(Editor's note: Because of technical problems, "Today's Papers" was posted late. Our apologies.)
The Los Angeles Times leads with Alan Greenspan's comment in a speech Thursday that nudging interest rates further upward is necessary to control the temperature of an economy overheated by soaring stock prices. The paper also notes that just hours before Greenspan spoke, President Clinton, in an appearance at the New York Stock Exchange, said that dangerous inflation didn't seem to be a threat to this economy. No other paper fronts the story, although the Wall Street Journal puts it high up in its front-page financial news index. USA Today goes with Bill Gates' announcement that, while remaining chairman of Microsoft, he's handing over CEO duties to long-time associate Steve Ballmer. Gates says that he will spend almost all his time focused on the company's software strategy. The paper says Ballmer might "put a kinder, gentler face on the company" during its antitrust settlement talks with the government, but then quotes his assessment of any government breakup of the company: "absolutely reckless and irresponsible." The LAT (which high up strongly suggests that Gates will remain the de facto leader of Microsoft) and Washington Post front the story, and the WSJ puts it atop its financial news index , while the New York Times puts it inside. The NYT leads with the latest in a story the paper has pretty much owned: the battle between the White House and drug companies over whether or not Medicare should cover prescription drugs. The paper explains that companies have long expressed the fear that coverage would lead to government price-setting on the bulk of their sales. Today's installment: Two top drug pharmaceutical executives now say they could accept the coverage. The Times suggests that they are trying to head off a full-on Clinton administration depiction as price-gougers. The WP goes with the very rare sports lead: The NBA Washington Wizards have reached an agreement in principle to give Michael Jordan complete control of the team's front office, including all trades, signings, draft selections, and all other personnel decisions. The main remaining fill-in is how much equity in the franchise Jordan will get. A striking defect in the story: no mention of whether or not Jordan is buying that equity share or being given it or what his other compensation would be. The story says Jordan is not considering a comeback as part of the arrangement.
The LAT and NYT front and the WSJ reefers the revelation that under a little-known federal program, the government drug control office has been getting advanced looks at scripts for primetime TV shows and making suggestions for changes that send an anti-drug message. Some of the changes have been accepted by producers. Under an agreement with the government, such in-story messages allowed the networks to make more money selling ads because they then don't have to run as many anti-drug public service announcements. The story was broken by Salon, a fact that the papers report on with varying degrees of candor: The LAT comes clean in the second paragraph and the WSJ in the fourth, but the NYT holds off until the seventh.
Citing a story in Thursday's Boston Herald, the LAT fronts and the WP goes inside with Bill Bradley's decision, with 10 days to go until the Iowa caucuses, to hit Al Gore for introducing the racially explosive Willie Horton issue against Michael Dukakis during Gore's 1988 presidential primary bid. The controversy was later used against Dukakis to great effect by George Bush. Both papers point out that Bradley had previously been eschewing scorched-earth politics. The Post reports on the novel spin tactics being used by the Gore and Bradley camps: The Gore campaign responded by giving out Michael Dukakis' phone number, and Dukakis is quoted saying Bradley's charge is "nonsense" because the Horton case was already well-known in New England. The Bradleyites released the number of Dukakis' campaign manager, Susan Estrich, who is quoted saying the Dukakis campaign was indeed surprised by Gore's raising Horton.
Everybody goes inside with a fresh shift in the demographics of AIDS: The majority of gay men being diagnosed with the disease are now either black or Hispanic.
USAT's front-page "snapshot" shows how Americans rank various high-profile crimes for qualification as the "Crime of the Century." According to the paper the No. 1 contender is the JFK assassination. Yet another sign of boomer myopia: Not even making the list is the Lindbergh kidnapping or the theft of the U.S.' atom bomb secrets.
The WSJ "Washington Wire" reports that ex-Clinton Press Secretary Mike McCurry introduced a conference speaker the other day as having served in "the first Bush administration."
The NYT runs an op-ed today that says the real reason not to like the AOL-Time Warner deal and its ilk is that mergers inherently dilute the quality of journalism. Of course, as the piece points out, two heads aren't guaranteed to be better than one. But this is a plausible possibility isn't it? After all, this piece has a co-byline; it's by media bigfeet Tom Rosenstiel and Bill Kovach. If they're absolutely right, then why didn't they write better separate articles instead?