Televisionaries

Televisionaries

Televisionaries

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 11 1998 7:30 AM

Televisionaries

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and the Washington Post lead with the FAA's grounding of the oldest 737 passenger jets. The national edition of the New York Times leads with the U.S. decision to give Benjamin Netanyahu two more weeks to reply to its proposal that Israel undertake a more substantial withdrawal from the West Bank. But the later metro edition of the Times leads with news of an imminent $60 billion phone company merger. The Los Angeles Times goes with Sinn Fein's overwhelming endorsement of the Northern Ireland peace deal.

The 737 inspections ordered by the FAA last week (which USAT alone led with on Friday) were apparently well warranted: 13 of the first 26 fuel main fuel pump wires checked showed wear on their insulation, says USAT. The WP is a little more reader-friendly about the actual number of planes involved: it says every one of the first 13 planes checked show some insulation chafing (the NYT, in its front-page story, says instead that this was true of a majority of the first 13 planes looked at), and that the grounding order affects 179 U.S. planes and 193 others worldwide. The Post also helpfully explains that the order only affects planes at least 16 years old. USAT reports that one 737 with 60,000 flight hours showed clear signs of sparking in one location inside its main tank and bare wire in another. This is of concern because electrical sparking inside a fuel tank is now suspected of having brought down TWA Flight 800. (The story is also front-page at the LAT.)

SBC Communications (formerly Southwestern Bell), the West's dominant local phone company is, reports the Times, set to acquire Ameritech, its counterpart in the Midwest, thus becoming the nation's largest local phone company and recreating much of the old Bell phone system. The paper reminds those scoring at home that the $60 billion merger is the second largest in corporate history, trailing only March's $70 billion Citicorp/Travelers Group union. (And if you are meticulously updating your copy of this list, odds are you are not scoring at home.) The lengthy Wall Street Journal account points out that unlike many of the recent mergers, which have at least attempted a merger of the CEOs as well, in this deal the Ameritech brass are bailing out (with golden parachutes of course). The story also makes the USAT front.

The deep thoughts of television's top executives as they existentially struggle with life after Seinfeld are on display in a NYT front-page effort by its TV bigfoot Bill Carter. According to the Times, the mental life of the tube titans is very complicated, struggling as they do with such conundrums as the erosion of network share of the total viewing audience, age demographic nuances, and the thinning of the talent and writing pools. Thank God for Robert Iger, president of ABC, who has worked out what will surely soon be known as the Unified Field Theory: "We'd do ourselves a world of good if we took out the bottom third of our schedule, which is not only performing in mediocre fashion but which is often mediocre in quality, and replaced it with a higher quality program."

Poor word choice or obituary humor? Sunday's NYT carried the obit of Paul G. Hearne, wheel-chair-bound his whole life but a tireless advocate for the disabled who, among other accomplishments, helped write the Americans With Disabilities Act. The write-up described Hearne as a "wheeler-dealer."

The WP recently reported that a civilian security guard on duty near the Pentagon accidentally shot and killed a homeless man. A little story, yes, but leave it to a Post reader to see the larger point. Why, Howard Fenton asks, in a letter to the editor today, does the Pentagon of all places have to contract out for protective services?