Fanning the Flames

Letters to the Editor

Hot scoop: I want to thank you for Michael Roberts's excellent article regarding the lack of media coverage during the recent outbreak of wildfires across the state ("Hot Spots," June 13).

A friend and I traveled to Glenwood Springs the weekend of June 8 and 9 and evacuated early Saturday evening after we saw the flames across I-70 from our hotel.

We were frustrated and appalled by the complete lack of information we encountered Saturday evening and all day Sunday, both on TV and radio. When we left Glenwood, it looked like the fire was sure to spread into town, and we were frightened and worried. The minute we found a room up the valley in Aspen we turned the TV on, expecting ongoing coverage or at least frequent updates. Instead, almost the only information we could find was the crawler at the bottom of the screen on Channel 9, which rarely changed over the course of the twelve or so hours we tuned in. The only thing worse than the lack of information was the inaccuracy of the information we did get.

I can only imagine how upsetting it would have been to be a resident of the Glenwood area (or a relative or loved one of someone who lives there) and have no source of up-to-date, relevant information about exactly where the fire was and who/what was in danger. It's hard to "remain calm," as the media reports advised, when you have no idea what's going on.

The local news channels never cease to remind us that "they're the ones to turn to" when they run their sensational sweeps-weeks stories, but where was the breaking news coverage when we (and others) needed it? The Denver stations were probably busy hunting down the next hot tidbit about John and Janet Elway's separation. What a disappointment -- not to mention a complete disservice to the Colorado public.

Matty Leighton

A site for sore eyes: I, too, was frustrated by the lack of accurate coverage of the fires in Colorado, as well as the commercialization of the coverage on the media Web sites.

I have found that the most accurate and up-to-date information on the Hayman fire and other fires in the state can be found on the USDA Forest Service site This site includes important and accurate information on each fire, including evacuation information, maps and images. The site is very well put together and serves its purpose well during these unfortunate emergencies. If the local media had been following the information posted on this site early on, much of the misinformation that was published could have been avoided.

Ryan Grow

The match game: I'm not sure Michael Roberts's criticism of the coverage of the Hayman fire is warranted. I was at my parents' house for dinner on Saturday night, and while dining on the patio we had a perfect view of the smoke billowing out of the mountains. We turned on the 10 p.m. news and received the information that the fire was just north of Lake George.

Of course, the Coal Seam fire received more attention from the get-go: The fire was much closer to a large town and more easily accessible to cameras. How could anyone have predicted Hayman would grow so quickly and destroy so much forest in such a short time?

It is a shame that Hayman wasn't the number-one priority until later, but hindsight is always 20/20.

Leslie Fry
via the Internet

Fire when ready: What Michael Roberts said in "Hot Spots" was exactly what I said about Colorado Public Radio on Sunday, June 9. At 3 p.m., when I heard Theresa Schiavone say "it's smoky," I felt like calling the customer comment line and saying, "There are gays and lesbians, Jews, even ex-convicts and convicts (wrongly accused), homosexual Boy Scout leaders and people abused as children by Catholic priests who may be affected by this fire! Don't you people see how important it is?"

Ashes were a quarter-inch thick, but NPR was like a homeless person fast asleep with a lit cigarette in his hand.

John Sturtz

Breaking news: The performance of print and broadcast news outlets certainly is fair game for criticism, and Michael Roberts's assessment of the early news reports on the Hayman fire is proper enough. Understanding that the performance of the Colorado Springs news media is, at most, of marginal interest to Westword readers, I nonethless take note that Roberts's critique is aimed at "representatives of the print and electronic presses," presumably without limitation, especially since this fire is of statewide interest. As one of those representatives, I am moved to help clarify the record:

The Colorado Springs Gazette published news of the Hayman fire on page one, above the fold, in its Sunday, June 9, edition ("Two fires force evacuations northwest of Lake George"). Our reporter caught the first scanner traffic related to the fire mid-evening on Saturday and went to Lake George to get what few facts could be gathered at that moment. We also used what additional information was available from the Associated Press. The resulting story was not long, and it certainly only skimmed the factual surface of a situation that was rapidly developing, but it was timely and it was prominent.

Jeff Thomas, managing editor
Colorado Springs Gazette

Don't be an ash: Top ten explanations that authorities rejected of how Terry Lynn Barton says the Hayman fire started:

10. Ripped up letter from estranged husband, but ripped so fast that the damn thing just ignited.

9. Global warming.

8. Brian Griese fell over and lost consciousness. Teammates played prank by lighting shoes on fire. (Brian claimed that he was not drunk at the time.)

