The Sun's coverage of the Naval Academy
There have been a number of articles about the U.S. Naval Academy in your newspaper in the past several months that have been misleading, one-sided and biased.
We have tried to work with your editors to keep the coverage fair and balanced. However, the article Sept. 15 headlined, "Admiral kept investigators in the dark," is filled with several blatant falsehoods; let me point out two.
One, your paper states that I was forced to apologize last week for knowingly violating military regulations.
Not true. The fact is no one asked or told me to apologize to anyone for anything.
My chain of command was informed by me personally of every decision I made in this case and why I made it, and they supported me. In addition I did not knowingly violate military regulations.
Two, The Sun also reported that the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) called me last week and ordered me to contact NCIS and "fix it." Not true.
I didn't even talk to the CNO last week and received no such message from him. The only message I received from him was one of unqualified support.
The remainder of the article with its innuendoes paints a very inaccurate picture of what occurred in the handling of this case and speculates incorrectly about what our motives were.
Your reporters have a journalistic style of making hundreds of phone calls and finding middle level anonymous sources with obvious agendas of their own and then quoting them as factual without checking for the truth. No one asked us about the blatant falsehoods I point out above.
This style has caused large numbers of midshipmen, staff, faculty and citizens of Annapolis to lose confidence in your ability to cover the Naval Academy in a fair and balanced way.
There is a strong perception here that your reporters are "out to get us" (words repeated to me frequently).
As you know, I have spent several hours in person with your senior leadership on both the editorial and the news side in an attempt to defuse what has become an adversarial relationship. We discussed these points in an open, professional way. The Sept. 15 article makes me wonder what more can be done.
Yes, we have had problems and we expect them to be analyzed and covered in a firm but fair and balanced way. But we don't believe stories should be manufactured or intrigue created where none exists.
I don't think it's in the best interest of the country to tear down the Navy or the Naval Academy, to look only for problems and have a relentless search for the negative. All we ask is for you to be fair and balanced.
We have 4,000 young men and women here who believe in this institution and what they are doing. They are impressive, intelligent, committed and honorable. They deserve to be treated honestly.
It was disappointing to us that with all the resources you have devoted to covering the Naval Academy, you failed to cover major positive events such as a record number of scholarships, honors and recognition of our graduating class; the human drama of Induction Day when 1,200 civilians become midshipmen; the plebe summer program with a new focus on honor, courage and commitment; and a new multi-dimensional summer training program that has received rave reviews.
What we ask is very simple: to be treated in a manner that is fair and balanced. There are wonderful things happening here every day. Come down and learn about some of them.
Can we move forward together in a honest and open way? I hope so, but only time will tell.
C. R. Larson
G; The writer is superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy.
The above letter from Adm. C. R. Larson, superintendent of the Naval Academy, was sent to The Sun, to all members of the Brigade of Midshipmen and the faculty and staff of the Naval Academy, on Sept. 16.
The following letter from Admiral Larson was sent on Sept. 19 to all recipients of his original letter.
To the Brigade, Faculty and Staff,
I want to keep you updated on my continuing efforts to ensure the Naval Academy's story is told honestly and accurately. I meant what I said in my letter to The Baltimore Sun.
As you can tell from reading it, I was very upset at the article they ran. Coming on the heels of other negative stories that have appeared in the paper, I felt compelled to respond.
It is always a good idea to put letters such as this one in your top right drawer and take a day or two to decide whether you really want to send it.
After re-reading my letter, I realized that although it was accurate, it might be misconstrued. In the best interest of the Navy, Naval Academy and you, the Brigade of Midshipmen, I have called the editor of The Baltimore Sun, Mr. John Carroll, and asked him not to run my letter.
Instead, I asked to meet with an editor and reporter from The Sun. This has been done. We discussed the facts in this case and how we might work together better in the future.
I realize the editors and reporters of The Baltimore Sun, like us, are professionals and have a job to do.
The Naval Academy will be better off in the long run by working with the media, including The Baltimore Sun, rather than creating a potentially hostile relationship.
The media are responsible for informing the American public and, although it is our responsibility to hold them accountable for their product, it is also our responsibility to work with them and provide them with the most accurate and thorough information possible.
One of the reasons that we make the news when there is an incident at the Academy is that the American people have such a high expectation of us. This expectation will continue, and therefore, any future incident will be newsworthy. It is all of our responsibility to continue to remind people of the impressive, intelligent, committed and honorable people that serve here.
About the incident itself, I want to be very clear. Faced with a largely unprecedented situation, the fact that the alleged crime was committed before the young woman was in the Navy and that the Navy had no jurisdiction, I made a commander's call that it would be appropriate to work directly with the Texas authorities to quickly and efficiently resolve this case.
We proceeded to ascertain whether local police departments had a report of an incident like that the midshipman had described. I informed my chain of command as to what I was doing.
I did not realize that there was a Department of the Navy instruction directing that such a matter be referred to NCIS. In retrospect, I should have called the NCIS. For the record, I noted that when I realized this, on my own initiative, I called the director of the NCIS to make amends. When, subsequently, I called the CNO, he told me that he thought I needed to do that, and I told him I had already set that in motion.
Let's put this incident behind us. I hope that, together, we can ensure the American people will be given an accurate picture of the United States Naval Academy.
