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Kathryn Covier

of Fresno, CA on May 03, 2016

I was a staff person at the PBS TV station in Fresno in the late '70s. I value the programming and the concepts. However, today I must question why a local station like Fresno's "Valley Public Television" needs 25 employees. Their donations in 2015 amounted to $4.5M. Local production is virtually nil. I would like your opinion.... Is it possible that our local PBS stations are just raising money in order to keep their jobs?

Surely today's technology would make it possible for most PBS programs to be aired with the help of just a few technicians? The annual costs for this station to get programs and support from CPB appears to be around $1 million. Can a local non-producing station really justify its expenses? What do you think is going on?

Louis Mitchell

of San Francisco, CA on August 19, 2017

While losing donors is an unfortunate aspect for PBS, I nevertheless have to object to the excessive fund raising that takes place literally every other month. I'm really tired of it. And why does the San Francisco Bay area need three PBS stations? KQED, KCRB and KTEH. To have to put up with pre-emptive programming consisting of fund raising shows that are more than a decade old is, again, ridiculous.

This needs to stop. Right now, I'm trying to find out if there is any basis for an FCC complaint on this matter. PBS should shut down some stations if things are that bad instead of always begging the viewers.

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Steve Cohen

of King of Prussia, PA on August 02, 2017

BSR’s reviewer of Guys and Dolls asked: “Has anyone ever figured out what a ‘lickerish tooth’ is?” An actor in that role wrote: “It was part of the description of the guy Arvide would wish on Sarah — standing there, gazing at you, with a longing gaze (sheep's eye), and a sweet smile (licorice tooth).”

Lickerish and licorish connote a fondness for liquor, which is also related to licorice, a sweet derived from a liquor. It means a fondness for food and, by extension, other sensual delights. Frank Loesser wrote in a 1961 letter: “I consulted Roget to find that ‘covetous’ (which was the key meaning in my mind) could be described as ‘lecherous.’ I then looked up ‘lecherous’ ... and found to my great delight two archaic spellings. One was ‘licorice,’ somehow combining the literal sense of ‘sweet tooth’ with the fundamental meaning of the word, and the other ‘lickerish,’ which had a much more satisfying adjective suffix.”

Frank’s daughter Susan paraphrased this in her biography of her father, A Most Remarkable Fella: “The short of it is that he wanted a companion word that meant ‘covetous,’ fearing ‘sheep's eye’ did not completely convey the exact thoughts of the guy who would be gazing at her. He went to Roget's and found that ‘lecherous’ was a sort of synonym for covetous, but didn't quite like the way it sounded, so he consulted the Oxford English Dictionary and found that two archaic spellings of ‘lecherous’ were ‘licorice’ and ‘lickerish.’ He chose the latter.”

Tom Purdom

of Philadelphia, PA on August 15, 2017

Some BSR readers may be interested in an odd fact I picked up in a book on Western history, Dodge City, by Tom Clavin. The gambler in Guys and Dolls, Sky Masterson, is named after the Western lawman Bat Masterson. When Bat Masterson was 50, he needed a job and his friend Teddy Roosevelt got him a post as a marshal in New York City. Masterson wrote some pieces for a New York paper and ended up as a columnist, mostly writing about boxing and other sports. He became friendly with Damon Runyon, who wrote the stories that became Guys and Dolls, and Runyon bestowed his colleague’s name on one of his best known characters. Clavin says Masterson posted over 4 million words during his newspaper years.

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Cheryl Nicholl

of New Orleans, LA on June 02, 2015

I am too. But have you seen Grace & Frankie yet on Netflix? Now, that's a new twist.

Helene Cohen Bludman

of Bryn Mawr, PA on June 02, 2015

I'm no fan of adultery, but let's face it: Happy couples in literature can be boring!

Cathleen Sikorski

of Pottstown, PA on June 02, 2015

This is a riot. I guess I don't read enough adultery to feel so intensely. However, those last three or four ideas are great. Write that novel, Roz, 'cause I'd read it!

Ruth Curran

of San Diego, CA on June 02, 2015

Yes -- a marriage that endures, no affairs, and people we can look up to and get excited about. I am in!

Estelle Erasmus

of Fort Lee, NJ on June 02, 2015

It seems that it's an easy plot device these days!

Lois Alter Mark

of San Diego, CA on June 02, 2015

I am so with you. It seems like the whole world is cheating on each other, which I think makes people think it's so common, they may as well do it too. Enough!

