Letters from our readers: chocolate milk, non-competes, Trumplandia

HERE IS A SELECTION of emails and Facebook comments we’ve received since May 20. Please send correspondence to letters@cjr.org, along with your name, address, and any relevant affiliation. Reader feedback has been edited for length and clarity.

This survey is as murky as chocolate milk

Excellent reporting.

I thought that stat was suspect when I read it, but didn’t have the wherewithal to pursue it as you so ably did.

Any survey that doesn’t release its methodology and survey questions shouldn’t be reported on by a legit news outlet.

Thanks loads for your article. It was very helpful.

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Barrett Golding

I learned the hard way why non-competes are bad for journalists

Please be aware that non-competes in journalism have been around for a long, long time. This is not a new scourge in the world of reporters.

I’m sorry for what happened to you. I do think your story will help other young journalists, who may not be aware if a contract they’ve signed includes a non-compete.

A better angle would be to reach out to veteran reporters and find out how they handled it in the past. I know television reporters will often “sit-out” the six-month contract clause in a TV market until the non-compete expires, then start work at a new station.

I agree it’s a tough (and expensive) lesson to learn, but one should always read the fine print in any contract, and have an attorney review it as well.

Marilyn Schairer
Producer WGBH News


Drive-by journalism in Trumplandia

I am writing from rural Southern Ohio, in a very blue county surrounded by red counties. I sort of missed the discontent of voters before the last election, but in the back of my mind, I realized that something crazy was going on. Here is what I think is important, and nobody is talking about it: We had eight years of George W. Bush, two wars, and the Great Recession. Then eight more years of Barack Obama, who did a pretty good job getting things back on track, but nothing filtered down to the people on the lowest rungs. Mitch McConnell refused to work with Obama on anything that would help people, then blamed Obama for it. So there were 16 years in a row that the ordinary man on the street saw no economic gains.

Everybody I know is in desperation mode. The people who are making $10 an hour, but didn’t sign up for Obamacare, then got hit with the big fine of $2,500. That happened a lot. Others, who have halfway decent jobs, saw their health care options become worse—health care savings accounts for folks making $25,000 a year and supporting families, sometimes multi-generational families because one generation might have decided to check out to the drug life and aren’t there to take care of the children. I sensed that desperation and ignored it because I thought things would get better after the election. I was very wrong. Here in rural Ohio, people are struggling to put food on the table and have health care—all the things you expect in a civilized society—but they are slipping away.

Carolyn Fisk


Canada’s largest newspaper chain is in trouble

This so-called bankruptcy is entirely due to the financial structure set up to buy the company. These bonds were intended to suck up all the profit and pump it out of Canada. I hope that Postmedia does collapse, and takes the hedge funds with it.

 Richard Graham

National Post was founded as a vanity project for Conrad Black. He never managed to establish a market beyond free giveaways at hotels, despite its being packaged with the Financial Post; and he has collected some of the worst columnists from various collapsed tabloid empires. Like most Postmedia publications, it serves only to trap ad revenue that might be better used on more competitive, smarter, and more relevant new media outlets.

Sandy MacDonald


Time for equal media treatment of ‘political correctness’

Thank you for your article. I never heard of the cases of Linda Sarsour, George Ciccariello-Maher, and Keeanga-Yamahtta-Taylor before, and it was illuminating to look into them a bit.

I would like to raise the question though: Why have conservatives been successful at branding themselves the side of free speech? I have some thoughts on that; I don’t think a conservative victory in that branding battle was inevitable. But what do you think?

Jin Du

D’oh. Anyone who’s dropped in on Fox-Putin channel even occasionally, or listened to Lush Limbo, or sat through a “discussion” on Swill O’Reilly, knows exactly what conservative PC is. How could students NOT be aware of this? I’m startled, maybe alarmed, but good for the prof.

Becky Bartholomew


Pro-Trump media claim victory after Comey testimony

I doubt [Comey’s testimony] will haunt the media. Their job is to report the news, not act as a press secretary for the government. I’m sure reporters sometimes get things wrong, but that’s why there are follow up stories or retractions. They also get things right, and some of those things are stories that our government would prefer remained unknown.

Kennaz Ellison

“The challenge—and I’m not picking on reporters about writing stories about classified information—is that people talking about it often don’t really know what’s going on. And those of us who actually know what’s going on are not talking about it.” Precisely. All those calling for “proof” about russian interference, ask the next cop you see when was the last time they released “evidence” or “proof” for public consumption while an investigation was ongoing. See what kind of answer you get. Now distill that up to a national level, and there you have it.

Angie Quinn


Help us track job losses in local newsrooms

Only now we are outraged? These corporate consolidations have been going on for decades, where the smallest local papers were the canaries in the coal mines. It has been time for us to fight for and champion a media that serves the populace for the benefit of a thriving democracy.

Peggy Smith Duke

The chain operations that are downsizing reporting staffs are also selling off local presses to consolidate printing and distribution costs, making it much harder to re-localize a newspaper.

Bob Stepno


Montana House candidate takes ‘enemy of the people’ to its logical conclusion

There is a showdown coming. If progressive-thinking voters do not unite behind a candidate and stop being split by the propaganda and empty rhetoric, we will soon live in a totalitarian nation.

Jeff Lambert

This article talks of a partisan battle between the GOP and liberal media, and that this is wrong. Yet later on, the writers say “[a]n even more damning account came from Fox News, of all outlets.” Somehow, that isn’t a partisan statement.

Matt Gade

So he’s not only a bully, he’s also a liar. Who does that remind you of?

Peggy Brent Finnegan

Every day I continue to be shocked by all the lies the public is willing to accept from these people. It is disgusting. They tell a story contrary to first-hand testimonials and audio, but the sheep are out there agreeing and repeating a lie to their friends and on social media. I am so exhausted.

Angelica Gonzalez


In defense of The Skimm

I like The Skimm and think it offers just enough to give readers the gist of major stories. They always provide links to other news outlets if I need to dig deeper. The Skimm is a light, easy way to see what is happening in the world that I can consume with my first cup of coffee.

Maybe the style isn’t for everyone, but I think it is a creative way to engage people who might otherwise be unreachable.

Josie Smelko

I so don’t like what The Skimm represents. No, we don’t need some of the tomes traditionally put out, but I want news with enough meat to cause reflection or introspection.

Jeanne Standish


New York Times public editor Liz Spayd on decision to eliminate her position

Its recent elimination of the position of Public Editor does not relieve The New York Times of ensuring faithful coverage of such critical policy debates as the one around climate change. To be sure, that coverage has included a dispiriting picture of how, with few exceptions, political calculus and money have conspired to make even centrist (never mind Tea Party) Republicans anti climate-change.

At the same time, the Times, along with virtually all media, has overlooked a factor that might have significantly shaped at least the dynamics of that debate between the US and international community. I refer to the dissension within the Trump administration as to the threat posed by global warming. That threat was graphically underlined in a submission to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats on May 11. (His statement can be found here.)  Less “officially,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is said to have expressed similar—and similarly under-reported—concern over the consequences of global warming.

Clearly, evidence that the Trump cabinet conspicuously lacks unanimity in its dismissal of the climate change dilemma should have made it into the Times’s and others’ coverage.

Joel Darmstadter
Retired Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future
Chevy Chase, Maryland

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The Editors are the staffers of the Columbia Journalism Review.