To the editors:

“Night Shift,” the article you allowed to be printed in the Jan. 20th publication, was an outright, unfair article.

The journalist portrayed the employees at the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office as slovenly, lazy people.

He was more concerned with the way the employees looked and what they wore than their duties.

If his intention was to provide readers with an update on the fashion of the Medical Examiner’s office, perhaps he should have submitted his article to GQ magazine.

I am the daughter of the employee whom the writer described as having a “belly swelled with lasagna and beer.” If not libelous language, that description was unfounded and unfair.

Perhaps, since my father is of Italian descent, his swelled belly is linked with lasagna. For the writer to use this is a gross stereotype. My father recently lost 35 pounds. I wonder what his belly would have been called then –a grossly deformed lesion.

Additionally, my father is not a beer drinker, nor has he ever been one. Unless the writer was reporting that my father was drinking beer on-duty (which he was not), that had no place in the story.

Many people who have read this article perceived that my father was eating lasagna and drinking on-duty. Only my father’s peers and family knew better.

Other employees were also described in an unnecessary and unfair way. Who cares if an employee looks like a blues singer from the Mississippi Delta. That has no place in a story allegedly about the night shift at the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

For someone to characterize a person as a “chain smoker” after only a few hours is a joke.

As a journalism student, I feel it is a shame that the journalist was allowed to use your paper as a pedestal for his yellow journalism.

It almost appears as though the journalist intended to write the story to damage the reputation of the medical examiner’s office as well as the reputation of its employees.

It is a shame that the reporter did not include in his story how the investigators must go into abandoned buildings, walk on top of roofs, climb through ditches and see the bodies of young children and babies. He failed to elaborate on how the investigators have to face families who have lost loved ones and ask them questions in a delicate manner to help determine the causes of deaths.

I hope this reporter will refrain from including one-sided, unnecessary information the next time he writes a story.

Patricia Menconi

N. Sayre

Gary Rintel replies:

I’m sorry that you misunderstood my article. In no way was it meant to portray employees of the medical examiner’s office as slovenly or lazy.

In fact, if you turn to page 29 in that issue you will see references to the office of the medical examiner’s “record of remarkable success in solving cases and identifying bodies.”

Your criticism of the way I described your father also surprised me. My own father has a large belly, and I believe it gives him character. Nobody in my family thinks it is something to be ashamed of.

As for your point about beer drinking, it is unfortunate that some people might have perceived that Mr. Menconi was drinking on duty. This, however, was not the case and I don’t feel that my article suggested that it was.

Those descriptions, as well as other references to the behavior and physical appearance of the night shift crew, are not used as insults. Instead, they are used to illustrate the colorful and interesting people who do the difficult and unappreciated work that keeps the morgue functioning smoothly 24 hours a day.

And, despite your final comments, I did indeed mention how this work frequently requires the investigators to deal with awful tragedies like the Gacy case and the DC-10 crash–both of which were in the article.