Policy made plain.
Oct. 25 1998 3:30 AM

Slate Sincerely Flattered


Time magazine, we notice, seems to have started a new feature called "Dear Dr. Notebook," which poses and answers questions that arise from the current news. We can't help sensing a family resemblance to Slate's months-old "Explainer" column, which ... well, poses and answers questions that arise from the current news. There are differences, of course. Time, as a serious newsmagazine, deals with issues such as: Why are there Clinton masks for Halloween but no Monica masks? Or: How do you clean a mirror-studded leather dress like the one Prada showed in Milan? Slate, by contrast, as a frivolous, attitude-besotted Webzine, asks (and answers): How does the Kosovo situation compare with the one in Bosnia? Or: What's the difference among all these journalists named Broder?

Turning the page in Time, we came across another newish feature called "News Quiz"--not to be confused with a Slate feature of the same name started several months earlier. There is nothing proprietary about the name "News Quiz," of course--and we would not insult the author of Slate's "News Quiz" by suggesting that there is any similarity between Time's News Quiz and the one Randy Cohen produces for us. But it is remarkable that Time should have gone almost 75 years without a news quiz, only to start one shortly after Slate did.

Brooding about all this, we flung away Time with irritation and picked up Newsweek. The No. 2 newsmagazine, we noticed, also has a new front-of-the-book feature, euphoniously titled "The Buzz-O-Meter." The gimmick seems to be that you take an issue in the news and list the various "buzzes" on it--"buzz" No. 2 perhaps contradicting "buzz" No. 1 in some ironic or amusing way, "buzz" Nos. 3 and 4 peeling additional layers off the onion of perception, and so on. Could this, we wondered, possibly be an hommage to the strangely similar technique invented by William Saletan for Slate's "The Week/The Spin"? Was there a lavish banquet ceremony of thanksgiving and celebration of Will's achievements to which we misplaced our invitation?

We consulted Microsoft's new president, Steve Ballmer, on what, if anything, we should do about all this. He replied, with simple eloquence, "Have them killed." But he quickly added, "Unless, of course, that would in any way violate the antitrust laws."


My Name Is Michael, and I'm a 'Scapoholic

Speaking of the antitrust laws, readers who have been enjoying Michael Lewis' "Dispatches" from the courtroom where government lawyers are attempting the most brazen legal challenge to human progress since the Scopes Trial should be aware of the following: Mr. Lewis' views do not necessarily reflect those of Slate magazine, its editors, or its advertisers. Especially its editors'. In fact, we were sitting around the other day trying to recall whose stupid idea it was to hire Michael Lewis, a known Netscape user--sometimes four, five, six, or more times a day; the man clearly belongs in Netscape Anonymous--to cover an event as complex and vital to civilization's future as the Microsoft trial. Oddly enough, no Slate editor could recall making this tawdry assignment. Nor does anyone recall telling Mr. Lewis that he was free to express his views whatever they may be, no matter how fatuous or uninformed by the slightest understanding of the free enterprise system, and without considering for a moment that Slate is owned by Microsoft and that some of its staff members have young children and very little talent that would make us employable at a less saintlike, public-spirited, and compassionate company. No one admits to having said to him, "Let the microchips fall where they may." In fact, no one can recall ever exchanging a word with Mr. Lewis before his absurd reports began appearing on our site. He must have just hacked his way in.

E-Mail Bonding

Slate's two new every-weekday e-mail deliveries are up and running and available as another free service to Slate subscribers. "Slate Afternoon Delivery" includes some of the day's updates of Slate news and business departments such as "Moneybox" and "Frame Game," along with Slate's daily (unlike some rival news quizzes we could name) News Quiz. "Slate Evening Delivery" is a selection from Slate's cultural reviews and reportage. Each item in both of these new deliveries is personally selected for you by Slate Deputy Editor Jack Shafer, plucked at its very peak of ripeness, and e-mailed to you so fresh it gleams. (No waiting around for stale, shopworn news and reviews to be delivered once a week and days late by certain newsmagazines we don't care to mention.)

Click here to sign up for any or all of Slate's e-mail services, including "Slate Morning Delivery" (with "Today's Papers"); our weekly print-out edition, Slateon Paper; or our weekly listing and description of what's new in Slate. Or, if you haven't yet done so, click here to subscribe to Slate.

--Michael Kinsley