I was very surprised and disappointed when I read your BeloWatch column of July 27 ["Editorial error"]. I expected better of the Observer.
Since when is an editorial writer at the News such a high-profile person that he deserves to have his personal problems--his arrest for public lewdness--publicized to all in your paper? (The word "rag" comes readily to mind now.) You could have easily made whatever point you wished to make without identifying the unfortunate man. Despite his position at the News, I think he has a right to keep his victimless peccadillos as private as possible. But, unfortunately, the Observer somehow got ahold of the story and blew the whistle on this miscreant complete with the graphic details.
I'm tempted to ask you the question that attorney Welsh asked of Senator Joe McCarthy after McCarthy publicly named a Welsh associate who had some tenuous Communist connection in his distant past: "Have you no decency?" Are there no lengths to which you will not go in the name of journalistic freedom? I'm sorry to see that you have decided to follow the unworthy influences that have produced gutter TV such as "Hard Copy."
You owe Mr. Tatum an apology. But, of course, it is too late. You have already gratuitously inflicted irreparable damage. If there is any justice in this world, then you and the writer of BeloWatch should have the most embarrassing moment of your lives published on the front page of The Dallas Morning News. Then your children and spouses will suffer the public disgrace and embarrassment that Mr. Tatum's have.
This is in reference to your BeloWatch column: Why ruin a family name with such lewd details? What was your point?
The Dallas Observer has done a grave injustice to one of your fellow journalists.
In your vendetta against The Dallas Morning News, you have added more embarrassment to the plight of a respected and longtime journalist, Henry Tatum.
This unfortunate incident in the life of Hank Tatum has naturally affected his career, and did not require additional help from you. Your reportage was irresponsible, vindictive, and completely uncalled for.
Jim Lake, Sr.
Your detailed coverage of Henry Tatum's sad encounter with a vice officer in an adult bookstore certainly lowered your image as a serious critic of the News. As a matter of fact, the News comes off looking more humane and liberal than you do. So Tatum's usual column hasn't appeared since his arrest? So what? How could it after your hatchet job on him? He is still employed and still writing editorials; his paper has been "supportive" during his ordeal.
But the Observer seemed to relish its reporting of this painful and embarrassing incident to absurd lengths simply because the victim--and Henry Tatum was a victim--works for the News. If your BeloWatcher had any knowledge of the world he writes about, he would suspect that this victim, like many others, was quietly lured into that booth by Detective Hall. Did you question Hall about this common Vice Division practice? Have you ever considered investigating the Vice Division's priorities--how it uses its officers? Some people still think the Observer is the voice of liberal and humane values in an ultra-conservative city. Baloney. Your paper doesn't deserve to print Molly Ivins and Laura Miller.
John S. Burns
Editor's note: BeloWatch responds in this week's column.