Today's Papers

Strike UPS and Downs

President Clinton’s most detailed public comment to date about the UPS strike along with some signs of progress in the negotiations is today’s news leader. The only difference between the papers is emphasis. The New York Times and USA Today headlines focus on the increased presidential pressure while the Los Angeles Times headline highlights the increasing chances for a settlement. The Washington Post emphasizes both with its “Clinton Says Deal Near in UPS Strike.” Only the Wall Street Journal gives much high exposure to strike pessimism: its front-page news digest UPS item, after noting the progress, adds that “both sides indicated they are prepared to escalate the conflict if a deal isn’t reached soon.”

What’s driving all this are two Sunday developments. First, upon his arrival for a three-week stay in Martha’s Vineyard, Clinton said, “It’s my gut feeling they’ll settle,” and called on both sides to “redouble their efforts.” And meanwhile, on separate Sunday chat shows, the heads of the Teamsters and of UPS acknowledged progress. The WP says that Clinton’s decision to speak out was a calculated gambit to give negotiators a push and was also conceived as a signal that he is not neglecting the situation even though he’s on vacation.

Details in the UPS coverage include this comment made by the head of UPS on “Meet the Press” that is repeated in both the WP and LAT: “A lot has gone away and a lot of business isn’t coming back.” The strike has made many aware for the first time just how central UPS has been to the daily workings of the economy (80 percent of all package delivery) and if this is true and not just tactical posturing, then that economy is in for a noticeable change. The NYT chooses to point out the importance of UPS by noting that the because of the strike, “Blood banks have complained of being forced to destroy blood” they couldn’t ship and that “dozens of school systems are worried that they will not receive shipments of books before the school year begins.” Does that depiction of the strike’s impact function as implicit support for the company’s position? And if so, is that okay in a news story?

Inside the WP is a story about pocket lining at the White House. No, nothing to do with the travel office or the Lippo group–just the little matter of guests (an estimated 2,600 a year just at the formal dinners there) leaving a little heavier than when they arrived. Commonly appropriated items include silverware, plates, and even drapery tassels. The piece tantalizes with the news that during Camelot, Pierre Salinger hired a professional pickpocket to quietly recover spoons on their way out the door, and that in 1990 a Secret Service agent was convicted of stealing more than $7,000 in presidential china.

Yesterday, in a piece about new presidential advisor Sidney Blumenthal, the NYT’s Alison Mitchell wrote that the New Republic referred to Blumenthal with the line, “A beat is just an assignment but a slut is who you’ve become maybe.” Today, the Times corrections page says this “was truncated and misattributed because of an editing error. One word was incorrectly transcribed, compounding the misimpression.” What they’re trying to just barely admit is this: It seems that in fact, the New Republic had nothing to do with the quote, that Mr. Blumenthal said it, but (obviously) not about himself, and only via a character in a work of fiction that he wrote and that actually that character didn’t use the word “slut” but the word “slot.” So to review the bidding from yesterday’s “paper of record”: A single sentence with the wrong subject, the wrong source, and the wrong quote.