I am writing to applaud the Washington City Paper’s commitment to quality journalism and good fortune in appointing Jonetta Rose Barras to the role of Loose Lips. Although I’ve felt the sting of her biting commentary on the backs of friends who are in public office, I secretly find Barras to be an incredible writer and reporter. I’ve been amazed, in my encounters with her, at the range and depth of her knowledge base concerning local issues. The thoroughness of her investigative efforts is equally impressiveJack E. Nelson (The Mail, 12/15) can cease to fret. Barras appears to be far too well-informed and skilled with words to violate any libel laws. But Nelson is correct that she is full of fury. Barras appears to have a keen sense of justice and propriety and a particularly righteous indignation at those who betray or fail to protect the community good.
Beauty is surely in the eye of the beholder. I was astonished at Nelson’s glowing praise of ex-Loose Lips Ken Cummins. Cummins, apparently in keeping with the past editorial policy of the City Paper, seemed to me to be ferocious in his trashing of black politicians and public employees. He seemed to find gentler terms to describe their white counterparts. I used to wonder whether there were any incompetent white people in the world according to Loose Lips. For example, I’m sure that the Barrys still have mud on their backs from the way he constantly wiped his feet on them, deservedly or not. In contrast, neither he nor the paper ever really addressed David Catania’s Jerry Springer-meets-city-hall shenanigans with any candor. And all of the other white councilmembers seemed to be knights in shining armor in his view.
It is a long-standing American phenomenon that the “fun” of witnessing the denouncement or ridicule of members of minority groups becomes insulting and tasteless when leveled at members of the white power structure. I can understand Nelson’s “dis-ease” with Barras. She is pretty scary! She makes it clear that she has no real allegiancesanyone who messes up is fair game to her. Barras is also insistent on making meta-comments: She gathers a very wide pool of information and then interprets the big picture. Often the people involved in an issue see only their side and not the big picture, perhaps because of discomfort at the dissonance of the facts. It is very jarring, believe me, when someone like Barras slaps you in the face with the underlying reality of an issue or situation. Granted, she slaps pretty hard. I pray every night that she never again has to write about anyone I know! Maybe her lurking in the background will motivate some local officials to be more on their toes.
I hope that Barras doesn’t accept Nelson’s efforts to keep her in her place. Tell the truth, girl, it sets some of us free! May you reign forever!