Letters From the September 26-October 3, 2016, Issue

Letters From the September 26-October 3, 2016, Issue

Letters From the September 26-October 3, 2016, Issue

Strength in weekness… Making herstory?… Private pain, public shame… Departure from the norm?… To The Nation, with love…


Strength in Weekness

Eric Alterman’s gloomy analysis of the newspaper industry’s current problems is on target, except for one major flaw: He includes only daily publications under the heading of “the newspaper industry” [“Paper Rout,” July 18/25]. But that’s no more than 1,500 dailies, of all sizes, and accounts for only about 45 percent of US newspapers’ total circulation of some 87.5 million.

The daily-newspaper industry is indeed in trouble, with steady declines in both circulation and the number of individual publications. But considering only daily publications ignores the 6,000-plus less-frequent US papers, most of which are weeklies. Their focus differs vastly from the dailies’ focus, and their economic outlook and circulation are healthier, because they’re the only consistent source of coverage for their communities.

Dailies focus on major news developments in the cities where they’re published, and, in these days of shrinking staffs and diminishing space for news, few have the resources or the interest to report regularly on life in smaller communities. Unless something sensational happens, dailies tend to ignore such communities. The same goes for TV news.

Community weeklies focus almost exclusively on life in those small areas. They are read thoroughly by many—perhaps most—residents. They’re the only place to find reporting that provides an overall picture of the community, as well as in-depth coverage of how public and private institutions are functioning, and what developments are likely to affect people down the line.

With local readers, of course, comes local advertising and a more sustainable business model than many metro dailies can devise these days. Advertisers prefer to reach their potential customers through the local weekly, which they can do far less expensively than through metropolitan dailies, whose ad rates are much higher because the papers reach many more people, most of whom are irrelevant to advertisers in Smalltown USA. Also, ads are much more likely to be seen, and read, in the local weekly.

All of this is worth keeping in mind the next time you hear that “the newspaper industry” is about to implode.

David Gordon
International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, President
altoona, wis.

Making Herstory?

The day after Hillary Clinton accepted the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention, I scribbled some thoughts on my lunch bag. As a woman in her 70s who has called herself a feminist for five decades, I pondered why I wasn’t excited that Hillary had cracked what Joan Walsh calls “that highest and hardest glass ceiling” [“Hillary Makes History,” Aug. 15/22]. Hasn’t her achievement been the goal of the women’s movement all these years?

Actually, no! Hillary’s kind of success has never been the ultimate goal of my women’s movement. There have been two movements—or at least two branches of feminism—all along. Both rejected the cultural norm that a woman’s worth should be measured by her body image, her sexual attractiveness, or other qualities that made her useful to men. But Clinton’s branch aimed to prove that women could play the patriarchal game of competition, hierarchy, and dominance as well as or better than men. This branch created the “glass ceiling” concept and aimed to shatter it. My branch of the women’s movement had a different goal: It promoted the qualities and skills that are more prevalent in women than in men (both taken as a group)—the qualities of empathy and compassion and the skills of cooperation and sharing. Although it may sometimes be necessary to play the patriarchy’s power-grab games as a tactic for damage control, gaining power in the patriarchal system was secondary to establishing a whole new game based on “feminine” qualities and skills. Hillary’s achievement is a distraction from this task.

Kathleen Robinson
jamaica plain, mass.

Private Pain, Public Shame

Seth Freed Wessler’s story “A Plague of Private-Prison Deaths” [July 4/11] is the most damning thing I’ve ever read on the mistreatment of people in our penal system. Why isn’t Congress rising up in outrage and calling the Bureau of Prisons on the carpet? These prisoners are human beings and deserve proper treatment under the law. When government operations are put in the hands of the private sector, things go wrong.
Tom Pincu
los angeles

Departure From the Norm?

I appreciated John Connelly’s review of The Great Departure, which provides much-needed historical context for the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe [“Divided Realms,” Aug. 1/8]. As illuminating as his review is, however, his defense of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who he claims is mischaracterized as conservative, is striking. Not only does this claim ignore her party’s austerity agenda, including a flagrant rejection of Greek democratic demands last year, but important stances on migration too. Before the refugee crisis, Merkel was clear about her feelings on multiculturalism, which she said had “utterly failed.” This reactionary sentiment does little to ease suspicions that her immigration stance is both a tactful political maneuver and a way to address Germany’s low replacement birth rate.

During the crisis, Merkel’s rhetoric was noteworthy, but in practice, she and other European leaders settled on the European Union–Turkey deal. The deal essentially offloads the European states’ burden of having to address the needs of so many people. Moreover, it keeps these people stranded in an anti­democratic country, while providing its autocratic leadership with lots of money. Merkel may look better than other right-wing leaders, but when we praise her and other “extreme center” politicians for merely being better than the far right, we absolve them from blame in creating numerous humanitarian crises in Europe

Matthew Soener
columbus, ohio

To The Nation, With Love

I’ve become a big fan of The Nation in two stages: Back in 2013–14, and just two months ago in 2016. I let my earlier subscription lapse because I didn’t have time to read each issue. A sizable stack of the earlier issues remained for bathroom reading, and I did just that! Finally, I figured out why I needed to renew my subscription: Richard Kim, Chris Hayes, very fine poetry in addition to your very own Deadline Poet, “Comix Nation,” Joshua Clover, and many other brilliant columnists! Why, I asked myself, was I relying on the esoteric and tongue-in-cheek likes of magazine X or periodical Y? Heaven knows.
Lewis Bosworth
madison, wis.

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