< Letters


Friday, February 11, 2011

BOB GARFIELD: This is On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I'm Brooke Gladstone, with a few of your letters. Last week, our interview with a researcher who found the phrase “Arab street” problematic and often associated with negative words drew a strong response. Some listeners hear it as a purely neutral phrase, signifying public opinion in the region, but others agreed that it was pejorative, suggesting some monolithic view where none exists. G. G. Gordon, of Marquette, Michigan says that’s why he finds the phrase “the heartland” cringe-worthy, quote, “The phrase conjures up the famous New Yorker map of the U.S. with nothingness between the two coasts. The phrase, to me, suggests that the speaker views the people of “the heartland" as a monolithic group of quaint folk who can their own vegetables and listen only to country music. Where exactly is The Heartland, and do any of you cringe when you hear the phrase?”

BOB GARFIELD: Also, last week we discussed how cable news was calling on non-experts to comment on events in Egypt, Pete Dominick among them. Several of you found our characterization of Dominick as a comedian unfair. Jan Ahrens wrote in to say that although Dominick does stand-up comedy, he also hosts a daily politics show on Sirius Radio and has spent, quote, “a portion of nearly every broadcast day enlightening the listeners with guests and high level discussions on the Egypt crisis.” “Pete is a comic,” writes Ahrens, “but that’s not at all the sum total of what Pete is.”

BROOKE GLADSTONE: In our recent show devoted to the future of the newspaper, Yochai Benkler said that though we may not need newspapers, we do need the ability to extract information from powerful entities against their will, so we will need some form of leak extraction or preservation mechanism. But, he says, we may not need professional journalists to do it. A network of private individuals could serve the purpose. Edmund Feingold of Illinois disagrees. He wrote that nonprofessionals have very little legal protection that would enable them to preserve the anonymity of their sources who may be, quote, “exposed to a great deal more public scrutiny, perhaps harassment and/or prosecution. The damage may be that fewer will come forward with leaks, if they are at risk of being identified and harassed. This seems to me a potentially severe blow to our freedom of speech and the liberty of journalism in a free society.”

BOB GARFIELD: Speaking of anonymity, you listeners have already gotten 74 senators to confirm that they did not put the anonymous hold on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which was killed at the end of the last Congress. Some have written to say we are being naïve in our effort to identify the one who did place the hold, but legislators are loath to lie to their constituents, and the names do become known eventually. Please go to our website and click on “Blow the Whistle” to see if your senator is on the list. If not, call his or her office – we have the numbers. And, of course, keep writing us at Onthemedia@wnyc.org.