7. A bunch of damn pot-smoking hippies.

6. Got letter from estranged husband but the writing was too small so she used her magnifying glass...and the damn forest just ignited.

5. Didn't realize that a Molotov cocktail could cause so much damage.

4. Just a weenie roast gone bad.

3. Got letter from estranged husband that made her so mad she just wanted to kill somebody. Thought that a good way to vent her frustrations was to set a squirrel's tail on fire.

2. Let's just say that lightning bugs and alcohol don't mix.

1. Didn't actually see it start but did notice that Smoky the Bear was walking through the forest with a gas can and a blowtorch.

Rick Shipe

A Matter of Coarse

Falling off the edge: It was hilarious to see the contortions Michael Roberts had to go through in the June 6 "Not-So-Funny Business" to make his point that there is a need for more "thoughtful coverage of gay issues" on the radio and that what coverage exists amounts to gay-bashing.

First, I await the day when coverage in any medium of gay issues is not just thoughtful but also true. Certainly the stereotypes are fixed and unavoidable. There is also probably a lot of truth to them, as when Nan Kratohvil of GLSEN decries the "lisping, effeminate cliche" on the one hand but Roberts is able to say of a "Chick Quiz -- Dick Quiz" segment that "Bosaphina sounds much more gay than girlish." Obviously, the cliche has more than some truth to it, or Roberts could not possibly tell whether a voice is girlish or gay.

However, if people want to know what's going on in a medium that is "sophomoric" and "monumentally stupid" enough to boast that "we're equal-opportunity offenders," the first place to look is inward. Indeed, Westword should look inward -- for it is there that the problem lies.

I will not give Westword credit for inventing its style. Rather, I would say you exploit a style found useful to circulation. I don't know if the style has a formal name, although it amounts to "extreme edginess." In another time, this style was known as rude, coarse and vulgar. Naturally, this style is not limited to print. Every aspect of the media is seeking this appealing edge. As they say, play with fire and someone gets burned. Thus, we get to equal-opportunity offenders who break the bonds of edge with potty jokes that every now and then insult gays.

How on earth can anyone expect thoughtful coverage of gay issues when the popular media, including Westword, is filled with thoughtless morons? How can there be thoughtful gay humor when there are no thinkers making the jokes, and jokers whose vocabulary contains only four-letter words, the usual stereotypes and a series of conjunctions?

I've been alive long enough to remember when the media contained no equal-opportunity offenders, offenses given being upfront and personal. Now anyone with a ten-word vocabulary and a medium can offend at will. When GLAAD, PFLAG and GLSEN monitor KOA, the Fox, KSJO and Westword, they might take the edge off gay-bashing by insisting they trade edge for thoughtfulness.

And, to be thoughtful and able to express the nuances of the gay life, perhaps they should insist the media hire people with vocabularies exceeding their IQ, who know the meaning of the word "discretion."

Jerry Huthoefer

No joke: As a 75-year-old gay man, I pretended to be straight for the first sixty years of my life in order to hold a job and conform to what society demanded for male behavior. Stumbling through three marriages, I loved and cared for three women and two children, all the while suppressing my true desires and misleading them and my friends about my true self. The psychological pretzel I created ended with a nervous breakdown that, once I recovered, freed me to be who I am.

It saddens me to hear that the same kind of taunts and "jokes" about homosexuals that I've endured for three-quarters of a century (on the playground, at work, in the locker room) haven't faded away (unlike disparaging jokes about niggers, spicks, chinks, micks and wops), and are actively broadcast in today's media. In our "enlightened" times, we continue to have idiots in the media spouting moronic garbage that portrays gay men and women as freaks and miscreants. Perhaps gays are the last group left in society's spittoon and haven't mustered the energy to collectively fight for respect and dignity like those previously mentioned stereotypes.

Is the fact that lowest-common-denominator jokes about gays continue in the media a testament to the lack of creativity and "sucker punch" ease that most radio "comedians" aim for? Or does it mask a deeper need? Humor is a psychological release designed to cover up what is too painful to address directly. Perhaps the ultimate joke is on homophobic males: Their deep-seated fear of gays and gay behavior prevents them from forming any emotionally close, non-sexual bonds with other males (other than to punch each other -- verbally or physically -- in the arm and joke that they're not like "those queers").

