From station mailboxes
"It just feels like hearts
coming out of my head"
What do viewers and listeners have to say about
public broadcasting's purposes? You can work backward
from what they were moved to write about its
achievements, in letters and calls to stations and
producers. This sampling was compiled by Karen Everhart
Bedford and originally published in Current, Dec.
Relief from yappy dogs
Ever since I arrived in Ukraine in June, I have suffered
acute NPR news withdrawals. Sure, I miss my family, my
friends, and all those "things" that have come
to represent my previous life in America--hot showers,
clean tap water, brown sugar for my oatmeal and lighted
stairwells. But I suspect that it is the lack of those
familiar voices that woke me up each morning in Salem,
Ore., that has made my transition in this country most
difficult. Please send those tapes soon. Being cajolled
from sleep by blaring Russian techno-pop and yappy
foreign-speaking dogs is no way to start the day--even in
--A Peace Corps volunteer
P.S. Would you consider throwing in a tape of Car
Talk? I am teaching English and always looking for
tapes of classic American accents to play for my
Does Pluto have a moon?
Dear Newton's Apple,
I am 12 years old and I watch on Channel 14 in Pelham,
Ga., on Sunday mornings before church. I have a question.
I was reading about Pluto in a magazine, and the magazine
said that Pluto has a moon. Is that true?
When I told my science teacher, she read the
article. Our textbooks say that Pluto has no moon. Later,
when we had a test, I missed that question because I said
"yes." My teacher said we have to go by the
The other kids think I'm nuts. So could you do
my question on your show so the question will be settled?
Please let me know when you use it, if you do,
so I can record it and show my friends. I love your show.
atrocities,' to 'the reason we watch'
WETA, Washington, invited viewer comments to the
broadcast premiere of the Ken Burns/Stephen Ives series The
West. What follows are two messages on the station's
viewer comment line:
The program shown on Wed., Sept. 18, ["Death Runs
Riot"] was terrible. It was unremitting atrocities,
one after another. There was just no break in the overall
depressing horror. ... There must have been some humor in
the West, there must have been something that could have
been more than just a tale of war and atrocities.
The West is the reason that we watch Public
Television. It is an outstanding series. It is so true
and so accurate and so beautifully filmed and told. Where
else could it show, but on Public Television?
Taking the long way
An e-mail message to the public radio program Sound
I listen to your program on Sunday morning while I do
my chores here on a farm in Illinois. I love your program
and sometimes after I have finished feeding my animals
before your show has finished, I take the long way home.
I only live a few miles from the barn and
pastures, but if I'm into the show it can take 30 minutes
to get home. I just drive around the countryside
listening to you.
'So much pain was
buried, and ... me along with it'
The recent P.O.V. presentation of "Maya
Lin: A Strong Clear Vision," the Academy-award
winning film about the creator of the Vietnam War
Memorial, inspired a web site that gathers personal
testimony about the Vietnam War era. This is an e-mail
response reprinted from "Re: Vietnam: Stories Since
the War" (http://www.pbs.org/pov/stories):
I feel safe with this site.
It is peculiar that after 26 years of
unknowingly living the Vietnam War in the recesses of my
mind, the War has risen to the surface in profound and
emotional ways. So much pain was buried, and so much of
me along with it.
I am now on a journey of rediscovery with all
the trappings of flashbacks and a constant roller coaster
of emotion which I am just beginning to understand.
I now know that I never left the scene of
combat. My life has been this combat reenacted in the
terms of the conflict of the moment. It's power has
affected many, and has left me with a legacy for which I
have no power to change.
I am anchored with the belief that I am at a
new beginning, an opportunity to understand this past,
become at peace with it, and to look toward a new life.
I had the honor to work with a Vietnamese
person several weeks ago. He was a very young man in
Saigon during my tour of duty in 1969 and 1970. He
remembered much. It does not surprise me that I felt
greater comfort discussing the War with him than I feel
when discussing the War with my fellow Americans. Fellow
Vietnam Veterans are the only other exception, but only
when they can talk through their burden of emotional
Issues of trust and emotional safety run
strong in my mind. This is the first site I have
encountered with dignity, sensitivity, and the feeling of
true respect. I shall return.
