Letters from our readers.
March 6 1998 3:30 AM

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Don't Give Me That

Ann Castle deserves congratulations for her prodigious compendium of philanthropic donations in the "Slate 60." But it's simply not true, as Jodie T. Allen asserts in her introduction, that the Slate 60 is the first list of its kind. I compiled what I believe is the first list of "Most Generous Living Americans" for Town & Country magazine in December 1983. Three years later (December 1986), I updated that same list. And in December 1989, for the same magazine, I compiled a list of "Most Generous Living Americans" under age 50. Thanks for setting the record straight.

--Dan RottenbergPhiladelphia

New News Is Good News


"Fiddling Around," Emily Yoffe's assessment of differences between reporting in the '60s and the '90s, overlooks one important issue--media distribution. In the '60s, the national media was censored by a small handful of gatekeepers. Any news outside the established national news held relatively little credibility in comparison, and therefore held little influence. Since the '60s, the number of national news distributors has grown tremendously. National print magazines, cable and satellite news, and of course Internet distribution put the news into the nation's living rooms too quickly to be entirely monitored by the old guard. There was never a better demonstration of this shift in media distribution than the Monica Lewinsky story, which would have died in the hands of Newsweek were it not for the Drudge Report.

--Bill Muscato

Prejudice at 160 MPH

As a New Yorker born and raised, I must confess to a visceral appreciation for petty jabs at Southerners, "good ol' boys," or other similar cultural unknowns. Seth Stevenson's "Dispatch" from a recent NASCAR race, however, illustrates how easily such "harmless" prejudices collapse into crude stereotypes.


When the crowd rises and gasps after a wreck, Stevenson notes that they all, including himself, are "hoping for a violent accident." Some fans may harbor such wishes. For all I know, some hockey fans go for the fights. Most race fans, though--real ones, not Stevenson's cartoonish inventions--react to the wrecks for different reasons. First, wrecks usually knock the victims out of the race, itself a dramatic event. Second, it is exciting and even encouraging to watch one's hero smack a concrete wall at such high speeds and walk away unscathed. Most fans prefer that such wrecks not occur, but when they do, fans pay justifiably close attention to the driver's fate. The flashy team apparel, etc., send a relevant message--the fans really care about the drivers. A lot.

Stevenson's eagerness for violence is his own business; he should not presume the same of others. Did Stevenson speak with any of the fans with whose hopes he claimed to be so familiar? Virtually all the fans with whom I have spoken over the years (quite a friendly bunch, actually) consider the absence of big wrecks, injuries, etc., a key component of a good race. Stevenson might simply have trouble believing that mustachioed, tobacco-chewing men wearing big, black T-shirts can resist the temptation to cry for blood. If so, I'd suggest he attend a future race and talk to some of his section-mates.

There are other reasons that wrecks cause fan excitement--e.g., remaining cars must continue racing to the start/finish line; it releases tension built up over long green-flag runs. It is sufficient to note, however, that Stevenson was content to rely on a mix of his own admitted bloodthirstiness and good old-fashioned prejudice for his conclusion. I expect better from Slate, and hope that it survived editorial pruning only because you were busy counting your otherwise well-deserved subscription money from NASCAR fans such as myself (look for my Slate umbrella during the next rain delay!).

--Gregory Vogelsperger Elmhurst, Ill.

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