Saturday, December 04, 2004

The New York Times Loves to Cover Steroid Abuse

Saturday's New York Times arrives and to judge from the front page, it's a relatively slow news day.

Robert Pear does write on Tommy Thompson departure as Secretary of Health & Human Services. In "U.S. Health Chief, Stepping Down, Issues Warning," Pear notes that Thompson is worried about a "global flu epidemic." Seems if someone was very worried, they'd want to maintain a position that has some impact on health. (Though there seems to be some frustration in Thompson's statements and he may feel he's done all he can do.) Maybe Thompson feels he can do that in the private sector? That's not a slam over the monies he can easily now make; however, this revolving door issue does need to be dealt with. It's not just this administration and it's not just the executive branch. We see too many people trading elected or appointed office to turn around and become lobbyists.

As the system currently exists, Thompson can grab all the money that's going to be thrown at him. (That doesn't mean he should.) He offers the standard spend-more-time-with-my-family excuse. (Maybe someone could note all the people saying this and then check back in a year or two to find out how many kept that stated intent?) Thompson mentions possibly running for public office in the future, for governor or senator. I'm not sure how either would provide him with more time for his family (espcially since 2006 is a potential target date) but if he does do so, at least it's one less official trading on their former post to enrich their own pockets.

Here are some issues Thompson raised:

* "the threat of a human flu pandemic caused by mutations in a strain of avian influenza virus"

* "threats to the food supply"

* That "he wished Congress has given him the power to negotiate with drug manufacturers to secure lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries."

Searching for the web link to the story (, I see that Robert Pear has filed another story that will presumably appear in tomorrow's Times. I'll read it then but for anyone who can't wait (or wants a head start on Sunday's Times) it's entitled "Experts Fear Medicare Won't Work For Nursing Home Patients" (

Robert F. Worth and Richard A. Oppel, Jr. provide an article worth reading (and worthy of the front page) with "27 Civilians Die in New Attacks By Iraq Rebels" ( Steven Lee Myers covers "Ukranian Court Orders New Vote For Presidency." This is an important issue and one of the reasons to read the New York Times is that it provides strong international coverage. It may not always get the story right, but it does have an interest in the world. But this election coverage begs the question of whether or not the Times will cover the rally in Columbus, Ohio today?

Or whether they'll cover the upcoming hearings of the House Judiciary Democrats? Miss that story in the Times? It didn't run yet.

You can read about it on The Brad Blog (

As reported exclusively last night on The BRAD BLOG, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Democrats have minutes ago officially issued a press release announcing public hearings will be held on the Hill next week in regards to Voting Irregularities in Ohio.Witness to testify (detailed below) include the three names mentioned in our report last evening, along with many other notable players in this saga.The full text of the "Press Advisory" is at the bottom of this item.As well, The BRAD BLOG can further report that Judiciary Committee staffers are working on additional investigation concerning matters in Ohio and other states. Details will be forthcoming, including additional supplemental material added to the thorough 15-page letter sent yesterday to Ohio Sec. of State J. Kenneth Blackwell requesting explanations for the many troubling reports of voting irregularities and tabulation in the Buckeye State. (See this previous BRAD BLOG article for detailed excerpts of that original letter.)

The Ukrainian story has been covered (and should be). It's a story. Covering Ohio doesn't mean that the Times has to take the position that there was voter fraud. But there are things happening that are news. Rallies, grass roots action, third party candidates involved, John Kerry involved, etc. I will applaud the Times for devoting attention to the Ukraine, but I do wonder where that seem thirst for news is when it comes to Ohio?

"Dollar's Fall Texts Nerve of Asia's Central Bankers" by James Brooke and Keith Bradsher ( is worth reading. Though regional, John M. Broder's "California Diocese Settles Abuse Cases; Record Sum Is Seen" is possibly worthy of the front page. But yet another story on steroid abuse in sports? "Newest Reports Place Bonds Back at Center of Steroid Case" by Lee Jenkins doesn't add a great deal to the story. (Allegations are front page news here, just not in Ohio.)

And is it front page news? "Newest Report Place Love Back at Center of Drug Case" wouldn't be front page news either. The "news" that Courtney Love might or might not do drugs would hardly be worthy of a front page, so why is this allegation based story?

I've gotten ten e-mails complaining about this story and everyone's asking the same thing -- why is this on the front page?

Leigh points out that when Howell Raines ran "the Britney Spears story on the front page of the Sunday Times, people howled. What's the difference?"

There is none in terms of news. There apparently is in terms of attitude. We saw Daniel Okrent criticize the Times for their coverage of Tony nominations earlier this year. He's never written a word about sports on the front page. Why? Apparently "sports" is manly. Manly belongs on the front page.

Entertainment = soft. Sports = news.

