Thursday, February 21, 2008

Latin is not the only key to the past

Because I hold Peter Williams in high esteem, I was very surprised to hear his reaction to the anecdotal advice, "Take Chinese, not Latin." In his Tuesday commentary he showed the same kind of narrow-mindedness that he decried. He implied that taking Chinese is only about business, and that business is only about money. Pitting business against the humanities is already a mistake. But to use only Greek and Roman civilization as examples of a rich cultural heritage is one-sided.

While the study of Latin is advantageous, it is not the only key to unlocking the past. Since a large portion of the world's population lives in China (and has for most of recorded history), perhaps the study of Chinese-classical or modern-should be considered at least as important as the study of Latin. The richness and longevity of China's culture affords ample opportunity to practice the "critical thinking" and "understanding other civilizations" that Williams recommended.

The last phrase of his commentary, "shoddy Chinese goods," was especially offensive, dismissing over a millennia of international trade. Some of the world's most highly prized products originated in China. And by the way, it isn't because they didn't take Latin or Chinese that people watch a particular TV program or read escapist literature. What's wrong with "American Idol"?”.

--Ann Barrott Wicks, Professor of Asian Art History, Miami

Congratulations on a great show

[Here’s part of a message host Cheri Lawson got from Jane in Richmond after February 20th's Sound Health on bi-polar disorder:]

Congratulations on a great show this morning. I am very impressed that you were able to get Dr. Jan Fawcett and Nancy Rosenfeld. As a social worker at Richmond State Hospital, I used to do psychoeducation with patients, and I used a videotape by Dr. Fawcett which was excellent. He is one of the most respected experts in the area of mood disorders. Thank you for your excellent handling of my email this morning.

--Jane, Richmond

Monday, February 18, 2008

Why was Obama cut off?

[We had a number of comments about a snafu in February 10th's Weekend Edition that caused an interview with Senator Barack Obama to be cut off prematurely. In WMUB's defense, the problem originated at NPR in Washington and our automation computer did exactly what it was programmed to do by running the normal 9:38 am station break right on time.

This problem was first brought to the attention of the NPR system by WMUB, thanks to an alert WMUB listener who contacted us, and seconded by many other stations on the public radio email list. On Monday the 11th Ellen Weiss, NPR’s Vice President of News, sent a note to stations apologizing for their part of the problem that affect dozens of stations and thousands of listeners. The NPR Executive writes:]

I would like to sincerely apologize for the problems and confusion during WESUN's broadcast of the Obama interview.

From a journalist and show producer’s perspective, the motivation was well intended. When the WESUN producer got a call from a key news-maker late Saturday night offering a live interview Sunday morning, it seemed like the right move to say yes. But in the enthusiasm to book the guest, the editorial, operational and communication protocols that have been put in place in recent years, as a result of extensive consultation with our partner stations, were not adhered to by program staff.
  • We did not make the right call in considering this an interview worthy of breaking format. This wasn’t breaking news.
  • We pulled the interview after the first feed because it violated our own policy about airing candidate interviews on election days.
[Weiss went on to say that NPR also did not send messages to stations using the normal systems in place for such last-minute programming adjustments. She concluded:]
  • We will be reviewing our procedures here for making sure that the decision-makers on all of our programs, 7 days a week, are familiar with the issues involved and are trained and ready to act on them appropriately.
  • Again, our apologies for these events. This is good reminder to all of us at NPR that we need to be better and smarter partners with our stations seven days a week.
[As Program Director of WMUB, I will add a note of thanks to those who noticed this issue and let us know about it. We depend on you to keep up your expectations of the best possible public radio service at all times. -- John Hingsbergen]

Keep up the great work

[We’re still receiving comments about WMUB annual Day Sponsor reception, last month featuring NPR newscaster and producer Paul Brown. This note came to General Manager Cleve Callison:]

Marie and I really enjoyed the Day Sponsor Reception and I must commend you and your staff for all of the planning and preparation that must go into an event like that. Every time we have attended a Day Sponsor event we have come away with new and fresh perspectives from the other Day Sponsors we have met. The venue was outstanding and added tremendously to the ambiance of the event.

Keep up the great work on behalf of WMUB and all of us who listen daily, and we will look forward to seeing you during the spring funder.

--Firmin Hickey, Camden

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Commentary on military seriously flawed

[Editor's note: Listener Tom Castle of Dayton disagrees with a recent commentary by Ben Voth, associate professor of Communication at Miami. His response aired on Friday Feedback 2/4/08]

Mr. Voth wondered why failing military efforts, as in Iraq where we have over 100,000 soldiers stationed, get so much press attention, while successful efforts, as in Liberia where we had zero soldiers engaged in combat and a small handful of marines defending our embassy, have received so little.

Mr. Voth speculated that it may be media bias against the military, and we all know how skeptical the US media was in the runup to the current war in Iraq. He also speculated that a deep-seated racism among peace activitists may be to blame - and as we all know, racism is mainly a left-wing peace-movement phenomenon. Mr. Voth finally speculated that perhaps the news networks - the ones that so critically examined President Bush's justifications for war prior to March 2003 - simply don't want the world to know that sometimes the military is a force for good.

Let me offer a more plausible explanation for the supposedly baffling media silence regarding our glorious military triumph in Liberia in 2003: Could it be that the media pays more attention to Iraq than Liberia because we have 130,000 troops fighting in Iraq, versus zero troops that fought in Liberia, with a tiny contingent stationed briefly off its coast? To say that this is the more likely explanation for the disparity in media coverage is a great understatement, and I have to assume that the reason it was ignored by Mr. Voth was that it undermined his silly, unsubstantiated charge of racism.

As a postscript, I would like to note that Mr. Voth used the phrase "idealogues of peace," which I found to be creepily Orwellian. And I say this not as a peace activist or a pacifist, but as a defense contractor who could not be more proud of the smart, tough, highly professional servicemen and women I've been honored to support over the past eight years. Mr. Voth, it is my experience that scrutiny and skepticism are essential to good performance of any organization, especially the government. It is uninformed, uncritical boosterism that is the greater threat, and I believe the facts show the US media to be, if anything, too reluctant to scrutinize the claims of the executive branch and the US military departments.

--Tom Castle, Dayton