The media's role: sensation, censorship, or sense?

My only criticism of Michael Epstein's article ("TV journalism under attack!" Sept. 20, opinion) is that it did not go far enough. Not only is what Mr. Epstein wrote absolutely true, the content of news has transformed TV networks into virtual state organs for dispensing government - especially Bush-administration - views. All of the networks now, as during the Gulf War, seem to believe that they are not mere journalists, but partners with the American public and its government in advancing official US agendas. With flag graphics, ribbons, and lapel pins, they send out the message that they support US political (and military) objectives. The substantive coverage is as one-sided and jingoistic as production devices suggest.

Daniel Kevin Hand

Brick, N.J.

Your article on the media ("Journalists tread fine line between patriotism and partisanship," Sept. 21) was thoughtful and insightful. How can we question our government and still be patriotic? My question is: How can we not? Our media are just as intimidated as our legislators by the idea of being called unpatriotic.

Cathryn Baillie

Issaquah, Wash.

If one is a journalist in a crisis, one must tell only the facts - and only those facts that leaders handling the crisis wish to be shared. I do not believe this is censorship - simply honorable journalism. Before Sept. 11, patriotism had so gone out of fashion that many children did not know the words for our national anthem. There was a sense that to show love and faith to our country was politically incorrect.That has changed, and I am glad. If we are asked to keep silent about matters that enemies should not know, if we can show our solidarity as a nation, we should do so. Surely the media are even more bound to honor the needs of our free society.

Victoria Goss

Nantucket, Mass.

Is 'the ban' nebulous - or necessary?

Thank you for Daniel Schorr's insightful piece regarding the ban on assassinations ("Stop winking at 'the ban,' " Sept. 21). Mr. Schorr states what we all know - that Osama bin Laden's life is forfeit to the US, and that as a combatant, which he made himself, he is not "exempt" from CIA, special forces, or traditional military attempts on his life. Mr. bin Laden declared war on America. As such, he is the leader of an enemy regime and a fair target for assassination. As Schorr said, this "ban" is outdated and ignored. It's time for our leaders to be honest and say, "Bin Laden is a target, and we intend to kill him."

Angie Dixon

Little Rock, Ark.

Daniel Schorr omits a crucial distinction in the debate over assassination. An assassination is a plan to kill someone as an instrument of policy. This doesn't include only terrorists; there is also the dreadful potential that those whose ideas make them troublesome to future US officials might become targets, too. Worse, such acts would be done in secret, sequestered from public disclosure. When an individual is wanted, it is better that a warrant be issued for his capture, "dead or alive." Then, if he won't turn himself in, he is apprehended. A live suspect has his day in court. The distinction is necessary - between resolve to enforce the law and the dictatorship of murder.

Jim Woolsey

Sierra Vista, Ariz.

Assassination is a tool of dictators, criminals, and terrorist regimes. It must not become a tool of ethical, democratic states - especially those like America, which loudly proclaim their moral authority to the world.

Isaac Boxx

Austin, Tex.

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