Mr. Kurtz, He Dead

Summaries of what's in Time, Newsweek, etc.
May 5 2000 9:30 PM

Mr. Kurtz, He Dead

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New Republic, May 15

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The cover story faults media critics for trivializing journalism. Tedious muckrakers such as Howard Kurtz hunt for hidden biases and exaggerate ethical transgressions. Unlike critics of yore, notably A.J. Liebling, Kurtz and his cohorts ignore the substance and the literary value of the pieces they assail. An article urges Americans to prepare for the impending energy squeeze. Oil production will peak within a decade, yet consumption continues to rise. The United States should increase gasoline taxes and push agricultural fuels such as ethanol. An editorial condemns the Lockerbie trial. Even if the two Libyans accused of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 are found guilty, the true culprit—Muammar Qaddafi—will escape scot-free.

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Economist, May 6

The cover story sketches Al Gore's foreign policy plans. Unlike Bill Clinton, Gore would emphasize transnational issues such as climate change and debt relief. (Jacob Weisberg's Ballot Box argues that Gore's foreign policy is pure Clintonism.) A piece predicts that the "media bubble inflated by the larger Internet bubble" will burst. Tech rags such as the Industry Standard prospered as dot-coms crowded advertising outlets. But there are too many new mags, and dot-com ad buys are shrinking. Many publications will fold. An article examines the threat flying birds pose to aircraft. Bird-jet collisions cost American airlines $385 million per year. Experts recommend using laser beams to scare birds out of flight paths.

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Brill's Content, June 2000 

An article reveals that former George executive editor Richard Blow was to be paid $750,000 for a tell-all book about John F. Kennedy Jr., even though Blow had signed a nondisclosure agreement and fired George staffers for talking about their deceased boss. (According to news reports today, Little, Brown has now axed the book.) The cover story previews American TV's "summer of surveillance." CBS is packing its schedule with contrived spy-cam documentaries: Big Brother and Survivor will follow average folks around a backlot house and a deserted island.

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New York Times Magazine, May 7

The American psyche issue. An introduction concludes, on the basis of the Times' "The Way We Live Now" poll, that Americans are becoming more autonomous. We are less theological than our parents, but just as spiritual. We eschew moral absolutes but hew to our own moral codes. …  An essay argues that the most distinctive American trait is a Horatio Alger-like faith in limitless opportunity. Eighty-five percent of those polled believe that it's possible to be who you want to be in the United States. An article divulges Johnny Cash's secret to happiness: his and hers bathrooms. He and his wife use their lavatories to pray, rehearse, and commune with their inner-selves.

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Time, May 8

The cover story claims that the Vikings were more than crude marauders. Ancient Norsemen were expert traders, magnificent craftsman, and democrats who founded the world's oldest parliament. Vikings had a vibrant oral literary culture and happily intermarried into the cultures they invaded. A piece debunks the myth—propagated by Sen. John McCain—that increasing numbers of soldiers are on food stamps. In 1991, 15,400 troops relied on food stamps. By 1998, "only 6,300 of the 1.4 million Americans in uniform" were on them. That 0.45 percent military rate compares to an 8 percent rate in the general population.

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