Today's Papers

Studio: Dewey Care?

USA Today leads with a poll indicating that most Americans believe the IRS has too much power and frequently abuses it. The Los Angeles Times leads with a French-led investment deal, supported by the French government, to develop a giant natural gas field in the Persian Gulf in direct defiance of American economic sanctions against Iran. The Washington Post and New York Times lead with just-released reports about the incomes of Americans.

The WP lead notes in passing that not all segments of society enjoyed significant economic gains last year–more people lacked health insurance and the ranks of the “very poor” increased–but this isn’t emphasized in the piece nor in its headline: “Household Incomes Rise Again.” A finding that is emphasized in the story is also stated in the subhead: “Disparity Between Women’s, Men’s Pay Continues to Narrow.”

The increasingly sad straits of those at or near the bottom of the economy is not the only report topic that the Post chooses to downplay. The paper doesn’t broach the findings about ethnic income disparities until the bottom of the piece. But they are bracing: median income for whites is $37,171, for Hispanics $24,906, and for blacks, $23,482. And for Asians it’s $43,276.

Also, the WP leaves to the very last paragraph of the story this fact: “Family structure remains a critical predictor of who will live in poverty, with rates among single mothers dramatically higher, at 32.6 percent, than married couples, at 5.6 percent.” Why does the Post play up the closing of the gender gap but downplay the widening of the marriage gap?

The LAT income piece focuses on the worsening numbers for the poor, while the NYT income lead emphasizes minority gains right from the headline and claims the reports reveal “the lowest black poverty rate in the country’s history.” But the NYT delays until the fifth paragraph the news about the diminishing gender gap. These variances show that no matter how quantitative a story, it inevitably has subjective elements. The income story headline could have easily been “Asians Earn 16% more than Whites” or “Single Mothers Nearly Six Times More Likely than Married Mothers to be Poor.”

A WP piece on the president’s newly created office managing his initiative on race and reconciliation offhandedly mentions that it has a staff of 21 and a budget of nearly five million dollars.

The Wall Street Journal front page presents a new candidate for the Chutzpah Hall of Fame. It seems that while working as a consultant helping to recover damages from junk-bond king Michael Milken and his investment bank, Drexel Burnham Lambert, a hot-shot New York lawyer got caught padding the bills he submitted to the federal government.

The WP runs an op-ed about the movie “Hoodlum” over the by-line of Thomas E.L. Dewey, the grandson of the two-time Republican presidential candidate, who first made a name for himself as a racket-busting prosecutor in New York City. The movie portrays the elder Dewey as a crook, regularly taking bribes from Lucky Luciano and other criminals. The op-ed writer makes the point that his grandfather’s probity was legendary and that he in fact was the man who put Luciano away. So he prevailed upon his father–Thomas Dewey’s son–to write a letter of complaint to MGM chairman and CEO Frank Mancuso. Mancuso’s lawyers wrote back, saying, “The film was a work of fiction and it was presented as such to the public. MGM has not violated any legally cognizable rights of either your father or your family.” The studio position is quite accurately summarized in the piece: “We in Hollywood have no responsibilities to society unless and until we might get sued.”