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Letters to the Editor

Continuing conflict

Jim Yamin [Back Talk, Feb. 14] seems to think that it's obvious to all progressives that the Palestinians are right and the Israelis are wrong in both their current and historical conflicts. What is obvious is that it is very difficult to determine the facts by listening to only one point of view. If you speak to supporters of either side, you hear totally different versions of reality. To assert that there is no legitimacy to the other side is absurd and not at all progressive.

But there are a few things that are totally clear about the conflict. For more than 50 years, Arabs and Jews have been fighting over land in the Middle East. Arabs, overwhelmingly, believe that Jews should not have a state in the Middle East, that Israel is illegitimate. Arabs have tried to eliminate the Jewish presence in the Middle East. In each conflict the Arabs have lost. In the process of losing each conflict they have lost land, a natural outcome of war over land.

Israel has chosen to return almost all land gained in conflict through negotiations. The Arabs want all, not almost all, the land returned. In addition, the Arabs want Israel to become a predominantly Arab state through the "right of return".

The Arabs have said that negotiations are not enough and that violence is necessary to achieve their aims. The Israelis have said that land will be returned to the Arabs only through negotiations.

To realize that Israel is easily the most progressive country in the Middle East one need only list the names of the other countries in that region. To think that progressives should not support the Israeli view, simply because they are progressives, is very narrow thinking from someone who euphemistically refers to those who disagree with him, as "the notable exception of some members of our own society."

Pleasing potty-mouth

As a long-time admirer of Jim Shumaker I found the 1993 interview by Perry Deane Young [Jan. 31] just about what I would have expected from Shu. However, I was surprised by the frequent obscenities which I do not recall from his writings. Did Young catch him on a particularly bad (or good) day? He certainly could cut through the "bullshit" and pomposity and make his point effectively and with great humor without the four-letter words.

Be that as it may, we have lost a fascinating and interesting man. Thank you for the interesting and informative article.

So long, scofflaw

Dan Neil's sanctimonious eulogy for his final column with your paper should not go unanswered. His departure from The N&O had as much to do with his predilection for engaging in illegal road racing on public highways during his road tests of high performance luxury cars as it did with any change in editorial policy at that paper. One of his classics was recounting a high-speed race (reputedly over 100 mph) with Neil in a Mercedes against some stranger in a BMW who had simply tried to pass him.

Of course, this is the same Dan Neil who used his Ford Explorer road test to engage in premarital sex with his fianc&233;e. Then he made the experience into a column graphically describing the roominess and comfort of the vehicle when used for sexual purposes. This was not suitable for The N&O. Your paper probably would not have printed such a column unless it was a paid ad in the back.

The immature approach to the use of high performance automobiles espoused in certain media contributes to the abusive driving practices of those able to afford high performance automobiles, thus endangering every member of the motoring public. Dan Neil is a disciple of the philosophy that speed limits, laws against racing on the public roads and the rights of others in society to be safe from such scofflaws are all null and void once one obtains control of a vehicle capable of outrunning the short term consequences of one's actions.

The Highway Patrol is buying "the fastest police car in America" with a 169 mph top end because of this kind of behavior by drivers. In Europe, car and motorcycle manufacturers have been forced to a voluntary top end of 150 mph for production vehicles. The Independent considers itself a voice for social responsibility with justice and equality for all. It is past time that it quit publishing articles that pander to the very antithesis of its goals.

Pyritical rules

John Yewell ("A Cheap Violin" [Feb. 14]) has invented some fascinating new rules for journalists. If we understand correctly, his rules (he listed 18, but they boiled down to just two) are as follows:

1. Reporters decide who the good people and bad people are.

2. They should then use the power of the newspaper to attack the previously identified villains with (when the facts aren't there) innuendo, editorializing, off-the-record accusations (solicited by whatever means necessary) and assumptions based on political leanings.

Thanks for the suggestions, but we'll stick to our own fundamental rules and principles, which are posted on the newsroom walls. First among them are accuracy, balance, fairness and depth. Fairness, for instance, in giving people we write about a chance to respond. (Shouldn't your headline have read, "A Cheap Shot?")

We're glad, by the way, that Yewell learned enough to form such strong opinions by reading Amy Gardner's front-page piece on Gov. Mike Easley's relationship with lobbyist Dave Horne. Clearly we've done our job.

As a competitor of The News & Observer, it's not often that I find myself feeling the need to defend the folks over at the state's second-largest newspaper. But John Yewell's attack in the Feb. 14-20 Independent begged a response.

As the editors at The Independent may not know--given that your coverage of recent state government news and the recent gubernatorial campaigns has consisted of a few endorsements, some meatless profiles and absolutely none of the fine investigative work for which you've deservedly won acclaim over the years--Amy Gardner is considered one of the toughest reporters in town. You could have asked Richard Vinroot, whose campaign team stopped talking to The N&O because they considered Amy too much of a bulldog. You could have asked Mike Easley, whose campaign press person once got in a shouting match with her outside a forum because Amy wanted answers to questions with which they didn't want to deal.

John Yewell didn't seem to have asked anyone any questions before unleashing his attack. That's at least one violation of the rules of journalism right there.

I'm a journalist who didn't go to J-school (I went to Duke instead), so I'm not familiar with these "rules." In graduate school, though, I read an interesting book by Cappella and Jamieson called Spiral of Cynicism that is good reading for any journalist and journalism student.

Since I'm not in North Carolina these days, I don't know the background of the governor and his lobbyist. Nevertheless, it seems to me that Mr. Yewell's presentation of these "rules" ventures away from healthy skepticism and into an unhealthy cynicism (this distinction is a key part of the Cappella and Jamieson book). It is precisely this cynicism that is dragging us journalists down below serial killers in the esteem of the public, so I think we can forgive The N&O a mild transgression in the opposite direction.

At the very least, please treat these "rules" with the same skepticism with which you would have The N&O treat its sources.

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