Rick Soisson

of Philadelphia, PA on June 03, 2015

Roz, I agree generally with this, but you should have stuck with Gone Girl. I'm beginning to feel the same way, also, with regard to serial killers on TV. A Martian would conclude from our programming that every other house on earth is home to a maniac.


of New York City , NY on June 03, 2015

I agree! That's why I just can't read books like that any more! I do see why they keep writing about it...always makes for an interesting read.

Carol Graham

of Bellingham, WA on June 03, 2015

Never really thought about it. I am not a big fiction fan. I love true stories and memoirs. If adultery is part of it........

Laura Ann Klein

of Denver, CO on June 03, 2015

I haven't really thought about this much but I don't care for novels featuring adultery and it's a morals issue with me. I'm a proponent of non-monogamy and leaving a dead relationship -- after you've tried to revive it -- before the cheating starts.

Mary Lovstad

of Forest City, IA on June 03, 2015

Thank you for saying it. I have hated them since Bridges of Madison County was so popular, even though I'm from Iowa and should love a book about the bridges. It was still just a poorly written book about adultery.

Bob Levin

of Berkeley, CA on June 03, 2015

Let's see, ten women tired of reading about adultery; one man tired of serial killers. Can any conclusions be drawn?

Rena McDaniel

of Greenville, SC on June 03, 2015

I haven't thought much about it, but this made me think back, and I guess Gone Girl was the last book I read that featured adultery. I'm morally against it. I think you either work it out or leave before you start having an affair. Anything else is disrespectful to all involved.

Beth Havey

of Westlake Village, CA on June 03, 2015

Enjoyed your post. I have three novels I have been working on. The one that I hope to publish first includes a one-night adulterous act -- a woman devastated by the loss of her child and unable to communicate with her husband. Not saying she is right -- but I think the way adultery is handled in a novel makes all the difference in the world. Cheating for cheating sake or for lack of anything else to do -- i.e., the hormones are controlling the brain -- I would not enjoy reading. But there are deep-seated reasons for adultery occurring and I think novels that explore that -- not vicarious sex -- can be interesting.

Dianne Morris

of New York, NY on June 04, 2015

Good point. Maybe that's why I love reading mysteries and certain writers to relax. Very little cheating stuff— unless the cheater is already dead.

Stephanie Piro

of Farmington, CT on June 05, 2015

I guess I don't read a lot of adultery stories, either. I read a lot of young adult novels, and I've also been on a roll reading some excellent original works, like Hugo and Rose, by Bridget Foley, which has an interesting "dream" relationship; The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald; and The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster, by Scott Wilbanks. Try these! I bet you'll love them.

Kelly Siderio

of Philadelphia, PA on June 12, 2015


November Bondo

of Detroit, MI on August 13, 2017

I agree 100%, even two years later. The last three Netflix shows I watched— Atypical, Grace and Frankie, and Friends from College— all involve adultery as a significant plot line. The two latter shows are completely different but I find them increasingly boring because they use adultery as a crutch to provide drama. I do applaud Grace and Frankie, though, as the show shifts focus to the lives of two modern single white women in their 70s, which is a relatively untouched subject.

Murder and adultery can be done well, but they saturate so much of our bestseller novels and TV shows that it's no longer interesting or inserted creatively. It's much like pop songs on the radio: They sound good at first, but after a while you realize they all sound the same.

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Gail Obenreder

of Wilmington , DE on August 03, 2017

Ah, sounds so lovely. I wish I could get there! Matt Pfeiffer always has work that's good to see.
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Josslyn Jeanine Luckett

of Philadelphia, PA on August 08, 2017

Thank you for this great piece, Ms. Darby. I was there too, and still feel so moved by the experience.

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Gail Obenreder

of Wilmington , DE on August 03, 2017

Thanks for the good read. Very vivid indeed!

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Joseph Glantz

of Levittown, PA on July 25, 2017

Just wonder how many people on both sides of the political spectrum know that Mr. Trump (sorry, I can't call him Mr. President) has an older sister who is a retired Philadelphia appellate court judge appointed by Bill Clinton.

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Robert Zaller

of Bala Cynwyd, PA on July 12, 2017

Enjoyed your takedown of WHYY.  I stopped listening to their radio the day they took classical music broadcasting off the air in favor of "Car Talk."  Their TV — reruns of Lawrence Welk and the Three Tenors — was embarrassing long ago But my bigger objection— bigger even than Marrazzo's salary, or for that matter John Fry's at Drexel, where I teach — is to government broadcasting as such. 

Journalism is one area in which I believe in competitive private enterprise, the fiercer the better. Maybe the BBC works for Britain, but there's never been anything like that here, and the middlebrow, play-it-safe programming and commentary on PBS is a waste of taxpayer money at best and a species of indirect propaganda at worst. 

