Letters for the week of August 25 – 31, 2004

What's the point of your article and its freakshow teasers? Platoni good, Harper bad.

“Notes from the Underground,” East Side Story, 8/11

What’s in your bedroom?

“Scary lair.” “Creepy flat.” Even “dead wannabe soldier,” which may have been technically correct, but suggested far more than the truth. With such innuendo, I was dreading that this might be about, oh, hoarded weapons, violent-rhetoric manifestos, and/or serial sexual offenses, someone found chained up, and a couple of severed heads in the freezer.

After reading the article, I felt quiet compassion for John Martin. You know, there are lots of people all over who are not “shiny, happy people,” who aren’t politically, aesthetically, or socioeconomically “correct,” who know damn well they don’t fit in or are ever going to find companionship or even sexual pleasure with someone.

I couldn’t help thinking about how anyone’s abode could be sniffed through and nine and a half out of ten people could find something “creepy” to be supercilious about — an anal-retentive neatnik’s desk, the interests of this individual or that individual considered prurient/weird/geeky/out-of-step. I certainly reflected on how I would be judged if I were to die soon and my apartment and all its contents were open-house to looky-loo sensationalists.

So John Martin used a swastika and a few ethnic putdowns in his suicide-note. I’ve noticed that to many people in this country, the swastika is not so much a political symbol as a cheapened “taboo” roughly equivalent to giving the finger or telling someone to go fuck themselves. As for the slurs, one of them was “cracker,” which is an antiwhite term; more specifically, a putdown of lower-class and/or Southern whites. I am admittedly cynical about how the term “racism” is so bandied about — did John Martin go around insulting, harming, joining racist hatemongers? Apparently not. In the context of his suicide note, the swastika is aimed at the USAF and at certain individuals who might well have been rotten, or at the very least brought him grief.

I have a recollection of some years back your paper (I believe) having a cover story on a woman whose job is to go through the belongings of the recently dead. As I recall it, the general tone of that piece was a mixture of curiosity, some compassion, the crisp necessity at hand to perform such work. I’d like to know what, exactly, did Justin Berton and the staff have in mind, in purpose, for this article and its freakshow-carny teasers? Because I am convinced that you have exploited this loner’s struggle, his life, and his obviously painful descent.

Kenneth R. James, San Pablo

“The Ten Million Dollar Woman,” Feature, 8/4

You are TV-worthy

I just wanted to congratulate you on a fantastic piece of investigative writing with a local bent. I sent a link to your story to Law & Order. I think you have the makings of a darn good TV episode or even movie.

I’m backing the grandson 100 percent, but some restitution will need to be made to the Chicagoans. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, so I guess we’ll see. I wonder how I would feel if a Coastal Miwok claimed that my house was sitting on land that was stolen from his family two hundred years ago.
Dan Martin, Oakland

“Where’s Al?” Bottom Feeder, 8/11

He’s big in Portland
I have to write to express my disappointment with Will Harper’s column. What Harper writes shows poor research into the question, “Will Air America Radio programming air in the Bay Area anytime soon?”

While Harper is correct in saying that Inner City Broadcasting’s KVTO and KVVN were supposed to become Air America affiliates (based on Air America’s launch announcement), Harper does not realize that those stations were part of a business strategy that Air America has abandoned.

Air America’s initial strategy believed that they would not be able to sell their programming to radio stations without proving their ability to draw an audience. Therefore, they started by paying stations for their airtime until they could prove that they had a desirable product.

However, once Air America got early Arbitron extrapolations, they saw that they were able to pull strong numbers in the “money demo” of 35-to-54-year-olds and in 18-to-34-year-olds, a group that political talk radio traditionally fails to draw. Armed with this information, Air America moved away from leasing time from stations and moved to the syndication model commonly used to sell radio programming. This change would likely take Inner City Broadcasting off Air America’s radar as a potential affiliate.

The first full Arbitron ratings were strong, especially for a Clear Channel affiliate in Portland (which has gone from tenth to third among thirteen AM stations in a single Arbitron “book”). Those strong numbers have convinced Clear Channel to convert a sports talk station in Miami, another station in San Diego (on August 23), with more conversions rumored among industry chatter (including Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and Atlanta).

If Harper had taken the time to include an industry publication like Radio and Records magazine in his research, he would have known to ask Clear Channel if they were looking at any of their Bay Area stations as potential Air America affiliates.

Furthermore, Harper misses the most important and interesting part when discussing Air America’s initial financial woes. The last two senior managers to leave Air America were Evan Cohen and Rex Sorensen. The Wall Street Journal wrote a particularly juicy article in June (which, apparently, Harper also missed) detailing how Cohen and Sorensen blocked the rest of senior management from seeing the company’s financial books, overstated the company’s finances, and generally hurt the company through poor management. The reports of Air America having financial problems stop a few weeks after Cohen and Sorensen were pushed out of the company.

Harper’s column misses most of the story when he asks “Where’s Al?” by not turning to some major sources. It is quite disheartening to see.
Lyle Masaki, Oakland

In our August 18 issue, we misspelled the name of Chris Togneri, the reporter and photographer of our cover story, “Eve of Destruction.”

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