Madison County Opinion...

NOVEMBER 26, 2003

By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
November 26, 2003

Frankly Speaking

Time for vultures to let go of Kennedy murder conspiracies
“What are those things with big black wings circling, descending from up overhead,” ask the lyrics of an old country song. We all know what the writer described. They were vultures, scavengers of dead bodies.
Well, the human vultures are circling a long dead body again. They have feasted on this body repeatedly for the last 40 years, yet they still find more flesh to pick at. I am referring to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Forty years ago, the popular young president was shot down in a motorcade by a deranged sniper in Dallas, Texas. The vultures immediately spotted the incident as a way to make quick money by challenging the facts of the case in books, magazines and film. They sought out any tiny flaw in the evidence to use as the basis of their outrageous conspiracy theories. They set out to blame everyone except the shooter for Kennedy’s death.
This past weekend, on the anniversary of the murder, we were once again bombarded by these old theories along with a couple of new ones. None of them can stand up to a common sense review of the facts.
I am one of those who can remember exactly where I was when I heard about Kennedy’s murder. My job at the time was to provide still photographic services to the Georgia Center for Continuing Education and WGTV, Ch. 8. My studio was in the basement. The television studio was on the ground floor above me. Someone stuck a head in the door and said that Kennedy had been shot. I and everyone else with access to the TV studios rushed up to watch the monitors.
Remember that I had recently left the Army. I was very familiar with the rifles similar to the one recovered. I qualified as a marksman in firing competitions. I was experienced with the kind of sounds a rifle shot will make in developed areas.
Over the next several days, as information reached the media, it became clear to me that Oswald, who had received military training similar to my own, was fully capable of firing the three shots that killed the president.
As book after book came out written by people who came to be known jointly as the vultures, I became more and more angry at the obvious distortions and misinterpretations they use as the basis of their claims.
They claimed that shots were fired from more than one location. What they were hearing were echoes from flat surfaces including vehicles, bridges, even the curb on the side of the street.
They said that Oswald could not have fired three shots in the time available from a hand operated rifle. I know that I could easily have done so, and Oswald’s ability was equal if not greater than my own. One of them found a picture of Oswald holding the rifle that included a shadow on his neck. It was argued that the picture had been doctored by placing Oswald’s head on another body. But the tree limb that cast the shadow was clearly visible in the picture.
Those were just a few of the nonsensical arguments used by the vultures to convince people to spend money buying their books. The most recent group has no better evidence than this. Yet they are rushing into print and film hoping for big bucks for yet another round of feasting on Kennedy’s dead body.
There are two more things I need to say. First, they all have the freedom to write their books. I would not deny them that right. Second, it is fully proper for a clear and correct history of an event that affected our nation and so many of its citizens in such a profound way to be written and published. It is proper for more than one person to write such books so that we have alternative views from which we can form our own opinions. But when dozens of writers with little experience in forensics floods the market with poorly researched drivel such as those published by the Kennedy vultures, they make it almost impossible for the truth to be found.
Kennedy has been dead for 40 years. His murder has been thoroughly researched and reported. It is time to let him rest in peace.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is

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By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
November 26, 2003

In The Meantime

Deregulation and our dying radio
Our sports writer Ben Munro is tired of Guns N' Roses “Welcome to the Jungle," which he says he hears just about every time he flips through stations on his car radio, where there are always "the same old, predictable songs."
To which I reply, "welcome to the age of deregulation."
Radio frequencies used to be viewed as public resources, because they are limited in number. Back in the early days of radio, there was an understood credo that you don't want airwaves void of public interest programming, such as local news and music.
So with old-fashioned radio, there were many locally-owned stations across the nation, who were required by the government to prove that they dutifully served the good of the community or risk losing their license. Thus, radio staffs covered local news. Turn on the radio and you would likely hear something about your own community.
But radio has shifted dramatically in the past 20 years. It went hand in hand with a sentiment that equated government regulations — in any form — with "liberal" evil. So, over the past two decades we've seen a relaxation of government regulations on radio frequencies.
Consequently, public interest programming was no longer a necessity in license renewal. Likewise, ownership regulations went out the window.
In the 1970s, one company could own no more than seven FM and seven AM stations nationwide. By the 1990s, that number crept up to no more than 40 stations owned by one company across the country. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 obliterated such ownership rules. Now, one company, Clear Channel, owns more than 1,200 stations.
Clear Channel virtually controls metro markets in our country, relying on low production costs — ie, no news staff — and target market advertising, where for instance, you can tell advertisers that they can market their Hubba Bubba gum to 13 year-olds by putting their ad on these 60 stations nationwide that play rap-rock. In the old days, that advertiser would have had to contact 60 different station owners.
Such formulas work for advertisers.
But for listeners?
Instead of offices with programming choices made by local DJs, you have programming decisions made at a corporate office. Programming is based on what songs best fit into a definitive format that can be sold to advertisers. It really has little, if anything, to do with the art of music. Therefore, you get the same songs over and over again, because they have been established as acceptable in a certain format. Record execs don't think about improving the overall quality of an art. No, they think more along these lines: "Welcome to the Jungle," now there's the perfect ditty to go along with our 24-to-30 year-old male marketing bracket, which includes these beers and these auto-manufacturers.
The Cinderalla story of obscurity to fame goes out the door too. For instance, Donna Halper, a former radio station music director, who helped get the hit 70s band Rush noticed, could never do what she did in 1974. Halper received a record from an unknown band in a plain, brown envelope and decided to put the music on the air.
"If I were a music director doing my job today, I couldn't do what I did in 1974," Halper said in an article in The Portland Phoenix. "I couldn't run down to the disc jockey on the air and say, 'Hey, I just heard this great new band, we've got to put them on the air."
The lack of local control extends to news as well. A noted case of modern radio gone bad happened in Minot, North Dakota, where Clear Channel owns all six commercial stations. According to The New York Times, in January of 2002, a 1 a.m. train derailment caused toxic gas to leak over the town. Police tried to contact the Clear Channel station, which was the town's designated emergency broadcaster, and couldn't get their calls answered because the station was programmed by remote control and no one was at the station.
Many may scoff at alarm such as mine, noting that competition is the great equalizer in our society, that the private sector will take care of itself if you force government to leave it alone.
But in radio, we find that the removal of ownership regulations has meant the death of the old-fashioned local radio in favor of a mega-scale business model of warehouse rock shipped to satellite stations.
Yeah, competition can be the answer. The age of blind deregulation is built on this premise. But stripping an industry of regulations meant to ensure competition has the effect of stomping out competition, does it not?
It bothers me that local radio stations are a dying breed. Local newscasts, coverage of the local car race, interviews with the local politicians — all of these things are harder to find these days on the radio.
I guess we can settle for syndicated political talk shows that say little about our local communities as well as the nationwide shock jocks and their "pull my finger" humor.
And, oh yeah, Ben, I guess there's always "Welcome to the Jungle."
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
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