THURSDAY’S LETTERS: Lawyer Was Playing BALCO Reporters, Bernstein and Bush, Charlotte Editorials

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By: E&P Staff

In today’s letters, a recent E&P columnist writes in about editorials iin his hometown paper, a reader appreciates an E&P article about Carl Bernstein on Frontline, and a journalism teacher is disappointed in the San Francisco Chronicle reporters who nearly went to jail protecting a source in the BALCO investigation.

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The ‘Charlotte Observer’ and the War

Back on February 6, I wrote a column for E&P (“Two Major Regional Papers, Two Views on Iraq”) that criticized The Charlotte Observer’s editorial page editor for a column he had recently written (February 4) that was [off the mark] when addressing the question: “Remember What Drew Us Into Iraq?” Ed Williams, who reports to president and publisher Ann Caulkins and not editor Rick Thames, tried to re-write history by positing that, though President Bush made weapons of mass destruction and possible links to al-Qaeda his principal arguments for invading Iraq, there was more. The invasion “could” have been justified on the basis of human rights alone. Williams seemed to be still in quest of a compelling rationale for the initiation of a war of choice. [For the Observer had supported the war.]

This week an unsigned editorial appeared in the Observer: “Hillary and Iraq: Will Anti-War Democrats Demand That She Say ‘Uncle’ ?” (February 13). It read, in part: “In 2002 Hillary Clinton was one of 77 U.S. senators who voted to authorize President Bush to use force against Iraq. Her vote has rankled the anti-war activists…They demand that she say it was a mistake. Thus far she has said: ‘Knowing what we know now, I would never have voted for it…’ To some purists, it’s not enough. They want to force her to say ‘uncle.’ We wish she wouldn’t, but at some point she probably will.

“Her explanation sounds sensible to us, perhaps because it reflects the Observer editorial board’s position. We supported authorizing the president to use force, but in several editorials we urged him to proceed cautiously. Was it a mistake at the time to authorize the president to use force? We don’t think so. The mistake was his misuse of that authority to rush the nation into a war that has become a disaster.”

Of those who write unsigned editorials, three of the four associate editor members of the Charlotte Observer’s editorial board are women: Fannie Flono, Mary Newsom, and Mary Schulken. (Jack Betts writes about state politics.) Have any of them written that the actual invasion and occupation of Iraq was a colossal mistake of strategic proportions? Like Hillary, perhaps they are trying to demonstrate how “realistic” they are on national security matters–behind the scenes. This is an interesting phenomenon in a very conservative city.

William E. Jackson, Jr.
Davidson, N.C.

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Carl Bernstein’s on Bush and Nixon

Thank you for publishing Mr. Bernstein’s comments. The journalistic integrity that prompted this publishing is a rarity now, unfortunately. In the modern day themes of not asking what the facts are — but merely who said this, and who said that, at various frequencies of representation — where is journalism’s partisanship for truth itself?

What might save this country is a Renaissance of truth-telling, an upwelling of civil conscience, and a follow-up question. Simple.

Brian Mulkey
San Diego, Calif.


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BALCO Lawyer Was Playing ‘Chron’ Reporters

As a journalism practitioner and teacher, I am disappointed in San Francisco reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, who ignored the real motive of their now-confessed source, lawyer Troy Ellerman, for leaking BALCO grand-jury testimony that spawned their acclaimed newspaper series and book.

After the reporters publicized their initial information, the court-sealed testimony of sprinter Tim Montgomery, they must have clearly understood Ellerman’s tactic was to use them for gaining exoneration of a client on trial.

Yet they went back to Ellerman for more. Why? Simply, they wanted the major scoop, testimony by baseball stars Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield.

I see no public service in this mess, on part of anyone. I do, however, recognize the imperative that American media undertake serious self-evaluation, not only for ethics but their constitutional duty to uphold a free press–the right of every citizen, not merely journalists, and including a Barry Bonds.

A constitutionally mandated “free press” is not to be interpreted as anointing anyone for playing god with facts, especially media.

Matt Chaney
Warrensburg, Mo.

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