Today's Papers

The United States in the Age of Mixed Media

Shooting from his car, a gunman killed a black man and wounded six Orthodox Jews in six separate locations in a Chicago suburb late Friday, the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead. The New York Times goes with a piece on the war against Milosevic, analyzing the Serbian Orthodox Church’s condemnation.

The Post describes the shooter as “possibly motivated by racial and religious hatred” but goes on to note Chicago Police hadn’t classified the spree as a hate crime because the gunman didn’t mention race or religion during the shootings. The LAT’s coverage is similar on this point but seems more sure, as indicated by its headline “Minorities Targeted …,” that it will ultimately be tagged a hate crime. The Jewish victims wore religious clothing that made their religious affiliation obvious. A couple of Asian descent was also shot at on Friday night; the Post says it’s possible it was the same guy, the LAT says authorities confirmed that it was on Saturday afternoon. They agree that he was a white male who used a .22-caliber pistol and a .380 semiautomatic. Ricky Byrdsong, the victim who died, was a former Northwestern University basketball coach.

An important belief of the Serbian Orthodox Church, notes the NYT, is “wherever Serbs live and bury their dead should be part of Serbia.” So it makes sense that the SOC “blame[s] Milosevic not for trying to defend the nation, but for failing,” in the words of one bishop. The Times headline says “Church of Milosevic’s Rise Now Sends Mixed Message” but this seems inaccurate. Though the piece says the SOC “10 years ago welcomed Milosevic’s violent nationalist land grab in the collapsing Yugoslavia,” SOC head Patriarch Pavle said Milosevic’s policies are criminal earlier this week, spent months in 1997 demonstrating for his resignation, and spoke out against him in 1992.

“[M]eanwhile, every day, come discoveries that, to outsiders, may seem numbingly repetitious–another grave site, another collapsed house, another charred landscape,” reports the Post’s David Finkel from a Stenkovic refugee camp. But, as Finkel says and demonstrates, they’re “heartbreakingly fresh” to the families experiencing them, like the Muslim family he describes as they find the body of the 11-year-old son they thought was alive.

The NYT off-leads a piece on why black students of middle and upper socioeconomic classes lag behind their white counterparts. The piece notes that such black students, for example, haven’t done better than poverty-stricken white students on some tests; data also suggests the gap is larger between black and white performance at higher achievement levels. It doesn’t specify where these stats are derived from. It seems that “lingering racial inferiority complexes, peer pressure, low teacher expectations, curriculum, [low] parental involvement and access to information, and vestiges of racism in schools” contribute to the problem.

The Post also off-leads a local education story based on a poll of 802 public high-school teachers in the area conducted at the close of the 1998-99 year that found while teachers are “combating significant academic and behavioral problems … the overwhelming majority still” enjoy their jobs. Yet 47 percent doubted diplomas from their schools proved mastery of the basics.

Combining their strong interest in entertainment and health-care stories, the LAT off-leads a piece on psychologists who use film therapy to help provoke responses in and discussion with their patients. They also front the news that the L.A. area “has slipped further behind the nation in one important measure of economic stability: the health insurance coverage rate of its work force” which is less than 60 percent while nationwide the number is 74 percent.

Another LAT front story reports that George W. Bush moved suspiciously swiftly through the ranks of the Texas Air National Guard, noting incidents like his “jump into the officer ranks without the exceptional credentials many other officer candidates possessed.” For the piece, the Times examined 200 pages of Bush’s service record and interviews with Guard officials, veterans, and military experts. There’s no hard evidence of illegality or rule-breaking and Bush’s presidential campaign office denied that he received differential treatment.

In Warp Speed: America in the Age of Mixed Media authors (and distinguished journalists) Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel “use the Lewinsky scandal as a prism to disperse light on the American press” warrants high praise from the NYT “Book Review.” The book notes the media increase in opinion, speculation, and argument and contrasting paucity of hard news, as well as increasing reporter reliance on anonymous sources without characterizing their possible biases. The review deems it “far more focused and provocative than its lofty subtitle might suggest.”