Today's Papers

Dim Summit

USA Today and the New York Times lead with the Sharm El Sheik summit’s conclusion: Israel’s promise to reopen its borders with Palestinian territory, to allow flight operations to resume at the Gaza airport, and to move its forces back away from the areas of the recent fighting, and the Palestinians’ promise to call for an end to riots and gun battles. Also, the papers report, it was agreed that a special U.S.-approved board of inquiry will examine the causes of the recent violence. Nevertheless, the papers say, sporadic fighting continued in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The summit is the top national story at the Los Angeles Times, which leads instead with a local story–the settlement of L.A.’s 32-day transit strike. The Washington Post off-leads the summit, going instead with last night’s final presidential debate, a story everybody else fronts, and which the Wall Street Journalputs atop its front-page world-wide news box.

The coverage notes one unusual aspect of the summit wrap-up: no statements by the disputants and nothing in writing released to the public. Although the LAT refers to a “secret side memorandum” covering security issues, such as a Palestinian pledge to re-arrest Islamic fundamentalists released from prison last week. Both the NYT and the WP also mention that pledge without saying that it was written down. The NYT says Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat opting for silence at the finale was “an American decision.”

The WP lead depicts the debate–a town-hall sort of a deal where all the questions came from self-proclaimed undecided voters–as less amiable than the previous one and as focusing primarily on education (main issue: vouchers) and health care (patients’ rights versus insurance companies and HMOs, the cost of prescription drugs, and the desirability of national health care). The story refers to debate prep materials handed out to the press beforehand–the Gore campaign’s was called a guide “for the Texas Polo, Cricket and Yacht Club” and the Bush campaign’s referred to “Al Gore’s attacks, distortions and Texas-bashing”–but couldn’t be troubled to go beyond these descriptions to actually discuss their contents. The NYT finds Gore “newly feisty” but not too combative and sees Bush as “more earnest and subdued” as he “tried to play the statesman.” USAT sees the debate as the “harshest” of the series. The NYT, WP, and USAT comment on how physically close Gore came to his opponent when asking Bush about why he opposes the patients’ rights bill currently before Congress. Everybody notes that Bush charged Gore with being a big spender. The WSJ says the debate “appeared to justify Bush’s initial hesitation about agreeing to the town-hall-style format.”

Both the Times front fresh developments in the Cole bombing. The WP puts its latest on the case deep inside. The big news is that investigators in Yemen have found an abandoned apartment apparently used by people involved in the crime. The NYT says that a car and trailer involved have also been found. These details are also at the bottom of USAT’s lead. The LAT says that up to six men were associated with the apartment and that all have now disappeared. The WP cites Clinton administration sources as saying that the people associated with the apartment are not believed to be the ones who died carrying out the attack because someone who can build a powerful complex bomb is deemed too valuable for suicide. The paper also quotes some Yemeni sources as saying the missing men are Saudis. The NYT emphasizes that examination of the Cole has convinced investigators that the explosive device used was more sophisticated than originally thought, hardware of a magnitude not used in any previous known terrorist operation, according to one quoted expert. The paper also states that a significant number of people in the port appeared to be aware that something was amiss before the bomb went off and describes the harbor pilot who came aboard as “acting really nervous.”

There was an important word left out of yesterday’s WP and NYT stories about how the George W. Bush administration may have ignored evidence exonerating two men serving murder sentences in Texas. That word was Salon. Seems that the online magazine wrote about the case last week, which as far as Today’s Papers can tell was the first nationally distributed press outlet to do so, although unlike the Post and Times, the Salon story does refer to the shoulders it stands on: a report from KVUE, an Austin, Texas, TV station. When the big boys play this sort of hide-and-seek, they’re abusing their readers, who presumably would like to know as much as possible about a story. And hmmm, it’s interesting that whenever any “respectable” press outlet (like, say, the WP or NYT) pontificates about the quality of online journalism, they always claim that onliners break so few stories. …