This is in response to Paul Belden's article "That's Why They Called It XS" (November 20). I am so weary of grown women demanding equal pay, equal opportunity, and equal treatment one minute and then whimpering about disturbing, inappropriate conduct from their male colleagues the next.
Judging from the facts provided in your article about Stephen Wissink and other former XS/City Link personnel, perhaps the males involved did not consistently behave in the most noble manner. But neither did they commit any great crime, unless you consider acting like your typical socially insensitive male to be a crime. A woman consents to oral sex in public with a colleague and now (boo, hoo) she can't go to the office because "people were talking about her." Harassment claims like the ones from the women described in the article do little to advance the resolution of genuine cases of harassment and persecution in which the afflicted are undoubtedly forced to submit to nonconsensual sexual activity. The situations described in the article take place not only in journalism circles but in just about every mixed-sex setting. Butch up girls! Do you want to be a self-sufficient professional adult or a damsel in distress? You can't have it both ways -- the choice is entirely up to you.
Red Herring? We Thought It Was Called Fish Wrapper
Since rumors first hit that New Times was planning a Broward/Palm Beach edition, I'd been looking forward to a genuine alternative to XS/City Link. I missed your inaugural edition (seems distribution up here is a bit sparse), but I managed to get hold of the November 20 edition, with former XS publisher [Stephen] Wissink's mug on the cover. Since I'd already heard tales of Wissink's sordid peccadilloes through the grapevine, I was mildly interested in the details. But after slogging through your cover story's morass of ugly innuendoes, office gossip, and half-baked defenses, I was left with a decidedly sour stomach. Both Wissink's unprofessional behavior and New Times' reporting of it point to major problems in the alternative newspaper biz. It's clearly becoming impossible in the Nineties for any newspaper with enough capital to survive to be truly alternative (and by the way, sexual harassment is anything but alternative -- it's utterly, boringly mainstream). As former editor of Red Herring, an arts bi-weekly which folded after three years in Palm Beach County, I'm certainly aware of the pressures faced by any journal to pander to the lowest common denominator -- but even so, Belden's article was way short on analysis and long on rumor and sensationalized detail.
Here's a clue that maybe both New Times and the new brass at City Link might mull over for a few seconds: Chances of sexual harassment suits decrease in proportion to the number of women on staff who hold top level positions. That's a really [sic] "alternative" that neither New Times or City Link, with their hip typography and "ground-breaking" stories, seem to have considered. A glance at the lineup of men on your masthead is enough to indicate that New Times is just more business as usual. At Red Herring we liked to call ourselves "alternative" too, but at least we managed what New Times and City Link have yet to accomplish -- a truly equitable proportion of women and men, gay and straight, of diverse racial backgrounds, at all levels. And you can bet that there were no stringers giving oral sex to editors at our staff parties.
West Palm Beach