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Readers respond to placement of Tyson rape story

Editor's Note: Last Sunday Executive Editor Mike Foley wrote about whether government authorities should impersonate members of the media, and Assistant Managing Editor for Sports Joe Childs addressed the newspaper's decision to publish the stories about the Mike Tyson rape trial in the Sports section. At the end of the column Foley asked you to tell him your thoughts. Here is a sampling of the dozens of letters he received.

I was so glad to see that the St. Petersburg Times included a column in Sunday's Perspective justifying the placing of the trial of Mike Tyson on the sports pages. Certainly, no one could have concluded that the columns were placed there to minimize the trial, or that women might not read it, since they don't read the sports pages as much as men. I still believe that either (a) it was to have a smaller audience reading about the "great" Tyson, or (b) rape is now considered a sport. It is interesting to note that when Tyson came on the stand to testify it was deemed important enough to put that on page 1 of the first section. I guess his testimony was more interesting and newsworthy(?) than the victim's!

However, your explanation seemed reasonable (although I still feel it was a cop-out) until seeing the Feb. 10 front page, three column headline Johnson's farewell role .

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. with accompanying story and picture. How do you justify not considering that a sports story, and why wasn't it placed where it belongs _ in the Sports section?

One of the editor's points was that Mike Tyson is a sports figure and therefore stories about him should be in the Sports section. But a trial for rape and assault is not a sports story and, no matter who is the accused, should be where it belongs _ in the news section. And, if that is the argument used for placing the Tyson reports in the Sports section, how come Magic Johnson's story is suddenly news not related to sports?

I believe the Times goofed and owes an apology not only to the victim in this case, but to all alleged and actual rape victims who know by horrifying experience that rape is violence and as far away from sports as you can get.

H. Gordon, St. Petersburg

In reference to the Tyson article in the Sports section, I say nothing much ado about it. Heck, it's been on the "boob tube," on radio, so what's the big deal?

As for the lady saying that women don't read the sports, well, that rankled me and a lot of others. I, for one, read them. I played football, baseball and hockey with the boys when I was a youngster and up until a few years ago, I could go one-on-one with my son and his buddies playing basketball.

As my granddaddy taught me, a well-rounded mind and body to lean on can be an asset for things you will encounter in life, and it doesn't detract from being a lady. It works for me.

B.

L. Shannon, Clearwater

Mike Tyson's personal problems do not interest me, but I too believe this story does not belong in Sports.

My reason for writing, however, is to tell you that I am a 68-year-old lady and my favorite part of the paper is the Sports section. Every morning my husband and I read the St. Petersburg Times while having our coffee. We each take half the paper. I get the front page section and the Sports section. And I probably know as much about football and baseball and most other sports as a lot of men.

Women do read sports.

Marilyn Busse, New Port Richey

I guess the Tyson trial belongs wherever the paper wishes to place it. I am not writing re: Tyson; I am writing as a woman sports fan!

I read the financial page first, then to the Sports section _ beginning to end. As for the writers' remarks that it should be changed to appeal to women, nonsense! Women like sports or they don't. I have two daughters: One has never read the sports nor could anyone revise it so that she would read it; my younger daughter grabs it first and when we talk on the phone, it's kids and sports.

Please leave the sports pages alone _ they are fine. I do miss Tom Zucco!

Ruthe Neely Wolff, Clearwater

For the first time in seven years I am truly angry with your paper. On Feb. 8, the front page had two main items _ Magic Johnson and Tyson. Surely, there are more important news stories worthy of front page attention!

Secondly, the press makes heroes out of two men who have no respect for women. Their contribution to society is nil _ and should not be "role models" for anyone.

Frank S. Lowell, New Port Richey

I probably would never have read about Tyson's rape trial if it hadn't been in the Sports section! I am a 66-year-old gal who reads the sports section every day. If Tyson had been on the front page _ I would have glanced over it to more important topics! I actually read the Sports section before the Business section (which is also important to me). I have to point out that Magic Johnson seems to manage to hit all sections, be it sports or front page. You never read about George Bush in the Sports section.

Hmmm _ maybe that's why I read the sports so avidly.

Barbara Hance, St. Petersburg

No, police shouldn't impersonate the press. No, you shouldn't like it.

Mike Tyson story belongs on front page, first section. Move sidebars to Sports section but include index box with main story directing reader to Section C for the rest.

Harriet Williamson, St. Petersburg

Since it involved a sports figure, I was not surprised to see Mike Tyson's rape trial covered on the Sports page. However, after thinking about it, it probably would have been better if your method of highlighting the story on the first page with a reference to the sports page article were reversed.

What really distressed me was the lack of sensitivity in switching the story to the front page with Tyson's version of events. Stories with headlines like: Tyson limo driver: accuser was dazed were at the bottom of the sports page, while the headline: Tyson: She was willing appeared at the top of the front page beside Magic Johnson's smiling face. Even the following day's front page headline: Tyson asked to explain differences in testimony was weakened by an article title just below it: Did he? Didn't he? Does it matter? Although the article was referring to accusations against presidential candidate Bill Clinton, the first impression was that it referred to the Tyson case.

Sensitive issues deserve sensitive handling. Sensitivity has been lacking in the coverage of this case.

