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HOWARD ROSENBERG

Readers Sympathize With Savitch as a Non-Journalist and 'Junkie'

June 17, 1988|HOWARD ROSENBERG

We get letters. . . .

Lots of mail has come in, including a "letter" purportedly from the late Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Natalie Wood and Janis Joplin, claiming they are all married to Elvis Presley, who we now know is alive and selling aluminum siding.

Also, dozens of letters have arrived as part of an organized protest against NBC's cancellation of that fine series "A Year in the Life."

Meanwhile, the mail here is headed by letters responding to a column about two biographies of the late NBC anchor/correspondent Jessica Savitch ("Almost Golden" by Gwenda Blair and "Golden Girl" by Alanna Nash).

And by the way, a Texas schoolteacher is reportedly writing a third book about Savitch, whose personal life and once-flourishing career was in a shambles when she died in an auto accident in 1983.

The letters:

Your lamentation over the fall of Jessica Savitch, like the movie "Broadcast News," is a contribution to a remarkable hoax--the widely accepted assertion that television news readers ought to be experienced journalists.

Why don't you explain why it makes not the slightest difference whether the reader understands what he's reading any better than the actor understands Shakespeare's mind in order to be convincing?

Anyone who watches TV knows that any number of ex-weather comics, beauty queens, jocks or disc jockeys who have never covered or researched a story, whose grasp of politics, economics, science or what-have-you is rudimentary, are out there reading and opining.

You don't need journalists for that. You need glib, sharp and malicious people who have the knack of putting their target in a bad light no matter what he or she says.

So what's the difference? Jessica Savitch fell because she was (apparently) a distraught, emotionally shattered junkie--not because she wasn't a journalist. If she had been a healthy simpleton like (fill in the blanks yourself), she'd still be up there, and who'd have known the difference?

SAUL DAVID

Van Nuys

I met Jessica Savitch on three occasions. I found her to be a charming and very nice lady. She may not have been of the caliber of a small number of top newspeople, but she did have the capability of getting Middle America to turn on the news and become a little more informed about the world in which we lived.

If Savitch had problems with dependencies, then we should feel sad, not only for her but for those who failed to help her, and those at the network who fed on her. She died a sad death (probably more than once in her life). What a shame that Misses Blair and Nash, et al., can't let her rest in peace.

DAVID MARTIN

Studio City

Are things that slow for news these days that you have to write about dead people? Why after all these years would you bring something like this up? Can't the dead rest in peace? Would you like people writing things about you when you can't defend them? Jessica Savitch did her job well, and that's all that needs to be said, if anything.

DIANA WEAVER

Hawthorne

Mainly on your say-so, I listened to the first of the Bill Moyers series on myths. It's bunk. It's channeling for snobs.

Even though all of us may lament the loss of myth, I don't think we want the Middle Ages, Nostradamus or astrology back. Not even a compact roll-away Elvis. How can you put down that silly, non-rational side of us so well and then buy into exactly the same concept once it's decked out in apparent scholarship, beautiful graphics and the incomprehensible myth of Bill Moyers?

HELEN M. JOHNSON

Los Angeles

You addressed an alarming trend in television these days--the rampant cancellations of innovative, quality series. The demise of "Max Headroom" back in October began this whole disgusting trend. . . . The networks don't want to do these kinds of series any longer. They've gone back to predictable "formula" television. It's all because they mistakenly think that we don't want quality television with a dose of innovation any longer. Now they're trying to get us to watch Burt Reynolds or a "new" version of "That's Incredible." Well, forget it! The writers strike can go on forever, for all I care! Then, at least, I won't have to watch this slop!

TAMMY SMITH

Santee

No sooner had I said, "TV really is better," than "Frank's Place" went off and "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd" was on and then canceled and "The 'Slap' Maxwell Story" disappeared. Also, "St. Elsewhere" is gone--a crime!

I'll head for my video store.

D. GAYLE BOSTWICK

Palm Desert

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