Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Dan Rather's semi-retirement crowds out stronger news on the front page

Wednesday, November 24th's New York Times features six stories on the front page:
James Glanz & Edward Wong's "U.S. Is Expanding Iraqi Offensive in Violent Area";  Thom Shanker & Richard W. Stevenson's "White House Seeks Deal to Save Intelligence Bill"; Nina Bernstein's "A Mother Deported, and a Child Left Behind"; Steven Lee Myers' "A Tug of War Over Ukraine:  In Cold-War-Like Rift, It's Putin vs. the West"; Barry Meier's "Questions Are Seen on Merck's Stance on Pain Drug's Use" are strong topics that are worth addressing on the front page.
However, I'm confused as to why Jacques Steinberg & Bill Carter's "Rather Quitting As CBS Anchor in Abrupt Move" belongs on the front page (  No offense to Dan Rather but he's stepped down as a news anchor -- he hasn't died, he hasn't even retired from broadcast news (he "plans to continue to work full time at CBS News, as a correspondent for the Sunday and Wednesday editions of '60 Minutes'").  As a front page story on the Business section (which it also is, C1 contains another story by Carter as well as five photos of Rather) or the Arts section, fine.  But is this an obit for a still-living person? 
How does this qualify as front page news?  One possibility is that this is just standard  news industry naval gazing.  Another possibility is that as a TV "name" or "star" Rather's worthy of greater attention than other prominent semi-retirees (I think that term, semi-retirees, is inadequate but I'm failing at thinking of another term).  (There are more than two possibilities.  One of the many other possibilities is that I'm a complete idiot who can't comprehend the monumental importance of this moment, that somewhere teenagers who've copied the "Rather look" are crying and storming CBS headquarters to reach and grab for Rather as he departs each evening in some throwback to Beatle mania.)  (If so then more power to Rather but who knew?)
This is front page news.  Here's what made it inside the paper but wasn't consider important enough for the front page:
* Carlotta Gall's "3 Kidnapped U.N. Workers Are Released in Kabul" (all are apparently in good health according to the report  given by Afghanistan's Interior Minister Ahmed Ali Jalali) which appears on A3.
* Douglas Jehl's "C.I.A. Says Pakistanis Gave Iran Nuclear Aid" which informs readers, on A8, that A. Q. Khan not only gave designs for a warhead to Libya (The New Yorker covered this in strong detail in an article in the March 1, 2004 issue:  Seymour Hersh's "The Deal" which is located online at but also  allegedly gave similar designs to Iran.  There are also allegations re: the Khan network courtesy of former CIA director George Tenet from a private speech he gave (the Times obtained a tape recording of the speech).
* Lawrence K. Altman's "Female Cases of H.I.V. Found Rising Worldwide" on A11 details the continuing global pandemic with new data from the U.N.'s annual AIDS report which:
* "[t]he number of women infected with H.I.V. has risen in every region of the world over the last two years . . ."
* "nearly half of infected adults worldwide" are female
* "[m]ale-to-female H.I.V. transmission during sex is twice as likely to occur as female-to-male transmission"
The article's worth reading (there's more data not quoted above)  as are all the ones on this could-been-a-cover story list.
* Denise Grady's "F.D.A. Employee Seeks Help From Whistle-Blowers' Group" which appears on A21.  Grady's informing us that after last week's Congressional testimony, Dr. David Graham has reportedly been targeted by "F.D.A. management" for speaking out.  ("F.D.A." management is a term offered by Thomas Devine who is now Dr. Graham's lawyer and is also the "legal director of . . . Government Accountability Project" -- as well as the alleged recipient of phone calls from "F.D.A. management" attempting to tarnish Graham's reputation with baseless rumors.)
* And, from A12, Thom Shanker's "U.S. Fails to Explain Policies to Muslim World, Panel Says" which revolves around "[a] harshly critical Pentagon advisory panel" report that finds fallout from "flawed policies."  This would have been my personal choice for the spot taken up by the Rather story so I'll provide the link for this one (all can be found online -- searching by journalist is quicker for me than by subject).
[Corrected version, edited "the" out of sentence on Douglas Jehl's story and I corrected "Thom" Shanker from my typo in the first mention at the top of the page where he was listed as "Thoma."  I'll be deleting the earlier version of this post later today.]

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