Letters to the Editor a vanishing breed in Northwest Arkansas? | Street Jazz

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Letters to the Editor a vanishing breed in Northwest Arkansas?

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2007 at 9:50 AM

One of my favorite sections of the newspaper is the letters to the editor column. Whether they they be good, bad, or incoherent, it is the first section of the paper I seek out in the morning. Actually, it's the first thing I check out in most of the magazines that I subscribe to, as well.

In Northwest Arkansas we used to have great letters sections in both the Northwest Arkansas Times and the Morning News, but most days no letters at all run any more. One critic on talk radio charged recently that there was a conspiracy to keep certain letters out of the paper. This sort of conspiracy accusation isn't limited to those who name their Teddy Bears after Russian assault rifles; liberals also make the charge.

I don't think that is the case, though. I think the culprit is this silly rule where letter writers are limited to one letter every month.

Not only does that cut down on the number of letters a paper might get, but it stifles the public soapbox that the letters column is.

The letters columns in NW Arkansas used to be a lot more exciting; writers would debate each other on important (and unimportant) issues, and the letters coumns were full every day. They were fun to read. I think that when readers are encouraged to debate each other - and they can write more than once a month - their letters are more fun to read. For some folks, when they realize they can only write one letter a month, they take more care, and in the end result, become a lot more pretentious.

I got my first column (at Grapevine) partly because of letters I wrote to various newspapers in the area.

The 30-day rule is a needless one, and robs readers of the fun of reading public-spirited debate. If you gotta have a rule, shorten it to two weeks.

The readers will be glad you did.


A lot of folks have asked where the name "Street Jazz" had its origin. A Google search reveals that almost everybody and their grandmother seems to use the name now, but when I created the name back in 1990, I thought it was pretty original.

I had been writing for Grapevine, an alternative paper in Northwest Arkansas, for a couple of months, when the editor asked if I wanted a regular column. I had been doing the odd humor and opinion piece, so I jumped at the chance to write a regular column. I just had to think of a name.

At one point the list of possible column names ran to something over twenty possibilities. They ranged from not-so-bad to pretty stupid.

A few weeks went by, and I still hadn't been able to narrow down my choice. Finally, the editor called in and said I had till Friday to pick a name.

Panic in the streets!

Friends were of no help whatsoever. Each one liked a different name. Couldn't there have been a majority in favor of one,  even if it was something stupid?

Finally, I settled on the name "Street jazz."

"Pretty good name," some people said. Others asked, "What does that mean?" As time went on, I became rather taken with it, however.

There even came a point when an idea was hatched to write and produce a "Street Jazz" song. I wrote the lyrics, and Chris Daniels - whose music videos I had produced for C.A.T. - agreed to write the music. Life got in the way, though, and the project never got done.

Those who love good music will no doubt appreciate the fact that the lyrics have long since been lost.  





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