A4 TUESDAY, MAY 13, 1997 THE SALINA JOURNAL George B. Pyle editorial page editor Opinions expressed on this page are those of the identified writers. To join the conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (913) 827-6363 E-mail: SJLetters© saljournal.com Quote of the day "People are going to be under the boards hitting pretty hard, trying to make sure they get their particular paragraph in those 2,500 pages." Newt Gingrich on the coming process to work out the fine details of the federal budget agreement. OPINION By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal Garbage in, garbage out THE ISSUE The KBI's Internet sex offender list THE ARGUMENT Don't believe everything you download T he Kansas Bureau of Investigation had its bureaucratic heart in the right place when it launched the new Internet version of its public list of known sex offenders. Certainly, it is a good idea for parents to know if a convicted child molester has moved in next door. And the Internet is one of the best ways of spreading vital information hither and yon. But, unfortunately, the Internet is also the best medium yet invented for spreading lies, garbage, misinformation and plain old mistakes at the speed of light. Not long after the April 25 launch of the KBFs Internet list, a family that lives in a Manhattan trailer court started getting strange looks from the neighbors. Children were teasing their daughters and someone was throwing rocks at their home. The problem was tracked down when someone tacked a printout of the sex offender list to a nearby mailbox. The couple's lot number was listed as the address of some slime convicted of assaulting a 7-year-old girl. Except the slime had moved on to Nebraska, where he soon became a guest of that state's correctional institutions on a parole violation. The registry, however, had not been corrected, because the convicted sex offender had not obeyed the law and notified authorities that he had moved. A person who molests 7-year-olds not obeying the law. Imagine that. It turns out that the accuracy of the sex offender list — at least the address part of it — depends largely on how well the sex offenders do at keeping the state informed as to their whereabouts. Just ask your local postmaster how many people who are not trying to keep their deep, dark past a secret from their neighbors fail to notify everyone of their many changes of address. Yet the KBI was posting this information as though it were revealed truth. After the incident in Manhattan, The Manhattan Mercury reports, officials made a renewed effort to clean up their list of sex offenders. In Riley County, the number of offenders in residence quickly dropped from 16 to two. But the KBI will still have to depend on the offenders themselves, and overworked local police departments, to keep the list current. Should this web site go dark? No. Not yet. It is not the KBI's fault that a few people read a list on a computer screen and started harassing a neighbor based on that information alone. But if the list cannot be kept cleaner, and the people who read it cannot think and be sure before they act, then the Internet sex offenders list may prove to be another one of those quick and easy solutions to crime that was too good to be true. V POINT OF VIEW Freedom of speech and the freedom to ignore it Springer has the right to speak, but not the right to get paid for it J erry Springer had no sooner got his Official Commentator's Badge and Decoder Ring than he quit the opiner's chair at WMAQ-TV in Chicago, cold-shouldered out by unwilling colleagues. WMAQ anchor Carol Marin noisily quit, refusing to share a cam- * era with the likes of Springer. All this because when Springer isn't playing an editorialist on TV, he headlines a TV show that, even by the dirt-low standards of the genre, is — well, "scummy" would be one word for it. It is of course *• Springer himself who is responsible for presenting guests so messed up they look like they they've been strained through a sheet, but their presence always so offends him that he winds up each show with a homily against the very traits that led him to book them in the first place. Perhaps those codas of pious hypocrisy are what suggested to WMAQ that Springer might be commentator material. Pious TOM TEEPEN Cox News Service hypocrisy is not unknown in the trade. Challenged in his new role by his presumptive betters, Springer immediately sucked himself up into an indignant huff, wrapped himself in the First Amendment and declared the revulsion of his balking peers just so much "elitist snobbery." Springer has a point. Standards do suppose a certain elitism. If all standards were the same, they wouldn't be standards. It is by turns the glory and the burden of the First Amendment that there are no qualifications for the commentary racket. It is a field occupied entirely by people who are getting away with it. Springer, not unusually, confused the constitutional right to speak his piece with a phantom "right" to be hired on by someone to do it, and now, one big stink and two small commentaries later, he's back in the human trash- hauling business. So there are standards after all, after a fashion. But in the land where the National Association of Talk Show Hosts gave its Freedom of Speech Award to Gordon Liddy, who had helpfully reminded listeners that federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents wear bullet-proof vests so you have to shoot for the head to kill one, the case against Jerry Springer seems no better than equal parts righteousness and self-righteousness. V TO TME WORD 'TToBACCO' — ^i^r- TAe new Gambling Commission begins its researcK. ODDS To FAVOR THE House. SURPRISE. LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL SJLetters@saljournal.com If you want good television, make some of your own In response to Mr. Wilbur's May 7 column, "Television reaches an all-time low": Way to go Tom. Most of TV is a wasteland and our time can be spent in better ways. But TV is such a powerful and far-reaching force we can't afford to turn it off or ignore its negative influence. Nor should we discard its positive potential, especially when we have the power to guide its development and participate in developing its content. National broadcasters aren't creating garbage for their health. Somebody is making it worth their time and investment. If you don't think mainstream television reflects your views, or those of the majority of our society, then you have three choices — turn it off, complain, or do something about it. Heaven help the television industry if the American people ever put their complaining into action and dictate what they want to see on TV. Frankly, I don't think they're worried. Your thought that "we should turn television off for good" ignores the positive influence television has. Channels like C-SPAN and Community Access Television provide firsthand information on our government and community events, which is vital to an informed, self-governing people. Our educational system is greatly enhanced by channels such as Discovery, History, Arts and Entertainment, PBS and Education Access. And, of course, sports fans everywhere would