Society crafts a cruel illusion. All of us are multi-gender, a blend of X and Y chromosomes, yet society insists we ignore and belittle one for the other, depending on what does or doesn't dangle between our legs. To those who create or guffaw at jokes that belittle other people: After the laughter fades, what have you gained? The superiority of looking down and breathing a sigh of relief that you're "not one of them"? Take a hard look in the mirror -- written on your face is a list of faults we could make jokes about, too, and spread far and wide, if only we owned a radio station.

Bill Autrey

Cool and unusual: Shock value and "pushing the envelope" are admired in the entertainment business today. The problem is that to keep pace, one has to shock and push more and more. It never ends.

Now the homosexual community is experiencing what we ordinary, bland, plain vanilla, somewhat traditional folks, as well as others, have put up with for some years. Welcome to the club.

I ceased being "entertained" some years ago by the kind of folks (on radio, TV, movies, etc.) that Michael Roberts talks about in his column. Their contempt for people, smug superiority and limited vocabulary, among other compelling characteristics, are not worth my time or money.

I regret to predict that the situation will get worse in our "in-your-face" society. To do otherwise would label these folks uncool and not contemporary. After all, man, this is the twenty-first century!

Derry Eynon
Fort Collins

The Dime of Her Life

Happy daze: When I read Alan Prendergast's "Eighty-Six Million Dimes," in the May 16 issue, I thought, "Wow, this Wollersheim guy must also be against helping people become drug-free, solve their problems and lead a better life."

I have been a member of the Church of Scientology for eight years. Before Scientology, I was unsuccessful, unhappily married, unethical, using drugs, drinking heavily and periodically suicidal. I didn't have many friends; I was estranged from my family and had little hope that my dreams would ever come true. It was a rough time in my life and I was going down fast. But now, the problems and upsets of those days are long gone. Today, thanks to Scientology, I am on the path to spiritual awareness. I am very happy in a wonderful marriage. I am successful and, of course, have been drug-free for many years.

I have chosen happiness and I have such a high level of confidence that I rarely use the word "can't." I care deeply about my religion, Scientology, and encourage others to find out for themselves what it's all about.

Laura Levitt
via the Internet

A Shot in the Dark

Heavy petting: Thank you for Stuart Steers's "Dog Days," in the May 30 issue, regarding the issues surrounding vaccinations and pets. As the guardian of a feline who was diagnosed in March with feline vaccine-associated sarcoma, I have learned much about the issues of vaccines that I did not know. My cat had two surgeries and will be having her third surgery tomorrow. Steers's article correctly points out that many people are unaware of these issues, and educating not only the veterinarians but the general public is crucial. Articles such as these reach many more people than I, or the over 200 people on a support e-list for VAS felines that I belong to, can reach personally (although we try).

Thank you for helping to educate the public: Too many dogs and cats are dying as a result of these vaccine-related issues, and we as animal lovers need to be aware of them. Although I have cared for, rescued and adopted many cats in my years, I was unaware of the dangers associated with overvaccinating.

One thing that was absent from the article, which is extremely important with respect to cats: A task force was formed in 1991 to address the issue of VAS and established protocols for vaccinations that are not mandatory and are still not widely used. This task force determined that the best method for vaccinating cats was to give the FELV vaccine in one leg, the rabies vaccine in the other leg, and the distemper combo shot in the lower shoulder -- shots are never to be given in the scruff of the neck or together. That was the normal method of giving cats their vaccinations, and I have seen figures showing that cats who receive all three shots in the shoulder blade region have a 175 percent higher risk of developing this horribly aggressive cancer.

Pam Roudebush

Child's prey: As the Colorado state coordinator for NVIC (National Vaccine Information Center), I field calls mostly from parents who have questions about vaccine issues concerning their children. Lately, however, I've noticed an increase in concern over adverse reactions to vaccination in pets. I recently received a picture of a cat with a sarcoma that developed after vaccination; the cat did not survive.

Just like Mr. Schwartz was given inaccurate information about rabies vaccinations for dogs, many parents are not given accurate information about vaccination requirements for their children. Colorado allows exemptions for medical, religious or personal reasons to any or all vaccines pursuant to CRS 25-4-903. Many schools continue to tell parents they must have all shots before they can register and attend school; according to state law, however, not only are exemptions allowed, school districts must distribute information to parents regarding their rights to exemption.

It is up to pet owners and parents to do their homework on the risks vs. benefits of vaccines and to know their rights.

Cindy Loveland


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