To the editors:

Thanks to Michael Miner for bringing John Callaway’s fatuous gushings about WFMT to a much wider audience than they would have received in Eleven magazine (Hot Type, January 11).

Equating the vastly different circumstances at WFMT with those at the New Yorker simply because they are “cultural institutions” is like declaring Callaway and Bill Henry identical twins merely because they are both fat and appear on TV a lot.

Callaway’s explanation that he chose to vent his spleen in parable so it would not “look like” he was “writing out of a vested interest” is laughable in several regards, not the least of which being that he makes the readers of Eleven magazine–and, by inference, the viewers of WTTW–out to be idiots.

The mismanagement Callaway refers to at WFMT is largely the result of meddling by his employer, the Chicago Educational Television Association, a doddering institution almost from its inception. To the degree that WFMT has become “out of date” and “out of touch,” CETA deserves much of the blame.

While it is arguable that the New Yorker has improved since Robert Gottlieb took over as editor, there is no doubt that WFMT has steadily deteriorated since CETA began taking an active role in managing the station. And the decline is not simply in quality of programming. CETA’s solutions to WFMT’s financial woes–staff cutbacks, airing prerecorded commercials–have resulted in lower ratings and revenue. I’d bet John a case of Soul Cola and his favorite pan pizza that WFMT’s deficit will soon exceed that of Eleven magazine.

Paul Engleman

N. Kedzie