Letters

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO COTTS

Cynthia Cotts's column on The American Prospect and me was a textbook case of how not to practice journalism ["Bob Kuttner's 'Prospect': How Not to Run a Liberal Magazine," Press Clips, January 1]. The friends of a Prospect employee who was fired are spreading all manner of nonsense, and Cotts unfortunately took this one-sided and self-serving account as gospel.

Indeed, Cotts telephoned to interview me and executive editor Harold Meyerson only a few hours before her final deadline, and told us she had already filed a draft of her story! Imagine filing the story first and doing key reporting later. Although I corrected a number of factual inaccuracies, including the true circumstances of the departures of two staffers, Cotts did not see fit to revise her story.

Cotts also wrongly asserted that several former Prospect employees moved on to other jobs because of conflicts with me. In fact, these were normal career progressions, and they are still good friends of mine. Her account could have been checked with them, and wasn't.

Every editor has had conflicts with writers, many of them the result of weak or tardy writing. Most writers I work with are very satisfied. I suggested to Cotts that to put the small number of complaints in context, she might contact any of the dozens of staffers and contributing writers who have had wonderful experiences working with us—people of far greater distinction than those few prosecuting grudges. But Cotts said that unfortunately she had no time. (What exactly was the urgency?) So instead, she took the word of a disgruntled few. This is known in the trade as a hatchet job.

If this is how a press critic practices journalism, God help the profession. Early in my career, I worked at the Voice. It was always feisty, rarely sloppy. The Voice and its readers, not to mention its targets, deserve better.

Robert Kuttner, Co-Editor
The American Prospect
Boston, Massachusetts

Cynthia Cotts replies: Despite his early stint at theVoice, Kuttner seems unaware that Press Clips has a tradition of rigorously opinionated reporting on timely media controversies. I would take him more seriously if he assumed responsibility for his managerial decisions, rather than droning on about my methodology. Contrary to Kuttner's claims, I called him to request commentbefore I began writing, and I acknowledged that some departures are natural progressions in writers' careers. If Kuttner truly believes my reporting contained inaccuracies or omissions, he should have used theVoice letters page to set the record straight. Instead, he continues to cast vague aspersions and to avoid the controversy that followed his decision to fire senior editor Ana Marie Cox.


PROFILES IN PREJUDICE

I really appreciated Chisun Lee's article " 'Let Us Not Be Suckers for Anybody': Why People of All Colors Should (Still) Resist Racial Profiling" [January 1]. I too have been subjected to random searches during my travel since September 11 because of my Arabic-sounding name and my olive skin.

During one airport search, every article of clothing in my handbag and every item in my purse were laid out for all to see and sent separately through the scanner. After almost 30 minutes of searching, I asked the security woman checking me why I had been singled out. She looked distressed and frustrated, then threw up her hands and told her supervisor that he could search me himself because she was not going to put me through it any longer. Just last week, my sister was also randomly searched because of her Arabic-sounding surname while traveling with her four-year-old son.

When I complain about being profiled this way, my European American friends ask me whether I don't want to feel safe on planes. I tell them that I don't just want to feel safe; I want to be safe. Airport security agents cannot tell who is a shoe bomber, a Una-bomber, or an Oklahoma City bomber by a passenger's surname or skin color. To focus on a whole class of people in this way is inefficient and ineffective.

Zaha Hassan
Lake Oswego, Oregon

As a Muslim Canadian woman currently living in the U.S, I am appalled by the racial profiling going on post-September 11, and I appreciated Chisun Lee's article on the subject. I have avoided traveling to my hometown in Canada since September 11 due to fears that I will not be able to return to work here (I have a valid visa) because of the way I look (I wear a headscarf and long dress). But frankly, I'm not surprised that this is happening.

In Lee's article, activist Van Jones makes an interesting argument with which I have to disagree: that larger numbers of people being profiled (Muslims, Arabs, African Americans, and Latinos) will mean "a stronger front" against the practice. Sad to say, I've read at least one article in which an African American stated his support for racial profiling of Muslims and Arabs, despite the fact that he felt it was unfair. Of course, he does not represent all African Americans. However, I think many Americans of all shades are understandably scared enough since September 11 to support the most draconian measures, especially for Muslims and Arabs, who remain a largely maligned and stigmatized minority in America.

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