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Better balance is needed in political coverage

Obama's trip looks like a victory lap | July 25, story

Better balance needed in political coverage

Did we all sleep through Election Day? Is your paper making its expected endorsement already? Is the St. Petersburg Times saying that, although Sen. Barack Obama is short on experience, he has now completed his resume by making speeches borrowed from Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy to nonvoters on foreign soil on a nine-day trip? Are you saying that he is suddenly qualified to lead our nation because he "looks" like a head of state while mingling with international leaders? I thought so.

Could it be that maybe a way to combat dwindling circulation numbers and get back your former subscribers would be to make an attempt at more balanced political coverage? Have you considered that if you were to leave your own political opinions to your editorial section and present your news from a more balanced perspective, you could double your circulation numbers and maybe start a national trend?

Sandy Hutton, Belleair

Votes that count

The front-page coverage of Barack Obama's publicity trip demonstrates that the St. Petersburg Times is officially in the tank for Obama. The brief item noting that John McCain is gaining in four key states trumps the publicity trip because there are voters in those states. Exactly how many American voters were in the photo of the German crowd on Page 1A Friday?

David C. Ghen, Redington Beach

Transparent hype

I'm reading where Barack Obama's big glitz and glamor trip overseas isn't gaining him many points in the polls. Could it be that mainstream America is looking through all of that hype and seeing this fellow for what he actually is, rather than who he would like us to think he is? Oh well, Barack Obama, that's show biz.

Jack B. McPherson, New Port Richey

Is Google making us stoopid? July 20, Perspective story

Mind over Google

Since the hunter-gatherer days, gatherers didn't spend all day deeply examining every stem, leaf and flower as they browsed the woods for berries. Their eyes looked for the berries. So, too, with informational text today: When we're reading for facts, yes, we will skim and scan, especially if the writing style is not to our liking. All other details are irrelevant to that purpose. I doubt the human mind has undergone the radical cognition changes Nicholas Carr thinks it has since the invention of Google.

When we read for pleasure, we naturally delve more deeply and read nearly every word. But if Carr can't seem to focus on what he used to read for fun, I doubt it has much to do with Google remapping his brain. Chances are Carr chose boring books, or he had many other things on his mind.

Don't forget that people change throughout their lives. If Nietzsche's prose style changed as he aged (probably not all that much due to his typewriter), so, too, might one's desire and purpose for reading.

I don't think our minds have been overwritten by the Internet. Just think, in 1876, I bet Melvil Dewey's critics cried, "Card catalogs are changing the way we read! Instead of enjoying reading what's in front of them, they search for what they want to read, and miss out on some perfectly good books!" By the way, I had to Google Dewey's first name just now, and learned that his decimal system started in 1876. Interesting.

Sarah Lehrmann, Clearwater

Is Google making us stoopid? July 20, Perspective story

Research revolution

I beg to differ with one of Nicholas Carr's points as supported by University College London. Years ago, when research was done in libraries, and the various guides to periodic literature were used to find references and cross references by author, title and subject matter, no one ever read every article or book. In some cases we may have read more of what we found because it was so hard to find anything at all and we engaged in desperate searches for relevance. We scanned titles, reviewed abstracts, pondered conclusion sections of articles. No one hoping to finish a project or treatise would read every reference found in total.

The miracle of Internet search engines is that a researcher can search by topic, phrase or word to narrow down the search. As a result, many identified references can be eliminated without reading. Tell me this: Who asked researchers during the years before the Internet what percentage of articles they did not read or just scanned before rejecting them?

Robert Brummett, Dover

Is Google making us stoopid? July 20, Perspective story

An assault on language

Nicholas Carr's article made me think of another victim of the computer age: the death of the written word and the accompanying consequences. In 1984, George Orwell gives us a chilling look at a dystopic society ruthlessly ruled by Big Brother. Frequently overlooked in this novel is the creation of a dictionary of Newspeak words, the new language of Orwell's totalitarian society. Its primary aim is the destruction of words. For instance, a pretty woman would be called good, plusgood, or doubleplusgood. No room for gorgeous, lovely, or even cute.

So what? Think of destroying the word love and every attendant descriptor or synonym for that word. If a society's conception of "love" is reduced through the generations by reducing the ways to express it, soon "love" of a child becomes the same as love of a new pair of shoes.

The language of text-messaging and e-mail is more closely akin to Newspeak than one might imagine. When one's best female friend becomes your BFF instead of the "confidant who accepts me unconditionally and soothes my hurts away," over time, best friend comes to mean much less. Indeed, as the brain circuitry changes through the destruction of words, friend might be described as good, plus good, or double plus good. Think how this ongoing destruction of words might affect the meanings of freedom, integrity, or virtue.

If Marshall McLuhan is right that "the medium is the message," what message, exactly, are we sending when we destroy words and create new shortened versions that say less than what we mean and eventually have as much meaning as "plus good"?

Rita Williams, Clearwater

McCain wasn't only POW

I am getting really tired of the glory given to John McCain because he was a prisoner of war. Are our memories so short that we have forgotten how many young men were prisoners of war during Vietnam? My brother was one. He was not as fortunate as McCain. He didn't make it out of the prison camp alive.

When I taught in college following the war, I had 10 students who had been prisoners of war. They had the marks of torture on their bodies, and their minds and psyches had been as tortured as well as their bodies. McCain made it out alive, he escaped what many others did not. He was only one of many, not the only one, and he was a lucky one. We should never forget that. The more we praise him, and act like his sacrifice was unique, the more we take glory from the others who also made supreme sacrifices for our country.

Alice de Schweinitz, Spring Hill

It's driving me to wear a flag pin | July 20, Perspective story by Ivan Penn

For a better America

Ivan Penn missed the point. Showing your love of country is an expression, not a point to make. To buy Japanese cars is patriotic. Buying those fuel- efficient vehicles saves gas and money. This keeps the trade balance more in our favor, saving jobs and inducing Detroit to get more efficient. Raise your American flag! Buy Japanese.

Charles Gray, St. Petersburg

Azalea area cleanup

Buried burdens

Raytheon is responsible for cleaning up the hazardous materials left over from previous owner E-Systems, and I suppose this is as it should be.

But I can't help but feel that it's a bit like being held responsible for bodies found in my back yard, buried there by the previous owner.

Andrew J. Stier, Palm Harbor

Don't let bourbon go to your head | July 24

Distinction is not so clear

As a former longtime resident of the greater Louisville area, I have enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek repartee over the advantages and disadvantages of living there or in the Tampa Bay area.

Then I read this in your editorial: "We have the beaches and the gulf. Louisville has the Ohio River, and you can't see the bottom."

C'mon, guys, fair's fair! Go out to Clearwater Beach any day of the week (as I did on a recent Monday), step into the water, walk out to where it's waist-high, and look at your feet. Right, you can't see them.

Jake Voreis, Clearwater

Better balance is needed in political coverage 07/26/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 9:34pm]
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