The Ratings Game Fuels Voter Anger

The author of the opinion-page speech excerpts ``Media Failed US Voters in `94 By Missing the Real Stories,'' Jan. 5, has a good grasp on what has happened with the US voter. The media can claim a larger share of the responsibility for voter anger. The reasons, however, are not quite as simple.

It is far more than reporters ferreting out ``all the news.'' I believe that the foundation was laid when news became ``entertainment'' and TV anchors became celebrities. Ratings became more important than issues, and polls became the driving force of elections. The network news programs fuel the anger by looking for tomorrow's news today.

The media now command a position of authority that is unprecedented in history; witness all the campaigning done on ``Larry King Live.''

No one has elected these people; neither have they been appointed by the president. Yet they have more power than any Cabinet secretary, congressman, or senator.

When I complain to news stations, (as I have done many times), they courteously say ``Thank you,'' and ignore the complaint.

With First Amendment protection, they are just about invulnerable to any challenge. June Fine, Newton, Mass. Premature praise of Carter's efforts

The author's praise of former President Carter in the opinion-page article ``Carter's Methods Bring Results,'' Jan. 11, is both unjustified and premature.

In Haiti, North Korea, and now Bosnia, Mr. Carter's assumption of a neutral posture in dealing with manifest brutality and illegality has diminished the prestige of the US presidency.

The author may be correct that, in each of these forays, Carter has eased tensions - but at what price? By making serious concessions to the guilty parties, Carter achieves the momentary calm that often accompanies appeasement.

At the same time, he makes future conflict, with the aggressor's hand strengthened, more likely. We should thus be grateful that, in the author's words, Carter is ``a unique individual.'' M.F. Harris, Alexandria, Va. Senior Citizens Act: a poor fix

The editorial ``The `Contract': Day 2,'' Jan. 5, describes the Senior Citizens Fairness Act as a sweet deal. The act is simply a rejection of the raw deal given retirees by the Clinton administration, and will return that which was recently taken away from them by a president who forgot that he promised not to tamper with Social Security.

As for the gloom and doom forecast for the future of Social Security, a simple fix will put the system on a pay-as-you-go basis that will provide future retirees with a financially sound system far into the next century. This fix is merely to stop retiring people at an ever younger age relative to the average life span, which is what the present system attempts to do. With our constantly increasing life span, which now extends well into the 70s, keeping the retirement age at 65 will clearly overburden the younger generations.

Eventually, however, the retirement age must be linked to the average life span. Once this correction is made and the system is put on a permanent pay-as-you-go basis, the Social Security trust fund surplus becomes irrelevant. It can be used to help pay off the national debt without adding new taxes or making cuts in Social Security benefits now or in the future. Dick Whitehead, Merritt Island, Fla. Senator's compassion will be missed

Thank you for the opinion-page article ``Metzenbaum's Senate Finale,'' Dec. 16. As the author states, Senator Metzenbaum is to be commended for his compassion for America's laborers and his stand in support of consumers and the labor unions. While the world is shrinking and the North American Free Trade Agreement and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade are inevitable, it's important to emphasize that fair trade must see a rise in the living standards of both our own workers and those of other countries.

We regret to see Metzenbaum leave the Senate and end his valuable service to his country. We can only pray that the GOP replacements will measure up to the achievements and compassion for the electorate of some of the high-quality people we've lost. Colleen and Dee Molenaar, Burley, Wash.

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