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Likes and Dislikes From a Reader of The Times

March 08, 1986

I have subscribed to The Times for 25 years and have read it, or in it, off and on for a longer time than that, so I am answering your ad, which invited readers to tell what they think of the paper.

I like it. It has a nice format, attractive to look at, inviting to read. It is well organized and covers a lot of journalistic territory. If I'm sick of news, I can read about food or see what Jack Smith has to say, or see if any of the readers in Letters to the Editor are more prejudiced than I.

A thing I particularly like and can't live without is the news summary on Page 2 every day but Saturday. I'm glad it isn't in Saturday because it gives me a day off. Also, the articles in the left column of Page 1 are excellent; I especially enjoyed today's piece (Feb. 23) on epidemics.

I have always admired journalists, reporters, editors, copy boys, and other engaged in newspapering, but some people hate the press, their reason sometimes being that the press is biased and secretly trying to run the country.

Once when I was trying to teach a class of junior college freshmen to write an organized research paper (you might be surprised how many UNorganized "research papers" are written every year), I made the students use The Times as source material. This was during the Watergate scandal days, and cries of "The Times is unfair" were rife. So just for fun I did a study of The Times' reporting on Watergate to see if I could find unfairness. I found the opposite.

Whenever it was alleged that Richard Nixon or his buddies had done something wicked, The Times always presented an opposite allegation, if it could. I marked all these places in red and had Part I pretty well bloodied up every day. I thought you'd like to know. (The research papers were, for the most part, awful, but they were the best I ever squeezed out of a class.)

There is one thing I wish you would do that I believe you don't do: Have a box in the same place everyday where you give the outcome of crazy or perhaps unreasonable lawsuits. You reported on this idiot who, while wearing a portable radio-headset, walked in front of a car and got clobbered. he sued the headset manufacturer for not warning him that you can't hear very well while wearing a blaring headset. Now, I'd like to know how that came out. If you published the result, I missed it.

There are two or three things I wish you would not do, and they are almost too trivial to mention, but I will, just to show how little I have against The Times. (I'm not even dead certain you do them; it's mostly TV that's guilty, maybe):

1--Don't call the Manson gang a family. The American family is in enough trouble already.

2--Don't say "potential danger."

3--Don't call trash "garbage." Garbage comes mostly from the kitchen (food waste) and gets full of maggots and stinks. Trash is stuff like papers, bottles, and cans and clippings from the yard.

4--Don't exploit grief to make a sensational story. TV is the big culprit here--sticking a mike in a sobbing mother's face, the guy says, "How did you feel when you saw the bus run over your little boy?" None of your damned business.

I think you at The Times are doing a tremendous job. I often look at an edition and say to me wife, "I just don't see how they do it--day after day and with so few errors. I think the press is next to the Constitution of the United States in keeping our heads off the block. Thank you.

OSCAR LITTLETON

Long Beach

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