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Letter To Los Angeles Times Reader Representative

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Letter To Los Angeles Times Reader Representative Powered By Docstoc
					Dear Los Angeles Times Reader Representative,

                            To read my original submission along with the complete
                       LA Times edited letter, skip down to page 4 of this PDF document

I’m writing this letter to ask you to clarify for me exactly what the “mission” is of the Los Angeles Times
Letters To The Editor section of the paper, which appears near the Opinion page. What spurred my
inquiry is the manner in which my letter to the editor was edited. I was told that my letter to the editor
was edited for space reasons . The thing is I had used the Word “word counting” function at the time
that I composed the letter to make sure it was only 150 words. That is the number of words the LA
Times says letters can not exceed.

My First Sentence

One pastor at one church with fewer than 300 members and no association with a wider denomination
holds one provocative event that includes no celebrities, no politicians, no well-known theologians and
no cross-denominational attendees.

LA Times First Sentence

One pastor at one church with a few dozen members and no association with a wider denomination
holds one provocative event that includes no celebrities, no politicians, no well-known theologians and
no cross-denominational attendees.

Changed for accuracy I would imagine.

My Second Sentence

The U.S. media gives the event wide coverage and U.N. employees are killed.

LA Times Second Sentence

The U.S. media covers the church and United Nations employees are killed.

Changed for reasons I don’t understand. I really did want to emphasize the fact that I saw this story in
numerous newspapers (with more than one story per paper), on numerous television news shows and
on numerous radio news programs (I don’t mean a repeat of the same story during the morning and
evening drive time. I mean more than one story on this same subject.) It was saturation coverage.

My Third Sentence

Yet all across the U.S. mainstream houses of worship are holding Christian-Muslim-Jewish “can’t we all
just get along” events that frequently include PH’d theologians, greater than 500 attendees and local
political leaders.
The Los Angeles Times Third Sentence

Yet all across the U.S. mainstream houses of worship are holding Christian-Muslim-Jewish “can't we all
just get along” events that frequently include educated theologians, more than 500 attendees and local
political leaders. Yet the media coverage is limited to the community calendar of the local paper.

I imagine this was changed because the word PH’d is a word I made up to replace the phrase
“theologians with doctoral degrees in theology”. Even though it is a made up word it gets my point
across better than the word “educated”. I bet Terry Jones was “educated” at some small time “Bible
College”. That doesn’t mean he knows what he is talking about when he interprets the messages of the
Bible to his flock. I also imagine that it was considered better grammar to say “more than” rather than
“greater than”. Though I would argue that “more” is the opposite of “less” and less is suppose to be for
things that can not be easily counted (less love). I think “greater” is the opposite of “fewer” as in
“fewer attendees”. But this is nitpicking. The last example I’m going to supply is not nitpicking. It really
gets to the point of my question.

My Last Sentence

The U.S. media should review the way its “if it bleeds it leads” editorial attitude skews the view Muslims
in the wider world have regarding how U.S. citizens view Islam. Aghgan Muslims should never have
known cult leader Terry Jone’s name because U.S. media should never have deemed this pathetic little
small town man worthy of coverage.

LA Times Last Sentence

The U.S. media should review the way its “if it bleeds it leads” editorial attitude skews the view Muslims
in the wider world have regarding how Americans view Islam. Afghan Muslims should never have known
cult leader Terry Jones' name because U.S. media should never have deemed this small-town man worthy
of coverage.

So back to my question. Is the mission of the Los Angeles Times Letters To The Editor to accurately
reflect the views and opinions that readers wish to share by writing to the paper? Or is that not the
mission? Journalists are suppose to be unbiased. For this reason it is supposedly unnecessary for a
reporter to tell me in each story where he or she grew up or what university he or she attended because
that is not suppose to have any bearing on how he or she reports the story.

But let me go through a thought experiment with you. Let’s say you read an opinion piece on a blog and
the writer used a lot of colloquialisms from the South. This might cause you to think the writer grew up
in the South. I think that if the writer was talking about politics or race the fact that you thought the
writer was Southern might influence the manner in which you digested what you read.

Let’s say you read another blog piece and the writer had a lot of grammatical mistakes and misspellings.
This might cause you to think that the writer’s native tongue was not English. If the writer claimed to be
a U.S. citizen you might think that the writer was an immigrant or came from immigrant parents. Again,
thinking this writer was an immigrant might influence the way you thought about what you read.
Now let’s say the blog editor came in and scrubbed out all the colloquialisms and cleaned up all the
grammar and misspellings. The blog pieces might be easier to read. They might flow better. But you’d
be missing some pretty important information about the writers. And since these were opinion pieces
knowing where the writer is “coming from” is an integral part of “getting” the writer’s opinion. At least
that’s my thinking.

So when the Los Angeles Times scrubs my made up words, scrubs my grammar and scrubs my use of the
words “pathetic little small town man” to describe Terry Jones and they don’t do it for space reasons,
they are scrubbing the “me” right out of “my opinion”. I am the views that I hold and I am also the way
in which I articulate those views. My education, my socioeconomic status, perhaps even my gender,
come out in my word choice and writing style. If the Los Angeles Times Letters To The Editor section is
there to truly reflect the readers, that type of stuff should not be scrubbed.

I think the Letters To The Editor section would be a lot more interesting if it included letters on
immigration from writers who apparently struggled to write in English, or letters about gang violence
from writers whose letters had to be edited with a lot of “#$%@$!” to bleep out the explicatives, or
letters about class issues in which the writer appeared not to be highly educated. I’m generalizing but
you get my point, I’m sure. If the Los Angeles Times truly is a paper that is suppose to reflect this huge,
diverse, metropolitan area, why can’t that be reflected in the Letters To The Editor section?

I also think it is terribly undemocratic for letters from “special” people to be allowed to be way over 150
words while all the “regular” writers are limited. It would be impractical not to have a word limit in the
printed version of the paper but in the online version, why not print the letters in their entirety?

Now, if the mission of the Letters To The Editor section is simply to further the editorial view of the
paper, well that is fine. It’s the publisher’s paper and he can make the mission whatever he feels will
pay Sam Zell’s debt payments. But at least own that. State out front that letters are not just going to be
edited for space, they are going to be edited for content in such a way that they are scrubbed of
everything that might fall outside of whatever editorial view the paper is attempting to promote.
Because since that is not stated, it causes me to be suspicious about others who are quoted in the news
section of the paper. Are the “man on the Arab street” quotes really exact translations of what the man
on the street said, or are they scrubbed? Since it is truly my opinion that Terry Jones is pathetic and that
opinion was scrubbed right out of my letter, can you see where my suspicion would arise?

Best Regards,

Adreana Langston
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