Today's Papers

Bill Gets Booked

The USA Today lead is the paper’s polling purportedly showing that 55 percent of Americans favor federal funding for stem-cell research using embryos left over from fertility treatments, which, the paper reminds, President Bush, while a candidate, said he opposed. The survey also found 68 percent approval of research using adult stem cells, but only 28 percent for research on cloned ones. The Los Angeles Times leads with a state story with national oomph: the California Supreme Court decision yesterday that gun manufacturers cannot be held responsible when their products are used to commit crimes. The paper says the ruling is a “stinging defeat for gun control advocates.” The Washington Post lead detects the emergence of a new and powerful alliance for loosening the laws pertaining to U.S. immigration–not just immigrants’ rights groups but now also including labor (looking for more members), business (looking for relief on hard-to-fill jobs, especially in service and construction), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (the biggest immigrant group is Hispanics, who are overwhelmingly Catholic) and Republican Party strategists (looking for a breakthrough in Hispanic support). The New York Times leads with, and the LAT fronts, an apparent breakthrough in implementing the long-stalled Northern Ireland peace agreement–the IRA has agreed to a verifiable and permanent method of destroying its store of weapons, which the paper describes as “three tons of Semtex explosive, 1,000 rifles and 600 handguns in addition to mortars, launchers and other military materiel.” Although the story quotes enthusiasm about this from the agreement’s sponsors, Tony Blair and the Irish prime minister, nobody’s saying what the method is.

The NYT off-leads, the WP and LAT front, and USAT reefers yesterday’s announcement that Bill Clinton has sold the publishing rights to his memoirs to Alfred A. Knopf. Reports of how much he’s getting in return vary. USAT says, “nearly $10 million,” the NYT and WP say, “more than $10 million,” and the LAT says, “as high as $12 million.” Everybody notes that Clinton is getting a bigger advance than either Hillary ($8 million) or the pope ($8.5 million). Noting the Clintons’ nearly $4 million in remaining legal bills, the NYT says their book deals “will go a long way” toward putting them on firm financial footing. The stories all say there will be no ghost writer, and that Bill Clinton’s editor will be Robert Gottlieb, who performed the same function for Katharine Graham’s autobiography, which, the NYT says, Clinton told the Knopf folks he particularly admired. The NYT also has quotes from various witting participants saying that while both Bill and Hillary’s books are scheduled for 2003, their publication dates will be coordinated by the two publishing houses so that there will be adequate spacing between them, with hers coming out first.

The NYT fronts its finding that more than a decade after top law schools started producing more diverse law school classes, the top law firms still are slow to make “minority” lawyers partners. The paper says that at the seven of the 12 highest-grossing law firms in the U.S. that supplied it with data, “minority” lawyers accounted for only 5 percent of the new partners in recent years. The story is replete with precise-seeming recitations of statistics, but there is one notable area of imprecision: It never says what is meant by a “minority” lawyer. It seems from a quote here and there that this includes African-Americans and Hispanics. And maybe Asians, although there is this sentence suggesting they don’t quite count: “Simpson Thacher & Bartlett made three minority lawyers partners this year–all of them Asian–out of 11 new partners, but none, out of a total of 15 new partners, in the two preceding years.” But beyond that it gets really confusing. For instance, it’s not clear if “minority” includes white females. And the story never mentions the category of Jewish lawyers. Aren’t Jews a minority in America? And if they aren’t being counted as such for the purposes of this story, maybe at least the paper could spend a sentence or two saying that and explaining why.

The WP reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee has ordered a special investigation into a potential new scandal for the FBI, especially troublesome since the bureau has already conducted an apparently less than Diogenetic investigation into the matter. It seems that in 1997 the bureau scheduled an official event for the day after a retirement party near Washington, D.C., for a deputy FBI director, which enabled agents to fly in from around the country on the government’s dime. Problem is, while some 140 agents made the party, only five made it to the official function–an ethics conference.

The WP reports that the White House, angered by a photo spread in the current issue of Talk magazine (gee, are they still around?) using supermodels to make fun of the Bush daughters’ adventures with alcohol, will no longer cooperate with any journalist, staff or free-lance, writing a story for Talk. Special notice to writers wanting to pitch anti-Bush magazine story ideas: The Post story has a presidential spokesman insisting that the White House “has no problem” returning calls from writers working for Slate. Oh, OK, he also said the same about the New Republic. (Gee, are they still around?)

The WP fronts and the NYT goes inside with stories about President Bush’s vacation in Texas. (A topic much more fairly handled last week in USAT.) Although the media make fun of the way U.S. politicians spin and poll everything to death, these stories are prime examples of where that tendency comes from. The NYT says that Bush’s August schedule includes “planning to dart around the country–hitting at least eight cities–to talk informally about compassionate values as he demonstrates his own by helping nail together a house for Habitat for Humanity in nearby Waco on Wednesday.” Note how the action words–“planning,” “dart,” “talk,” and “demonstrates”–give away the game: The paper thinks none of this is authentic. Reader assignment: Rewrite that sentence as if the Times were reporting on the same activities being carried out by Jimmy Carter. And the Post starts out saying that by the time Bush returns to Washington on Labor Day “after the longest presidential vacation in 32 years, he will have spent all or part of 54 days since the inauguration” at his ranch. And then it follows up with: “Throw in four days last month at his parents’ seaside estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, and 38 full or partial days at the presidential retreat at Camp David, and Bush will have spent 42 percent of his presidency at vacation spots or en route.” Isn’t this sort of “reporting” a bit incomplete without comparative number-crunching for movements of a paper’s own top executives? May she rest in peace, but Katharine Graham didn’t exactly die on the composing room floor.