Today's Papers

Starr Needs Agent

USA Today

and the Washington Post lead with Kenneth Starr’s issuance of subpoenas Monday for grand jury testimony from the Secret Service agents who work closest to President Clinton. The Los Angeles Times leads with a GAO report to be released today warning that while raising the retirement age would enhance the solvency of the Social Security system, it also would cause serious health problems for blue-collar workers. The New York Times leads with a groundbreaking collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico in the investigation of the drug trade: a jailed former head of the Mexican national police was recently brought secretly to the U.S. (Houston), where he testified about drug payoffs at high levels of the Mexican government.

USAT and the Post note that the latest round of Starr subpoenas, supported by an appeals court decision last week impugning the notion of “protective privilege,” targets agents with far more intimate knowledge of presidential behavior and movements than the uniformed Secret Service personnel previously interviewed. Because the DOJ is expected to contest the subpoenas, the agents’ compelled testimony, says USAT, is not expected anytime soon. Both the LAT and the NYT put the development deep inside. Odd discrepancy: the WP says seven agents were subpoenaed while USAT says five.

Pictures from Northern Ireland of little coffins get lots of front space all around. In its news section “cover story,” USAT says the arson deaths of the three brothers have given both Catholics and Protestants pause and appear to have brought Northern Ireland “back to sanity, back from the brink.”

Everybody reports that the airline America West has agreed to pay the FAA a fine of at least $2.5 million, the highest ever assessed against an air carrier, because of maintenance lapses the agency alleges, including continuing to fly 17 airplanes for two years and 41,000 flights past the time when detailed inspections of the cargo-door and crew areas were required.

The Wall Street Journal dedicates a front-page leader to catching up with some dual career couples it wrote about more than twenty years ago. Nice idea, but the piece turns out to be one part sociological reporting and twenty parts nationally distributed resume and family album. Whoopee for the Baums, with their Harvard kids, their million-dollar apartments in Manhattan and Greenwich and their chauffeur-driven Rolls! In a world with too much good stuff to read, “Today’s Papers” suggests the following rule of thumb: Always skip a story that starts off with a woman’s valiant struggle to keep off her cellular phone for a few days for the sake of her family.

The WP front notes the launch of an anti-gay newspaper advertising campaign by a coalition of conservative religious groups. The groups say they have been inspired by the recent remarks by Trent Lott comparing homosexuals to alcoholics, kleptomaniacs and sex addicts. Ads are running this week in the NYT, WP, and USAT. Where are the groups’ ads campaigning against alcoholism, kleptomania and sex addiction?

Maureen Dowd takes note of a recent journalism trend: the tendency of the media “to forget about news and focus on themselves.” And she has no difficulty in culling support for her thesis from the recent list of hot stories: the New Yorker succession, Time/CNN/sarin, Jim Fallows’ firing, Nina Burleigh on the Oral Office, Steven Brill, etc. But therein lies a problem for Ms. Dowd: she’s written at length about all of these matters, a length she could have used to write about “news,” but didn’t. And indeed, today’s column just adds to her own media-saturated word count.