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American Journalism Review
Letters  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  Letters
From AJR,   April 1992


To the editor:
As Casey Stengel might have said, "You coulda looked it up..."
How many readers pointed out to you that the name Sulzberger, as in New York Times ("Bylines," March), contains only one "u"?
Acurasy, gentlemen, acurasy!
F. Peter Model
Contributing Editor
Wilson Library Bulletin
New York, New York

Editor's note: Ouch.

AIDS Merits Coverage
To the editor:
As a former journalist, I can appreciate the cautionary notes Daniel Lynch ("AIDS: The Number 11 Killer," January/February) strikes about context in news articles. But my experience as a media professional and as an HIV-infected person says that Mr. Lynch's point that AIDS has received disproportionate attention from the media and the public is dead wrong.
What Mr. Lynch overlooks is while AIDS may be responsible for fewer deaths than other causes, AIDS has caused more emotional turmoil in individuals and in society than any disease in recent history. I and more than a million people in this country who are HIV-positive face a degree of fear, hostility and discrimination that those who have any of the "Top 10" diseases never have to confront. AIDS has forced this nation to grapple with deep-rooted beliefs and prejudices about sexuality, has added new urgency to our drug abuse problem and has exposed weaknesses in our health care system of concern to everyone. It is the effect AIDS has on the national psyche which commands the attention it gets.
Judging from the statements of some public officials in recent months, the media needs to devote more attention, not less, to its AIDS coverage. U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Gasch, for example, upheld a military ban against homosexuals in part because of his apparent belief that their mere presence threatens enlisted men with HIV exposure. If this is the message a federal judge gets, what about Joe Six-Pack?
The real problem is that as we search for excuses for the "general population" to become complacent about HIV, in much of the African continent today AIDS is an issue for the general population and that appears to be the future for the epidemic in this country unless there is dramatic change.

Isaiah J. Poole
Executive Director
Washington, D.C.

Crime Record Access
To the editor:
Lyle Denniston's column regarding the Student Press Law Center lawsuit to force disclosure of campus crime records ("DOE Seals Campus Crime Records," The Press and the Law, January/February) omits a critical point: The U.S. Department of Education (defendant in the case) agrees that federal law should not prohibit disclosure of such records.
Last July, we asked the Congress to amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (also known as the Buckley Amendment) to permit disclosure of such records. Since then, both houses of Congress have passed different bills containing the administration language. It appears likely that, as we have been urging, this legislation will be enacted sometime this year.

Lamar Alexander
Secretary of Education
Washington, D.C.

Wasting News Directors
To the editor:
Lou Prato's January/February piece about women news directors ("The News Director Proves Her Mettle") left me with a sense of sadness. The feeling was not produced by the fact that there are too few women news directors and certainly not by the fact that so many who have been given a chance are good at the job. It came from the unemphasized theme that coiled through the article: the foolish waste of human resources in the industry, which regards executives as disposable, interchangeable parts and news as "product."
News directors are hired and then thrown out in a paroxysm of the ratings before they have learned enough about their staffs or their communities to begin serving their audiences. Why is local television news so bad at most stations? Because every day it is the product of reflex actions by people who don't have time to think, overseen by news directors who just got there and won't be around much longer.
The exceptions are at stations with smart news directors who have been left in place through good ratings and bad and allowed to build their organizations. It is an indictment of the industry that there are so few of them.

Doug Ramsey
Senior Vice President
Foundation For American Communications
Los Angeles, California

Hail Media-crity!
To the editor:
The final graph of John Morton's March column ("It Can't Get Any Worse, Can It?," The Business of Journalism) laments the present imbalance between the supply of journalists and the demands of employers.
It means, writes Morton, that "only the most determined, and talented, job-seekers will ever find work in daily newspapering." He concludes that this is an "unfortunate result."
All hail media-crity!

Keith Barnes
News Desk Copy Editor
San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco, California



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