Letters: Mel Gibson, Jobless Benefits

Disappointment, angst and the question: "Why, why, why?" Robert Siegel and Michele Norris read listener reaction to Monday's coverage of the alleged Mel Gibson tapes. Most listeners felt this subject was celebrity gossip and beneath NPR. We also hear reaction to Sen. Jon Kyl's statement that extending unemployment benefits is a disincentive to find work.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Time now for your letters.

And most of them were about our coverage yesterday of audiotapes allegedly made of actor Mel Gibson. Gibson is involved in a nasty custody dispute with his ex-girlfriend. And the website RadarOnline recently posted recordings of an unhinged man, purported to be Gibson, as he verbally abuses and threatens her.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Well, most of you were less shocked by the contents of the recording than by our coverage of it. Julie Goldberg(ph) of Cambridge, Massachusetts writes this: Your story on what may have been Mel Gibson's voice in a phone conversation is entirely outside what NPR has always been about. Shame on the producers of ATC for allowing such a scrape at the very bottom of the barrel.

SIEGEL: Martha Baldoni of Perrysburg, Ohio asks, why, why, why did you tarnish the reputation of NPR by playing trashy, undocumented tape about an unbalanced person obviously on the skids? Is that news or entertainment or just plain gossip?

NORRIS: And Ellen Curtain(ph) of Fort Talif(ph), Kentucky says this: I urge you to think twice or however many rethinks it takes before devoting time to any story that requires you to say alleged multiple times in the opening minutes. She adds, nasty tapes are out there all the time. One sees mention on the covers of tabloids while waiting in line at the supermarkets. One does not buy them. Who needs more trash?

SIEGEL: Well, on a different subject, my conversation about extending unemployment benefits and the argument made by Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona that those benefits are a disincentive to work, prompted this response from Edwin Edmonson(ph) of Richmond, Virginia. He writes this: I was recently unemployed for three months. The $350 per week benefit that I received, was an essential stopgap between jobs. That is not enough to make my mortgage payment, so there is no way it allowed me to languish. On what planet does the senator live?

NORRIS: Utter nonsense, writes David Askren of Saint Johnsbury, Vermont. Mr. Askren has been unemployed for 21 months and says his unemployment benefits help him cover the basics, but nothing else. He goes on to say being on unemployment also means I have to file a claim every week. I have to be actively searching for work. I have to fill out weekly job search logs and meet once a month with an unemployment counselor. So if there's a member of Congress who thinks this is the way to live, I'll gladly switch places with them.

SIEGEL: Well, if you've got a point to make about anything you hear on this program, go ahead, make it at NPR.org. Just click on Contact Us at the bottom of the page.

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