Decline has been a long time coming

Myles Spicer targeted a longtime source of my own professional sadness in "The strategies that lite the way for TV news" (Oct. 3). I learned in the early 1960s that network leaders were already quite aware of the impending decline in quality, although Walter Cronkite and a few others were working hard to preserve the industry's integrity, and some still are.

I was then a broadcast journalist in Omaha and won a CBS Foundation Fellowship to Columbia University in 1963-64. Early in '64, our group of eight fellows (which included Bill Plante, still active as the senior CBS White House correspondent) met with Fred Friendly, then president of CBS News. Mr. Friendly expressed deep concern that the direction of television news, under advertiser pressure, was shifting gradually away from journalism and toward entertainment.

The consequence is what Spicer described and more: Dominant news foci, especially in local media, are on stories featuring sex and violence. About the only places in the networks to find serious attention to balance, inquiry and respect for the news audience are at PBS and BBC.


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Those who don't like the quality of TV news should keep in mind that in this country, most children are taught what to think, not how to think. The facts-only delivery of "old school" professionals such as Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow couldn't hold the attention of today's audience. Without being taught the necessary analytical thinking skills to correctly assess information, many people today can only understand irrelevant chitchat and must rely on the commentary of others to do their thinking for them. Unfortunately, this leaves them open to manipulation, and watching TV news today is a bit like watching a good border collie work a flock of sheep: scare them here, and they run there; scare them there, and they run here.

Those fortunate enough to have been taught good thinking skills must search for news sources that offer depth and relevance so we can do our own thinking. And, we can only hope that the rational blindness of the herded won't someday stampede us all over a cliff.

GRETCHEN DEAN, Bloomington


Considered worse because they are

An opinion from Slate reprinted in the Star Tribune on Oct. 4 ("If civilians die in war, does it matter how?") proposes that the real reason governments are so opposed to chemical weapons is that the weapons' uncontrollable nature is a threat to policymakers themselves. Maybe a greater and simpler concern is the torturous nature of the weapons. My understanding is that they consistently cause a slow, excruciating death. Most other weapons, as horrible as they also are for both combatants and civilians, more often cause instant death. Certainly, differentiating this way about what form of violent death against civilians is more acceptable is repulsive, but it is reality.

JIM BARTOS, Brooklyn Park


Benefits of RCV are already showing

I am a longtime Twin Cities resident currently living on the East Coast, and have been following the Star Tribune's online coverage of the Minneapolis mayoral race. It appears that this year's mayoral campaign has a more civil tone than any other election I've followed. This change of tone, which is so badly needed in our political discourse, seems to be a result of the city's newly implemented ranked-choice voting system. With runoff voting, candidates cannot afford to take an uncivil tone and alienate voters the way they can under traditional voting systems.



Will redesign get tangled in utilities?

The competition to draft a new vision for Nicollet Mall has been a process that deserves applause. The engagement almost assures creative and exciting design for our cornerstone avenue.

Twenty design teams submitted proposals, and three emerged as finalists. The winning design team for the $30-million-to-$40-million project was selected by a committee that included professors in architecture, city officials and business leaders. The winner was James Corner Field Operations, the firm that designed the High Line public park in Manhattan, Navy Pier in Chicago and Seattle's Central Waterfront, a $300 million project. The team will include seven additional design firms, four of them local.

I am unsure whether Corner Field has reviewed engineering reports detailing the dense web of utility lines underlying Nicollet, a spaghetti mass allowing little room for tree roots and tree survival. Regardless, for Twin Cities homebodies and for visitors from afar, the reshaping of the mall will ensure a charming, attractive centerpiece of highest-quality design.