The importance of a subject should depend on the message, not the messenger. But in your paper, no matter how important a subject is, it belongs in Style if the messenger is the wife of someone important.

Your Nov. 13 Style section carried a piece on Marilyn Quayle's taxpayer-supported efforts to heighten corporate interest in international emergency response along with a story about Elizabeth Dole's new role at the Red Cross. Emergency preparedness and response are not Style-ish topics. Earthquakes, nuclear accidents and major hurricanes are always front-page news -- maybe if preparedness were treated as seriously, disasters would have less serious consequences.

The emergency-management community in this country cheered when Marilyn Quayle took up the disaster-preparedness cause because of how difficult it is to get the public's attention before a disaster occurs. We hoped her visibility would bring attention to preparedness efforts. She is engaged in important work and has tackled it with thorough study, a thoughtful approach and no-fanfare volunteer work in the field during actual disasters. Unfortunately, your paper relegates coverage of her work to Style.

As for Dole, now that she's to head the Red Cross instead of a federal bureaucracy, will we be seeing her picture in Style too until someone criticizes the Red Cross for its response to a disaster?

Please start sending out the much-needed message that disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery are weighty subjects, not light chat for Style. -- Shari Coffin The writer is newsletter editor for the National Coordinating Council on Emergency Management.

I was startled by Henry Mitchell's attack on Marilyn Quayle {Style, Nov. 16}. He described the vice president's wife as an international disaster, a wife with nothing to do and likened her to a dog looking for fleas to scratch. His comparison of her interest in U.S. relief efforts in international catastrophes to great Victorian gardens of the wealthy, led to a cryptic reference to waste, fraud, mismanagement and, most significantly, abuse of her status as Dan Quayle's wife.

Exactly what does Mitchell have against Marilyn Quayle? I do not personally know the vice president's wife, but I do know that she is an accomplished attorney, the mother of three children and active in civic and charitable organizations in both Washington and Indiana. So she has chosen to bring attention to the plight of people who suffer as a consequence of international disasters, such as those in devastated localities in Mexico, Armenia and Chernobyl. It seems to me her concerns represent our nation's interests and identity as a caring people.

With all the riveting events in today's world, why would Mitchell launch such a vituperative attack on Marilyn Quayle's involvement in such a worthwhile cause? At a minimum, your readers deserve to know what has provoked Mitchell's vicious criticism. On such a beautiful November morning, it seemed so unnecessary.

-- Jose' E. V. Cunningham