The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Readers critique The Post: Scintillating sentences and the importance of context

This week’s “Free for All” letters.

Tell us more about the match

The Jan. 27 Sports article “Osaka holds off Kvitova to claim second straight major title” told the reader little about the match and seemed to be barely more than a profile piece on Naomi Osaka, the champion. There was no mention of Petra Kvitova’s successful return to the grand stage of a major tournament final after she suffered injuries to her hand in a home invasion slightly more than two years ago. That fact added to the riveting nature of the final.

However, it was the placement of the article that was most in need of repair. The back page? Really? And to make room on the front page of Sports for an article and two photographs (covering half the page) about a National Football League stadium still under construction [“Field of dreams”]? That was an insult to the two female athletes who played a terrific match in a major tournament.

Bob Dardano, Washington

Provide the larger context

The Jan. 27 front-page article “Trump’s N.Y. golf club used illegal labor” was unsurprising; there have been similar articles about the same type of behavior in a club in New Jersey . I was disappointed that the article was written only as human interest stories, focusing on the challenges faced by the hard-working immigrants who are thrown out of their jobs after years of service. I empathize with these people, yet this is only part of the story — and not the part that brings any new information or context to the discussion of immigration. I expect more light and less fire from a lengthy article.

We pay for a subscription to The Post to see deeper investigation and explanation of the larger context of the issue: Will the Trump Organization face fines for hiring people without proper documentation? How many other employers were fined in the past years for violations of the law? Why wasn’t the Trump Organization using the E-Verify system? More importantly, why isn’t Congress enacting a law that mandates the use of E-Verify for all employers? How many U.S. employers use E-Verify? How many members of Congress would support a law mandating universal use of E-Verify? Do other countries use better or more efficient systems that we could learn from?

Where’s the systemic analysis in addition to the focus on individual actions?

When there is a demand for workers, workers will come — and the United States is not doing what it should to hold down the demand for cheaper undocumented labor by making U.S. employers accountable for following basic rules.

Alison Moser, Rockville

Caption this

The caption for the Jan. 30 front-page photograph “An exhibition of happiness” stated, “Lonnie Bunch, director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, shares a laugh with a security officer.” Why not name the security officer as well? There are only two people in the photo. Naming the museum director but not the security guard reeks of classism.

Christina Cole, Burtonsville

Regarding the Jan. 31 front-page photographs accompanying the article “Midwest reels under deadly freeze”:

A picture is worth a thousand (overused and tired) words. How is the black man walking to a shelter any less of a pedestrian than the white women on the college campus, who were described as such? His lack of housing doesn’t qualify his action any more than being on a campus does for the women.

Maria A. Kane, La Plata

Many people read articles about people with whom we are unfamiliar. As such, we deserve clear captions that differentiate one person from others. In the photograph that accompanied the Feb. 1 obituary for Peter Magowan, “Creator of San Francisco Giants’ ‘winning culture,’ ” it was unclear which one in the picture was Magowan and which was Giants manager Felipe Alou. In the photograph accompanying Scott Allen’s Feb. 1 D.C. Sports Bog column, “Leonsis: No major changes ahead,” it was clear who John Wall was because of the name on his uniform. But who is the other Wizard, No. 22?

It would be helpful if caption writers assumed many readers were as ignorant as I am.

Susan Hepler, Alexandria

No oil here

In his Jan. 28 op-ed, “The truth about defense spending,” Robert J. Samuelson wrote, “Hence, we have 10 full-size aircraft carriers to project our power abroad; no other country comes close. Moving all those troops, tanks, ships and planes around the globe is expensive. In fiscal 2017, the U.S military consumed 98 million barrels of oil, costing $8.8 billion.” That may be misleading to a lot of people. The uninformed might conclude that the 10 aircraft carriers consumed a lot of this oil. However, all of the carriers are nuclear-powered and use no oil for ship propulsion (and do not contribute to climate change). We also have more than 60 nuclear-powered submarines.

Bill R. Teer, Fairfax

Climate change isn't left or right

The Jan. 27 Metro article “Fairfax faces rare primary for board chair” seemed to imply that a push by political newcomers for bolder policies on housing and climate change would be a shift further to the left. When my two young grandchildren grow up, I do not think they will see climate change as a left or right issue. They will see decisive action by our generation rather as a shift to a healthier and more prosperous and sustainable future for everyone.

In light of the warnings in the U.S. National Climate Assessment and the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as well as messages sent by recent extreme weather events, they will wonder why we did not do more to protect their future well-being.

Ray Martin, McLean

The writer is a volunteer with Faith Alliance
for Climate Solutions.

