SOURCES OF CONFLICT
Several of my colleagues and I were upset by the contents of Cynthia Cotts's Press Clips column "Cause Unknown" [August 6]. Cotts had a legitimate story to report about The National Law Journal (NLJ), but she used the departure of several executives as an excuse to solicit gossip and cheap shotswhat she herself calls "unconfirmed . . . rumor" and "speculation."
In 10 paragraphs, she quotes one named sourcea current employee who spoke positively about an executive who left. The rest of the story is an undisguised effort to smear our reputation. As long as Cotts is writing a column that purports to pass judgment on our work, she may as well attempt to support her opinion. From her gratuitous slam in the lead, where she calls us "the once prestigious newsweekly" (without even pretending to find someone to say this), to the cheap-shot kicker, where her unnamed source says our paper "has no credibility," there's only one thing missing: facts.
All journalists know how serious this last charge is. How does a paper lose credibility, its very soul? It happens when many errors are made in the news stories (definitely not the case with the NLJ) or when reporters are in bed with their sourceswe defy anyone to document such a claim.
We are all ill served when Cotts uses rumor and anonymous slams to report about industry managers and well served when the reporting is thorough and well sourcedthe hallmark of the NLJ. I do not speak for my company, American Lawyer Media Inc.
Steve Fromm, Associate Editor
The National Law Journal
Cynthia Cotts replies: I did not attempt to write a smear, but a factual story about the mysteries surrounding the sudden resignation of Joseph Calve, the American Lawyer Media exec who controlled the business side of the NLJ. I take no responsibility for the absence of on-the-record quotes, as I requested comment from Calve and ALM president and CEO William Pollak, among others. The anonymous sources I cited distinguished between their observations and speculation. However, I regret any implied criticism of the NLJ editorial staff or the content they generate. By all accounts, it is decisions on the business side that have caused skeptics to question the newspaper's reputation.
It was clear from David Shawn Bosler's article on George Montalba ("Devil in Disguise," August 6) that he was handicapped by a lack of reliable information. The primary source quoted was Anton LaVey's disgruntled daughter, Zeena Schreck, who paints her father as a lying, talentless s.o.b. now that he's dead. As LaVey's biographer and lover of 13 years, I can tell you that it's very likely that Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, was also at least a part of "George Montalba," organist extraordinaire.
LaVey's musical career ran the gamut. He played pipe organs in San Francisco, Hammonds that had bumped over circus and carnival lots, and accompanied strippers in L.A. burlesque houses. LaVey's style and voicings are unmistakable. Robert Hunter was also an accomplished musician who should receive credit for his remarkable career, including his contribution as "George Montalba," but anyone listening to the Montalba records can hear at least two distinct styles. I'm convinced, from listening to Anton LaVey play for hundreds of hours, that one of those "Montalbas" was the Black Pope himself.
San Diego, California
NO SMALL MIRACLE
I want to express my deepest sympathies on the passing of letters editor Ron Plotkin [obituary by Tom Robbins, August 14-20]. My biggest regret is that my acquaintance with him was all too brief. Our first meeting was only a year ago, and under unfortunate circumstances. I was having problems with a business on my block and he came to my rescue, drumming up support from the St. Marks and 9th Street block associations and assisting me in presenting my complaint before our community board. Even when I was frustrated and willing to give up, he persisted and provided me with encouragement. I was amazed by this articulate, passionate, often introspective man and his dedication to his neighbors, many of them complete strangers.
Albert Einstein said: "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." Ron Plotkin's way was certainly the latter.
I was deeply saddened to read about the death of Ron Plotkin. As his intern from January to June 2000, I learned more about the editorial process, freedom of speech, and standing up for what you believe in than at any other internship I have had.
I worked on this very section, selecting letters that "spoke to you" and editing them with Ron's guidance. He was a brilliant man, and I always suspected he was a man of deep honor and principle. He encouraged me to speak my mind with intelligence, to use the media to explore what is rarely publicized, and to conduct myself with professionalism and tact. He spent hours schooling me over the phone and in the office, and introduced me to various books and editors that he thought I should know. Ron made himself available as a reference, as a tutor, and as a friend. I want to offer my condolences to his family and friends. He will always be remembered.
Sasha N. Elliott
I want to thank Patrick Giles for his review of Richard Goldstein's new book, The Attack Queers: Liberal Society and the Gay Right ["The Fight Club," August 14-20]. As an admirer of Goldstein's for years, I was very excited to read the book but was disappointed, without knowing exactly why. Then I read Giles's review. He expressed perfectly my own gut feelings and thoughts about what I disagreed with in Goldstein's approach to the hijacking of our community by right-wing conservatives.
Goldstein is a treasure and a great writer, so I'm hopeful that the critique will inject him with insights as well as resolve to not rush his writing. Giles's review is as much a careful, thoughtful analysis of social and political issues as Goldstein's work has beenand hopefully will be again.
Richard Goldstein replies: I welcome any criticism of my book that stems from a real engagement with its ideas. No one can know the truth; only assert his conviction. Mine is that the gay right poses a threat to the gay movement and to the values that have brought us so far.
Jane Cox, not Beverly Emmons, designed the lighting for Monica Bill Barnes's dance When We Were Pretty, reviewed by Elizabeth Zimmer ["Sacred Spaces," July 30].
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