Not Part of the Gang

Joseph-Beth Booksellers is an independent, hometown bookstore, not part of the "chain gang" as so coldly described in Living Out Loud ("The Chain Gangs," issue of Jan. 11-17). We proudly wear our in

Jan 18, 2006 at 2:06 pm

Joseph-Beth Booksellers is an independent, hometown bookstore, not part of the "chain gang" as so coldly described in Living Out Loud ("The Chain Gangs," issue of Jan. 11-17). We proudly wear our independent bookstore status, growing from one small bookstore in Lexington, Ky., in 1986 to seven healthy bookstores today located in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Our growth is a success story and a tribute to the innovation, hard work and dedication of our owner and current and alumni staff. Because of this, we proudly call ourselves a "family of bookstores" headquartered right here in the Queen City.

Yes, we are a large independent bookstore — the only one of its kind in Cincinnati. We're large not just in square footage but also in how widely our doors open for everyone in the Cincinnati community. Once inside, "feeding the beast," as Larry Gross not so gently put it, is actually an impressive tribute to our strong reading community right here in Cincinnati. We live in a community that flourishes and feeds on the arts and the printed word. We're proud for the part we play in providing some of these resources to our community.

We are also an involved member of the American Booksellers Association, the parent organization for independent bookstores nationwide.

Being a large independent brings responsibility, and therefore we're strong supporters of our fellow independents, including the New World Bookstore.

Their closing saddened us, too. We were not competitors. Nor do we compare ourselves to Borders or Barnes & Noble. They manage thousands of stores; we manage seven in seven separate cities with seven local management and bookseller teams who devote themselves exclusively to ensuring that Joseph-Beth is an integral part of the community at the grassroots level.

— Annette Meurer Marketing/PR Manager Joseph-Beth Booksellers

Huff and Fluff
The story of Hamilton Police Department abuse ("Street Talk," issue of Jan. 11-17) is speculative at its best, incendiary at its worst. The description of Terrance Huff, a Hamilton citizen who charges "systematic provocation" by a Hamilton police officer during a routine traffic stop, offers zero substance and little relevance in the larger longstanding debate over police misconduct. With his film HPD Stories, Huff pretends to open up a can of proverbial worms that's already been open for years, and inside his can I find nothing but air and tin.

Reporter Matt Cunningham and his editor should have recognized Huff as a top-heavy and unsound lead in a bigger story that could have potentially gone much deeper had you been willing to put forth the effort to investigate the story to its end. Instead, while Cunningham's scratch-surface style reporting finds more evidence against Huff's own credibility than any evidence to substantiate his allegations of mistreatment, the reporter nevertheless has given Huff's story undue credibility by incorrectly framing it as a kind of quasi-profile piece on a man making a film rather than treating this as a possible exposé.

Of course there are police officers who abuse their power, and perhaps in some departments the problem has spread to a systematic level, perhaps even in Hamilton's department. But Huff fails to make that case here, least of all with his own alleged account of police abuse, a flaky story from which I can only conclude that — though Cunningham provides no details of the confrontation — Huff chose to step over the line whether provoked or not and therefore was in direct violation of the law.

Regarding the film, I can say at least as a former news videographer and devout consumer of good documentary work that simply collecting verbal eyewitness accounts but stopping there is not good investigative documentary work. One has to dig deeper than that, perhaps with insider testimonials from people in the department, undercover surveillance operations of police stops.

Not only is releasing the film as-is without substantiating the claims with real evidence premature and journalistically irresponsible, but it also serves to agitate, whether real or perceived, the growing disconnect (particularly in lower income neighborhoods) between law enforcement and its citizenry.

I challenge Huff — and Cunningham should have challenged him to a greater extent before publishing this cornflake piece — to prove me wrong. As for Huff himself, he needs to grow a set of humble balls and learn that the art of true investigative journalism lies in suspending all presuppositions and effortfully seeking out the truth, a truth that's rarely ever as black and white as he seems prone to suggest.

Police misconduct is a sensitive issue that should be treated with deliberate care and respect. So if Huff and by extension Cunningham intend to open the can, there had better be a worm inside or else they're simply scratching the wounds of both those who have in fact been abused by police and those police officers who have been wrongly accused of such misconduct.

— Jason Ludwig, Golf Manor

Learn from English Museum
A few years ago I stumbled into the Wilberforce House Museum in Hull, England. It was an eye-opening introduction to the history of slavery in England and elsewhere and the fight to abolish it by William Wilberforce (1759-1833). I was impressed by the collection on display and had the notion that it would be a great idea for this museum and the soon-to-be established National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati to develop a relationship that would enable a system of exchanging exhibition items on loan, especially since I suspected the Freedom Center might have an initial struggle to come up with enough items to fill available space.

I then wrote to the Freedom Center's Edwin Rigaud with my suggestion but never received an answer. Having just read the article "Not All Aboard" (issue of Dec. 21-27), I once again believed my idea timely.

I just got on the Wilberforce Web site and read that the museum will be closed for renovation until 2007. Although some of their collection will be displayed elsewhere in the area, it might be good timing for the Freedom Center and Wilberforce House Museum to communicate with one another.

— Leah Aronoff, Hyde Park