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Taken and Shaken

Week of February 26, 2003

Taken and Shaken
Who's your daddy? I'll admit that I was taken in by your cover story "SheBron's Truth" [Mike Seely, February 12]. Looking back, obviously it was a little too amazing to be true. Yet I still believed it because I thought there was no way a legitimate newspaper would report a hoax in an article that didn't end in "Gotcha, we were just kidding." Now I know that the Riverfront Times reported the story because it is not a legitimate newspaper. If I ever accidentally read one of your articles again, I will place the amount of trust in the story on par with the stories reported in the Onion. At least the Onion is funny.
Nelson Nolte
St. Louis

Tell us what you really think: Har-dee-fucking-har! You elitist assholes! I am sick to death of all the condescending bullshit this paper prints out. Yeah, I believed your story. Why wouldn't I? I've been reading this paper for over three years on a weekly basis. I don't analyze each story in detail, but I took it for granted this was one of legitimate papers in St. Louis who gave a voice to those who needed it. I feel betrayed by you, and the whole situation makes me sick. Fuck you and your sorry-ass rag.
Erica Crowell-Hoffman
St. Louis

Start making sense: I am wondering why the phony story, and who is the girl in the picture? It seems to me to be a break of faith with your readership to present a story, that while unlikely, is possible. I'm hoping someone will respond with an answer that makes sense, because I'm confused. The RFT used to be the best paper in St. Louis, taking a hard look at tough issues. Your work in 2003 has failed to meet your own good standard.
N. Pierce
St. Louis

We didn't check the calendar: As a new reader of the Riverfront Times, I am disappointed with your article selections for this month, primarily [with regard to] Black History Month. I have yet to read any positive or inspirational features on local African-Americans or any newsworthy coverage on those who are making a difference in the community. To create a fictitious story and put it on the cover shows not only a lack of true journalism but lack of interest in your diverse audience. The article was in poor taste as it depicted only a negative image that your writers seem to consistently convey to the black community. Sad to say, I will now think twice before reading your narrow-minded and stereotyped paper.
Lois Francis
St. Louis

Profane Crap
Everybody's a critic: As a film reviewer, I am often forced to read your uninformed, uneducated film section. For the most part, you review mainstream crap, but occasionally you attempt to review real films. Please stop. Your reviewers have no clue as to the nature and history of cinema. Your review of Kim Ki-Duk's The Isle [Luke Y. Thompson, "Series/Festivals," February 19] was pointless. Here is a challenging and gorgeous yet grotesque allegory for human nature and human expression of love. Get past the surface, folks. Your reviewers seem to be more interested in the "hip" use of profanity in journalism than actually reviewing film. (The same could be said for your art and music sections.) I have been reviewing film for over ten years for major American and European publications and have never needed profanity to emphasize my opinion. Perhaps your columnists need a wider vocabulary. My advice: Take some film-criticism courses and a few basic English-vocab lessons.
Jonathan Gerard
St. Louis

Rep's Rip
Our hobgoblin of inconsistency: In his review of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' Studio Theatre production of The Drawer Boy ["Memory Lane," January 29], Dennis Brown refers in passing to Copenhagen, the show running on the Mainstage, as "viewer-bewildering." What is truly bewildering, is how Mr. Brown's estimation of Michael Frayn's play has changed so dramatically in just a few months. When Copenhagen played two nights at the Edison Theatre in April -- part of a short national tour -- Mr. Brown called Frayn "a visionary" who had "taken a handful of confused, contradictory facts and transformed them into a provocative drama." While conceding that some of the physics talk in the play would challenge most viewers, he concluded "... intellectual cornucopias don't come along very often. Miss this one at your peril." When the Rep produced Copenhagen this month and last, however, Mr. Brown curiously dismissed the play as a "snob hit" -- one that audiences would pretend to like just because it is British and lauded by critics -- and added that he feared audience members would "find themselves perplexed and ultimately bored" by it. I can assure you our audience does not "pretend to like" anything; in lobby conversations and correspondence we receive, they are candid and free with their opinions of our work, good, bad and (although seldom) indifferent. The actors and directors who work at the Rep often comment that St. Louis audiences are among the smartest in the country, and our patrons routinely encourage us to add challenging works by Shakespeare, Shaw, Stoppard and others to our seasons. That Copenhagen is a daunting work is without question; the issues it raises of personal morality, scientific responsibility and -- of particular currency -- national allegiance in a time of war are as complicated as they are important. Your readers deserve an honest and consistent appraisal of the work. To dismiss a play as snobbish and dense, having just deemed it a must-see, is neither.
Brad L. Graham
Public-Relations Manager
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

More Legalese
A higher standard: I wish to address one misconception from the otherwise excellent article written by Geri L. Dreiling ["You Don't Know Dick," February 12]. She writes, "If a doctor amputated the wrong leg but didn't mean to, there'd be no punitive damages -- if [Representative Richard] Byrd's bill becomes law." That assertion is misleading. In the amputation case she put forward, evidence that the doctor did not mean to amputate the leg would not support an award of punitive damages, even under current law in medical-malpractice cases. Under Missouri law, a plaintiff must show that the conduct of the defendant -- a doctor, in this case -- was willful, wanton and malicious to obtain an award of punitive damages. What Byrd's proposed legislation does is change the standard of proof from a preponderance of evidence to clear and convincing evidence. A preponderance of evidence means an assertion is more likely than not. Clear and convincing evidence is a standard higher than a preponderance of evidence but not as high as beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard in a criminal case. Such a change would make it more difficult to assess the penalty of punitive damages in cases where a doctor acted with willful, wanton and malicious conduct to harm a patient. The legislation proposed by Byrd and the others shifts the risk of harm due to a doctor's acts from the medical community, where it belongs, to the injured patient. As a society, do we want doctors to have limited responsibility for the harm they cause to their patients? I think not.
Lawrence D. Leip
Jefferson City

Bad things happen even when there's no negligence: As a physician, I read your article on Representative Byrd's sponsorship of tort-reform legislation with great interest. I was disappointed. By focusing on Byrd's credibility, the most important issues regarding the medical liability crisis were not addressed. Your article suggests that patients will be harmed by tort-reform legislation. In fact, patients will be harmed in far more serious ways and in much greater numbers should the current situation be allowed to continue. Patient access to care is being threatened, particularly in high-risk areas such as obstetrics and gynecology, neurosurgery and trauma surgery. Currently, malpractice rates are rising at an unacceptable rate. Rates in high-risk specialties that were running $20,000 to $30,000 a year are now in excess of $100,000. For most practitioners there is no way to make up for these increased expenses. Medicare and insurance companies continue to pay less for physician services. This unfavorable economic equation has forced physicians to close their practices or consider relocating. The situation is worse in other states, and the same problems are likely to occur in Missouri.... Tort reform is good for the vast majority of patients. Bad outcomes occur in medicine without negligence. The system is not set up to provide compensation where no malpractice has occurred.
Fred Pugliano, MD, FACS
St. Louis

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