The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times lead with the Federal Communications Commission's decision to allow exceptions to a media-ownership law prohibiting companies from hogging too many newspapers and television stations in a single market. The Wall Street Journal tops it's front-page "Worldwide" box with the Supreme Court's decision to consider requiring cost-benefit analyses as part of the Clean Air Act--a story off-leaded by the LAT, reefered by USA Today and the NYT, and run inside by the Washington Post. By considering the cost-benefit argument, the Court left itself a potential middle ground between sanctioning the government's health-at-all-costs enforcement approach and pronouncing the Act unconstitutional. The case will be argued in the fall. The Post leads with the conviction of an Immigration and Naturalization Service agent as a Cuban informant, a story run inside by the other papers. He was the first INS agent to have been charged with spying. USAT leads with a nationwide crackdown on promissory-note fraud, in which fraudulent marketing companies, under the pretense of fund raising for legitimate companies, hire friendly neighborhood insurance agents to borrow cash from citizens for nine months at a high interest rate. Regulatory loopholes on the nine-month notes have fueled an explosion in the scam, which claims $300 million a year.
The FCC said it may allow exceptions to two rules. The first rule, which prohibits the big-four television networks from owning the three fledgling networks, would force Viacom to sell UPN (a fledgling network) once it completes its purchase of CBS (a big-four network). (It would also, notes the LAT, prohibit NBC from acquiring PAX.) The second rule, which prohibits a company from owning a newspaper and a broadcast station in the same market, may force the Tribune Co. to sell properties in three cities--New York, Los Angeles, and Hartford, Conn.--in order to complete its acquisition of Times Mirror. (The Post notes that this rule once forced its own parent company to swap TV stations with Gannett; USAT, which is owned by Gannett, does not mention this.) USAT leads its FCC story with an angle downplayed by the other papers: the agency's decision not to relax its rule prohibiting companies from controlling more than 35 percent of the national TV market. By strictly enforcing this rule, USAT notes, the FCC forces Viacom to sell several TV stations other than UPN. The LAT, which will change hands in the Tribune Co.-Times Mirror deal, not only leads with the FCC story but runs it over two columns. The Post and USAT, by contrast, relegate the story to the business section, and the WSJ buries the story deep in its front-page "Business and Finance" box.
The LAT and NYT reefer the Nasdaq's largest daily percentage gain in history, 7.9 percent. The market is now 9 percent above its May 23 all-time low but 31 perent below its March 10 all-time high. The WSJ lends some perspective to yesterday's rise: Four of the Nasdaq's ten largest daily gains and losses, in percentage terms, have occurred in the past month. A front-page LAT graph of the index's May performance also conveys this volatility. The WSJ reports that investors, buoyed by slowed consumer spending, now hope that the Federal Reserve will forgo a .25 percent interest-rate hike on June 28. But wait--the Post floats the theory that Nasdaq gains provoke consumer spending. Combine the two theories and you get a self-regulating system: Nasdaq gains cause consumer-spending gains cause Nasdaq losses cause consumer-spending losses cause Nasdaq gains, etc., etc.
The NYT buries a Reuters story covered by no other paper: The French parliament banned news photographs of suspects wearing handcuffs and of crime scenes that diminish the dignity of victims. Paris Match vowed to ignore the law and appeal to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.
The NYT reports that finalists in the National Geography Bee are almost always men. In 12 years, only two of the 120 finalists have been women, and most of the contest's entrants are men. The Bee's sponsor, the National Geographic Society, investigated the gender gap and determined that it is largely due to the superior spatial reasoning of the male brain.
The NYT business section reports that in a tight labor market it doesn't pay to boss around your subordinates--employees will flee to where they feel appreciated, even at the price of stock options. Some firms now give managers financial incentives to retain employees; not surprisingly, such managers tend to give employee requests and complaints greater weight. "People join companies and leave managers," a Gallup researcher concludes.
The Post and NYT report that an animal-rights protestor threw a pie at Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. (Glickman ducked, and the pie merely soiled his jacket.) Both papers quote Glickman's post-pie riposte: "That was not a very balanced meal she threw at me." But only the Post recounts the history of animal and vegetable matter chucked at Glickman since 1996: organically grown soybeans (in protest of genetic engineering), rotten buffalo guts (in protest of bison hunting), and two glass soda bottles (in protest of allegedly contaminated soda shipments).