Joan Panabaker, Clearwater

Your correspondent who was appalled to learn that men now consider rape a sport is naive.

My thought on seeing the Tyson rape trial reported in the Sports section was that there are obviously no women editors on the St. Petersburg Times.

Mrs. C. Santora, Sun City Center

"Women don't read the Sports section." What a generalization that is!

For your information, the first section of the Times that I read is the Sports section! I enjoy the columnists, the articles, and even the "For the Record" page _ but not every word. I'm selective. I eventually hand the section over to my sister with my recommendations.

Furthermore, I agree that a rape trial does not belong in the Sports section. I hope it isn't thought of as a sporting event when young people read it there.

Jane Arnold, Tarpon Springs

Re: "Women don't read the Sports section."

I dislike general statements especially when it comes to my favorite pastimes _ namely basketball, football and baseball (and maybe hockey next year). I am a 49-year-old woman, and for years the Sports section has been the first part of the paper that I read.

I have Bucs' season tickets; I drive to Orlando to watch the Magic play, and I go to Cardinals' spring training games.

At my house, it's my husband who never reads the Sports section and never goes to games.

I don't care where you print the Tyson story _ just keep up with the Magic, the Illini, the Gators and the Bucs, and I'll be happy.

Delores Nichelson, Palm Harbor

I, too, noticed the Tyson rape case reported as the big headline on the first page of the Sports section, and blinked. How inappropriate. Rape now a sport?

Boo-hiss.

Rose Sarbeck, St. Petersburg

I usually glance at the Sports section. I was surprised to find the Mike Tyson trial in that section. I wondered why it was "buried" there. I think that it should be on the front page.

If you need an example, here is one: A bank president's picture usually appears in the business section. However, if he is charged with embezzling money from the bank, and is charged, his face appears on the front page.

When a sports figure does something involving his/her sport, the story belongs in the Sports section. When he/she is charged with a crime it goes to page one. It's the only thing to do.

Olivia G. Bradley, Clearwater

Joe Childs' explanation for placing Mike Tyson's rape trial on the sports page just doesn't make it. The sports page is trivia, not important but to quote you, "fun."

Serious news is not "fun." We deserved better.

Jario P. Lawson, Tarpon Springs

I would just ask two questions:

1)Would the trial of a movie star appear in the Entertainment section?

2)Would the trial of a famous business person appear in the Business section?

The appearance of the articles regarding Mike Tyson in the Sports section minimized the seriousness of the accusations. The crime of rape has nothing to do with sports.

Judy Hamilton, Madeira Beach

Let me tell you my views:

Mike Tyson _ even though a sports figure _ should be front page news.

On the other hand in the Feb. 10 paper, you have Magic on the front page when this is truly a sports item.

Dorothy Osekowski, Palm Harbor

I believe a judgment error was made in placing the Mike Tyson rape trial coverage in the Sports section. I don't read sports, my wife doesn't, my son doesn't, my two daughters-in-law don't. Why you are seemingly amazed that everyone doesn't read sports surprises me! A bunch of us don't like sports!!

I sold retail advertising for the Times and Indy for 33 years (successfully, I modestly admit) as a Times staffer.

Mike, don't try to teach old dogs new tricks _ local news doesn't belong in A section, national news doesn't belong in sports, etc., etc. Change, just for the sake of change, is seldom productive. Your thinking of that sort .

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. to increase readership in sports at the readers' expense isn't productive.

Please make it easier to read my morning Times _ not more difficult.

Fredric C. Andrews, St. Petersburg

Joe Childs can rationalize all he wants, but the Mike Tyson story belonged on pages 1 or 2 and not in the Sports section. Even one of the "capital gang" commentators made it his outrage of the week because of its coverage in the Sports section of many papers.

No matter what you do to enhance the sports pages with more women's events you will still have a lot of women who could care less about what goes on in the world of sports. It might be your game, it's not theirs.

Your paper brags about being one of the top papers in the country. Maybe so, but to me the Sports section is far down the list. Whenever I travel I read the sports pages in other places and most of them provide me with more sports interest. Your paper goes too much for the glamor and frills and overlooks the substance.

Paul W. Knoferle, Clearwater

I agree reporters shouldn't pose as anything but reporters. Although the electronic media, by their coverage of news stories like hostage situations, almost guarantee that such people will view TV coverage as an essential element in their plans. That's their particular burden to bear.

As to the Mike Tyson trial coverage, it's news, not sports. It goes in the news section.

James E. McGarvey, St. Petersburg

"Women don't read the Sports section." What a crock to lump all women in a ball and drop kick them off the sports pages!

Why do you think you need "material relevant and interesting to women"? You're way off base if you believe all women dislike reading about football, baseball, auto racing, etc.

Maybe when you decide what is "relevant and interesting to women" you can shade it pink so women will be sure to read it. Then you can shade the "men's" sports news blue.

Bett N. McCoy, Brooksville

Absolutely not! Several days had passed before I had any knowledge of the story. A friend casually mentioned the ongoing articles she had been reading (in your Sports section), and I was astounded and outraged! I possibly would never have read any, or even known of the stories!

For the same reason that news stories (especially concerning women) must not be confined or hidden or "stereotyped" to the Floridian section (and implied unequal status or less importance), so must news stories concerning sports figures be covered in the main news section.

Sue Grego, Dunedin

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