A Less Perfect Union

Letters published November 13, 2002

Diversification leads to more discrimination:

Laura Putre's article ["Welcome to the 1950s," October 9] failed to make it clear why there is something wrong with the lack of blacks living in Parma. Ideally, city employees should live in the city they work for. Southern California prospers because it recruits migrant labor and illegals for the dirty work. Texas does the same, and it's a center for companies with fat federal contracts and could be considered an anti-union state. It is wrong to discriminate against people who are willing and able to buy a home. Offering special deals to blacks for the sake of "diversification" is just more discrimination. Most of the white kids in Parma dig hip-hop anyway.

Ryan Costa

Flesh-N-Bone's the one in the slam:

I just wanted to let you know that there is an error in your article [Soundbites, October 9]. You erroneously said that Wish Bone is in jail. It is not Wish who is incarcerated -- it's Flesh-N-Bone, who is not with them at the time.

Deidre Manning
Carbondale, IL

Another round from the AK:

I am writing to inform you that your magazine provided false information. When writing about Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, you said that Wish Bone is in jail for having an AK-47. It's Flesh-N-Bone who's in jail for the AK-47.

Zac Blevins
Garfield Heights

Editor's note: Both readers are correct in pointing out this error. The writer has been brutally beaten as punishment.

The rock and roll capital deserves more:

I am deeply saddened that we have lost yet another good (if not overall great) publication in the Free Times. It provided a good balance to the local scene (no pun intended) that other papers did not. This includes the currently watered-down Scene, which lost much of its direction a few years back when the owners decided to cash in/sell out to those who now wade through the mud. Sadly, I find that I can get as much -- or more -- out of The Pee-Dee's Friday section. We are the rock and roll capital. When can we again boast of a publication that we deserve? Hopefully, Scene will be refined into what it should be, now with its competition gone.

Gary Frederick

A clichéd obit was in order:

I'm extremely disappointed by Pete Kotz's ungracious and truth-twisting editorial about the demise of the Free Times ["Death Becomes Her," October 9]. It is indeed bad form to "dance on the grave of another." I expected more of him than to be a sore winner.

Even if Kotz could not find it in his heart to write the typical respectful obituary ("gave us a good run . . . competition kept us on our toes . . . hope to improve and grow to pick up the slack and serve all the readers of Cleveland . . . yada yada yada"), he could have done better than to claim the reason for the Free Times' demise was anything other than what the owners of both papers said it was: a backroom business deal to stabilize the finances of both chains.

The Free Times' owners, the Village Voice, wanted Scene's owners, New Times, out of Los Angeles. They had to offer something in return, so they sacrificed the Free Times. For Kotz to say the Free Times died because "it didn't walk it like it talked it" and that "it was long, slow suicide" is fabrication. If the cards had fallen a little differently, it could be Scene shuttering, for reasons having nothing to do with quality.

It's well known in the newspaper industry that the past two and a half years have not been golden ones for print media. Advertising, especially national advertising, is down everywhere. According to The New York Times, the Free Times was losing $500,000 a year -- a pittance compared to the $100 million in revenue that both chains claim to generate annually.

I have to wonder if Kotz has personal issues with someone at the Free Times, perhaps David Eden? Calling someone a "moron" doesn't exude the balance and objectivity for lack of which Kotz attacks the Free Times. As former Free Times music editor (1993-1998), I saw firsthand some of the dysfunction at the paper. But I also worked with some enormously talented and dedicated people, something the paper had from beginning to end. The "trumpet of lefty virtue," a.k.a. Lisa Chamberlain, departed the paper last year. Under Eden, it was clearly becoming more expansive in its coverage and opinions. It also connected with the local market in a way that I feel Scene doesn't -- at least not yet (why don't I ever see your film critics at the Cinematheque?).

I'm disappointed that Kotz cannot even be big enough to recognize the good things the Free Times accomplished. His gloating is the last thing an increasingly fragmented and media-poor market like Cleveland needs to flourish again.

Anastasia Pantsios
Cleveland Heights

The local music challenge:

I've never been particularly fond of the cover stories or features in either Scene or the Free Times. I think "Death Becomes Her" is the first article I've had any interest in for quite some time. My main goal in picking up the alternative papers is to get information on local music and entertainment goings-on. It is for this reason that I am sad the Free Times is gone.

I don't doubt the validity of the facts in Kotz's article. In fact, it makes a great deal of sense, and I'm now beginning to notice a number of small items that I had previously overlooked. What I would challenge you to disprove was the Free Times' superior coverage and support of local music. Though no paper has done an excellent job performing this task, the Free Times at least dedicated regular articles and columns to local artists.

It's very difficult to drum up support for local bands. The Free Times regularly reviewed local discs and often caught local bands opening for national headliners. Even at this minimal level, artists received much-needed press. Now where are the local artists to turn for a little extra exposure? I'm hoping they will be welcomed by Scene.

I used to run for Scene on Thursday and shun the Free Times. But, over time, the Free Times caught on to what I was looking for. The roles were completely reversed. I always picked up Scene by default, just in case it grabbed an exclusive about something I was interested in, but more often than not it truly was a wasted effort.

I challenge Scene to make up for the fact that there is no longer coverage of local artists.

Brett C. Wilms

A safe haven for Free Times readers:

There is nothing more disappointing right now than the fact that I now have only one alternative voice to listen to in the world of the not-so-run-of-the-mill newspapers. I have been living here in Cleveland, sometimes against my mental free will, for the last four years. The only solace I have found was picking up both the Free Times and Scene, since reading The Plain Dealer appealed to me as much as going to the gynecologist.

Newspapers such as these are critical to keeping the fragile quasi-culture alive in Cleveland. How can we ever get a comical behind-the-scenes look at the mayor's office, learn what neighborhood is pissed off, find what karaoke bar is open tonight, or which sex toy is best to give to your gay uncle's boyfriend?

To be honest, I have been a bigger supporter of the Free Times, merely for the fact that it had better music coverage and I don't have to waste my time looking through 10 pages of porn to scan the classifieds. Scene has better arts and café reviews, but that doesn't appeal to me as much.

It's funny how the Free Times just had its big 10th anniversary issue, and now this announcement comes along. Something was rotten in Coventry. So how are you going to do it, Scene? Can you gain the support of the readers abandoned by your former competition?

Melanie Rich

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