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Fun with Journalmalism

11/10/2006 11:04 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

And they wonder why newspaper circulation is dropping lately! (The L.A. Times had the largest drop - 8%, as I recall.) So when I read this in the LAT today, I wrote a letter in response. Feedback is always good, right? No good deed goes unpunished:

-----Original Message-----
From: Susie Madrak
To: greg.miller@latimes.com ; julian.barnes@latimes.com
Sent: Fri Nov 10 05:41:54 2006
Subject: Robert Gates.

How do you write an article about Robert Gates without mentioning his Iran-contra history? Or his own involvement in politicizing intelligence? (You do have Google, don't you?)

Sincerely,
Susan Madrak
Philadelphia PA

Geeze. I express my concern that L.A. Times reporters have access to the latest in technology, and what do I get? Miss Manners!

-----Original Message-----
From: Barnes, Julian [mailto:Julian.Barnes@latimes.com]
Sent: Friday, November 10, 2006 9:05 AM
To: 'xxxx@comcast.net'
Subject: Re: Robert Gates.

I would be happy to respond if you resubmitt your question in a more polite tone.
--------------------------
Sent using BlackBerry

Oh no. I hurt his feelings!

Julian,
I was a journalist for 15 years, and even after being screamed at and threatened, I never had such thin skin as you - and over such mild sarcasm. My goodness, I'm concerned over the oversight of our nation's defense and you're lecturing me on politeness? You may want to consider a career move, perhaps into public relations.

I'll refer you to this comprehensive piece in today's NY Times and ask once again: Why would you leave out this clearly relevant information?

P.S. I worked the copy desk, too. "Resubmit" has only one "T."

Finally, something nice and polite that actually answers my question:

Sorry, lots going on this morning unrelated to the news, which is of course coming fast and furious as well. Did not mean to snap at you. Very inappropriate. As was not spelling "resubmit" correctly. (Since you are a journalist, I shall admit that I am terrible speller and can only function as a reporter because of spell checking technology, which sadly is not present on my blackberry. (I also can only function with the aid of a solid copy desk.))

Bottom line, your letter would have been certainly a perfect tone for a letter to the editor, and so it must be considered appropriate for communications with a reporter. Again, you have my apology.

Of course we are aware of the Iran contra, European banking scandal, as well as the controversy over his handling of Gorbachev/Yeltsin. We have other reporters working on a large profile of Gates history, which was originally going to run in today's paper. Late in the day, after I had filed it was held. Because the democrats were choosing not to make a big deal of that history of Gates, we decided not to put it in the story.

Certainly after the decision was made to hold the other story, more by way of background should have been placed in the story. You are correct.

Again, my apologies for my earlier email.

Julian

Now I suppose I have to write a letter to Harry Reid...

Julian,
Thanks for the informative response. I'm curious, though - doesn't the reporter covering the story exercise some degree of independent judgment? Most readers would find Gate's apparent history of cooking intelligence to please his bosses rather relevant, and they're entitled to know the Democrats are downplaying it (and why).

I would hope the press has learned something about aggressive coverage since the Iraq war.

Don't worry, now I'm going to write Harry Reid's office.