Nothing amiss with
The master control technicians at WDCN-TV,
One night a lady called to report that there was
something wrong with the station's broadcast signal.
"My picture is clear, but there is no sound,"
she told the engineer on duty.
After checking the equipment, the engineer
assured her that nothing was amiss. "But you're
broadcasting letters on the screen that are not normally
there," she replied.
"What are they?" the engineer asked.
"M, U, T and E."
'Can you possibly
realize how cynical you've become?'
This letter arrived at NPR in response to a recent
on-air fundraising campaign on KUOW-FM, Seattle:
To the Head of the Operation:
While the public is a fascinating body of widely diverse
opinions in all sorts of accents and styles of speech,
your announcing staff sounds like a self-satisfied club
of aristocrats who have all graduated from the same class
in rhetoric. And while no doubt they're all proficient in
ritual diction, it's also true that none of them can
pronounce "Sarajevo" correctly. If there were
public access to this tightly controlled medium, the term
"public radio" might make sense; but for now,
your use of it borders on abuse of the English language.
Your fundraisers ask our support for
"commercial-free" broadcasting. How nice to
learn, minutes later, that our hard-earned nickels are
rubbing elbows with those of the crooks from
Archer-Daniels-Midland. Get honest, and drop that term,
... Back in the days of enthusiasm for NPR
there was variety; KUOW was "Radio Free
Seattle" before you hijacked it; we could even hear
music on a daily basis. In fact, music was rather a
strong point. Now it's gone. Can you possibly realize how
cynical you've become?, when the only circumstance which
brings us "Blue Moon of Kentucky" uninterrupted
is the death of Bill Monroe?
So you get nothing beyond these words. Should
we join public radio, merely to become passive listeners
and bill-payers? Is public radio only for the fan club of
the anointed? When can we hear the public, free from the
jealous editing of your feature writers and talk show
hosts? When can we hear the intelligent presentation of
music that your token syndicated shows ignore? Fill in
some of the vast blanks in your audible and ideological
spectrum, chuck out half of your talk shows, let us hear
from a construction foreman making a job go right. Have
Spike Lee do a feature on how NPR hosts are selected.
Then come see me about a contribution.
An e-mail response to the recent Frontline
broadcast of "Secret Daughter," a film about a
mother and a daughter separated by the racism that
divides American society:
I am a 27-year-old white gay male. There have been only a
few times that I have ever written anyone about a
program. I felt compelled to tell how I feel and let
[filmmaker June Cross] know that she has touched many
people with her story.
I have myself wondered night after night about
how my own parents felt about me and the decisions that
they made. Though I never had to deal with racial
undertones in my fami ly, I have had to deal with a lot
of ignorance. W hen I came out openly about my homosexu
ality, my stepfather threw me out of the house and my
mother just stood there watching him do this to her
12-year-old baby boy. My siblings who are all older than
me forbade me from even touching my nieces and nephews
for fear that I would rub off or give them AIDS, which I
do not have (knock on wood). It has been tough, but I got
past it and my family and I are real close. They do not
accept my lover and friend of ten years, but I guess I
can't ask for miracles.
I guess the point I am trying to make is that,
even though June and I are worlds apart, I did feel a
certain kinship. Maybe it was to her abandonment or maybe
it was to her cour age, I really don't know. I just think
it was a wonderful story and I wish her the best of luck.
--A viewer in Kansas City.
Ask why no one is
An e-mail response to "Why America Hates the
Press," a Frontline documentary by Stephen
Talbot that examined public disillusionment with the
national press and featured interviews with elite members
of the Washington press corps:
I think this Frontline report missed the boat so
badly that Mr. [Stephen] Talbot is still hanging out on
the dock days after the ship has sailed. Blaming
America's "hate affair" with the Beltway press
on The McLaughlin Group and Cokie Roberts'
lecture fees is completely ludicrous.
