Thank you for the article revealing the new and not improved Akron Beacon Journal ["Slouching Toward Mediocrity," March 8]. Many longtime readers, despite what columnist David Giffels contends, are dismayed, disgusted, and insulted at the changes of the last few years. With every "improvement," we get less to read, less news, and more mindless fluff.
We now have more columnists and more entertainment coverage. One movie is now reviewed three times: once when the movie is released, once when it is released on video, and once for family content. And the writing is far from stellar. Consider this nugget of insight about Billy Elliot: "This is a coming-of-age story and, although it's fiction, the actions and dialogue are essential to telling the story." Wow. We yearn for the return of Roger Ebert's movie reviews, but apparently he is too expensive.
Each Sunday, we are treated to "Crime Reports," similar to what fills the pages of any weekly paper; "Building Permits"; and more entertainment emphasis, while they've eliminated "News & Views" -- the only substantive section of the paper -- and the magazine. We now have two tables of contents, and they eliminated the page A2 article that always had very provocative news items. Guess it took up too much space -- and who can read a whole one-page article anyway? We wait with bated breath for stories with serious reporting (such as the coal series), but they are few and far between. We also have one less day of "Letters to the Editor." Voice of the people? Waste of paper and ink.
Another controversial decision made last year, which was rescinded because they were getting scooped all over the state, was the dismantling of the nationally recognized team of Doug Oplinger and Dennis Willard. Yes, we noticed when news about state-level education issues was no longer appearing. Yes, we noticed when we no longer had intelligent and analytical watchdogs scrutinizing the smoke and mirrors of state education policy. Apparently, the entire state noticed, and it was such an embarrassment to The Beacon that Oplinger and Willard were allowed to return to their beats.
No, Mr. Giffels, Ms. Leach, Mr. Ridder, and Mr. Dotson, many readers care about the quality and quantity of reporting and news, and do not welcome the "hipness" of the new McInfo Paper. Intellectual curiosity is all but gone from our "new and improved" Beacon Journal, and in the end, it's our community and our democracy that will suffer. How hip is that?
Jodie M. Grasgreen
Getting to know Lou Vogel
The portrayal of eccentric artist Lou Vogel by Jeff Niesel went down the wrong road [Soundbites, March 8]. The artist is clearly exploring uncharted grounds and is courageous enough to experiment with his ideas in front of large audiences. Since most of us are not running down the same road as Lou Vogel, most of us, including Mr. Niesel, will not understand his performances.
It was stated in the article that the artist was planning to augment his presentation with mainstream activity to provide a market for his work. This appears to be a clear sign that Lou Vogel's raw artistic expression needs to be softened for the rest of our palates. If Jeff Niesel went down a different road and wrote the article from the artist's point of view and experience, as opposed to providing his own psychological assessment, the rest of us could have created our own opinions. The article only gave pieces of apparent low points for the artist and painted a twisted picture of a local artist with apparent strong ties to multiple local bands. Then again, perhaps this was a manipulation of the article by Lou Vogel himself.
Unions step up in support of 19/43
As a viewer of Channel 19 and 43 news, I found Scene's story ["Satan or Savior?", March 1] very interesting. Count my local union as a supporter of the workers at 19 and 43 in their current contract negotiations with the station. We have signed up with the Cleveland AFL-CIO to support these workers, as they work to ratify a first contract that brings them into parity with other workers in similar unionized jobs in Northeast Ohio.
The news that has gone largely unreported in Greater Cleveland is this greater solidarity that unions have with one another during organizing campaigns. We know that "Solidarity Forever" needs to be more than an old labor ballad for working people. Whether or not this greater solidarity is reported in Channel 19 and 43 news is inconsequential. Management will learn that, if contract negotiations continue to stall, our union and most others in Northeast Ohio will send stronger and stronger signals to the 19 and 43 management -- until our signals are stronger than their electronic signals.
Executive Director, Service Employees
International Union (SEIU), District 925
Fetishists foster cultural diversity
The cover story from the March 8 issue ["Torture Town"] was a huge disappointment and embarrassment for us involved in the fetish lifestyle. Lakewood has long been known for its cultural diversity, so to have City Council Vice President Nancy Roth boo-hooing about the bizarre behavior in the fetish scene is sort of hypocritical. The club is for adults, so to drag out the threadbare argument that children are in danger is crap. How much trouble is reported on an average Friday night in the Flats? A fetish party at Tyr isn't even going to draw attention outside of the fetish community anyway, unless we call Channel 5 so they can get some titillating footage for their sweeps-week ratings.
It's high time that we who choose not to drink until we puke in some jock bar while listening to Top 40 music let the powers that be understand that we are responsible adults who have the same rights as any other adult taxpayer. The media jump at the chance to take every sound bite, video clip, and photo out of context to further the misconception that we are all a bunch of satanic murderers who, if given the chance, would be dragging school kids off the streets to sacrifice them. The reference to deviant sexual behavior made me laugh. I find the businessman who gets drunk every Friday at the strip clubs on West 25th Street, then buys a blowjob from a hooker on the way home to his wife, far more stomach-turning. You don't like fetish play? Go somewhere else. We promise to stay out of your bridge club if you'll stay out of our bondage club.
Screwing the fetishists
You did a disservice to the fetish scene in Lakewood with your sensational cover story. Your article increases the likelihood of their being expelled from the community, as well as the very real possibility of persecution or violence. The balanced statements and nonjudgmental attitudes of those involved in the fetish scene will be ignored by those who condemn them. In this culture, we demonize explorations of sexuality while being manipulated by a constant barrage of sex and violence from the media. Ritualized sex and pleasure/pain explorations to induce spiritual states are as old as human history.
What passes for normal? Christian churches have rituals of blood-drinking and flesh-eating, as well as yearly ceremonies that mark Christ's torture, humiliation, and death. Is "torture" between consenting adults in a club any worse than products carried by Lakewood stores that are made by starving, overworked children and adults in desperate conditions?
Who decides what is proper or improper? In the interest of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, if you don't agree with someone or something, go elsewhere or change the channel.
The people involved in this scene would undoubtedly find the sexuality of their detractors equally disturbing. It's all too easy to vilify people who look and act different -- and are therefore threatening -- when it's more often the case that the "banality of evil" rules.