Still behaving badly: I picked up the newest edition of the Dallas Observer and immediately went to the Letters page, craving to find out what the public thought of your article ("Rich Kids Behaving Badly," by Andrea Grimes, November 3). The reaction was one that I almost expected. I was, however, surprised to find that all of the objections to your cover piece came directly from the heart of Highland Park.
I have read your article over a few times. I understand that the subjects of your piece must be given a chance to defend themselves, and I believe that the editor took the opportunity to do just that and jammed the Letters page (November 10) with violent opposition. Writing the article, did you expect anything less? You attacked a lifestyle that is inherent in this area, a code of money-making shallowness that has been solidified by generations of acceptance and, dare I say, approval.
Readers respond to "Rich Kids Behaving Badly," "The Human Race," "Mapesgate"
Do they have a right to defend themselves and their livelihood? Of course, and I applaud them for doing so. Do they work hard and deal with the same problems that other teenagers in the area deal with? Probably, though most would not understand what it is like to live off a half a loaf of bread and a jar of Miracle Whip until the next payday.
I believe that far too many readers read the piece but did not get what it was about. It was an emotionally charged eight pages from a journalist still learning and developing her skills. It took guts to write that article, and an equal amount to print it.
Good, I say.
I implore you not to be discouraged by this week's Observer. I ask that you, instead, take a couple of things with you from this experience:
1. You did rattle the cages of a dominant and respected part of the Dallas community and have come out relatively unharmed.
2. You evoked emotions (albeit wrath) from your readers. If it had been a bad piece, then no one would have commented. It would have just gone to the archives and died there.
The mark of a good writer is making the reader feel something. And that isn't always a pleasant thing to endure. Some days you're the hero, others the villian.
I cannot agree with your piece wholeheartedly, but you did play off some stereotypes that are true. And I will defend you as a journalist. May you learn and grow from this experience and know that not everyone in the area hates your guts.
Beer, Boobs and NASCAR
Smarty-pants: Racing isn't a sport? ("The Human Race," by Richie Whitt, November 10.) I'd like to see you strapped tightly into a form-fitting seat with no give for in excess of four hours, your arms pretty much locked in the same position, the heat surrounding you well in excess of 100 degrees (and typically much closer to 140), and oh, yeah--you need to go to the bathroom? Tough...keep manhandling the 3,800-pound hulk of metal and hold it.
Stories like this one show up every now and again by smart-aleck journalists who seem to be under the misguided impression that their ignorance makes for good reporting.
Don't quit your day job.
South Windsor, Connecticut
In defense of rednecks: I found your NASCAR article interesting, and much of it is true. I'm not a hard-core NASCAR fan, but I've been to five or six races at TMS. They are entertaining events, agreeably more for the people-watching than the car racing.
But in defense of the audience, I will say that in a lot of ways I admire this crowd. They're highly patriotic, there are no fights and I've never heard of any crimes. And while heavily impacted by the product marketers, it's not a total money grab as you can bring in your own food and beer (hello, Jerry Jones), and parking is free.
I'm not sure the "higher"-class sports in this town are really any less oriented around beer and boobs. You ever watched a Cowboys game without numerous shots of chesty Cowboys cheerleaders? How many timeouts at a Mavs game are completed without the grinding and gyrating Mavs dancers? And would you ever leave your grill or chairs unattended in the parking lot at American Airlines Center without fear they'd be gone when you returned?
Maybe the wealthy (or credit-burdened) white-collar crowds can learn something from those with blue collars and red necks.
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Burden of Proof
Facts and accusations: Mary Mapes' documents accusing President Bush of ducking out of the Vietnam War were "never exposed as fakes?" ("Mapesgate," by Jim Schutze, November 10.) Is that the way journalism works at the Dallas Observer: Accuse a citizen of a crime and then challenge the reader to prove your "evidence" to be false? Is that the country YOU want to live in? It seems to me that the burden is on the reporter to authenticate her evidence BEFORE she uses the power of her employer's resources to accuse a citizen of a crime. In Mary Mapes' case, she was attempting to affect the outcome of a presidential election. Authentication of evidence before publication should be even more important when the consequences of reporting a story are that significant. Joe McCarthy claimed to have a list of 57 Communists in the State Department. Would the Observer have reported that as fact and then challenged its readers to expose McCarthy's list as fake?