If you really want to know why America hates
the press, you should have taken a look at the
alternative news sources that America is turning to,
namely, talk radio, and the Internet. And while you're at
it, you should also ask yourselves why nobody is watching
PBS or Frontline, either.
And if Mr. Talbot thinks that Beltway
journalists are "losing touch" with mainstream
America, why didn't he take the time to interview some
mainstream Americans instead of focusing his report
solely on the inside- the-Beltway journalists who are
supposedly the source of the problem?
All in all, a disappointing effort. Please try
harder next time. Thank you.
'Kindly keep Feraca on
Dear Ideas Network:
[Wisconsin Public Radio host] Jean Feraca is our national
treasure. She ought to be national--cancel that. She
ought to be world-wide, but perhaps I'm grateful that she
is not. Perhaps if she were on a wider band, we could no
longer afford her programs? Gasp.
Years ago, I lived in Minnesota, and when it
was time to find a new job, I wanted to live in
Wisconsin, where the public radio was good. I suspect
many of us came to Wisconsin for the radio. You've never
But sometimes you were hard to reach. We have
devised a strange lot of antennae through the years, so
that sometimes our roof must have projected the image of
a remote CIA hideout.
The surprising thing is that you have not
demolished the Wisconsin work ethic. It has been the
downside of going to work, to miss your programs. I've
worn out a half-dozen clock radios in attempts to tape
copies of radio programs while I was away at work, and
finally decided to wait until retirement to catch Jean
Feraca. Kindly do something to keep her forever.
--a Feraca fan in Markesan
Struggle to keep faith
Dear Mr. Moyers,
I want you to know how very much I, and many of my
friends, are enjoying your Genesis series.
Interesting, illuminating and fascinating ... .
Your Cain and Abel show hit home to me in a
huge way. I have often read that chapter in the Bible,
looking for answers to a question always on my mind.
Where is GOD when the helpless need him? A few years ago
my young son was ambushed and senselessly murdered as he
was walking home, just three blocks from our house, from
a guitar lesson. Three drugged punks dragged him into an
alley and killed him for $16.
My son was just beginning his life. He
believed God was always near. It has seemed to me that
God does, indeed, condone evil. I was brought up to
believe in a loving and caring God. I have tried to keep
my faith alive, but it hasn't been an easy task. Your
first show did enlighten me, somewhat, but I know that I
will never understand. I tell myself "someday."
I feel certain that this series will appeal to
many. It certainly has to me. What a special man you are.
--A viewer in Florida.
Please join me for a
Dear Mr. Nye,
At first my interest in you was not a positive thing. I
was irritated with the evidence of your influence on my
children. I didn't appreciate the Crisco all over the
counters and sink (blubber experiment) or the fact that
all my beverage containers were missing their tops
(earthquake experiment). Hearing their laughter drift
down to my work room, I had to investigate. That is when
I first saw you on the PBS station. I became as hooked as
they were. I fell in deep delight. You are way cool.
Each time I view your contributions, I come
away ten degrees happier. My children come away ten
degrees smarter. I am extending an invitation for dinner
or tea/banana milkshake or a relationship at your
earliest convenience or curiosity.
... I am curious about the perceptions you
possess that I may not. Please consider the preceding and
trade synapses with me....
--A divorced mother "of Catalonian descent" in
Reaching a boy few
Dear Mr. Nye:
We have a high functional autistic child named Douglas.
We have watched his progress over the last ten years with
as much care as we could afford and have noticed he
learns things "through the back door." When you
think he is not paying attention, he really is. He tends
to process information slower than others, not because he
is slower but because there seems to be a filter in his
brain that makes it hard for him to catch up socially and
In his school, he attends a special education
class for the equivalent of 4th grade and, on occasion,
they "mainstream" him into reading or science
class. He seems to have found something that he excels
We have always had a preference for PBS to
dominate his television viewing but have never seen him
take to anything as much as Bill Nye the Science Guy!
