Today's Papers

Fewer People of Color TV?

USA Today

leads with the FAA’s announcement Tuesday of a new airline safety agenda designed to cut crashes by 80 percent over the next ten years, primarily by reducing engine explosions and episodes of flying unaware into the ground. The Los Angeles Times leads with a new study coming out in JAMA today concluding that properly prescribed drugs kill more than 100,000 people a year, far more than previously believed. (The study is also covered on the WP and USAT front pages.) The New York Times lead is the decision by a federal court voiding the government rule requiring that television and radio stations seek minority job applicants. The Washington Post goes with the head of the Office of Management and Budget leaving to run Fannie Mae.

The NYT explains that the court decision could have far-reaching impact on broadcasters and the future of affirmative action because it’s the first time that a federal appeals court has evaluated an affirmative action program that used not quotas but goals. In effect, the court said it didn’t see the difference, holding that goals still tended to promote numerical targets and hence hiring on purely racial grounds. The paper notes that although the FCC’s affirmative action hiring goals also target women, this decision does not address those, although experts say the decision will probably lead to eventual challenges of them as well. The NYT notes that this is the second time in four years a major FCC affirmative action program has been overturned: three years ago Congress did away with tax breaks for companies selling broadcast stations to minorities.

The LAT front plus inside stories in the NYT and WP detail how two containers filled with 12,000 gallons of napalm are still riding the rails–destination still unknown–after the Chicago facility that was to recycle the shipment decided not to accept it, on the heels of protests from several midwestern members of Congress. The WP coverage refers to the substance as a “Vietnam-era” weapon and states that the U.S. military discontinued its use a quarter century ago. On the other hand, the NYT says, “In the gulf war, allied forces reportedly dropped napalm canisters on Iraqi fortifications and tank obstacles.” Which is it?

The Justice Department and Kenneth Starr are battling over who should investigate whether or not some of conservative money-man Richard Mellon Scaife’s dough ended up being paid to Starr witness David Hale to influence his Whitewater testimony against Bill Clinton. Meanwhile, reports the NYT, the new publisher of The American Spectator, Terry Eastland, is trying to find out what became of the nearly $2 million in Scaife grants to investigate Clinton the magazine received. So far, it appears, says the paper, much of it went to the two men administering it. Eastland says David Henderson, of the magazine staff and Stephen Boynton, a lawyer, paid themselves fees of $12,000 and $15,000 per month respectively.

The Pulitzers were awarded yesterday and the dailies took their annual opportunity to say nice things about themselves in straight news stories (the Washington Post was able to go with the front-page headline, “Katharine Graham, Philip Roth Win Literary Pulitzers”). It remains curious to “Today’s Papers” however, that plays and books (and string quartets) can win journalism’s most esteemed prize, but magazines cannot. (Not to mention on-line magazines.)

The WP reports that National Journal columnist Stuart Taylor was dropped yesterday from his regular position on the “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.” Lehrer said on last night’s broadcast that “we believe Stuart’s recent commentaries in print and on other TV programs about the Starr investigation have caused some blurring of the lines and confusion about his role with us.” What Lehrer was beating around the bush about is that Taylor recently admitted he’d talked to Ken Starr about coming to work for him, and then decided not to. It’s far from clear to “Today’s Papers” why this is any kind of a firing offense. First of all, Taylor came right out and said these talks had taken place. More importantly, talking with a news subject about a possible job is not always grounds for dismissal on Lehrer’s show, which has not been so severe with commentator David Gergen, who while still on the show talked to Bill Clinton about coming to work for him before actually doing so.

If you’ve just now finished your tax return, you’ll be glad to know that Congress is springing into action with a fundamental tax law change. The Wall Street Journal reports that a bill already passed by the House and awaiting Senate approval calls for taxpayers to start writing checks to the Treasury instead of the IRS. “Backers hope,” says the Journal, “this change will send a clearer message to taxpayers [about] where their money goes.” Why not go all the way and let us start writing tax checks to say, “Bob Dole’s Condo Payments,” “White House Lawyers’ Salaries,” or “Linda Tripp’s Tape and Battery Account”?