This is an excerpt from my latest book: How a left-wing journalist survives the Bible Belt. It is an autobiography on my career as a writer. In 1980 to 1981 I put out this mildly left-wing news paper in
With all that tabloid paper experience I got from the Public Notice, it was easy for me to start up my own paper when I moved back to
Wichita, in 1980. I organized and put
together a tabloid newspaper of my own, which I called The
Public Voice. Wichita
Some of the things I learned I would later discard. For example, the attitude at the Public Notice was to focus on local news only. That was suppose to allow us to focus on issues we could actually work on for change.
As for foreign news, I was told that the daily news paper, The Lawrence Journal World (in my home town it would be The Wichita Eagle) carried national news and there was no way we could compete with that. Years later I change my mind. For one thing The Wichita Eagle did not always cover important international news. A good example of that were articles about the Shining Path (Communist Party of Peru or PCP) guerrillas. By the end of the 1980s the Shining Path was winning a people's war effort in
But a lot of mainstream newspapers didn't cover much of it. That was especially
true if the articles showed a direct involvement from US troops. The Wichita Eagle didn't cover that war
but just 52 miles away was the town of Hutchinson
and The Hutchinson News DID. In a
news paper I ran almost 10 years later, I reposted what the The Hutchinson News printed in another
news paper I was running at the time, the South
Hutchinson Post Dispatch.
After the 1990s I was getting a lot of information and articles from political
parties across the world. I was able to get articles that foreign people and
political parties wrote about their own political struggles. So I realized that
a news reporter or a journalist/editor/publisher can post articles about
foreign affairs that the local mainstream paper doesn't and won't cover. We CAN
compete with The Wichita Eagle (as
well as Time, Newsweek and others) after all.
As for the politics of the Public Notice, it had a left-wing slant, but was not openly Marxist. It had more of a liberal slant, although some of the supporters and workers on this paper were openly Marxist. I wanted to print articles from a moderate left position. I didn't want the paper to seem far left. I wanted it to look like a homey local news paper, and that is what it looked like.
I typed it on an old Manuel typewriter. I was living at my parents home so I worked in a corner of the basement. As with the Public Notice I also used rub on letters and old pictures from magazines. At first I tried to sell it, but I realized that would hold me back real bad. So I gave it way free, had a subscription list and I sold ads to try and pay for it.
From time to time I had several people work with me, both as reporters and layout people. As with the Public Notice, I focused on some local issues and the first main one was
Boom!" I was
following the anti-growth message carried by the Public Notice. One problem I had with that was that a lot of
liberal people, I would later get to know and make friends with, all wanted to
annex wealthier people, whom they wanted to pay their fair share of city taxes.
And many of the people I was allying myself with where actually conservative
land owners. I had not written up a comprehensive anti-growth position to
explain why I was so against the city expanding itself.
Years later I wrote a short position on the need for a no-growth economy:
I had another article on that subject, DEVELOPERS: Go WEST.
Also in that issue we had an article about a self help clinic, a letter about human rights, an article about Martin Luther King and an article about the Wichita Wings, a soccer team in Wichita. The issue included a cartoon of the Rev. Dr. Cabbage, an ongoing cartoon serious about a religious right character that I came up with, based on the Dr. Carroll from the movie Reefer Madness. In that movie Josef Forte plays Dr. Alfred Carroll, a fire and brimstone character who narrates much of the film. There was also some humor as in an ad for "Bonzo's
It featured a picture of Ronald Reagan and the slogan "no talent or acting
ability necessary -you too can be president." School
of Commercial Broadcasters
There was also a picture of a man with a cartoon balloon: "I read Public Voice," and another of a catfish that said; "Me Too."
Religion & State
The new right in this country is raising the issue of state functions being contained by religious ideas.. The union of church doctoring and US laws violates the separation of Church and state which the founding fathers of this country set up. Laws of basic decency are closely aligned with basic church doctrine, but the
is made up of many religious
sects with diversified beliefs. The constitution allows for freedom of religion
to protect any group from laws which would restrict the group fro practicing
their beliefs. US
Jerry Falwell and the "Moral Majority" are the leaders of this religious movement in this country and feel that church and state can work together. History does no bear this out.
is the classic example of the problems with church run government. The Ayatollah
Khomeini is a hard -line religious leader , and he advocates no
tolerance of those how do not prescribe to his religious rule. The Church of
England was born out of a dispute between the head of state and the head of
church. This dispute favored neither party, and probably hurt both sides. This
country we founded by people fleeing religious intolerance in Iran Europe.
