Richard Wiens, The Triplicate

I don't often respond in print to letters to the editor criticizing some aspect of our news product. The critics deserve their say, of course, and Tuesday's edition featured missives from two of them. This time I am responding but hey, at least I waited a day.

Roger Gitlin took offense at my writing in a Saturday Editor's Note column ("Tea Party surveys fairgoers") that some county fairgoers probably stayed away from the Tea Party booth because they didn't support that organization's political philosophy. The implication was that I was singling out the Tea Party, when some fairgoers were no doubt choosing not to visit other booths as well.

Lost in that analysis is the fact that my whole column was singling out the Tea Party, because that was the organization that conducted a public opinion survey at the fair. Mary Wilson was kind enough to loan me the survey results, which I felt provided insight into the attitudes and concerns of local residents.

The disclaimer seemed an obvious one: This was not a scientific poll,

and the results probably leaned conservative because the Tea Party

booth was more likely to attract people who agree with its general call

for shrinking government and lowering taxes. If I'd been writing about

the results of a survey conducted at the Democratic Party booth, I'd

have included a similar disclaimer.

Frankly, going to the considerable effort to conduct a public opinion

survey at the fair is one more sign that the Tea Party - agree with it

or not - is probably the most publicly engaged political organization in

Del Norte these days.

The second letter, from Sharon Frymer, criticized The Triplicate's

Aug. 17 headline, "The show is over," and the publishing of a photo of

the body of the gray whale being moved to the riverbank of the Klamath.

"What about the incredible journey this whale chose to take in our

river did the publishing staff of The Triplicate fail to get?" Frymer


It was an incredible 52 days. For more than half that time, the gray

whale and her calf swam together, often circling just beneath the U.S.

Highway 101 bridge. The spectacle was viewed from the bridge by

thousands of people, most of them probably getting the closest look

they'll ever have of such magnificent marine mammals.

After the calf swam back to sea on July 23, numerous well-intentioned

efforts were made to convince the mother to follow suit. Biologists

organized a regatta of boats in a one-day campaign that featured a fire

hose and various noisemakers. Smaller efforts continued in the

subsequent weeks - Yurok drummers, recorded whale sounds and even

serenades by a flutist and a ukulele player.

All this played out as spectators crowded the bridge, prompting

Caltrans and the Highway Patrol to restrict parking and put up signs

warning motorists miles beforehand about the hazard ahead.

Whatever else this was - a spiritually significant event for some, an

unforgettable wildlife-viewing opportunity for all - it was a show.

The image of the whale's body was the final installment of a

Triplicate photo report that stretched over the duration of the

visitation. It was a sad ending, and a sad picture, for which I make no