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Smut for Shocks 

Editor:

I read the Journal weekly. My initial response to the front cover of last week's paper was to pass it by ("Hooked," Sept. 9). I then decided that I should at least be open-minded enough to read the story. It was disappointing. Is this really relevant to our broader community? One person's thrill for the attention that public self-mutilation brings should not merit cover story consideration. I can think of any number of people in our community who deserve the attention and coverage.

The Journal has a history of featuring relevant and meaningful human interest stories; stories that offer insight, solutions, and inspiration to a rural community. Many members of our community are suffering, not by personal choice, and are not thrilled with it. Give people who truly deserve attention the attention they deserve.

Considering last week's cover, please take in to consideration the effects such an image may have on children and victims of abuse who pass by it. A person can make a choice to read or not to read the publication, but no one can avoid the image stamped in the brain. I picked the Journal up this morning and at the end of the day still have difficulty with the image.

I can't imagine someone who has experienced such pain and suffering trying to make sense of someone causing it themselves. Consider the children of the community. Consider those abused in the community. Consider your audience. Consider your responsibility. This is not excellent journalism.

Pam Dougherty, McKinleyville

 

Editor:

I've been reading the Journal for many years and I rely on it for many things: the entertainment calendar, human interest stories, witty comics and keeping me up to date on important local issues. Sure, there's occasionally boring, misguided or overly-sensational articles, but on the whole the Journal provides well-written and informative windows into our community. That's why I keep reading every week.

But I was truly disgusted to see the cover on this week's Journal, and the graphic images that accompanied the cover story. Consenting adults have every right to mutilate themselves, but that doesn't make it news that the rest of us need to be subjected to. I say "subjected" because the Journal is prominently placed at children's eye-level at newsstands across our community, and if you walk around town the cover is hard to miss. Sometimes, showing such images serves a legitimate social purpose (i.e. to remind us that there is war going on); in this case it was just gratuitous smut for shock value. I tried reading this week's Journal, but it was disturbing enough that I just couldn't do it, so I turned it inside out and put it in the recycle bin. I didn't get to see what your advertisers had to offer this week. With all the things going on in our community, the state, the nation and the world, was this really the most newsworthy and interesting  item you could find?

The Journal's staff has First Amendment right to print whatever sick $@#$ they want on the cover (and inside), but as a serious media outlet that is widely distributed, you also have a responsibility to uphold standards of common decency. Clearly you failed last week. Please exercise better judgment in the future.

Eli Asarian, Eureka

 

Editor:

I have been reading this publication for as long as I can remember. It has been a constant source of information and editorial perspective. I was, as many readers expressed, disgusted with the approach that was employed in the sensationalist cover story in your Sept. 9 edition.

I am a very liberal person and believe that freedom of speech is our most important principle in this republic. I wish to point out some problems with your editorial philosophy as it appears to be employed in your publication. I do not wish to add to the comments of outrage, as I feel that these were articulated quite well in the Sept. 16 issue. What I want to express is the journalistic arrogance that this publication has fallen into.

Over the years I have seen multiple articles in this magazine that call out for accountability by local leaders and also government officials. It galls me that when presented with outrage over an obvious lack of journalistic responsibility and integrity that there was no editorial response from those who have claimed the high ground in the past, multiple times. I do give you credit for running the very angry responses to your ill-thought-out cover story.

Do not get me wrong, I would have no problem with the article running in the edition if it were done with more sensitivity to the public who ultimately support this publication and its paying advertisers. There should have been a warning for readers that the article contained "adult material" and cautioned the same of the graphic nature of the content. That being said, the most disturbing issue that I have is the apparent unwillingness to admit a lapse in journalistic judgment. This is pure arrogance which has been repeated over the years by an editorial stance of high-mindedness that detracts from the purpose of such a local publication.

I believe that there is redemption in the acknowledgement of errors in judgment and acts of irresponsibility. You missed that opportunity when you failed to redress the comments with an editorial response. It propagates the already prevalent arrogance which this publication exhibits most readily for others. It is really interesting that the following week's publication presents a building site as an "eyesore" when the most proliferate example of such a condition was displayed in your most recent previous publication. No courage or responsibility was shown by your editorial staff and owners. No surprise.

Michael Hunsinger, McKinleyville

 

Editor:

If the purpose of your article about "human suspension" was to shock your readers, you succeeded. I am horrified that anyone would mutilate their body to this degree just for thrills and attention. I am disturbed that the Journal considers this subject appropriate for front page coverage. Will child pornography be the next subject, including graphic front page photos?

