Today's Papers

Two Subs Need Rescue

USA Today, the New York Times, and Los Angeles Times lead with President Clinton’s farewell speech to his party on the first night of the Democratic convention, which is also the top story in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page news box. USAT’s final edition lead includes mention of the contemporaneous clash outside as police swung clubs and fired rubber bullets and pepper spray at protesters hurling “rocks, bottles and insults.” The NYT and LAT break out separate front-pagers on the violence. The Washington Post ‘s front is dominated by the convention, but its lead is a Russian nuclear-powered submarine that’s stuck 500 feet below the surface of the Barents Sea, off the coast of Norway. Everybody else fronts the sub, with the LAT even adding a second backgrounder on sub disasters.

The coverage notes the dual purpose of Clinton’s remarks: 1) To defend and exult in his administration’s accomplishments in the face of Republican charges that the current good times are more luck than Democratic design; 2) To help presumptive nominee Al Gore by sharing the credit with him. The LAT describes this balancing act as seeking to embrace Gore without smothering him. Hillary Clinton gave the night’s first speech, which had the foregoing objectives plus one more: tell New Yorkers watching of her own significant role in the administration’s successes. A speech in which, asserts a NYT front-pager, “she luxuriated in a level of attention unimaginable for a candidate conducting her first campaign for public office.”

The LAT lead is the only one giving high play to convention storm warnings. It describes how Gore allies are working to reassure party loyalists regarding the politics of Joe Lieberman. A measure of the situation’s urgency: The paper says Maxine Waters, one of the most prominent blacks in Congress, is withholding her endorsement of Lieberman. The WP breaks this out into a separate front-pager, which does a better job of making it clear what the concern is all about, namely Lieberman’s 1998 support for California Prop 209 banning all state-funded affirmative action, and his support for state-funded school vouchers. The paper says that the Gore campaign has dispatched Labor Secretary Alexis Herman and D.C.’s congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton to defuse black reaction against Lieberman. At one point, the paper quotes Herman defending Lieberman by saying that he supported the plain-as-day 209 “without knowing the full impact” and because he “did not understand [its] intent.” The coverage does not mention whether a more plausible source of reassurance about Lieberman on racial matters is being invoked as part of this campaign, something which President Clinton mentioned from the rostrum last night–Lieberman was a Freedom Rider.

Reports conflict about the cause of that Russian sub’s foundering–either a collision with another vessel or the premature explosion of a torpedo. Although the ship is apparently intact and its crew of 100 or so is still alive (and communicating with nearby vessels by tapping on the sub’s hull), the paper reports that the commander of the Russian navy says there is little hope of raising the sub or saving its men. A key reason is that the Russian navy has never developed the deep-diving rescue equipment required.

The WSJ reports that a group of free-lance writers has filed a suit in federal court demanding to be paid back royalties from three online publishers, Bell & Howell, Northern Light Technology, and Thomson, Corp. The writers allege that copies of their works are being sold online without their being consulted or remunerated. The Journal explains that this filing is a big step for free-lancers, who have long been among the least powerful and lowest-paid members of the media, and that it comes on the heels of an unprecedented royalty agreement signed by Steven Brill’s article database company and the National Writers Union. The suit seeks class-action status on behalf of all those whose works are in the publishers’ databases, which could run to as many as 10,000 writers.

Reflecting on the Clinton speech just past and the Gore speech to come, the NYT’s Gail Collins summarizes the likely difference. Clinton, she writes, can make the members of a large audience feel as if they’re sitting alone in his living room, while Gore can make people sitting alone in his living room feel as if they’re in a large audience.