Suckers for a Story

Suckers for a Story

Suckers for a Story

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Nov. 23 1999 7:07 AM

Suckers for a Story

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leads with the angry reaction from many in business to the government's just-proposed guidelines for fighting workplace repetitive stress injuries. The Los Angeles Times lead covers essentially the same ground, while also explaining the difference between the new rules and current California law. Both stories report that the rules, which mandate various corrective actions at the first sign of injury, will cost companies an aggregate $4.2 billion per year. The Washington Post leads with the imminent release of the largest Pentagon study ever of racial attitudes within the uniformed military. The results are somewhat bracing for an institution that portrays itself as remarkably colorblind: some three-quarters of minority service members responding say they've experienced racism, and more than half doubted that discrimination complaints are thoroughly investigated. And the survey shows that military whites have a drastically more positive view. The paper quotes one defense official as saying the study was actually concluded two years ago, but release was delayed while the brass debated how to portray the results. The New York Times fronts the survey--adding that a second DOD report shows that black personnel get promoted at a much lower rate than whites--but leads instead with the news that the City University of New York has approved a plan that would bar remedial students.

Both the USAT and LAT leads include criticisms from a vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who apparently was once told to give every reporter something unique. He tells the former that trying to implement the new workplace safety regs will be like getting your arms around a "marshmallow," and he tells the latter it will be like getting your arms around a bowl of "Jell-O." But the coverage itself suggests the squishiness of the subject matter. The number of relevant workplace injuries mentioned (by the NYT) in yesterday's coverage was 600,000, but today's USAT and Wall Street Journal (in an inside story) up the ante to 1.8 million. The LAT lead's headline--"OSHA Scales Back Its New Workplace Safety Plan"--and its first paragraph suggest that the government has quickly caved in to the protesting business world, whereas the story itself explains that the rules were softened last February, not yesterday.

A front-page WP story and one flagged in the WSJ front-page business news box report that the judge in the Microsoft trial was motivated to bring in an outside mediator by his worries about a rift over possible remedies developing between DOJ lawyers and those representing 19 states. The rift--with the state lawyers favoring more aggressive actions against Microsoft, such as carving the company up or forcing it to share its operating system code--has been previously reported on in the NYT.

The NYT fronts and the WP carries inside Bill Bradley's speech Monday in which he charged that Al Gore had little interest in campaign-finance reform because the current money-raising system favors incumbents. The Times calls the speech one of Bradley's strongest efforts yet to portray himself as an outsider and reformer, but also notes that with it, Bradley risks offending many Democrats in that he is mirroring Republican criticisms raised against the Clinton White House fund-raising apparatus a few years back.

An inside NYT story by veteran reporter Francis X. Clines tells of a new growth industry--companies specializing in cleaning up the messes left by homicides and suicides. More than 200 such outfits have started up in recent years, creating concern that the government should establish public health standards for the field, like it has already for funeral parlors.

Quick Quiz: Today's WSJ front page features a 1,140-word article about Bill Bradley's a) criticism of Al Gore's campaign-finance stance; b) health-care plan; c) Web site as a voter outreach tool; or d) lozenges. The answer is d). This kind of drivel is the direct result of a presidential campaign that started about a year too early. Candidates aren't saying much of substance yet but are still out there working the rooms and the press feels they still have to cover them.

A reader query prompts Today's Papers to wonder about last Sunday's obituaries for longtime Italian politician Amintore Fanfani. Turns out that there's a virtually identical 54-word passage appearing in both the NYT obit, running over the byline of Alessandra Stanley, and in the WP obit, credited to "News Services." Who took from whom? And does this smidgeon of theft still count as full-blown plagiarism?