MONDAY’S LETTERS: ‘Opus’ Creator Expounds on Publishers’ ‘Acute Terror’

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By: E&P Staff

Ed’s Note: In our Aug. 29 Letters column, reader Paula Bushkoff wrote in asking “Opus’ creator Berkeley Breathed to clarify his comments from this Aug. 24 Q&A. Breathed’s response follows.

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The answer to Ms. Bushkoff is that the palpable fear on the part of publishers is simply one of lost subscribers. Just one flame e-mail seems to wreak panic these days. As circulation declines, it has become an acute terror. It manifests itself directly in timidity. And since many desperately want to see comics as expendable (Ha! ), we’re slapped down the fastest when we offend. That would be me.

This is new.

The irony is that the very thing that should be utilized to better stem the broken levee of newspaper circulation is spice and edge.

And that is exactly what so many publishers run from. Off the cliff, some of us suspect.

Berkeley Breathed
Breathed is the creator of “Opus,” which is distributed by The Washington Post Writers Group

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Two-bit Backbenchers

Two-bit backbenchers, who write such things, demonstrate the fecklessness of American journalism. The specious criticism of President Bush about seven minutes during 9/11 is absolutely absurd. While the president is not above criticism, to pile on the president and administration officials is obscene at best. It is especially of import since the press itself has not done its job in uncovering facts, but is merely parroting the criticisms of folks who themselves have failed the people of New Orleans.

With the fullness of time, we will come to know what really happened, including the failures of the Governor, the Mayor and others to act quickly. Given the enormity of the situation; the once in a hundred year storm, followed by a breach in levee, the folks who do nothing but write and have never had to actually act, now engage in Bush bashing.

The antipathy of the press towards Bush is well established, but has now reached a new level. In the end, the profession of journalism is being seen as lacking in judgment, fairness, and without any concept of the reality of the situation. Criticizing Cheney with such a snide manner prompts the reader to ask: ?Where the heck were you Mr. Mitchell? Are you content to sit around and write opinions or should you be in New Orleans helping out??

The last time I heard, the president doesn’t have the authority to order people to evacuate any American city, nor does he have the authority to do many other things he has been criticized for. Had this been Bill Clinton, the reporters and editors of the American press would be less harsh and even likely to dismiss any failures as due to the unforeseen circumstances of this tragic event.

Even now as I write this, the oft-quoted 10,000-20,000 New Orleans dead, seems to be fast disappearing. It is no wonder that the American people hold the press in such low esteem. They so often don’t get much right!

H. Michael Sarkisian
Sacramento, Calif.

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Re: Barbara Bush’s comments about New Orleans evacuees doing ”very well’ in the Astrodome:

Isn’t it interesting, that the mother who raised our most famous “compassionate conservative,” would show, through her utterance of such an inane statement, where her son learned his life view?

Peter Simpson

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Re: Journalist Groups Protest FEMA Ban on Photos of Dead:

I was incensed when I read that FEMA instituted a ban on photographs of bodies in regards to reporting on the recovery effort. I thought “what power are they granted to summarily make this decision?” Then I was heartened when I saw the headline “Journalism Groups Protest FEMA Ban on Photos of the Dead.” It was not till I read the second paragraph of the story where there was a quote;

“We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media.”

What kind of ban is this? They requested? That’s not a ban. Further trying to prove this so-called ban they document cases of FEMA’s refusal to take photographers along in the recovery boats. Well one more live body takes up the room for one more deceased body in a boat. Given that every photographer and camera crew in the nation is in New Orleans, if they granted every request there would be no room in any boats for any deceased person. From reading the whole story I came to the conclusion there is no ban and the photographers just want free transportation. Cover the story, get your own boat, and let the people responsible for recovery do their difficult job without having to play tour guide to the media.

David J Horchak
Newington Conn.

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Censorship of Death Images

It is not disrespectful of the dead to photograph them. The disrespectful part was letting them die slowly in the heat, in the water from neglect, when help could have made a difference. It is not disrespectful to show the world what the indifference and incompetence of the government has wrought. For FEMA or any government agency to do damage control by controlling the images of death is self-serving and criminal. Who gave them the right to censor free speech and images? Who repealed the constitution? If the images bother you that much, turn off the TV or don’t buy the paper. But no government agency has the right to decide what is fit to print. Isn’t that one of the freedoms that we ‘re supposed to be fighting for in Iraq?

Robert Sadinsky

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