The Times is fooling themselves if they think large numbers of people subscribe for their sports coverage. That's not meant to insult their editors or their writers. They do a pretty good job of covering sports, on the sport's pages. But the e-mails I get, and the reason I subscribe to the Times, aren't suggesting anyone made the choice to read the Times because of their sport's coverage. I'm sure some exist, law of averages. But that's not the primary reason for most people to pick up the paper. (Or the secondary reason.)

Yet when sports makes the front page (even with an allegation based story) no one at the Times appears to scratch their heads. (Leigh suggests they're scratching other things.) Sports isn't news, it's entertainment. And allegations of Bonds using steroids belongs on the front page about as often as allegations of a rock star using drugs. It's a story (and some of you agreed it's an issue) but it doesn't belong on the front page.

Did you know that there were "Some Officials Seeking Shift From Pensions?" Mary Williams Walsh writes about that on page B1. Or that "Far Fewer Jobs Were Added In November Than Forecast?" Edmund L. Andrews informs of us this, also on B1. Possibly the front page story on the dollar's drop jangling the nerves of bankers was seen as "just a business story" and, therefore, the other two weren't seen as worthy. The front page story is dealing with international impacting on domestic, the two stories cited earlier in the paragraph are domestic stories. One would hope that the inclusion of one truly news story with a business backing didn't preclude two other worthy real news stories (that effect readers lives) from front page consideration.

Speculation stories on Bernard B. Kerik run on A13: "Big Changes Seen in Choice for Homeland Security" by Eric Lichtblau & Richard W. Stevenson and "Kerik's Move to Washington Could Benefit, and Test, Giuliani's Consulting Firm" by Eric Lipton. But speculation about a baseball player is front page news on the same edition of the Times? Maybe the e-mailers and I have lost a sense of perspective? Or maybe the Times has?

But here are two more stories you didn't see on the front page:

On A6, the Times runs Clifford Krauss' "Bush Visit Leaves Canada's Leader With Missile Defense Dilemma" (

On A8, the Times runs Eric Schmitt's "Abuse Inquiry Says Officials Exercised Little Oversight"

But allegations about Barry Bonds are front page news?

"A Pentagon investigation of interrogation techniques at military detention centers in Cuba, Afghanistan and Iraq, concludes that senior defense officials excercised little or no oversight of interrogation policies outside of Guantanamo Bay, leaving field commanders to develop some practices that were unauthorized, according to a draft summary of the classified report."

That's the opening paragraph of Schmitt's story. But it's not "news" enough for the front page?
Allegations about Barry Bonds are news? Okay.

Moving on. Marty Kaplin had a great opening (and a good show thus far including an interview with Barbara Boxer) that I'll attempt to put on this blog at some point. (It addresses Ohio and the media.) A lot of you were happy to read Lizz Winstead's "tribute" to Tom Ridge and/or the excerpt of the interview Rachel Maddow & Winstead conducted with Senator Barbara Boxer.
I enjoy Unfiltered. Mentioning that radio show or The Laura Flanders Show or Marty Kaplin's So What Else Is News? or anything else is an attempt to make sure we all know the various resources that are out there. A number of you picked up Clamor magazine and three of you said you found it very informative. It's important that we know what resources are out there and The Common Ills should attempt to highlight those resources.

If something's not for you, that's fine. But there are many voices out there, many sources. With the mainstream media obsessed with Kobe-Michael-Lacy, et al, there are places where you can find information. Ms. Musing was added as a link on this page and some of you have e-mailed to say how much you enjoy that blog. Other links will be added. It's partly a matter of finding the time and also an attempt to make sure that they're added slowly so that you can sample and get to know the site, if you're interested.

I'm working on the DNC head entry and hopefully will have it up by Sunday. In addition, Juan
Forero's reporting of prior knowledge of the attempted coup in Venezuela will be contrasted with an independent media account of the same story. And a number of you are forwarding Media Matters' ( story on the potential replacement for William Safire as NY Times op-ed columnist ( primarily). While the op-eds is something this site attempts to avoid dwelling on a great deal, I actually think we should weigh in because there's a point that's not yet been addressed. (That's not a slam at Media Matters. They're reporting on what's happening. That's what Media Matters does and they do that very well. Our comments will be on what's not happening.) If you've got a comment on any of the above (or anything else) the e-mail is

The above (with the exception of DNC head) will be up tonight. However, warning, "tonight" ends for me when I finally go to sleep. If it ends up being an all nighter (and I've got several errands to warn and a group of people coming over tonight so that's very possible), my concept of "tonight" translates as "before I finally go to bed."

Lastly, I want to provide a link to a story which is about prison abuse in Iraq.

The US military is investigating photographs of apparent Iraqi prisoner abuse snapped earlier than those showing abuse by US troops of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison which sparked a major scandal, the Navy confirmed.
The 40-some images are of smiling Navy Seals with shackled prisoners, some with their heads in bags, reminiscent of some of the photos from the Abu Ghraib case. In others an automatic weapon appears pointed at the heads of inmates.

For more information, click on the link above. (I'd credit the author but there's no author given for this AFP wire story.)