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A Bird Too Big to Fail

The PBS described by Eugenia Williamson (“PBS Self-Destructs,” Essay, October) bears little resemblance to the enterprise I am proud to serve as chief programming executive. For example, a reader would likely assume that John Wilson is currently PBS’s head of programming, when in fact I have held the position for nearly two years. Unfortunately, the essay is filled with many other misleading statements and omissions.

According to a 2014 public-opinion poll conducted by ORC International’s CARAVAN, Americans named PBS the most trusted institution on a list that included courts of law, newspapers, and others. This is the eleventh consecutive time that PBS has earned this ranking in a national poll.

Williamson does not mention that PBS won twelve Peabody Awards in 2014 alone, more than any other broadcast network. PBS was also nominated for forty-three News & Documentary Emmy Awards this year, more than any other organization.

Nor does she mention that PBS has the sixth-largest prime-time audience among all broadcast and cable networks for the 2013–14 season, up from twelfth place two seasons ago. Nielsen data shows that the demographic breakdown of PBS’s full-day audience reflects the overall U.S. population with respect to race, ethnicity, education, and income, and that in the course of a year, nearly 90 percent of all television-owning U.S. households tune in to PBS.

Beth Hoppe
Chief Programming Executive, PBS
Arlington, Va.

I take exception to Eugenia Williamson’s flippant characterization of the early public-television series An Age of Kings as “dull as dirt.” The series featured fine actors performing Shakespeare’s histories. As an eleven-year-old, I eagerly watched every episode, and I still have the program guide that came with it. I was rewarded with an introduction to such immortal characters as Henry V, Falstaff, and Richard III, and these many years later I still have a firm grip on the historical period.

If that’s not “profoundly educative,” I don’t know what is.

William Devlin
New Milford, Conn.

A Doctor in the House

Wyatt Mason’s important and beautifully written article about treating PTSD through the arts, and especially through theater (“You Are Not Alone Across Time,” Report, October), though it did not exclude women by any means, might profitably have noted that women and children suffer from a higher incidence of PTSD than men do, largely as a result of rape and abuse. These sufferers are widely ignored, and little funding is available for research that would assist them.

Bryan Doerries certainly deserves our admiration. Perhaps his insights and methods might be applied more broadly to benefit other victims of trauma.

M. Tunkin
West Des Moines, Iowa

Mason’s article provides an occasion to remember that veterans would have composed only part of an Athenian theater audience. An artisan disabled by an occupational injury, or a courtesan whose family had died in a house fire, might have needed catharsis, too.

Barbara Brooks
Las Vegas, Nev.

Silent Treatment

I was pleased to read Rebecca Solnit’s cover story (“Silencing Women,” Easy Chair, October). One of the many ways women are silenced, however, is to be excluded from publication — a practice in which established magazines like Harper’s have sometimes been complicit.

Norah Booth
Tucson, Ariz.

“Freud stopped listening to his female patients,” Solnit writes, quoting Judith Herman. Without absolving Freud of all charges in this area, it must be noted that rejecting seduction theory was not necessarily equivalent to not listening. Seduction theory assumed that the fact of a patient’s illness guaranteed a history of sexual abuse — even before the patient spoke. Wouldn’t such a suffocating presupposition represent an even more insidious form of enforced silence?

John Steen
Greenville, N.C.

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December 2014

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