The designed split in the church and state relations was set up to protect not the majority, moral or otherwise, but the minority of religious groups whose beliefs would be restricted by laws set up according to Christian doctrine.
Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution, and the rights of the individual is what the separation of church and state was set up to protect.
The second addition had some adds in it. I was able to sell a few. We covered the local elections for city commission, 1981. In that article we struggled to find issues. The real issue of that election and those that follow up until today is that these elections are really just a routine practice by the local real estate and land developers to choose THEIR candidate for office. Also covered in this issue was the closing of the
Dubuque beef industry plant. We covered the
Bel Aire election since it was a new town, we covered a group calling itself
the Commission on the Status of Women. We wrote against a fire works ban, we
wrote about cameras in the court room and blasted the US government for lifting of controls
on the CIA. I did a review of The Russian
Anarchists, by Paul Avrich. We did a humor column called "Who Shot
W.S.U. Paper Denied
You won't find the Public Voice on any news stand at W.S.U. The Public Voice requested permission to distribute our paper in the
. We received a
letter from Bill Smith, the director of the Campus Activities
stating that they had decided not to permit the distribution of our paper. The
letter gave no reason whatsoever. When we called his office for an explanation,
he said he simply did not want to mess with anymore newspapers. W.S.U. Campus
I have toured WSU several times in the past year and have noticed a virtual vacuum of political literature and periodicals. There are not political newspapers of any kind outside of the Sunflower, the campus newspaper. The political selection of the Campus Bookstore has a few carefully elected books. I can't see how a political science major there could possibly get a well rounded view of politics with the selection of books available in that bookstore. For instance, since third world politics are playing an increasingly important role in foreign policies everywhere, why is there virtually no literature on the subject.
It is easy to see that our newspaper is political .With our small size we have to be. A university is suppose to have a place where people can freely exchange ideas. It should be a place for people to debate and disuses ideas freely. Although this policy is obviously in effect on other campuses, it appears that the administration of W.S.U. want their students to go through with blinders on. Their priority seems to be: "Learn but don't think. There's no place in our society for freethinking individuals."
I certainly hope the students at W.S.U. are smart enough to realize that the nation and the world is certainly more diverse than the quaint pictures painted by W.S.U. Students should wise up and demand not just our paper, but other papers from around the country and even the world. A university is a place to learn but it should also encourage people to think. We at the Public Voice do not believe the old cliché that "ignorance is bliss."
C.I.A. back again
As if our recent foreign policy isn't causing enough criticism from around the world, of President Reagan's conservative friends are actually considering lifting some of the controls on the C.I.A.
Yes they want to strengthen the most violent and suppressive organization the
government has ever produced.
The C.I.A. has a long record of invading citizens legal rights of privacy. With
its experiments with L.S.D. the C.I.A. ruined the lives of the people they used
as guinea pigs. U.S.
In other countries the C.I.A. has murdered, tortured and generally terrorized the people in the worlds most suppressive rightwing dictatorships.
The controls on the C.I.A. were the result of suppressive acts against US citizens. If given the chance the C.I.A. would probably do these things over again.
The Public Voice is opposed to lifting any controls on the C.I.A.
By our third issue, we had focused on a leftwing liberal organization within the local Democratic Party called the Progressive Democratic Quorum. It was a group that focused on liberal issues. It was a fun group. I took part in many discussions on politics as well as writing up what we did in the meetings. The meetings were held at a Machinist (Union) Hall, in south
We had some local Democrat Party officials from various offices they held in the Kansas Legislature. A lot of the discussions were on the rights of working people and how those rights were being trampled on by our elected Republican Party officials. It is not a surprise that Republicans back then were as nasty to working people as they are now.
We also covered some other topics including a Consumer Coalition for Health. We had an article on nuclear power, the harassment of a student at a
for wearing his hair long. We had a humorous look at ecology movement we called
"The New Ecology." The joke was that instead of protecting
disappearing species, we wanted to protect lawn meters and telephone poles. We
also had classified ads. Goddard
Our forth addition had another article about
Wichita's urban sprawl,
"City Moves Out West." We
also had a large article on Local Wichita Attorney Jim Johnston, who spoke at
the Progressive Democratic Quorum. Johnston
made rhetorical attacks on then President Ronald Reagan. We also had an article
on the National Organization for Women.