Journalism should police itself by rigorous professional standards and competitive self-criticism, but there should never be any pretense that there is a neutral, objective source that you can unproblematically "trust."  That's really the unspoken premise of public broadcasting, and it's also where propaganda begins.

Author's Response

In theory, I agree with you— especially when your theory is applied to places like Greater Philadelphia, which enjoy a robust variety of media voices. On the other hand, I once undertook a two-week project that required me to spend hours each day in my car while driving across southern Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming. In such cultural wastelands, was I grateful for the companionship of public radio? Believe it.

K. Palmer Hartl

of Society Hill/ Philadelphia, PA on July 13, 2017

This seems an update to the 2008 piece, as the author indicated. This observation seemed to go nowhere then, and I am not sure it will go anywhere now. I think it identifies a general problem with CEO salaries. Boards are complicit. In many cases it is a crony system.  Many of the people who sit on this board are friends and connected generally in the Philly area. CEOs become part of the club.
I think the real issue may be: How do we value the contribution of a CEO to company success?
I remember after the 2008 crash, the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said that until we solve outrageous CEO compensation packages, we will not solve the economic stability problem.  

I also heard an interview the other day with a person who has written about the end of the loyalty paradigm  and the loss of benefits by American workers.  When asked when this changed, the author said that he believed it was when CEO salaries started to be linked to the stock price. At that point, the motivation was to get the stock price up and be damed with what that meant in terms of other stakeholders and their importance to the organization. Cost control was a key part of getting the price up, and benefits are expensive.  There is hardly a single defined benefit pension plan left outside of government employees, and even there it is going away.
In Bill Marrazzo's case, it would be interesting to know Terry Gross's compensation. She is the main national talent that WHYY has. I will bet it is not equal to his.

Author's Response

As a former clergyman turned management consultant, you are perhaps ideally suited to define what constitutes "success" for a not-for-profit institution. If a church produced a balanced budget but little else, would it be deemed successful?  

Wayne Thomas

of Philadelphia, PA on July 14, 2017

The WHYY situation is far from unique. The WHYY trustees, like boards everywhere, use consultants to aid them in setting the CEO's salary. They look at comparable salaries and tell the consultant they want to be in the upper half of the salary range. Their belief is that you cannot attract top people if you pay a substandard salary. Obviously every organization cannot be in the "upper half"; therefore, CEO salaries have tended to increase.  

There is nothing wrong with compensating CEOs for meeting budget performance objectives. Your argument should be with the WHYY trustees and the objectives they set. If you object to "things like increasing audience share, converting to digital technology, and bringing the budget into line" and believe instead that the CEO should be paid based on something else, you should define it and state how it is to be measured. While a "smell test" might make amusing journalism, it does not provide any objective criteria for determining compensation.

Author's Response

The late Washington sage John W. Gardner observed that when it comes to recruiting key executives, there are only two qualities for which an organization should be willing to pay almost any price: Taste and judgment; “Almost everything else can be bought by the yard.” These, I readily agree, are not objective criteria. But why have a board at all, if not to make subjective judgments? Everything else can be handled by computers.

Wayne Thomas

of Philadelphia, PA on July 17, 2017

Subjective criteria may be appropriate for the policy-setting body (i.e., the board of trustees) when deciding objectives the organization should accomplish. But when it comes to determining whether or not a CEO has met his specific goals and is therefore entitled to a bonus, only objective criteria can be used.  

Richard Goldberg

of Old City/ Philadelphia, PA on July 17, 2017

I agree with Dan that Marrazzo has not achieved the basics. Just because WHYY is the most profitable of major-market public radio stations is not a measure. In fact, his salary is almost 50 percent of WHYY's profits. While his programming contains some of the most successful public syndications, he is not their originator, nor is he anything but a caretaker.
Compensating the CEO of a major nonprofit should have nothing to do with profitability. In fact, WHYY is basically devoid of any originality, other than "Fresh Air" and "Radio Times." The lack of originality and innovation does not deserve to be rewarded with the highest compensation of a CEO in the category.

Tom Goodman

of Center City/ Philadelphia, PA on July 26, 2017

It's quite clear Robert Zaller (above) stopped listening to NPR years ago. He hasn't a clue about the values of "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered" and "NewsWorks Tonight."

"Fierce competition" is not the root of good journalism, as Fox News has amply demonstrated. Rather, committed journalists and editors who want depth rather than headlines or propaganda are the keys to good journalism. NPR has these qualities.

Zaller's criticism that NPR aims for a trustworthy neutrality further underscores how an admitted non-listener (How does he arrive at this conclusion? Perhaps he is a closet listener?) is the one who cannot be trusted!