Chicken Littles: I must say I was sadly disappointed by your lame article on amusement rides ("Scream Machines," by Josh Harkinson, June 3). John Stossel, the famous reporter from ABC's 20/20, refers to such reporting as "scare stories." People take rare isolated incidents and make them bigger than they appear. He was approached to do an "investigative story" about exploding BIC lighters. He refused to hype such sensationalized tripe when more people are killed by plastic bags, baseballs or drowning in toilets every year.
Such is the case of Josh Harkinson's melodrama. As a person whose hobby is visiting theme parks around the country, I've been to just about all of them. No matter what park you go to, everyone's keystone of training is safety. It is the lifeblood of the industry. U.S. Representative Markey is viewed as a buffoon, as his colleagues understand he is a sensationalist with a "solution" looking for a problem.
Harkinson obviously hasn't ridden the Mayan Mindbender in question at the Houston park. The pillow off my bed wouldn't fall out of the car, as it is a mild family ride in the dark. Apparently Harkinson has just assembled unrelated facts and tied them together in some ambitious exposé.
Your very boldface quote points out "there is virtually no safer form of recreation." The article also compares the injury rate to be equivalent with people hurt playing pingpong. Somehow, however, this all still warranted a very slanted and biased feature. Mr. Harkinson's clear lack of understanding of finance and the economy, industry standards and common sense were an embarrassment to your paper. As more people are injured every year on bicycles, skis, skates or swimming, perhaps he plans to feature how all recreation should be banned next. Or better yet, as students are injured in P.E. every day or in school sporting activities, perhaps physical education and organized sports should be eradicated as well.
Millions of people around the world enjoy regular visits to theme parks, water parks and amusement parks. Family memories and wonderful vacations are the end result. Cities maintain a healthier economy due to tourism generated by these happy places. It would be in error to say accidents can never occur, but stories such as this one glamorize misconceptions and just encourage teenagers to act like idiots while riding so that they can sue for tons of money out of a well people falsely perceive to be bottomless.
Just the facts: I'm sure you've gotten other complaints about this, but your recent article on AstroWorld was simply full of factual errors, not to mention a gross miscalculation of the park's possible annual income. I feel like it would have been an excellent article, except that the author did extremely poor research and therefore loses all credibility in my eyes. If he thinks that 1.7 million times 40 is approximately 700 million instead of 70 million, or that the Texas Cyclone was modeled after a Harry Traver design (the Coney Island Cyclone, its parent, was NOT designed by Traver), or that Vekoma is German and not Dutch, how much else am I supposed to believe? These are easy facts that are easily checked; I could find all these out for you in a matter of minutes. I suggest you get somebody on top of your fact-checking department to look for these things; otherwise, what kind of journalistic integrity are you promoting at your newspaper?
Boca Raton, Florida
Right is Right
Kinda, sorta balanced: As an active member of Partnership for Community Values, I wanted to compliment you on your article concerning the south Arlington Hooters ("Repressed," by Paul Kix, June 3). It was more balanced than any of us thought possible, though it does seem like you tipped the scales in favor of Hooters.
Nevertheless, you have my compliments because you got the facts straight. Few people recognize the TABC and Texas Attorney General's Office are the ones doing most of the legal work. PCV made the original protests, but the TABC and TAG determined we had a legitimate concern and chose to defend our interests against repeated appeals by Hooters.
I found your conversation with the Martin High School students very interesting. I agree with them that "their morals could be corrupted much easier by satellite TV or the Internet," but we believe a line needs to be drawn in our own back yard. One newspaper commentator called it "the Hooterization of America"--and Hooters would like nothing more than one of their places on every street corner in suburbia. In a small way, we are trying to stand up for what we believe is right. You can agree or disagree, but at least we care about our neighborhood.
Eagle Has Crashed
Long time coming: I for one was glad to see 97.1 the Eagle go belly-up (Across the Bar, by Sarah Hepola, May 27). Growing up in Dallas, I've always felt their on-air jocks were smug, arrogant and self-important. Two perfect examples over the years: Kidd "Pansy" Kraddick and Russ "Mr. Shtick" Martin. They should have pulled the plug on the Eagle 10 years ago. What made the whole thing even funnier was the new name, Sunny 97.1. I'm sure that angered the "You rock, dude" crowd even more. Ha ha ha ha! Now, if we can just get rid of Howard "Yawn" Stern...
We forgot to include Josh Harkinsons byline on the opening page of last weeks cover feature, Scream Machines. We apologize.