Some other House runs

I enjoyed Paul Kane’s Jan. 26 @PKCapitol column about House members running for president [“In democratized media era, ambitious House members eye a run at presidency,” news]. However, there were two glaring omissions: Shirley Chisholm’s (D-N.Y.) run in 1972 and Mo Udall’s (D-Ariz.) campaign in 1976. Also, Rep. Patsy Mink briefly ran for the Democratic nomination in 1972. Chisholm’s was a pioneering effort for a woman and an African American. Udall ran a competitive race against Jimmy Carter in a multi-candidate campaign in which he earned the nickname of “Second Place Mo” and that ended only at the 1976 Democratic National Convention.

Robert Neuman, Annapolis

The writer was a former press secretary and chief
of staff for congressman Mo Udall (D-Ariz.).

The elephant in the room

The Jan. 30 editorial “Don’t squander this crisis” said the current bilateral merchandise trade deficit with China would go away if Americans would shift from buying Chinese products to substitutes produced in other countries. But the current trade imbalance with China exists only because something keeps the bilateral exchange rate from adjusting to eliminate the imbalance. The elephant in the room is the large net purchase by China of U.S. financial assets. In the absence of this purchase, the exchange value of the dollar would depreciate against the yuan until the deficit was reduced to zero. Merely shifting the purchase of U.S. goods to other countries will not eliminate the deficit as long as China continues to be a net purchaser of U.S. financial assets.

To think that inducing the Chinese to buy more U.S. goods or Americans to buy their goods elsewhere would redress the trade deficit is incorrect.  That deficit is being driven by Chinese asset purchases. Note that some of these assets are those issued to finance our large and growing federal budget deficit. Our trade deficit is linked to our budget deficit and will not go away by altering the source of import and exports. It will disappear when the United States is no longer a net importer of capital.

Gail E. Makinen, Arlington

Still presumed innocent

I was somewhat taken aback by the subheadline of the Jan. 27 editorial “Mr. Stone’s indictment,” which said, “The charges against the president’s ally reveal gross moral corruption.”

One of this country’s fundamental tenets is and has been that a person is innocent until proved guilty. That secondary headline presupposed the truth of the “charges” against presidential friend Roger Stone. There may be gross moral corruption — but only after the facts have been proved, not merely charged.

Eugene M. Lawson Jr., Falls Church

How did the chairs feel?

The Jan. 25 front-page article “Federal workers’ struggles perplex Trump officials” made the interesting observation that “walking the narrow halls of the West Wing, more than half of the desks appear empty.” I am certain The Post’s expert reporters know what a dangling modifier is and The Post’s sharp-eyed editors would never let such a grammatical indiscretion slip by, so I conclude that the shutdown has brought stress and shudders even to the furniture of government.

George Krumbhaar, Washington

A freed man

The chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress apparently misspoke when she said Omar ibn Said died a slave, in the Jan. 25 Retropolis article “The slave who wrote in Arabic” [Metro].

Ibn Said died in North Carolina in 1864. Under the terms of the Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect on Jan. 1, 1863, all enslaved people in states then in rebellion against the United States were forever made free. North Carolina was a state in rebellion against the United States.

Ibn Said may still have been enslaved when he died, but he was not a slave. He died a freed man.

Jack Richards, Bethesda

A scintillating sentence

The Jan. 26 front-page article “Simmering dissatisfaction suddenly boiled over, forcing action” related the public’s growing outcry at the shutdown: “The drizzle of effects of the government shutdown morphed into a downpour, a winter storm of disruption, dysfunction and desperation that shocked stubborn politicians into action.”

Now that’s a dazzling description!

Andrew H. Friedman, McLean

Remembering the Holocaust

I looked all over the paper on Jan. 27, but the only reference to the Holocaust Remembrance Day was in the Jan. 27 Sunday Opinion essay “Muslims must remember the Holocaust,” by Mohammad Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League and president of the International Organization of Muslim Scholars. I would think The Post would have mentioned it in passing. Thanks to Al-Issa for bringing it to our attention.

Sabina Dym, Potomac

Survivors deserve the truth

The Jan. 30 Metro article “Decades later, an accounting of abuse” said that “adults sexually exploited vulnerable girls in the 1970s” at Key School in Annapolis. The Lewis/Graham report clearly stated that the abuse happened in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and included the abuse of girls and boys. One of the most damaging parts of childhood sexual abuse is the silencing of the victim when he or she speaks and then is not believed, or the experience is not validated by those in a position to act positively. The omission in the article silences the voices of the courageous survivors from the 1980s and 1990s who came forward to speak the truth. The truth is important. The truth is what newspapers are supposed to be about, and an omission such as this damages the paper and the voices of the survivors. Not only does democracy die in darkness; so does the truth.

Carolyn Surrick, Annapolis

The writer was included in the Lewis/Graham report on sexual abuse at Key School.

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