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University of Minnesota professor Gayle Golden is concerned about the future of journalism (“What to teach students whose field is under attack?” Opinion Exchange, Aug. 8). So am I. The badge of “journalist” is like the badge of cops — a symbol of honor, integrity, public service. But as you know, it is a badge often worn by men and women who fall far short of the ideal. And sometimes the worst ones — and the most dangerous — are quickest to take shelter behind a badge.

The folks at Fox News call themselves “journalists.” So do the folks at CNN and the New York Times. So do people like Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow, Sean Hannity and Jim Acosta. Most of them once sat in classes like the one Golden teaches. What was taught in journalism school, and what was learned, can greatly differ.

I was lucky to go to Missouri, America’s first J-school and still one of the best. And I have watched with dismay as American journalism sinks into a morass of partisanship, rumor, innuendo, government-engineered leaks, unattributed accusations, garbage that wouldn’t get a passing grade in any self-respecting J-school class.

There have been similar low periods in American journalism — 1798, 1864 and 1898 come to mind — but the country has survived. What worries me more are the threats to free speech coming from both ends of the political spectrum, the politicians yelling “fake news” on the right, the universities shutting down dissenting views on the left. Angry partisanship is dangerous, but silence is fatal.

Jack Maloney, St. Paul

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Gordon’s commentary struck a nerve. I was a budding college journalism student during the Watergate scandal in 1972-74. I was obsessed by the unfolding confrontation between the press (Woodward and Bernstein, the New York Times et al.) and President Richard Nixon. The open warfare between the executive branch and the free press was mesmerizing.

Truth finally rose to the surface. No less than Barry Goldwater, the senate’s chief conservative, personally asked Nixon to resign. Journalists (whose core value is to “seek truth and report it”) became the heroes.

Forty-five years later, our president of the United States bizarrely calls journalists “the enemy of the people.” That’s a scary phrase that, at least, tells us where he’s coming from. He’s not interested in the concept of truth. Then read Gordon’s commentary again and praise “wholeheartedly in the tenets of journalism.”

Jon Balch, Edina

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Gordon is missing an all-important element. Journalism teachers should be emphasizing that their field is basic for the continuation of democracy. Without widely spread accurate information and the resulting informed voting public, democracy cannot exist. Television, blogs, etc., do communicate, but newspapers in particular can present in-depth, verified, balanced and accurate information. An early goal of would-be dictators is always to spread lack of trust in newspapers. (Happening now in the U.S.?) I hope journalism teachers will emphasize to their students and to the public the fact that newspapers and journalists have a vital role to play in protecting our democracy.

Margaret Woellner, Minnetonka

HOSPITAL COSTS

‘Charges’ is the better word. Thus, the variation, mysteries.

As a health care professional with 45-plus years of experience, I strongly support the publication of state Health Department findings regarding enormous variability in hospital “costs” (“Rare look at hospital costs finds big swings,” front page, Aug. 10). But words matter, and these are not “costs.” These are “charges.”

The actual “costs” of a simple appendectomy, spinal fusion, major bowel surgery or removal of uterine fibroids are known to few. The relationships between theses “costs” and the hospital “charges” are deeply hidden, and not likely to be revealed any time soon.

Laure Mann Campbell, Falcon Heights

The writer is a retired registered nurse.

FIFTH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Abdulahi, Torres Ray, experience and representation

On Aug. 7, the Star Tribune ran a story covering a debate between the candidates for the DFL nomination for the Fifth Congressional District. “DFLers tout experience at heavily attended Fifth District forum,” read the headline online. The story pointed out that candidate Frank Drake “drew boos from the audience when he said that his family goes back five generations locally,” distinguishing himself from the immigrants and outsiders in the race. Then the next day, the Star Tribune Editorial Board endorsed a candidate largely because of her experience. Boo.

The race has three immigrants, a former Republican and one former legislator, and the Editorial Board, like Drake, chose the person with a long-term presence in Minnesota because of her long-term presence here (“Kelliher is a sure bet based on experience”). Immigrants and hardworking newcomers step aside for a real Minnesotan, the board, like Drake, said. Again, boo.

Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District wants and needs a candidate who is experienced not in legislative gridlock and dealmaking but in the life experiences that Minnesotans demand our legislators address.

Jamal Abdulahi experienced the American immigration system at its best and its worst, experienced hand-to-mouth poverty and overcame it, experienced being the first person in his family to go to college, start a business or, yes, run for office. That is the experience the citizens of the Fifth Congressional District want.

The work experience. The immigrant experience. The small-business experience. Vote for the Minnesota experience. Vote for Jamal Abdulahi on Aug. 14.

Barry S. Edwards, Minneapolis

The writer is treasurer and press secretary for Jamal for Congress.

• • •

We feel compelled to respond to the Editorial Board’s statement about Patricia Torres Ray as its second choice in the Fifth Congressional District. It may not be well-known to the editors that, in addition to her expertise and leadership on state education and immigration policy that they do cite, Torres Ray also has strong and consistent progressive leadership credentials on several other fronts — those that deal with racial disparities at their core: environmental justice, basic civil rights, affordable housing, health care for all, gender equality, jobs and job training. These are critical federal arenas that our congressperson needs experience and strong allegiance to, as U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison has ably demonstrated.

It is so important that an experienced person of color or Indigenous background continue to be nominated and elected from the Fifth District — not only to help mobilize these and other low-income constituencies in the district to turn out to vote statewide in this election, and not only to ably defend, but also to unflinchingly advance the progressive changes we need to be faithfully fought for in Washington.

Constituents in low-income core-city districts like ours, which are also majority people of color and Indigenous Native American, are negatively impacted by major election support from large corporate-affiliated donors who support former Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher — including Big Pharma and health insurers, and endorsements from fossil-fuel interests. The passion and grit for the equity and justice fights ahead clearly need to be deep and unquestionable from our Fifth District and for all Minnesotans.

State Reps. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis, and Susan Allen, DFL-Minneapolis