We started volume 2 in August of 1981. Again we focused on the City of
and its expansion west. We also included an article on WomenFair, WomenArt, an
even held at Century II that included lots of events put on by local feminist
groups. Booths were allowed in the hallways, so that artists and political
groups could set up tables and promote their various causes. That year we had a
presentation called "Renaissance Women—1981" emphasizing a spirit of
renewal, rebirth and re-dedication during this long battle for equality.
Also in that issue was an article on a Coalition for Health, another article on
NOW, an article on Kansans for Peace and Justice and an article about the
Mojahedin of Iran, a left-wing Muslim group that opposed the Islamic Republic.
The last was an example of an article we received from some Iranian students,
This is an example of articles a local paper can get that is relevant and it is
different from what the city newspaper prints, which in this case was The Wichita Eagle. We also printed some
poems by the Palestinian poet, Mahmood Darweesh. We had an article condemning a
city-wide ban on fireworks. Because I hinted at the idea of making our own
fireworks, I used the pen name, Mark Milhouse. I used that pen name later,
mostly when writing for the People's
Daily World, during the cold war years. We carried another article of
satire, on economics, by my brother Chris Otto, "the New Economics: more
for less." We posted a review of a
concert of Jefferson Starship. I had posted an article called "Left"
Religion's" which carried on the topic of separation of church and state,
but this article defended left-wing religious tendencies that would come under
the topic of Liberation Theology. For much of my early life I had some leanings
towards Liberation Theology, so this article was somewhat important to me at
the time. I later changed my mind and gave up entirely on Christianity. Wichita State University
The last paragraph of that article articulated my beliefs at that time:
"Members of the religious new right tend to make the claim that "God is on their side," but, as I am reminded by an old song by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, "I was told the very same thing so you know somebody's lying."
That issue we had a letter by a topples dancer, who called herself Strawberry, who opposed the City of Wichita's latest attempts at banning topless dancing in the city limits. This was an occasional issue that The Public Voice took up.
Letter from a dancer-
I am a dancer and I feel that my opinion of the laws passed on us are unfair in more than one way. I've been dancing for some time and have worked in many places in the
. United States
First, we are having a good sized problem with our business. Both the intake of sales for the bar, and especially us girls. Ever since the case went to court a few weeks ago our business slacked, but every since the last week and then the finalization of our rules, it has been the worst. Yesterday had had maybe a total of ten people come into the bar on my shift (12-6). I didn't even have to get up and dance until 2:00--NO CUSTOMERS! It has been this way since last Thursday. A lot of the bars are doing about the same.
Second, we are being deprived of our rights. The people who come here, we don't rope in off the streets. They come because they want to. Do you realize that we're now required to wear more than the girls at the local pool, local grocery store, and person walking down the street? Many other states are dancing in G-strings and such and pasties. The businesses are doing fine and have caused no unusual problems. I don't see as to where someone who has a good job as a professional in any area has the right to limit another professional's art. Some girls honestly can't dance, but what of us who have taken this entertainment as a career? I personally am having a rough time on making ends half-way meet and, I've worked on perfection of my art for 11 years in different forms. Personally I feel we've been screwed!
Jefferson Starship in
The Jefferson Starship concert here in
last month was a perhaps one of the more refreshing concerts in quite some
time. Rock an roll has hardly seen such a comeback in many years. Of course
only two of the original members of the old Airplane or Starship remain; That
is Grace Slick and Paul Kantner. Both have been a major influence on the
history of rock music going back clear to the sixties. They have proven that
old wave music is far from dead. The concert featured many songs off their new
album such as Stairway to Wichita .
They also played Somebody to Love. They also played some the more recent tunes
such as Girl With Hungry Eyes. Among the songs they played for the encore was
Volunteers, an old Jefferson Airplane classic. Mickey Thomas sang lead
vocals. Others in the band include: Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Pete Sears, Craig Chaquico, Aynsley Dunbar
and David Freiberg. Cleveland
I also included an article by a friend and writer I got to know, Tim Pouncey. His article was called:
Trying to understand Reaganomics is a hobby of mine —
like making long shot bets on second-rate foot ball teams or dating slender blonde girls who fathers carry shotguns —
all three can be dangerous to a man's mental health and at least one will probably be responsible for violent, ugly and permanent damage to my emotional stability.
Ah, but the notions persist. This is no season for comprehending anything that oozes out of the Washington Information Network. It is hard enough to keep any kind of lame act running at all with inflation cutting the guts out of my already low standard of living. In the Reaganomics Circus only the High Rollers and multiple felons prosper.
