Today's Papers

Goodbye Dolly

No single story dominates today. The Washington Post leads with a story that makes everybody’s front page–the mass cloning of mice at a University of Hawaii lab, the first documented cloning of adult mammals since Dolly. The New York Times leads with Iran’s test-firing of a missile with a range sufficient to strike Israel, Saudi Arabia, and most of Turkey–a story nobody else has on the front page. USA Today goes with worries the Y2K glitch could severely affect the health care system. And the top national story at the Los Angeles Times is a Senate committee’s rejection of the Clinton administration’s nominee for Secretary of the Air Force. The nomination gets lots of space elsewhere, but only the LAT infuses the vote with racial overtones from the git-go, saying in the first sentence that the vote “killed the candidacy of the first black ever nominated to be Air Force secretary,” even though the issues that brought him down were discrepancies in his statements about his career as a pilot and his apparent practice of pressuring subordinates to buy Amway products from him.

The WP’s Rick Weiss quotes a Princeton genetics professor saying human cloning will “happen sooner than we thought a year ago,” and guessing that means within five years. Talk about cloning–the NYT gets practically the same quote from the same prof for its front-page take on the results.

The Post also reports in the story that sophisticated DNA techniques have proved beyond doubt that Dolly is a clone. The paper waits until the ninth paragraph to mention that, oh by the way, both of these developments are from today’s issue of Nature. The Times does it right, giving Nature credit at the start of the third paragraph.

The NYT lead says that U.S. officials are certain Iran successfully conducted a firing of that medium-range missile, purchased from North Korea. One former intelligence official is quoted saying the major reaction of the test–conducted entirely within Iran–is going to be from Israel, which views Iran as the main threat in the Middle East. The U.S. will be looking for assurances, says the paper, that Iran is not trying to develop weapons of mass destruction.

USAT’s Y2K/health care story is hooked to Senate hearings to be held today on such problems as: crashing computers wiping out medical records, intravenous feeders and dialysis machines going haywire, and back-up generators failing. (Wry commentary or poor word choice? The Nation’s Newspaper says the Senate is “staging” the hearings today.) Senate investigators have discovered, says the paper, that only 30 percent of hospitals have formal Y2K plans, and that 90 percent of physicians are not addressing the issue in their own offices.

The NYT continues to ride Janet Reno hard on her relative inaction regarding allegations of illegalities in President Clinton’s 1996 campaign fund-raising operations. The metro edition features an off-lead reporting that the departing head of Justice’s look at the matter has concluded in a report to Reno that an independent prosecutor should be named to investigate further. And the paper’s lead editorial uses this news as the springboard to once again call for just that.

Death continues to strike down Americans, and celebrities are no exception, sometimes, like yesterday, dying two at a time. According to the papers, the latest famous to follow in the co-mortal footsteps of Cervantes and William Shakespeare, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and JFK and Aldous Huxley, are Alan Shepard and Robert Young, who together take up a good third of the LAT front and considerable space at the other papers. (Incidentally, such episodes evince the papers’ basic celebrity obituary photo policy: don’t use recent pictures.) At the WP, Shepard gets not only the front, but also two more stories inside. The instant upwelling of space lore in the papers prompted by Shepard’s passing is a sure indication that next year’s 30th anniversary of man-on-the-moon will be a media big deal.

The culture’s yawning need to celebrate such past events has meant, says a Wall Street Journal front-page feature, redefining “past events” to include things that aren’t really either. So it is that Jane’s Addiction recently did a reunion tour, that the compilation CD “Living in the 90s” has sold 500,000 copies, and that Vanilla Ice is doing concerts again and just signed a record deal. (The Journal’s style sheet calls for referring to the recovering has-been as “Mr. Ice.” Does Snoop Doggy Dogg get “Mr. Dogg”?)

A Reuters item inside the NYT about the controversy in England over whether or not the age of consent for gay sex should be lowered from 18 to 16 makes a rather fundamental omission. Although the story says that sentiment against the move has been criticized as discrimination against gay men, nowhere does it mention the age of consent for straight men. (Nor does it mention if there’s a similar differential in the U.S.)

It’s often interesting to wonder who brings the need for a correction to a paper’s attention and why. Consider for instance, the following item in today’s Times: “An article on July 18 about allegations of sexual misconduct among New York City police officers misstated the street number of what was said to be a brothel frequented by officers. It was at 335 West 39th Street, not 355 West 39th.”