Wisdom from the cells

I am writing to thank you for focusing on issues concerning those behind bars. The piece on youth in this state's prisons being denied education was informative ("Little Fish in the Big House," 8/27). The piece by Robert Ellis Gordon ("Tales from the Pen," 8/27) gave great insight into the utter cruelness of prison life. Too bad he had to begin his piece by attempting to entertain us by making prisoners seem so incredibly ignorant. Prisoners have the potential to be the conscience of our society—we should listen to their experiences.

Scott Winn


No shame in shining

Your article "Advertising: Shine On" (9/3) was, to say the least, very one-sided and presumptuous. Luis Perez has his opinion like everyone else, but for you to print that opinion without getting the other side of the story is very poor journalism.

My husband has chosen the profession of shoe shining because he enjoys it and has been very successful at it for more than 26 years. Anybody that has stuck with anything for that long and has so much to show for it must be very successful. But, of course, you didn't print that side of the story.

People measure success in different ways. Our success is what we've accomplished together as a family.

Number one, we've raised four very beautiful children. Number two, our children have all worked with us at the Nordstrom shoe shine stand while furthering their education. Number three, our family is very well-known and liked not only in the black community but in downtown Seattle.

Now that's a success story in today's society by anybody's standards. And our professional business of shining shoes supported this success.

We were very proud of the full-page color ad that featured an African-American father and his sons in business together. The Nordstrom family recognizes and appreciates family values and has always given Morgan and his family that respect.

For you and "Mr. Bay Area Engineer" to put your value of success on us and to be so critical because we choose to be different shows very poor judgment on your part. This was another get-on-Nordstrom's-case-and-put-down-the-black-race article. You should be ashamed.

Patsy Perkins


News tribunal

Mark Worth's Media Culpa column (9/17) on the new Washington News Council (WNC) suffered from a fundamental misunderstanding of how the council will operate. He said the WNC was formed "to investigate media improprieties." Wrong. Its mission is to help those who feel personally damaged by a story about them to find a satisfactory resolution of their complaint. Its purpose is to help both the public and the media avoid libel suits and costly litigation. And its goal is to help citizens and the press understand each other better.

Worth suggested that someone should file a complaint against The Seattle Times for its coverage of the NordstromPacific Place deal. The WNC wouldn't hear such a complaint. Critiquing the media is what Worth's column does.

Worth wrote: "Perhaps Times editorial page editor Mindy Cameron will then be called before the News Council. . . ." No. The WNC has no legal authority—and doesn't want any—to "call" anyone to do anything. Participation is entirely voluntary. Complaints are filed against the news organization, not individual journalists, and the paper or station decides who will represent them. (Only rule: no lawyers present.)

Worth wrote that the council is "composed of Patsy Bullitt Collins, Jim Ellis, Bill Gerberding, Mike Lowry, Charles Royer, and other dignitaries." Wrong. Those five—along with Ken Hatch, Jeannette Hayner, Denny Heck, Pat Herbold, Ron Judd, Stan McNaughton, and Bill Ruckelshaus—are our founding board members. They invited community leaders to a breakfast last week (100 people came) to hear how the WNC will operate. Gary Gilson, who heads the Minnesota News Council, explained how his organization works. It has existed since 1970 and has strong support from newspapers, broadcasters, business, foundations, and civic groups in that state.

Our founding board will help select a 24-member panel—half with media background, half without—that will consider complaints. It will represent many viewpoints and communities from across the state. If a complaint is found to have merit by panel members, the council will hold an open public hearing at which the complainant makes his or her case and the news media outlet may defend its story. Then the council votes on who is right. That's it. No penalties, no fines, no sanctions—just a public airing of the dispute.

Dozens of people have already endorsed the WNC, including respected names from the media, business, labor, academia, churches, civic groups, think tanks, health care, and other sectors. Want to add your name to our list? Call 206-923-2955 or e-mail jchamer@msn.com.

John Hamer

Washington News Council

Mindy Spice

Regarding your 9/17 Media Culpa ("The Times' 'Mission'"): Shame on you for your highly inaccurate portrayal of Mindy Cameron as the handmaiden to some corporate downtown cabal—as if they could make her put on a "chicken suit"! Everyone knows they make her put on the Spice Girl getup.

Diane Albert

Assistant to Mindy ("Thyme Spice") Cameron

Editor replies: OK, now we're really scared.

Get a life

Regarding the letters to the editor in your 9/17 issue: Calling the SAM management a bunch of "Nazis" is hyperbole, and is beneath the dignity of intelligent people. "The stain of neo-Nazi[ism] . . . spreading across Seattle . . . "—say what? These name-calling letter writers have let their mouths run amok without putting their brains in gear, and have once again legitimized the Weekly's "wacky" label for the Letters section. Most of the anti-SAM letters were grammatically challenged, to say nothing of their lack of rational content. Back to square one, people, and for Pete's sake wipe that froth off your mouths.

Jay Kridner


Extortion 101

I agree with John Reed that SAM has a duty to educate the public ("SAM's Nazi Matisse," 9/3), but what are they trying to teach by holding the Rosenberg family's Matisse for ransom? Extortion 101? Instead, this is a perfect opportunity for them to teach social responsibility, by giving the painting back to its rightful owners.

Russell Jones

via e-mail

Leave the loot alone

The museums of the world are filled with pieces looted, carried away, sold, and relooted ("SAM's Nazi Matisse," 9/3). I do not see Mark Fefer calling for all museums to return all the looted items. Not the Peruvian art, or the Egyptian pieces, or even the Native American pieces.

And what about the lands stolen from the Native Americans—why don't I see him exhorting us to return that?

Don Glover

via e-mail

SAM's duty

Having just read your story about Odalisque ("SAM's Nazi Matisse," 9/3), I am compelled to respond to the comment attributed to SAM attorney John Reed. Reed explains that he sees his role as protecting the fiduciary interest of the museum, which he defines to mean financial reimbursement for loss of the painting.

Reed has, fortunately, not lived through the Holocaust. He has never walked the streets of cities where whole peoples were wiped out. He hasn't read the plaques memorializing the location of a firing squad, a partisan bombing, or an unnameable atrocity.

Certainly, Reed has no family members lost in the Holocaust; he does not have to explain to his children why they have no grandparents or uncles, no family heirlooms, or why the family history does not exist prior to about 1950.

SAM, through its legal representatives, has a fiduciary duty. It is the duty each one of us has to try, within our meager abilities, to put back the pieces of the world shattered by Hitler. It is an honor and privilege to participate in this responsibility. I hope that SAM will reassess its fiduciary responsibilities, and consider the immeasurable value of shouldering its personal and public duty to return stolen Nazi loot to the family of its innocent, victimized, original owners.

MIchael J. Weisman

via e-mail

Cry and cross your legs

I attended a performance of At the Edge and was blown away—I never laughed so hard at a play! I was shocked that the audience wasn't packed with gay men and lesbians.

Straight folks were laughing their asses off, but queers will pee their pants for sure. (Oh, and it'll make you cry, too.) Does anybody know about this great play? (Ends 9/26. See Arts Ex Machina entry, Goings On.)

Rebecca Miller


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