Today's Papers

Silver Spoon

The Los Angeles Times leads with the stroke of Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, who is now in intensive care and has been temporarily replaced by the Cabinet secretary. USA Today, sporting a new less type-intensive format, goes with word that since 1997 at least 17 companies ignored problems with products that were seriously injuring children until the government stepped in. The New York Times goes with the rise of identity theft, especially virulent now thanks to the Internet. The story reports that last year the Social Security Administration received more than 30,000 complaints related to the misuse of Social Security numbers, up from under 8,000 in 1997. One Web site mentioned in the story will produce somebody else’s SSN in one day for just $49. Ethical puzzle: Should papers print the Web addresses of such dubious but apparently legal activities? The Times does. The Washington Post leads with a further wash-up on the failure of the Microsoft settlement talks, which has sources identifying some deal-breakers: 1) whether or not a deal about predatory pricing should extend to Microsoft products not covered in the original lawsuit, such as Office and Windows 2000; and 2) whether a deal about making software code available to competitors required the same degree of disclosure enjoyed by Microsoft code developers.

The LAT says that Obuchi was conscious and able to speak after his stroke and that indeed he personally authorized the power handover. The paper reports that vague statements from the government have fueled speculation about the PM’s condition. Indeed, says the paper, the entire event went unreported to the Japanese public for 22 hours, a figure also given by the WP’s story.

The USAT lead says that the Consumer Product Safety Commission plans to announce today a $400,000 penalty against Hasbro for not telling the CPSC about problems with a baby carrier until the company had received 12 reports of failures resulting in seven skull fractures.

The LAT fronts President Clinton’s expression of hope to reporters traveling with him aboard Air Force One that there will be a resolution of the Elián González wrangle that’s “not just a train wreck.”

The NYT reports inside that on Monday, the Massachusetts attorney general will announce his enforcement of the strictest handgun safety laws in the nation–henceforth, guns sold in the state must have tamper-proof serial numbers, trigger locks, and an indicator of the weapon’s loaded/unloaded status. And automatics must have a device that prevents them from firing when there is a round in the chamber but no magazine attached. The paper points out that these rules are the first consumer protection regulations in the country focusing on handgun safety, which, the paper points out, puts Massachusetts ahead of the federal government, which specifically exempted guns from regulation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

There will no doubt be some serious head-shaking around the WP newsroom when word gets out about the item in the Post business section concerning the nearly $17.5 million netted by the former president of the Post, Alan Spoon, when he cashed out his stock options upon departing last year.

The NYT asks Renata Adler why she wrote in her recently published book that Watergate hero Judge John Sirica had ties to organized crime and yet didn’t trouble to document the charge. Adler, both a journalist and a lawyer, displays a frightfully poor grasp of each field when she replies that what she writes and when she writes it is for her to decide.

Now in his early 50s, Shelby Coffey, longtime journalism honcho and current head of CNN’s struggling financial news network, can no longer pass himself off as promising. But that’s OK, he has a new way to frame himself for the next generation of profiling journalists–he’s tough. And incredibly, today’s NYT effort falls for it, beginning and ending with gratuitous references to Coffey’s boxing. (The story doesn’t say whether he spars actual people who can hit back, only that he hits a heavy bag on occasion.) Now, if journalism really were anything like boxing, there’d be another term for Coffey, after his various non-title turns at the WP, the LAT, and ABC News. Washed up.


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