Today's Papers

Brave Newt World

After Today’s Papers: International Papers provides the low-down on overseas coverage of the war crimes tribunal, Mandela’s birthday, and Queen Elizabeth’s rising stature in Fiji. The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times lead with a story that’s already made the rounds once this summer–the Nigerian military leader’s promise that his country will return to democratic civilian rule. What’s new is that on Monday he said this would happen by May 29, 1999. USA Today also goes with a moldy oldy: It’s hot. The only really new heat news, on the LAT front and inside at the WP, is that the Border Patrol is carrying out search-and-rescue missions to save illegal immigrants who court heat death while trying to sneak into the U.S. from Mexico. In New Orleans, according to the Post, President Clinton said the summer swelter proved global warming.

The NYT reports that Nigeria’s Gen. Abubakar apparently bowed to military hawks in not agreeing to hand over power by October 1 to civilian authority. (The NYT doesn’t explain the significance of the date, but the LAT does–it’s Nigerian Independence Day.) But in a televised speech, he said he would release all political prisoners jailed by the previous military regime, allow the formation of political parties, reform the prison system and put an end to “lapses” in the management of public funds. The speech, says the Times, was intended to reassure Western governments. And Abubakar is clearly making the transition to Western political values–he summed up his predecessor’s reign of corruption and false imprisonment thus: “mistakes have been made.”

The Wall Street Journal runs a front-page feature on an emerging force in Asian journalism, China’s weekly Southern Weekend. The paper started out entertainment-oriented but under the leadership of its Western-oriented and literate editor, it has grown in circulation and profitability as it moved from celebrity news and salacious scandals to real investigative reporting. Recent stories: thefts of antiquities during a high-profile government dam project, and false murder convictions. And, reports the Journal, the paper is changing the shape of Chinese media. In fact, last month a government paper launched its own copycat.

Additional perspective on the press comes in a NYT op-ed written by a Peruvian journalist, Gustavo Gorriti, who notes that in Latin America, journalists are often the only check on government abuse of power and, as a result, are generally viewed very positively. One reason for this, the author says, is that the American principles of thoroughness, fact checking and the separation between editors and publishers have profoundly influenced Latin journalists. Which leads Gorriti to wonder: What happened to these values in American newsrooms? His answer: Conglomerates swallowing up media properties, the rush to do “impact news” of the Lewinsky sort, and “relentless greed for prizes.”

Arianna Huffington’s LAT column connects the two most consuming scandal stories of the 90s. If the “perjury epidemic” is to be checked, then, she says, the perjury cases involving President Clinton (who denied under oath having had sex with Monica) and O.J. Simpson (who denied under oath having beaten Nicole) must be pursued to their respective ends.

The most disturbing thing “Today’s Papers” has read on the job yet was in Sunday’s LAT, which published an interview with a teenaged boy, David Cash, who apparently learned right after the fact that his friend had murdered a seven-year-old girl in a Las Vegas casino bathroom and yet did nothing. LAT: “Were you appalled that a friend said he killed a little girl?” Cash: “I’m not going to get upset over somebody else’s life. I just worry about myself first. I’m not going to lose sleep over somebody else’s problems.”

Following up its story yesterday about Big Tobacco’s propensity for flying Republican members of Congress around, today’s WP passes along the results of a Center for Responsive Politics study of the free travel accepted by members (it’s still legal as long as it relates to congressional business). The chief finding: Corporations, trade groups and the like spent $6.4 million last year on trips for members, their spouses, and their staffs. The member accepting the most free travel–over $44,000 worth–was Newt Gingrich. Gingrich also had the single most expensive free trip–a four-day jaunt to London that cost Atlantic Richfield $33,000. Asked about Gingrich’s $12,000 hotel bill at London’s posh Claridge’s, an aide offers the Post this explanation: “Arco selected the hotel.”