Letters to the Editor – Weekly Issue of May 9, 2011

Readers write in about the root problem of overpopulation, servitude to technology, and the overhyped demise of traditional news.

What about overpopulation?

Bruce Piasecki's April 11 opinion essay ("The Ben Franklin solution for the coming age of scarcity") states: "But with the earth soon to host 7 billion people ... the ... struggle for freedom, food, and energy will intensify...."

But Mr. Piasecki then omits the obvious message: We are approaching the point (some say we have already passed it) at which we must face the fact that there are too many of us. Ben Franklin's solutions of hard work and thrift were fine in his day, but inadequate for a time that would surprise him in myriad ways.

Can we have, at last, some honesty about the issue of overpopulation?

Carol Larsen

Minneapolis

Technology slaves

I loved editor John Yemma's "upfront" column on technology ("The ups and downs of windows and other technology") and for that matter the entire April 18 Future Focus issue on the subject of innovation. After World War II, many, such as Reinhold Niebuhr, were concerned about the high development of technics, fearing that mankind had not developed the capacity to control those powers in any proportionate degree.

The cellphone and its newer relatives have now consumed our lives so that we rely on them to manage even little things, and we perhaps have lost the ability to think.

Some will say this is the ranting of an old man who doesn't want to accept new things. Actually, I enjoy the pleasures of "good TV," a cellphone, and computer technology, but we must be aware of what we are giving up when we let these new technologies take over our lives.

Clyde Vasey

Winfield. Kan.

Death of news is overhyped

In his April 18 commentary "Despite media yammer, there's hope for real news," John Hughes offers a reasoned and optimistic outlook for the state of international journalism, rebutting the endemic skepticism and hysteria over the death of traditional media. While our lives now revolve around rapid-fire, digital-media consumption, whether via Twitter, blogs, or apps on our smart phones, we still crave thoughtful journalism that requires us to consider the broader world and how we fit into it.

It's a fallacy, however, that amateur bloggers and citizen journalists produce content that is of "unknown reliability and motivation, and subpar skills," as Mr. Hughes claims. One only has to look at how citizen journalists tweeting pictures of the devastation from the Japanese earthquake, for example, influenced the mainstream media's coverage and provided some of the earliest reports and images from the area.

The death of traditional media has been overhyped; what deserves greater attention is how the media must make better use of new and old forms of reporting to enrich our understanding of an ever-changing global society.

Rosanna M. Fiske

Chair and CEO

Public Relations Society of America

New York

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