Whoosh! Issue 41 - February 2000
Letters to the Editor

From: K T
Sent: Sunday, January 16, 2000 11:25 AM
Subject: Letter to the editor

Regarding your editorial in the January Whoosh:

You have decided that Lucy Lawless should donate to a fan run charity. I find it brazenly arrogant that anyone could possibly think they have the right to say where someone else should spend their time, money and effort.

You belittle Ms. Lawless, calling her less generous than her actor peers or "EVEN Gillian Anderson" You tell her what she "should do" to correct what you have decided is her bad behavior.

To state that Ms. Lawless is a piker is to ignore and diminish her many good works and donations to charity. You exalt S&S as being better than other charities because it is run by a fan. You scoldingly dismiss Ms. Lawless' past generousity because the charities she has supported are not the one you have chosen for her to donate to.

Your childish tirade against Ms. Lawless for not doing what you and S&S want is offensive. You state that Ms. Lawless not giving to S&S has "embarrassed her fans" and that her fans "would be proud" if she would only do what you want her to do. The editorial "we" when stating an opinion applies to the management, owners and editor-in-chief of your "magazine", not to the public at large. Your assumption that you speak for all fans is an egotistical error.

I have seen the evidence of Ms. Lawless' generous and giving nature. No one has the right to try to embarrass, blackmail or attempt to coerce her into playing some fan's game. Ms. Lawless owes her fans nothing beyond her acting. My own personal "contract" with Ms. Lawless is pretty simple. She provides an engrossing performance which makes me believe that Xena is real. I watch it. That's it. It's pretty simple but it works for us.

I would say that your agenda to get Ms. Lawless to do what you want needs a little work. Your tone throughout was condescending to both Ms. Lawless and to this fan who has no agenda for Ms. Lawless other than the hope that she keeps acting until she's an old, old lady.

This is the first Whoosh editorial I have ever read. It certainly does not tempt me to read any others. I heard about this editorial on a number of mailing lists I am on. Due to the overwhelming distate that most mailing lists members expressed for your position, I doubt that you will be able to print all the letters you will receive on this issue. It would be illiminating if you would keep track of how many pro and con letters you get and print the totals in your next issue.


From: Laconia
Sent: Sunday, January 02, 2000 2:37 PM
Subject: Charitable giving

I read your editorial on Lucy Lawless and her charitable giving. I generally admire the job you do with Whoosh! However, I wish you hadn't written this article quite this way. It's not very classy and not in good taste to point out how much people do or do not give to charities, as this is--or is supposed to be--purely a voluntary endeavor. In fact, it can be seen as a form of emotional blackmail. I suspect if you were to put yourself in Lucy Lawless' shoes for a minute and read the article from her point of view, you would feel bad. All we have a right to ask of Lucy Lawless is that she perform as well as possible on Xena:Warrior Princess. Beyond that, her personal life is her own. I think it may not be a bad idea to address this subject in the next issue of Whoosh! A lot of people seem to think that Lucy Lawless' privacy is being compromised here, and I happen to agree.

From: Nomad
Sent: Saturday, January 08, 2000 4:05 PM
Subject: Whoosh Letter to the Editor

There has been much ado on many of the lists in Xena fandom in response to the lead editorial in the January 2000 issue of Whoosh! Many people have become upset over the position taken in the editorial regarding Sword and Staff contributions by many celebrities and people connected with Xena, with the notable exception of Lucy Lawless herself. I just wanted to offer another perspective for people who were critical of the editorial and felt that it was an unwarranted "attack" on Lucy Lawless and TPTB.

If TPTB saw that editorial as an attack, then their publicity people would be awfully naive and awfully busy, because they would have to categorize every single critical news story or coverage as an attack. They would even have to see a story about how ratings have fallen as an attack.

Because being critical is an important responsibility of journalism.

When stories are not critical or balanced, then they are categorized as fluff, or worse, an effective public relations placement. In an audience weaned on Entertainment Tonight as journalism (an audience that is unaware that the majority of ET's stories originate with the public relations image managers of the stars mentioned in the story), anything not wearing a cheerleader's skirt and shouting "rah rah" is "criticism."

There is an analogy to be drawn here to Soviet-era censorship. I'm not saying anyone is being censored, but I also wonder what an audience weaned on a non-critical government-controlled spin would think of standard journalistic reporting and editorials in the West. Except that the West has existed under corporate censorship since the media mergers of the 80s and the death of independent media source with any kind of power at all. (not counting the Internet)

One would assume it is the job of a star's/show's public relations people to scan the media using clip services to measure all mention of their client in terms of feather in their cap or black eye.