be loose on the streets if not for ESPN and network sports coverage. While I've mentioned a few reliable productions that inform, support and encourage the healthy development of our society, many more can be initiated by you and me. We can lobby against detrimental television programming, but to have any effect we have to match the strength of lobbying used by the current advertising-driven, profit-oriented television interests. So now you need to decide if you just want to complain or if you really want to see things change for yourself, your children and your grandchildren. If the latter is your responsible choice, then you can do two things right now: First, write, call, fax or e-mail the Senate Commerce Committee, Federal Communications Commission and Presidential Advisory Committee on Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters. They are all currently discussing and deciding what public interest obligations cable, microwave and satellite operators and digital television broadcasters (in essence our entire television system) must provide in exchange for their profitable use of the public airwaves and rights of way. If you want the progressive development of our communication systems to guarantee the public an avenue to address community and human development, you have to demand it. Call 823-2500 for addresses, etc. Second, visit your Salina Community Access Television Center at 410 W. Ash during its open house May 31 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and learn how to take an active role in pro- gramming the television you watch. George Orwell's warning, which you referred to, of video tubes controlling our lives in "1984" does not reflect the avenues open to us in 1997, and his vision can only come to pass if we complain without taking action. — ROXANNE EARNEST Salina Some people were nervous about blacks on television Tom Wilbur's May 7 column, "Television reaches an all-time low," reminded me of another television controversy about 35 years ago. My parents, like most people around here at the time, couldn't understand why black people had to suddenly start appearing in TV programs and commercials. It apparently made them uncomfortable because television had previously portrayed blacks only in stereotyped roles. To see blacks as people who were just like them confronted whites with the realization that blacks were just like them, except for the pigmentation of their skin — a condition over which they had no control. If Mr. Wilbur wishes to turn his television off for the summer or for the rest of his life, that is fine with me. I have no desire to defend major network programming. I take issue, however, with some of his other comments. He is fearful we are being brainwashed by "godless media perspectives." He apparently equates belief in God with virtue and disbelief in God with evil. History is replete with examples of evil done in the name of God and good works done with a purely secular motivation. Perhaps Mr. Wilbur would prefer a "godful" media perspective where everything the media distribute must first be passed through the filter of the prevailing religious authorities. He would just love Iran. Mr. Wilbur "know(s) that homosexuals are human beings," but pronounces homosexuality to be "very wrong." I am weary of people trying to tell me something two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom must be right or wrong. The fact is homosexuality exists in every known human culture and in many "lower" species. This has always been true and will continue to be true regardless of the subject matter in TV sitcoms. What a shame it is that so many good and bright people are so judgmental on this issue until it hits them close to home. Homosexuality happens, even in caring, "Christian" homes such as the Wilburs'. Perhaps Tom could address in a future column how he would handle it if a child of his was discovered to be gay. Would he blame it on television? Would he expect that child to live his or her entire life without the opportunity of a loving relationship? Perhaps Mr. Wilbur's rage is misdirected. He is considering throwing out the TV because its programming simply reflects, life, yet he is quite willing to read, even write for, a newspaper whose godless opinion page editor doesn't do Easter and whose "Connection Line" section seeks to unite "males seeking males." My parents eventually realized that blacks appearing on television was not the end of the ill P.O. Box 740, Salina, KS 674Q2 world and saw their previously held fear' as more than simply unjustified. It was wrong. I hope Mr. Wilbur can eventually come to the same conclusion regarding his irrational fear and judgmental attitude toward the victimless' "crime" of homosexuality. — DAVID LEWERENZ Salina Clinton exploits children for his own political gain Have you noticed how often certain words are used in newspapers, on TV and radio?, For instance: crisis, summit, study, poll, historical, wrongdoing, children. All these words per,- tain directly to Bill Clinton. Here is another word that belongs to Clinton and liberals: "Exploitation." .' It's hard for me to believe how low these people can go. Exploiting children almost daily for political gain. After all, what kind of person would be against helping children? Why are people so complacent about things that ar/e happening right in front of their eyes? Another word belongs to Clinton: "Criminal." Justifying the killing of babies is a criminal act to me. Being a good U.S. citizen does not involve anything Clinton possesses. Did Clinton .volunteer to serve his country in Vietnam? No, but now he expects citizens to abide by g6Vr ernment decisions. Having a White House party with two lesbians hanging all over themselves is a great example to set. Takes a "good citizen" to do that. This letter is probably too hateful to make the paper, but come on all you editors, sh0w some intelligence and courage to write it like it is. — ROBERT JONES Jr. Logan A cheer for the Special Olympics Don't our Special Olympic athletes deserve a bit of coverage in your paper once in a while? We are parents of more than one Special Olympic participant, and we get really upset because you never read anything about their activities. The winter games, which consist of bowling and volleyball, are held in Salina every year in the fall, We had a regional basketball tourna: ment in McPherson, and a state basketball tournament at Hays, plus an area track meet was held at Beloit and the state meet will be held in Wichita in June. Now these athletes work really hard and the coaches, volunteers and parents donate a lot of their time to prepare these athletes. The athletes put forth their best efforts and, believe us, they have some mighty good players. ' Good sportsmanship is also stressed among these teams. So let us give a cheer for our Sper cial Olympics, and see some articles in your paper. Better yet, come and observe their games. Seeing is believing. •'• — BOB and BETTY ST. JOHN Randall By G.B. TRUD^AU THOUGHT THROUGH tUHfiTfrMMto JUST ear tie TMMK- " YOU M6ANUK& AP&SOMAL. WUTOUSJBN TOM6V0V CA&HJUY. NIN6&, F&SHSTAKES.
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