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Mutating Papers

This is just a quick note to say that I was thrilled to read Tara Servatius' column about the decline of the Charlotte Observer ("Paper Tiger," April 30). I couldn't have said it better. I've lived in Charlotte for 23 years and I can remember when the Sunday Observer was a substantial publication -- and I mean that in terms of issues and seriousness, not size -- and their local political coverage was so thorough, you felt that you knew everything that was going on in City Hall. How times have changed. As Ms. Servatius put it so well, the local section now is thin enough to give you a paper cut but isn't worth the risk. When you see a daily newspaper lose self-respect to the point that it will spread "American Idol" articles all over its front page day after day, you know something's really wrong. Thank God the New York Times is more easily available here than it used to be. And thanks for gutsy papers like CL who aren't afraid to tweak the noses of the powers that be. I realize that newspapers have changed over the years, but the Observer seems to be "changing," or maybe mutating, at a rather alarming rate.

-- David Chandler, Charlotte

Letter To The Observer

The following are excerpts from an email which we were copied on.

Dear Charlotte Observer Editors,

Below is a "letter to the editor" which I hope you will have the courage and integrity to publish in the Forum. First, I'd like to make some off the record observations.

Off the Record:

Your selection of Tara Servatius as "Media Loose Cannon" [in the Observer's Best of 2003 special section of May 21] is a new low for the Observer. It would seem the journalistic bar couldn't get any lower for the Observer but you continue to defy expectations. You and I know this designation is nothing more than a personal attack on Ms. Servatius in retaliation to her recent column lamenting the decline of the Observer. You might think you can offer a defense of "she attacked first" but the difference between her column and your unfortunate (but consistent) lack of judgement is she raised legitimate questions and concerns about the quality of the Observer's reporting and coverage while your "award" comes across as exceptionally petty. I'm curious, does she get a certificate to hang on her wall?

Let's make it clear that I'm not friends with Ms. Servatius nor have I ever met her nor do I agree with everything she writes. But I do respect the effort she makes to find local stories and her diligence in raising the questions that "should" be asked and the "depth" in which the stories are covered. All of these are qualities in short supply at the Observer.

How sad is it that the Observer can only hope to aspire to the level of local coverage Creative Loafing provides? (Observer higher-ups are) likely to counter by pointing out CL's News of the Weird, the offensive advertising/personals, and the piercings and tattoos of some of the paper's subjects and dismiss CL as being a paper for freaks. I know, firsthand, this is the Observer's M.O. Years ago, I sent the Observer a copy of a daily paper from a West Coast city and pointed out areas in which this other paper surpassed the Observer. They sent me a letter inferring that I was some kind of "freak" based on the story content of my suggestions. They totally missed my point that the Observer had a narrow perspective of its audience.

[Following is the "on the record" Letter to the Editor, which the Observer did not print.]

Letter to the Editor:

In a week in which Glen Burke apologized for publishing "resume white lie" tips and David Poole apologized for letting his out-of-control NASCAR boosterism get in the way of facts, and Jennie Buckner published a less than convincing column about the Observer's journalistic integrity efforts, I find it ironic that the Observer chose to attack Creative Loafing's Tara Servatius as a "Media Loose Cannon." Ms. Servatius deserves a public apology from the Observer for this petty, cheap shot. A more deserving award would be "Best Investigative Reporting of Important Local Stories You Can't Find In the Observer."

Please, stop the attacks and take an honest look at the service you are providing to Charlotte. Are you doing your best or can you do better? When you make journalistic decisions, do you put the interests of Knight-Ridder shareholders or local politicians above those of Charlotte citizens? I know, without doubt, I'm not alone in believing Charlotteans deserve a better daily paper than the one you are delivering.

-- Jenny Frye, Charlotte

Clear Liquor

Tim Davis' write-up concerning the Bluegrass Showcase ("Scene & Herd," May 21) was pretty much spot on for the bands F150 and Sassagrass, but I question whether he saw the first band that played, The Brown Liquor Pickers, which was the only band to do a sound check in a professional manner and work the bugs out of their sound.

The Liquor Pickers' set was clear and easy to hear -- and no tuning marathons on stage. An above-average performance and by far the most professional of all the bands there, in my opinion.

If they were the best why'd they go first, you might ask?

Well, in the interest of all things fair -- the BLP's have played the middle set and the closing set for the Visulite Bluegrass Showcases and thought it was a show of good karma to let the other local bands play the later slots.

-- Mike Arant, Charlotte

Ann, Another Thing

I recently learned of Ann Wicker's departure from Creative Loafing. I write to praise Ann as a dedicated journalist, a talented writer, and a wonderful Charlottean. A good editor seldom receives the laudations that a columnist might. Much of Ann's hard work for the Loaf was done behind the scenes. As one who experienced her professionalism, wit and whimsy first hand, I will miss her. I'll also miss Ann's columns about books and music, and her support for projects like the Theatre Awards and the Novello Festival. She should write her own book; I'll be first in line to buy it.

-- Anne Lambert, Charlotte

Dairy Dilemma

The amazing thing about Tricia Childress's article "Got Milk?" (May 14) wasn't the evidence she gives for the superiority of free enterprise, but rather that she was giving that evidence in support of greater socialism!

Under a free market, customer choice directs resources to items of greater benefit, and away from disfavored items. For example, we now use cars instead of horse-drawn carriages, because consumers saw cars as preferable. The same thing has happened to the land market here in Mecklenburg County. The increasing concentration of residents and businesses has rendered agricultural use of the land impractical. Childress says it herself: "One Huntersville dairyman who called it quits a month ago said it did not make sense to farm anymore with milk prices so depressed and land development offers so high." That dairyman was merely expressing the law of supply and demand.

Childress states that Vermont dairy farmers have been switching to organic dairy because of a better profit margin in that area. Again, supply and demand. The market is switching preference to organic dairy products, and signaling farmers to switch their production. Those farmers who refuse to adapt suffer the economic consequences. Isn't that what SHOULD happen?

The free market is already solving the problem of dairy farmers. Federal price supports have resulted in over-supply from too many dairy farmers. Consumer resistance to those artificial prices has reduced demand for the core of dairy products. Removing those price supports would weed out the surplus dairy farmers, to the point where supply and demand would be in equilibrium. The remaining farmers would then be able to earn a sustainable profit. The current system maintains too many farmers, unable to make a living. Free enterprise would sustain fewer farmers, but farmers making a profit.

-- Rev. Christopher Cole, Charlotte

We welcome your letters to the editor. Please send your letters to: The Editors, Creative Loafing, PO Box 241988, Charlotte, NC 28224. Or write us via the Internet at the following address: backtalk@creativeloafing.com. Please note that this e-mail address is for letters to the editors only. Please limit your letters to 300 words or less. Please include your phone number for confirmation, including e-mail letter writers; your phone number will not be published. We reserve the right to edit all letters for space, grammar and clarity.

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