Letters to the Editors

[note: only one of the letters is produced here]

Re: Scientologist's death differs in two tellings, -- Sept. 4.
While many tabloid media are currently undergoing some responsible self-examination, reporter Tom Tobin and the Times continue to exploit the tragic death of Lisa McPherson with relentless and sensational reporting of non-news.
This time around, the Times devoted nearly a page of the paper to a pointless exercise of comparing statements I made to the press almost a year ago with information taken from private files the church has made available to the appropriate authorities. It was an exercise in cheap journalism -- an excuse to repeat titillating personal information.
The Times missed the point. There was no reason a year ago, and there is certainly no reason now, for anyone to tarnish Lisa McPherson's memory by making a public display of her unfortunate last days and holding them up to tabloid-style "exposure." The facts were provided to the appropriate authorities.
Lisa's many friends and those who knew her and loved her would rather not have the last days of her life exploited and sensationalized by media. Unfortunately, the Times has no such scruples. It is intrusive and unnecessary reporting such as the Times has displayed that is the reason the reputation of the media is currently at a low ebb.
Oddly, while trying to make it appear that the church has withheld information, the only reason the Times even knows additional facts regarding Lisa is that the church made all information available to the appropriate authorities and parties -- hundreds of documents and 40 witnesses (even paying for people to fly in from abroad for interviews with the state attorney's office).
Perhaps the Times should do a little self-examination to find out who is really hiding the ball -- starting with its attorney Pat Anderson, who also happens to be the attorney for medical examiner Joan Wood in the case the church has brought against Wood to make available all records concerning Lisa's autopsy. While the church is seeking these records so the full story can be known, Anderson and Wood are attempting to keep them closed. That does not help accomplish the objective the church and Lisa's friends have had all along: to find out the truth.
Why is it that Pat Anderson, who has championed the cause and litigated many cases to make records available to the public, takes the odd position in court when representing Joan Wood that the autopsy records of Lisa McPherson should not be made public?
Why doesn't the Times seek to question that position? Surely an inquiring reporter would want to know the full details of that autopsy, particularly following the recent revelations that the physician who actually did the autopsy failed to support the inflammatory accusations Wood made about it on tabloid television.
And especially since Wood instructed that physician -- the individual most knowledgeble about what Lisa's autopsy revealed -- not to speak to the church, the media or even the police.
These are questions that the Times ought to be demanding answers to. Apparently they're too busy thinking up reasons to reprint sensational-sounding private tidbits to have time for the important issues.
Elliot Abelson, Los Angeles

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