Readers write

Outrage over the media's role in the election

Regarding Godfrey Sperling's Dec. 12 column, "Where's the outrage at TV role in the election?": Unless you actually saw what transpired on Nov. 7, it would seem that this media travesty never happened. My family and I watched CNN cover the story that night, and when Florida was taken off the board for Al Gore, not one anchor even discussed the true, national impact the early call for Mr. Gore would have.

Since the election, the only issue I have heard or read regarding media mistakes is about the call for George W. Bush at 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 8. The problem is, that mistake could not materially affect the election because all the polls were closed. The early call for Gore not only affected Florida but every state where polls were still open. To say the two mistakes are equally egregious is patently false. This is the first letter to an editor I have ever written, which is a testament to how outraged I am.

Pat Cosgrove Staten Island, N.Y.

Godfrey Sperling's anger at the TV media's role on election night is too limited. TV's sense of public responsibility is immensely restricted by what I call the "postmax principle," a mandate accepted without the least scrutiny by industries of all kinds, by political parties, and by individuals.

By a post-max principle I mean that public responsibilities, service, and other worthy ethical principles come into play only after profit has not only been returned, but maximized.

Jack Betterly

Troy, N.Y.

Prayer can teach the virtue of silence

Thanks for your Dec. 11 article "Prayer (and giggles) during 'silent moment.' " I realize the controversy over school prayer is central to the issue, but there are other pros and cons to the Virginia law you cited.

One very big pro is the ability to be comfortable with silence. At the grocery store, you can't traipse through the aisles without hearing canned music, and at the symphony people have a hard time holding their applause for the dramatic silences between movements.

How beneficial for a child to learn the value of silence before he or she starts the day. Sure, there may be giggling at first. But we try to squeeze so many things into our day, a mere moment for quiet thought doesn't sound like "harassment" to me. Used for prayer or not, silence is a virtue.

Angela Larsen

Cloverdale, Calif.

Even peacekeepers need combat skills

Regarding your Dec. 12 editorial "Preparing peacekeepers": Troops must deploy to these places fully trained in "war fighting." There are two reasons for that. First, the situation could deteriorate, and troops could find themselves in need of pure combat skills and related equipment in a matter of minutes or hours.

The second reason is one of credibility with the warring factions. If the latter can detect they are not dealing with properly trained combat troops, they will take advantage of those troops.

Having said that, you are correct that special training is needed - cultural, language, human rights, and certain special "peacekeeping" skills - without which, a mission that is designed to have a peacekeeping emphasis, can go "sideways" very quickly. Again, your forces are not going over with combat training simply because it is a military "tradition" - it is a necessity for the reasons I have noted. Supplementally trained in the broader range of peacekeeping skills, it is amazing what young soldiers can accomplish.

F. Paul Crober

Victoria, Canada

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