Considering the effects of 'opinion journalism'

Regarding Dante Chinni's March 16 Opinion piece "O'Reilly, O'Franken, oh no!": The public has been subjected to liberal viewpoints masquerading as news reporting since the Vietnam War. Most viewers and listeners can now at least become informed as they see fit and obtain a more well-rounded opinion of current events. A dab of Rush Limbaugh, a splash of Aaron Brown, a shake of Bill O'Reilly, a drop of Diane Sawyer and you've got yourself a string of spaghetti that circles the equator of knowledge.
Tim Felter
Barnegat, N.J.

The news has become tabloid, not responsible journalism. But why is this happening? It would seem that the responsibility should rest upon the people who produce the news, not those who view it. Where were the reporters and the editors when these changes in how news is produced were proposed? Where was the outrage that the core of journalism, objectivity, was being hamstrung by corporate greed?

Mr. Chinni makes the point that we can expect neither Bill O'Reilly nor Al Franken to provide us with objective facts and news. But it seems we cannot expect this anywhere else in this country either.
David Hamilton
Renton, Wash.

The shape of Social Security

Regarding Tim Penny's March 15 Opinion piece "Social Security needs long-term overhaul, not campaign slogans": Mr. Penny has been misinformed about some fundamentals. The baby-boom demographics have been factored into Social Security cost projections since the mid-1980s, so there is no impending financial crisis on that score.

As Penny notes, the Social Security trust fund is not a government asset; however, the US Treasury bonds it buys are an asset that the government will have to pay interest on and later repay principal to the trust fund. Yes, in order to repay the loans, the government will have to raise taxes (if the current level is not sufficient), or cut programs, or borrow money; but this is normal for all Treasury borrowings from banks, investors, and foreign governments.

Using a reasonable calculation basis, Social Security's finances are in fine shape. The problem is that politicized trustees control the projection process and have preferred to distort it by using unjustifiably high economic assumptions about the future.
David Langer
New York

Mass marketing reform

Regarding your March 11 editorial "Protecting Children's Privacy": The bill sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D) of Oregon and Ted Stevens (R) of Alaska that would place greater limits on marketing to children is a great idea, and it's long overdue.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), effective April 2000, applies only to the online collection of personal information from children under 13. COPPA doesn't regulate offline data collection, nor does it dictate what companies can do with children's data once they've collected it offline. COPPA has created a cavern-sized loophole that companies have used to prey upon children and their families.

Where data is collected is less important than its sensitivity and the way marketers use it. We need wholesale changes to the direct-marketing industry.

It must start to take self-regulation seriously by focusing on customer need and by speaking out when others in the industry aren't doing the right thing. Failure to respect consumer-privacy principles is costing the industry millions of dollars. And it's only going to get worse.
Alan Chapell
New York
The writer, principal of Chapell & Associates, is a marketing consultant.

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