Today's Papers


The New York Times leads with the millennial coming, while the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post lead with the resignation (just after the Friday papers closed) of Boris Yeltsin. The chronological milestone dominates both the WP and NYT fronts. The former runs a huge “2000” at its top, while the latter goes for “1/1/00.”

The NYT lead communicates the vast, unprecedented scope of the revel, noting besides the hometown $7 million bash attended by perhaps 2 million people, an “around-the-world series of golden moments” in the Pacific, Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The overriding theme of the coverage is the symbolic enthrallment of the planet from east to west and mercifully, the sheer glitchlessness of it all. The WP says the $500 billion spent worldwide on Y2K seems to have done the trick, although it would be just as plausible to wonder now if most of the spending was ever really necessary. The LAT includes an “extra” front page that briefly notes Australian bus ticketing foul-ups and South Korean trial summonses gone awry but which declares above it all in large pitch type “Millennial Mildness.”

So taken are the papers with millennial matters and the other pressing stories, that none makes room on their front for the news that all the major indexes ended the year/century/millennium in nosebleed territory.

Yeltsin’s surprise departure from the world scene leaves Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as acting president and also the likely full-time successor after the presidential elections that must take place within three months. Yeltsin, the papers report, said the new millennium required new leadership and he appealed for forgiveness on his way out. Putin responded by signing an order giving Yeltsin immunity from prosecution. On a day that, according to the coverage, saw Russian and American military officers jointly shepherding nuclear missiles through Y2K, Yeltsin and Putin participated in a little transition ceremony that centered on the handover of the suitcase that is used to monitor a nuclear war.

The other big story, which everybody fronts, is the peaceful resolution of the Indian Airlines hijacking crisis. India traded safe passage for three imprisoned Kashmir militants and the five hijackers for the safety of the plane’s 150 or so passengers. It appears from the coverage that the Taliban, which controlled the overall situation of the plane sitting in Afghanistan, was instrumental in forging the deal.

There is some surprisingly wonderful stuff in the millennial coverage. The NYT’s coverage of Hungary’s celebration dryly mentions “a journalist” getting “belted” twice in a minute by a reveler and then hit again by another. Of course, in Timesspeak this means the reporter writing the story. The WP runs 100 biographical sketches solicited from readers and many of them fascinate. TP’s favorite: “My parents were activist, intellectual, Marxist Jews. In the ‘50s they were blacklisted; in the ‘60s they worked for civil rights and painted an orange Day-Glo peace sign in our front window to publicize their opposition to the Vietnam War. They embarrassed the hell out of me, and I swore I would grow up to be normal. But what’s written in one’s DNA cannot be denied. Thirty years later, I am a 46-year-old Jewish bisexual priestess of eco-feminist witchcraft.”

The NYT takes the occasion to fess up to a mistake in the way the paper has been counting its issues. Seems that since Feb. 6, 1898, the paper has been giving itself credit for 500 numbers more than it actually published. The mistake, the Times tells us, was discovered yesterday. By a 24-year-old news assistant but, yes, with the help of a computer.

The papers report inside that George Harrison will recover from his stab wounds and that the man who inflicted them was charged with attempted murder and scheduled for psychiatric evaluation. Trivia Question: Why is George Harrison alive but John Lennon dead? Answer: because in England, a wack job can’t get a handgun.

There’s no sign yet of what the papers are going to call the decade just entered. Today’s Papers favors “the noughties” or the “uh-ohs,” but a letter writer to the Times proposes another idea that merits consideration: “the e-decade.”