So paranoia make good sense these days. If you're not scared, you're not informed. Unemployment is a record high, new lay-offs at Dold and BeechCraft, no good news from Cessna. bad slumps in the housing industry, no work no where. When you get into severe economic problems at this level, you can be absolutely sure They Are out to get you.
What we need now is less double talk and more action. There are millions of things that the unemployed could do in Government service. Franklin Roosevelt proved this during the last great depression. There is an incredible glut of skilled labor being wasted. We will only find economic recover through imagination, we are limited by the Washington Circus's inability to figure out how to use a skilled but unemployed work force. 
For the next addition, Vol. 2 No. 2, I had a front page story called "Where Wildlife Roamed." I managed to get a picture of an area being developed that I mistakenly though belong to a place where they advertized "Where the wildlife roam." Even though I got the land that matched the sign wrong, the intent was the same—building homes on sterile ground where all wildlife had been run off. There was none to be found—anywhere. I was threatened with a law suite and I had to print a retraction. But the developers were decimating the land for places for people to move to. It is sad just how much of that land has been ruined by developers—over developing. We also had an article called "Solidarity Day," where unions around the country planned to march in favor of union rights. The NAACP was taking part in this march. It was all in response to the Ronald Reagan Administrations attacks on the PATCO union, representing the air traffic controllers. We also had an article from the Kansans for Peace and Justice.
By the time I got to the next addition, Vol. 2 No. 3, I was beginning to get involved in the issue of
There were revolutionary movements making gains in Guatemala
and El Salvador.
At the same time Reagan was beginning to go after the Sandinista government
with the use of CIA directed Contra (short for counter-revolutionary)
guerrillas. I went to hear Paul McKay, a developmental aid worker, through Bethel College,
talked about the assassination of some congressmen in Guatemala.
This was the first time my paper had covered events taking place in Central America.
Another issue I focused on back then was the newly-formed Solidarity Coalition. The group was composed of progressive organizations from the
are. They included the NAACP, NOW, The Gray Panthers, PATCO, the ACLU, the Iron
Workers Union and Kansas
for Peace and Justice. It seemed like a great idea at the time. By combining
all these groups together at once we had a chance to take on the local
political right. But after a few months we found the limits to such a
coalition. A group concerned with the rights of some young people shot at a
local park by police cause some of the members to balk at who should join in.
Slowly the coalition unraveled and it disappeared before many more months.
We also ran "Kidafi: The Crazed Killer" to satirize the coverage of the Muammar Gaddafi regime, in
pundits, including Jack Anderson. We tried to make the article look ridiculous
and we succeeded. Unfortunately most people who read it didn't realize it was
meant as a joke. We ended up writing a second article, a retraction. But the
later was written in a way to make fun of the fact that we have so much
sensational news, people couldn't tell it was a joke.
Kidafi: The Crazed Killer
The madman of
Africa is at it again. The crowned saint of Satanism, the
most terrifying man in he world, is itching for a fight and we gave it to him.
lost tow planes--we lost zero. But I wonder how many people realize just how
crazy this maniac is. Libya
Of Course, We are referring to General Muammer
Kadafy. Habba Dabba, an expert on Mideast affairs and a math professor in
, calls him the most
dangerous man in the world. Fred Fenhouser, a bartender in Saudi Arabia ,
calls him an absolute madman. Toledo, Ohio
One of his most notorious traits is his funding of nearly every major terrorist group in the world. He supports the Popular Movement to Liberate Palestine. He also openly supports the Irish Republican Army. He denies giving them material aid, claiming the he gives them only moral support. But recent documents uncovered by the CIA provide evidence that Gadafy supplied the IRA with 16 tons of arms, last month, consisting of large shipments of rocks, Molotov cocktails, matches ad cans of spray-paint.
Khadaffy also supports such desperate groups as the American Indians and is suspected of supporting the Red Brigades and the Red Army Faction, and may even be responsible for the recent riots in
Qadafy has been known to send hit men out to censor his opposition, which means I had to hire an extra bodyguard since writing this article.
Qaddafy is a devout Muslim who has banned drinking and pork from his country. He naturally doe not drink and on days when he's not busy torturing flies he goes out to the country to meditate.
He sites in his little tent out in the desert and dreams up wild , crazy terrorist attacks to be carried out against innocent women and kids. His eyes turn to fire and his nostrils breathe smoke as he envisions his next act of insanity.