I work in a hospital and see the health consequences of dangerous choices. Some colleagues at work are also angry about the front page photo and the article's positive spin. The Journal is easily accessible to their children who may decide it is perfectly acceptable behavior. "Kat" herself states she doesn't want her father to know she engages in this activity and yet allows photos of her face. Does she know how easily she could be identified on-line?

Health considerations are a large part of my revulsion. "Kat" risks tearing her skin and back muscles and inviting in antibiotic resistant infections. She also has metal studs in her body. Does she realize that if she ever has a cardiac emergency, a defibrillator can't be used to bring her heart beat back to a regular rhythm? She will not be able to have an MRI. I see people in the hospital every day struggling to overcome pain and to heal from resistant infections. I hate seeing someone purposely inviting serious health problems. I hope "Kat" will find something else "thrilling" to do that does not expose herself to such danger.

Carol Bowden, Ferndale

 

Editor:

Ryan Burns described well a local subculture in his piece, "Hooked." I, a 70-year-old geezer, got a powerfully clear glimpse of a world quite foreign to my sensibilities.

The young star of this alien world declares that her activities allow her to escape entirely from her workaday life. She says she is a social worker who assists physically and mentally disabled people. The apparent incongruity between her 9 to 5 profession and her nighttime entertainment is startling.

Would any family with a disabled loved-one (particularly a mentally disabled person) deserve to have this young woman be assigned as their case worker? How can a social worker with such a complicated "alter ego" be an appropriate guide to help a needy client build a stable and healthy life? The irony is too bizarre.

J.B. Bowden, Ferndale

 

Editor:

Plato, in describing the nature of the soul, presents Socrates as arguing that reason must learn to enlist the resources of the "spirited element" in the business of governing the appetites. He tells a story of Leontius, who saw some dead bodies fallen at the hand of the executioner. He felt the urge to look at them; at the same time he was disgusted with himself and his morbid curiosity, and he turned away. For a while he was in inner turmoil, but finally he was overcome by his desire to see. He opened his eyes wide and ran up to the corpses, cursing his own vision: "Now have your way, damn you. Go ahead and feast at this banquet for sordid appetites." (Republic 440).

I have appreciated the North Coast Journal for a long time, but I know why I did not read the Journal on Sept. 9, when you featured those who "enjoy" piercing their bodies with large hooks. I wonder how many others felt the same way.

Susan J. Armstrong, Arcata

 

Editor:

This may be flogging a dead horse, however ... the "Hooked" article was extremely interesting on many aspects. Apparently, one can view a subculture of individuals with tattoos & body piercings, some of which I do not really think would be conducive for the job market nor when one is, say, 75 years old. True, Humboldt County employers seem to be accepting of this subculture.

However, the "Hooked" article takes a spiritual ceremony to a level of performance art. A spiritual ceremony for indigenous cultures in my belief should not be made into "entertainment" or a stage for one's self-gratification. On the upside I have children, teen and pre-teen, that are certainly not swayed by the subculture of the phenomena of the tattoos, body piercing and self-mutilation. Sure, if that is within one's indigenous culture, otherwise in my opinion the individuals desiring to fit into this popular subculture are "wannabes," trying to identify with a culture of their heritage from generations past.

And if I so happen to receive an ice cream for letter of the week could I request two for my daughters? I think they deserve it for having great heads on their shoulders, with no desire for tuna hooks or suspension.

Venetia Flores, Fortuna

 

Editor:

I too am "disgusted" with my fellow citizens after your publishing this article, but before you write this off as another anti-BDSM tirade let me clarify that my distaste is for the close-minded individuals who felt the need to so vehemently attack your publication and those featured in the article.

Because, you know, I don't practice the activity myself and I found the cover picture graphic, so I made a practical adult decision to not read that week's issue. Problem solved. I'm not horrified, nauseous, or angry and I have lost no respect for the NCJ. It seems many people let their own curiosity and voyeurism get the best of them and then when they found their reaction to be unpleasant they blamed the source.

Who are any of us to say that someone's recreational or sexual choices are any of our business, or make the person a "bad" or "sick" individual? Would anyone who sent in a scathing letter want their own tastes judged?

Humboldt -- if you don't like something, let it be. Don't entrench yourself and scream foul later when you don't find that you enjoy examining different cultures.

So, there's my piece. Thank you, North Coast Journal, for continuing to fairly (and I think accurately) represent our community. And to the person who asked: Yes, here's at least one good response to that article.

Kate Smith, Eureka

 

Editor:

A quibble about the "Hooked" article. (I liked the article. The pictures were no more gory than supermarket ads of raw roasts or chickens.) The subject and others are described as walking north on Third Street. One cannot walk north on Third Street, because it runs east and west.

Christopher Ursich, Eureka

 

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