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Letters to the Editor

N&O reaction understandable
Regarding "Captured documents: The N&O resists readers' criticism of war coverage" (Sept. 17-23), The N&O's supposed resistance seems largely to center around Lorenzo Perez's response to Stephen Dear's statement at a community panel. Just a few observations on this: A person's reaction to criticism is very likely to mirror the form of the criticism. If a person sets forth an accurate, insightful, reasoned point of view supported by facts and examples in a respectfully phrased point of view, the recipient of the criticism will generally respond favorably. Ideally, as good lawyers know, the person arguing should offer an easy way to see the issue from that person's perspective.

If, on the other hand, the criticism takes the form of "The N&O has the blood of Iraqi children on its hands," it is a personal attack, it is hyperbolic, and it is unhelpful. The N&O should not have to turn an insult into a constructive piece of criticism they can use in their efforts to offer objective and comprehensive journalism to avoid a charge of "resisting criticism." There's no scandal in their reaction; if anything, it was more gracious than might be expected. Did you expect Lorenzo Perez to write a memo advising staff that in the future, they should consider the connection between their headline choice and the deaths of Iraqi children? Or that, per the panelist's suggestion, they should "hang their heads in shame" as children are blown apart, taking full responsibility for the Bush administration's foreign policy? An extremely diplomatic correspondent could turn Mr. Dear's statement into a generalized grievance, but no one could turn it into a criticism worthy of introspection and possible changes at the newspaper.

Mr. Dear's method of persuasion is common in The Independent. Although I do not always agree with your paper, I always read it and try to consider issues from a point of view further left than my own. This is a much more difficult task when the perspective given is a gut reaction unsupported by a reasoned argument. It is undoubtedly very satisfying to others with the same gut reaction, but doesn't change any minds. I suppose I am suggesting that the The Independent keep in mind that it presumably has at least some readers who are not necessarily on board with its agenda, but are willing to listen if you preach beyond the choir. Thank you for listening.
Jennifer Boyer

Arts Council should be rumbling
On the cover of your Sept. 24 issue it says, "Arts Council is rumbling." It better be rumbling. Why would the president of any arts organization blatantly make a derogatory comment about the very people that have nurtured that organization for nearly five decades now? The Durham Arts Council's board president Barker French has some nerve trying to defend his position by alienating the artists in Durham--the very artists that the council's own mission statement says it is going to support: "Durham Arts Council, Inc., promotes excellence in and access to the creation, experience, and active support of the arts for all the people of Durham."

It sounds like Ms. DeVries doesn't do much fundraising; it appears she's too busy cutting very valuable human resources. She should have "launched a major fund drive" already, the day she walked in the door nearly two years ago. The arts council didn't need slashing; it needs fundraising. The arts council didn't need "repositioning," it was already the "leading arts programmer." Just think of the private sector donations that will be lost now.

E'Vonne Coleman, the arts council's previous director may have partially "focused on making the arts council more accessible to Durham's African-American communities," and well she should have. Isn't Durham's population about 50 percent African American?

Intimidation and alienation is not the way to build a community organization. The arts council better be "rumbling;" so should the whole community.
Sylvia Cuningham

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