Charles R. Larson
Admiral, U.S. Navy Superintendent
Politicians' mouths can fuel world
I read with interest a letter to the editor that urged the United States to develop an alternative source of energy because of the volatility in the Middle East.
May I suggest that we find a way to harness the natural gas that emanates from the mouths of our politicians.
PD We could provide enough fuel to the whole world for an eternity.
What he doesn't know would fill a village
As a contemporary of Bob Dole, I, too, feel that I have gained some wisdom with the years. One thing that I have surely learned is not to talk about what I know nothing about.
Candidate Dole, in an effort to be clever, has certainly shown that he misunderstands the concept of "it takes a village."
The family is a part of a village; everyone in the village is responsible for all others; people don't stand by and let their fellow citizens be mistreated. The villagers understand that no man is an island. If one villager prospers, the village will.
Parents cannot have their eyes on their offspring every minute of the day, but someone in the village might.
Teachers, counselors, doctors, neighbors, pay attention to the young and the children cannot help absorbing the values of the caring adults.
Compare these children to those who have been abused while adults stood by and felt it was not their business to interfere.
Every community in the U.S. has the capacity to become like the small villages in Africa where each child belongs not only to his nuclear family but to the extended one that guarantees 24-hour vigilance in raising the young.
I recommend that Mr. Dole enroll in one of the continuing $H education programs that are so popular with other senior citizens. He might learn the difference between fuzzy and clear thinking.
Series on Russia was well-done
Hats off to The Sun for committing a reporter and photographer and lots of newsprint to the fascinating series on life in Russia. Journalism like that is what the press should provide on a regular basis.
I hope you'll send the same pair off to explore the toll exacted on the Russian people -- and the land, water, air and wildlife -- by decades of environmentally-blind policies.
Clementine Peterson remembered
Baltimore lost one of its most generous supporters of cultural causes in the recent death of Clementine Peterson, know as "Clemmie" to her friends.
As she was a notable patron of Peabody, where she had studied piano, I interviewed Mrs. Peterson for the school's newspaper shortly before her 91st birthday.
Clementine inherited her love of music from her mother's side of the family. One of her ancestors was E.T.A. Hoffmann, who wrote the book for the popular opera, "The Tales of Hoffmann."
She told me how her Uncle Frank would entertain the children in their Iowa home by playing operatic arias on his violin after supper, then make a game of telling them the stories of the operas. It instilled in his niece a lifelong love of opera, and she underwrote several Peabody opera productions over the years.
It was fascinating to hear Clemmie Peterson talk of her childhood in the nostalgic pre-war era. In 1910, at age 16, Clementine was taken by her parents on the Grand Tour of Europe. That 10-month trip began with an ocean voyage on the Lusitania (later torpedoed in World War I) and included a gala performance in Berlin in honor of the kaiser.
In Oberammergau to see the Passion Play, the family was put up in the home of one of the Three Kings, an experience she never forgot. "Those were the horse-and-buggy days of travel," she told me.
Mrs. Peterson returned to Europe on a cruise at the age of 90. At one port of call, her wheelchair was too wide for the ship's gangplank. She recounted to me with great glee how she had been hoisted aboard on the dock's front loader. Nothing ever daunted Clemmie. But then she was an honorary Eagle Scout (Boy Scouts of America was one of her favorite causes), so she was prepared for anything.
At the age of 95, she took her last voyage on another historic liner, the Queen Elizabeth II, so when she died at 102 her obituary could have been titled "From the Lusitania to the QEII."
Many will remember Clementine Peterson for her generosity. But I will remember her for the stories that held me spellbound one November afternoon in her home in Guilford.
The writer is director of public information, Peabody Conservatory of Music.
Now that the bipartisan commission for the preservation of bipartisan politics, also known as the Commission on Presidential Debates, has recommended excluding Ross Perot and Pat Choate from the presidential and vice-presidential debates, a closer look at the identity of this important decision-making commission is in order.
If you were like me, you probably thought that the impeccably non-partisan League of Woman Voters was the one that held the presidential debates and determined who would participate in this most watched and most important campaign event. Not so. About 10 years ago, the civic-minded, nonpartisan, League of vTC Women Voters, dedicated to informing voters on the candidates and issues, was bumped by this bipartisan group of Republican and Democratic Party leaders.
The co-chairman of this commission, who represents the Democratic Party establishment, is Paul Kirk, who now earns much of his income representing large pharmaceutical corporations.
The Republican co-chairman of this bipartisan group is none other than Frank Fahrenkopf, chief lobbyist for the gaming industry who promotes the interests of legalized gambling in Washington and states that still restrict casino gambling.
Make no mistake, the game that these two gentlemen and the two parties' leaders have been playing is a dangerous one for the American people.
By deciding to keep Ross Perot out of the debates based on the subjective basis of their determining whether he is electable, these former party leaders have appropriated for themselves that right which belongs to the American people.
By attempting to kill off competition from the new Reform Party, this committee of Democrats and Republicans is not only denying the American people an open debate on the issues, but is unethically maintaining the political monopoly held by the GOP and the Democrats.
The anti-democratic decision of this self-interested commission provides yet another example as to why America needs the Reform Party.
Certainly, compared to the partisan motivations of this commission, the nonpartisan women who previously ran the presidential debates were clearly in a league of their own.
David L. Goldman
The writer is treasurer of the Reform Party of Florida.
Pub Date: 9/21/96