Today's Papers

Sexual Positioning

USA Today

leads with Kathleen Willey’s lawyer’s defense of her motives in coming forward. The Washington Post leads with the apparent intention of President Clinton’s lawyer in the Paula Jones case, Robert Bennett, to submit material to the trial judge today covering Jones’ past sex life to rebut her claim in her previous filings that her alleged encounter with Clinton left her with an alleged “sexual aversion injury.” The Post notes that not too long ago, Bennett said one of the things he would not do in this trial would be go into Jones’ sexual history. The New York Times leads with the reform pledges made by China’s new prime minister. And the Los Angeles Times goes with the purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers by Rupert Murdoch.

USAT reports that according to Willey’s lawyer, she is “overwhelmed” by White House attempts to discredit her. Regarding the release of admiring letters she had written to Clinton after their disputed Oval Office meeting, he is quoted saying, “We don’t pretend we can compete with the White House spin machine.” Reports about Willey on the WP and NYT front also follow up on the story broken yesterday by the New York Daily News that prior to her “60 Minutes” appearance, she had been in discussions with a tabloid.

The NYT reports that the new Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji gave a press conference in which he laid down ambitious goals for sweeping social change in his country, including pledges to redesign the government and cut its staff in half, do away with subsidized housing, and make state-owned industries solvent, all within the next three years. But he also flatly ruled out, reports the Times, any reappraisal of the government’s crackdown on democracy in Tiananmen Square. The press conference was strikingly Western-style, says the paper, complete with Zhu’s deflection of a serious question about eventual national elections with a quip about pictures of him in Time and Newsweek.

About a third of the LAT front is given over to coverage of the Dodger sale. In an unexpectedly one-sided vote, major league baseball owners approved the sale of the team by the O’Malley family to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Group, for about $311 million, the most ever paid for a sports franchise. The move makes the team part of a world-wide media empire valued at nearly $27 billion. Among those assets, points out the LAT, are broadcast and cable rights to games played by 22 of the 30 major league teams. And this is the aspect of the deal that is really different. A second LAT front-page piece states that the purchase price, almost double the going rate in baseball, is “so far out of the ballpark that it’s highly unlikely the team will make money,” but, the paper explains, “Murdoch sees sports team as another form of content for his sprawling television empire….”

The Dodger deal is also on the front at the WP, but doesn’t make the NYT front, which opts instead for a story about how George Steinbrenner has discussed the possibility of selling a piece of the Yankees.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a jury in Muncie, Indiana ruled that the nation’s largest cigarette makers shouldn’t be held liable in the lung cancer death of a non-smoking nurse. Jurors said that cigarettes weren’t a defective product and that the manufacturers weren’t negligent for failing to tell people that second-hand smoke was dangerous.

Both the NYT and WP fronts carry word of a new study from the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing a surprising rise in the suicide rate among black teenagers. The study’s authors suggest that the surge reflects the strain black families feel in transitioning to the middle class. One odd detail: black teenagers are much more likely than white teenagers to kill themselves in the presence of somebody else.

The general degree of personality-, sports- and money-euphoria surrounding the Murdoch Dodger buy is well illustrated by the LAT front-page effusions of L.A. mayor Richard Riordan who is quoted saying, “I’ve never met anybody whose focus is better….He pays the same attention to the waiter as he does to the most important person in the room.” Isn’t that the opposite of focus?