I wrote the name of Gaddafi different each time since it was rarely written the same way by other writers in the news media. Strangely enough, some African students got made because they saw him as a hero.
Confusion and Kadafi
In our last untimely issue we ran a story on Mohamer Kadafi that caused some confusion and drew a few complaints. It seems that the article and author, Jack Understone were taken seriously. Actually Jack Understone was an intended satire of every body's favorite correspondent Jack Anderson.
We attempted to parody the cheap sensationalism of our news media. It seems we were to subtle in our attempts. It also seems that even when an article borders on the absurd people still assume it is meant o be taken seriously. Perhaps this is a reflection of people's perception of the news media and the columnists who claim to be informing us. Perhaps we succeeded too well in our parody.
Of course there is no Jack Understone on the staff of the Public Voice. We haven't hired any body guards as of yet. Just to be on the safe side we will send a copy of this article to Kadafi. If we were on his hit list maybe we will be spared. Surely ol' Mohamer can date a joke, can't you Mohamer?
This was the second to the last issue of the Public Voice. It had an article on IRBs called "IRB's Rich Get Richer." There was another column on "WSU censorship." There was an article on the ERA, which was closing in as an issue that
feminist could not
There was on more article on the PDQ and DSOC ( Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee the original name for DSA). By now Democratic Socialists of America were an established organization in
and many of us really thought there
could finally be an alternative to the Democratic Party's status quo. In time I
realized that was a pipe dream. But in 1982 I believed otherwise. Wichita
We had one more issue of the Public Voice, in May 1982. We covered a May Day rally, one of the first May Day celebrations in decades. We rallied around the labor union under attack by the Dold Company of
There was a strike and the Dold company was out to destroy the union. This was
a direct action against the Reagan policy of pushing unions to the point of a
strike and then destroying the unions using various union busting measures. Wichita
This issue had an article on the events of Herman Hill, where the third anniversary of the riot that took place in that park, only served to ensure that people in the grouping would not forget the tragic events of that day. It was a really good issue and it was our last. The bi-monthly newspaper got a lot of publicity for its time. Those of us in it, were going to try and make the best of it. It was as good paper and it had a good run. But after that issue it was over and that was that.
 I published a few articles about Shining Path/Communist Party of Peru, Steve Otto, "Some Countries Overlooked," South Hutchinson Post Dispatch, June 1990, Vol. 2, No 6, p. 3 and Steve Otto, "Commentary- Drugs And War," South Hutchinson Post Dispatch, October 1989, Vol. 1, No. 2, p. 3.
 "Annexation Boom," The
February 1981, Vol. 1 No. 1 p. 1,3. Wichita
 Reefer Madness, 1936, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reefer_Madness
 "Religion & State," The
February 1981, Vol. 1 No. 1 p. 4. Wichita
 Steve Otto, "Election Time," The
March 1981, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 1,2,6, 8. Wichita
 Steve Otto "W.S.U. Paper Denied," Public Voice, March 1981, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 5,6.
 "C.I.A. back again," The Wichita Public Voice, March 1981, Vol. 1 No. 2, p. 4.
 Steve Otto, "Progressive Democratic Quorum," The
Public Voice, May 1981, Vo1. 1 No. 3, PP. 1, 3, 6. Wichita
 Steve Otto, "City Moves Out West," The
Public Voice, June 1981, Vol. 1 No. 4, pp. 1, 3. Wichita
 "WomanFair- WomanArt," The
Public Voice, August
1981, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 1,7. Wichita
 Steve Otto "Left" Religion's," The
Voice, August 1981, Vol. 2 No. 1, p. 5. Wichita
 Steve Otto "Jefferson Starship in
Public Voice, August 1981, Vol. 2 No.
1, p. 7.
 Tim Pouncey, "Warped Factor," The
Public Voice, May 1982, Vol. 3
No. 1, p 5. Wichita
 Steve Otto, "where wildlife roamed," The Wichita Public Voice, September 1981, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 1,3.
 Steve Otto, "
McKay speaks out against oppression," The Wichita Public Voice, December 1981, Vol. 2 No.
 Jack Understone, "Kidafi: The Crazed Killer," The
Public Voice, December 1981, Vol. 2 No. 3, p. 4. Wichita
 "Confusion and Kadafi," The
Public Voice, February 1981, Vol. 2 No. 4, p. 2. Wichita
 "Herman Hill," The
Public Voice, May 1982, Vol. 3 No. 1, p. 1. Wichita