We have the privilege of getting the program four times a
week, and he always stops whatever he is doing to watch
your show. His attested attention span is 2-3 minutes but
he is riveted to the TV for the full length of your
You have introduced him to the solar system,
levers, simple machines, tension, the atmosphere, etc. He
takes it all in and gives us a dissertation on each
subject until he goes to bed for the night. He, who
cannot really read or do much in the way of math, can
explain to his teacher and classmates about gravity.
Heavy, huh? UH-HUH!
The day Douglas walked up and asked,
"Daddy, why can't we ever reach absolute
zero?", Dad picked his jaw up off the ground, and
knew that Douglas was begin reached by you and all
associated with your program.
One thing we know Douglas understands is the
humor and kinetic way all information is presented. The
belly laughs coming from the living room are priceless.
The comments that come from his teacher, gratifying.
Our family would like to thank you and
everyone involved in your program for the good work you
have done over the years. You have reached a boy who may
not have been reached by other stimuli in this way.
--Two parents in California.
Expressions inspired by
I like you so much it just feels like hearts coming out
of my head.
--a four-year-old boy from California
Dear Mr. Rogers,
My husband recently died suddenly. ...
My four-year-old granddaughter believes that
when you come on the air you are talking to her
personally, and she talks back to the television set as
though you can hear her as well.
Recently you were singing a song about
feelings and encouraging children to talk about them with
someone. From the other room, I heard her saying to the
television set, "I have feelings Mr. Rogers. I'm
sad, Mr. Rogers." Just then you said it's okay to be
angry and tell someone about it. So she said, "I am!
I'm angry too! I'm sad and even Grandma said it's okay to
She continued to pour her little heart out to
you ... . I held her in my arms and we both wept.
--a grandmother in New York state.
A glimpse of common
A viewer voice-mail message responding to P.O.V.'s
"A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre
She was black and she was a lesbian. I have to admit,
I'm pretty sick of people making an issue of their
Blackness, of their womanhood, and of their lesbianism.
Consistently, by these issues coming forward this way I
feel myself distanced, alienated. It's as if I really
doubt that these people love the art they do, rather they
use these things to substitute for the quality of the art
But then, as I watched her die, I realized
that this was indeed her life. I thought of all my other
patients of all sorts of races and sexes and different
preferences, all dying. In the end, we all look alike
when we're dying, maybe that's the them out there. Maybe
long before we die we should realize how alike we are,
treat each other that way, and then dying wouldn't be so
empty, so ugly, and so frightening.
An affectionate canine
Dear Minnesota Public Radio,
Your music programming is wonderful. My dogs love it. I
gave a dinner party the other night . . .
I too am a Jack Russell terrier ... . I think you're
cute, especially in the episode where you have a
If you ever come to my hometown for a visit,
maybe you could come by for meatloaf. I have some toys
and a small pool in the backyard. We could have lots of
adventures, and maybe get married. Maybe we could make
calendars with our pictures. Momma says I'm cute.
Please think about the visit. I hope to hear
from you soon.
P.S. Momma wants to know how they get you to wear
clothes. She bought me a nice snowsuit, but no matter how
cold it gets, I won't let her put it on me. She says you
could probably teach me some good manners too.
Quiz show restores
faith that world is mostly friendly
The following letter was addressed to Michael
Feldman, host of Whad' Ya Know?:
I was severely injured a year ago in the Oklahoma City
federal building bombing. I had a broken jaw and nose and
lost the sight in one of my eyes. I was in the hospital
for a couple of weeks and have had eight surgeries to
date. During this ordeal I have often relied on your
program to lift my spirits.
Due to my eye injuries I couldn't read or
watch TV for several weeks after the bombing. The radio
was my only entertainment. I remember listening to a tape
of Whad' Ya Know? while I was in the hospital.
After each of my surgeries, I make sure that I have tapes
of the program to listen to while I'm recuperating.
You, Jim, John and Jeff are like old friends
coming for a visit--except I can shut you off when I get
tired. You and your audience all seem so sane and
non-violent. It reminds me that the world is mostly full
of friendly people that would never dream of blowing up a
federal office building.