per person as space allowed but the lively, free-flowing letters section was now a tradition, even as some letter writers demanded space while criticizing Charles or me for allowing others to have their say. (Charles and I have also written opposing columns on pornography, the hate crimes bill and O.J. Simpson but we are always painted and maligned with the same broad brush; we are, after all, the media.)

The few times we have been threatened -- skinheads were angry over a letter that ran; a mentally-ill man was angry over one that didn't -- the newsroom battened down the hatches and kept on working. And the letter writers I know who have received similar threats in letters sent to their homes have also continued to write in spite of those threats. Bless your hearts, your brave little bones and your tough little hides.

Stay brave. Speak out when supremacists or terrorists darken our door. Poet Greg Orr puts it this way: "With calamity, when we endure grief and social loss, our self comes most alive. The props of our affection are removed -- as we open up to the world the walls around us collapse and we can shape chaos into writing on what it is to be human."

Claudette Ortiz (ortiz@trib.com) is Letters editor and Forum editor for the Star-
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Zxcv

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Re:Papers & Letters to editor: great source of information
« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2002, 09:53:39 pm »

Here's another interesting letter from Wyoming:

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Watch who touts tote bill

Editor:

Regarding concealed weapons permits:

To the owners of concealed weapons permits, pay attention to the bills before the Legislature next year. There are those who want to change the privacy laws to gain access to your names. This would be a violation of your civil rights and privacy. The managing editor, Mr. Eckhardt, and editor Mr. Smith of the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle are persistent in regard to opening all public records, including concealed weapons permits. Someday this could boomerang on them, with disastrous consequences. Mr. Eckhardt claims he has a right to know whether or not his neighbor is carrying a gun under his coat. That would violate the man's right to privacy and his civil rights.

DORIS COOK, Cheyenne
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BTW I found out who that religious sect was that was planning on moving to Wyoming, a guy named Matt Hale is their leader. He claims the Jews invented Christianity to undermine the white race.  ::)  I suspect he won't be getting many adherents, but he sure is getting a lot of people's panties in a bunch. Unfortunately guys like this just energize the leftists and drown out any rational discourse. I guess we'll have to put up with these jokers in places like Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

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Zxcv

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Re:Papers & Letters to editor: great source of information
« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2002, 11:56:27 pm »

Another from the Casper Star-Tribune, "Wyoming's Statewide Newspaper":
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Editor:

Maureen Dowd's (of the N.Y. Times newspaper) vitriolic column of Dec. 12 blasting Vice President Cheney, President Bush and Republicans in general suggests that Ms. Dowd has been indulging in too much apple pan "dowdy," laced with hallucinatory drugs. For the Star-Tribune, which is part of the Lee Enterprises liberal newspaper chain (38 newspapers), to publish this very "amateurish" excuse for journalistic writing comes as no surprise, for all of Wyoming is cognizant that the S-T is part of the "left wing" media. After all, it's editorial editor is Wyoming's resident socialist, Charles Levendosky....

All of America is aware that the New York Times is part of the "liberal" media. However, for the S-T to reprint such columns by liberal New York Times columnists is not only humorous but an insult to its Wyoming readers, who are predominantly conservatives, and not as "naive" or susceptible to left-wing propaganda as many New "Yawkers." As for Vice President Dick Cheney, we Wyomingites are proud that he is from Wyoming and believe that he is doing an outstanding job in that capacity, and that he is a great American.

C.P. "CHET" ABRASSART, Casper
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Here is the site of Lee Enterprises:
http://www.lee.net/newspapers/
This paper is their 12th largest, with a circulation of 30,000. Their number one paper is in good old left-liberal Madison, Wisconsin. I'm getting the idea the Star-Tribune might not be a friend of the Free State Project.  ::)

But they apparently don't cherry-pick the letters, printing all that come within their limitation. Let's see, since they print two letters per person each month, with 20,000 FSPers we should be able to get 40,000 pro-freedom letters printed each month.  ;D

I found this about the paper on that site: "We cover state government intensively with our two-reporter bureau in Cheyenne." Two reporters!

The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle out of Cheyenne is the only other daily paper in the state. Its circulation is 16,000, and apparently that is only in the Cheyenne area. They don't seem to have an online opinion page or letters to the editor.
http://www.wyomingnews.com/

I have a feeling in this state, the radio stations will be a whole lot more important to our success than the newspapers. And the Internet may be most important of all - in those isolated little towns, what can you do but cruise the Internet?
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wes237

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Re:Papers & Letters to editor: great source of information
« Reply #4 on: December 25, 2002, 12:02:15 pm »

re: "...radio stations will be a whole lot more important to our success than the newspapers."

I know little about radio laws/regulations. But, in small rural towns there always seem to be small AM stations that typically operate dawn to dusk (farm & ranch news, people trading things, stock reports, maybe some country music) . Perhaps there will be  "lease"  opportunities  for the FSP to have programs during the evening hours.
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