That is what public relations agents are paid to do, along with generating fluffy stories and effectively "placing" them in the media (invisibly, so the story looks like it originated with the media outlet). You see this all the time. ANYTIME you see a clip from NASA on the evening news, you have to know that that clip was provided by the NASA public relations people, who most likely originated the story and maybe even wrote the bulk of the copy. The job of the news organization is to hide the fact of how much of their "news" material came directly and unedited from PR sources. In the last 15 years, this ratio of news/PR has changed substantially in the PR direction. This is because news budgets have been cut drasticly with media mergers, corporate ownership, the pressures of stock performance, pressures from the advertising dept., etc.

On the other hand, from the PR flak's standpoint, the conventional wisdom for the past 20-40 years has been that ANY mention of one's client is better than no mention. In other words, even bad publicity is good, because it serves to make the client more of a household name.

Another way of looking at the difference between fan perceptions of what is "critical" and an "attack" and the standard PR perception is to look at what happened when uber fiction first started coming available on Amazon. Inside a sheltered fan enclave, fan fiction has evolved a polite and encouraging form of feedback, but that feedback in no way resembles the standard practices of book reviewing that has existed in the general media since back in the 1700s and 1800s until now. All of a sudden, sheltered fan fiction got some critical reviews posted on Amazon (god knows what it would have gotten in the New York Times Book Review). And many fans went ballistic, took the critical reviews as an "attack," when such practices are a standard part of "fair comment and criticism," a hallmark of journalism.

But writers not nurtured in fan enclaves, writers who have made their way from the very beginning in a more public forum, have come to expect the slings and arrows of critics in the press. Playwrights on opening night, etc. That is part of the game whenever you put an artistic product out there and become a public figure because of it. And that is why you hire a public relations flak, to handle your publicity, to give you a sense of perspective and to attempt to "manage" your media "placement." This is a very different thing from an advertising buy, where you completely control the spin. The media is a wild card.

And that is an important hallmark of independent media. I for one am extremely proud that we have an independent fan publication on the web in Whoosh!. PR-based fanzines, even ones that are not under contract to the object of worship, like Creation, are under tremendous pressure not to publish anything critical about the source product. Many are subject to behind-the-scenes threats by providers to pull their advertising. Whoosh! is not dependent on advertising, and can afford to be independent. Thank god.

Even take a look at some of those Trek or Sci-Fi and Fantasy mags on the news stand. Look at who the advertisers are. You can ABSOLUTELY BET that the editors of those magazines are in the right shirt pocket of the shows they follow. When they are told to jump, they jump. And very likely each and every one of those stories originate with the show's flaks. What do they promise in return for compromising the reporter's and editor's journalistic ethics? Access to the stars. Exclusive interviews. The best photos. Maybe even other freebies. You gotta KNOW these folks are in bed with the people at the shows. And you should understands that that perspective TAINTS every piece of "reporting" they publish, just as much as censorship ruled the day at PRAVDA.

And you might look at your local newspapers and think about how many of them are as independent as you think they are. It takes a VERY strong editor at a local paper to EVER run a story critical of supermarkets, for instance. When was the last time you saw one of those? Do you know what would happen to your local paper if the supermarkets pulled their advertising? Even the Food Lion scandal of a few years ago ran the risk of that. Notice it was initiated on TV, not newspapers.

Yup, we are EXTEMELY lucky that Whoosh! is a truly independent periodical that is in no way subject to overt or covert pressure to monitor and control its content.

Christine Boese

Sent: Sunday, January 02, 2000 3:38 PM
Subject: editorial

I've never written to Whoosh before, but I had to reply to your editorial criticizing Lucy Lawless. First, I'm glad you expressed your opinion on something that bothers you. I think maybe you've stirred things up a bit in the Xenaverse. But I really disagree with you. I think it is totally inappropriate to criticize anyone about their contribution, or lack thereof, to any charity. Lucy is known for her generosity to a number of different causes. And she can be quite generous to her fans, often under very difficult conditions. But does she "owe" the fans anything at all? Absolutely not. She gives to use through the show itself. I see no reason to "honor" us through donations to S&S.

That is entirely up to her. I doubt that she intended any "dishonor" to the fans by not contributing. I hate to see the actors, or anyone else who creates "Xena", personally criticized. Your comments were very negative, and I think, not at all constructive. What is she supposed to do now?, say "Oh my god, I'll have to send them some autographs quick, or they won't like me." I think the people who love "Xena" should treat the stars with respect for all they have given us through the show, and not dump on them for not "honoring" the fans the way you want them to. That's not what giving to charity is all about. If you just asked "why hasn't Lucy contributed?", that is still tacky, but at least not mean spirited. I guess what I'm saying is, "Be nice". And I would like to personally thank everyone at "Xena" for bringing us such a wonderful show, especially Lucy and Renee. And I want to thank everyone at Whoosh, for bring us the best Xena web site out there.

Jean Marek

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