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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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AIDS letter was too graphic

The Spokesman-Review

Question: On July 15, F.J. “Dinty” Moore wrote a letter about sodomy that was very graphic. The letter referred to feces and delicate anal tissues. He also wrote that gays were transmitting HIV/AIDS to straights. Please review this letter to determine if it met the S-R standards for letters. I think that Mr. Moore could have made his point without the graphic references. HIV/AIDS is a disease and can be spread by other means than sodomy. – Pete Scobby, Newport

Answer: I agree that the letter was graphic, but the writer expressed his point in legitimate, if uncomfortable, terms. One person I have spoken with described the language as “clinical.” Although the letter focused on aspects of the AIDS issue that support the author’s conclusions, I don’t believe it contained any factual errors. The letter received extra consideration before it was published, but it represents one of many points of view on a controversial public issue. – Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

Flag reference was puzzling

Question: The S-R often gets blasted for being slanted, but I find the paper makes great efforts to print both sides in opinion pieces and letters to the editor. The letter printed on July 16 by Harvey Pine (“One nation, under GOP”) has me stymied, though. Mr. Pine claims there is an amendment (constitutional?) before the Senate that would make our nation’s flag the official flag of the Republican Party. I can find no such legislation anywhere. Am I missing it somewhere? If so, what is the bill’s number and who introduced it? – Daniel M. Hill, Spokane

Answer: In processing the letter for publication, I assumed the writer was referring to a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to outlaw flag desecration. The Republican Party connection struck me as a tongue-in-cheek description of the partisan nature of the debate. Before answering your question, however, I confirmed it with the writer. – Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

Why run Bush-hating columnist?

Question: Why does The Spokesman-Review continue to feature Molly Ivins as a writer in light of her obvious dedication to the hatred of President George Bush in every one of her articles? She appears to be out of control and unable to be objective when it comes to Bush. Isn’t being objective what journalists have pledged to be? – Peg and Bob Crowther

Answer: At the risk of sidetracking the conversation, I’d like to substitute the word impartiality for objectivity. I think “objectivity” has been misused over the years, at least when interpreted to mean that a reporter or editor shouldn’t let personal judgment affect journalistic decisions. Judgment must come into play. Otherwise how do you evaluate the significance of a story about, say, a war involving American troops in the Middle East and a brawl that breaks out during a high school football game in Decatur, Ill.? That’s why I think what we’re really talking about is impartiality.

So, with that digression out of the way, on to your question. Yes, impartiality is a vital factor in news reporting. But Ivins is a political commentator who’s expected to opine, not report. She’s got her sights on Bush and the Republican Congress, no question, just as Cal Thomas, Thomas Sowell and other conservatives go gunning for Bill Clinton, John Kerry and other Democrats. No, Molly Ivins is not objective, impartial or balanced. Nor are Sowell, Thomas and the many other syndicated columnists whose work we publish, ranging from far right to far left, plus some in the more moderate middle. But then that’s why we set aside the Opinion and Roundtable pages every day – for vigorous discussion of political issues. It’s a discussion, by the way, that readers join with great energy in the letters-to-the editor feature. – Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

Roe, Roe, Roe your boat …

Question: Will someone please tell Rich Landers it’s “Roe” and not “row,” concerning the court case “Roe versus Wade.” Also, the “w” in Wade must be printed in upper case because it is a name. Rich made this embarrassing mistake in his column entitled, “O’Connor picks wade over row.” Of course, the nimrods who work at the Seattle P-I didn’t catch this obvious mistake either. Can any idiot get a job as a journalist at your paper? – Dan DeLucca, Mill Creek, Wash.

Answer: When fishing, as O’Connor was in this article, you have the choice of standing in the water (wade) or sitting in a boat (row). Justice O’Connor chose wade over row. – Ken Sands, online publisher

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