Thoughts and second thoughts, corrections and clarifications — our mailbox is full this week.
First a comment from an anonymous online reader regarding our June 10 cover story on the residential real estate market:
“The realtor quoted at the end of the article is incorrect. The tax credit for unmarried couples is divided between the two or claimed by one. If an unmarried couple purchases the same residence jointly, they cannot each claim an $8,000 credit. The website www.irs.gov will confirm this.
“It is imperative that realtors read up on this credit and give first time buyers the correct information. I purchased my first home this year and was also given incorrect information about the credit from a mortgage broker. Read the stipulations of the credit on the IRS website. This could possibly save you a future headache when the IRS rejects your return. And realtors — get the facts straight for your clients, we as first time buyers depend on you to give us accurate information.”
Another online reader offered a more pessimistic view of the curent market: “With interest rates going up to 8 percent soon, prices have to drop another 20 to 25 percent. Anyone who buys now is a fool.”
Then came some more commentary on our June 3 cover story on the “uncommon” FM radio station, WWFM, the classical station that broadcasts from Mercer County Community College at 89.1 FM and over the Internet at www.wwfm.org. Some people wondered how the June 7 benefit concert worked out. General manager Peter Fretwell called the concert “a remarkable musical event and a worthwhile fundraising event,” adding that in addition to the money raised by admissions, the station has “received several grateful donations from supporters who listened during the live broadcast.”
The event, however, did not settle WWFM’s problems. “While the concert marginally reduced our $100,000 deficit for the year,” Fretwell said, “we are already planning a fall concert.”
The June 3 article also included some speculation about the future of classical music on the radio, and in the course of doing so provided an erroneous assessment of the financial circumstances of WQXR-FM, the classical station owned by the New York Times. Citing an article that appeared in the New York Post in April, U.S. 1 stated that WQXR’s revenue had dropped $34 million last year and that the station had mounting debts. In fact the Post article referred to the parent Times Company and reported that its “cash stash” was “down to $34 million after debts are weighed in.”
From that financial information and from speculation by a media analyst, Allan Sniffen of the New York Radio Message Board, the Post suggested that WQXR could be among the Times Company assets that are on the selling block and that one possible buyer of WQXR could be ESPN, which would then turn the station into a sports talk station.
A representative of WQXR, speaking off the record since the Times Company neither comments officially on such matters nor releases separate financial reports of its divisions, noted that the Post speculation was just that and that it was based on other speculation cited by the lone media analyst. who himself was commenting on “rumors.” As the WQXR staffer noted, “that’s three generations of rumors from unknown sources — rumors that, by the time they get to your readers, have taken on the aura of fact.”
The WQXR representative demanded a correction and an apology from U.S. 1. The correction has been made in the three paragraphs above. The apology, which might not be quite what the WQXR representative had in mind, appears in Richard K. Rein’s column on page 47 of this issue.
WWFM’s Fretwell has also heard the rumors, and was quoted in U.S. 1 saying that if WQXR’s classical audience were left hanging by some corporate divestiture, then WWFM would make an effort to reach that audience. But, one U.S. 1 reader asked, how would WWFM achieve that — through translator signals? Internet broadcasts?
“I’d prefer not to get into any plans for New York,” Fretwell said last week. But, he added, “I’d appreciate you affirming my respect for WQXR and emphasize my belief that if WQXR is not going to change format, that’s good news for classical music and classical broadcasting. There are too few full-time classical stations of either the commercial or public breeds left for us to get into a shoving match.”
Finally (for now at least) on this radio subject, we heard another argument for the importance of the role played by Princeton University’s student-run FM station, WPRB (103.3 on your dial and www.wprb.com on the Internet).
Teri Towe, a 1970 alumnus of the university who takes a break from his day job in New York every Thursday morning to present a program of classical music on WPRB, concurs with last week’s letter writer regarding the contributions of the station: “It is indeed a unique resource,” Towe writes. “Speaking for myself, I only would add that the kind of classical radio that I present, and which, thanks to the Internet stream, has an international following, is impossible nowadays except at a station like WPRB.” We will share the complete letter from Towe in our next edition.
We promise to stay tuned — to which frequency we will not say.
To the Editor:
Six Steps For Better Health Care
It seems the nation’s broken health care system has finally reached the top of the domestic agenda and our lawmakers need to tackle the problem in earnest.
The mounting problems in health care breed cynicism, stress, and even despair. Groups like AARP are fighting to make the system work for everyone. They believe Congress should take these six steps to guarantee that all Americans have quality health care plans they can afford:
Guarantee affordable coverage for Americans ages 50-64, close the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole,” create access to generic versions of costly biologic drugs, prevent costly hospital re-admissions by creating a Medicare follow-up care benefit to help people transition home after a hospital stay, increase federal funding and eligibility for home and community-based services through Medicaid, and improve programs that help low-income Americans in Medicare afford the health care and prescription drugs they need.
Our health care system costs too much, wastes too much, makes too many mistakes and gives us back too little value for our money. Preventable re-admissions alone cost Medicare billions. The need for fair, bipartisan measures to repair the system has never been so urgent.
Magnus is a retired teacher living with her daughter in Lawrenceville. Her letter was forwarded by AARP NJ, 101 Rockingham Row, Forrestal Village (www.aarp.org).