Friday, January 14, 2005

New York Times is back to pushing steroid abuse on the front page

Today's front page is pretty much worthless.
Ian Fisher's Once a Village, Now Nothing: Even the Bodies Are Gone is probably worthy of the front page.
F.B.I. May Scrap Vital Overhaul of Its Outdated Computer System (Eric Lichtblau) and
A Push in States to Curb Malpractice Costs (James Dao) can be seen as topics worth addressing -- one has implications for national security, the other is a national story.

But those three have to share space with:

a) "Steroid use!" The paper just can't let go of the idea that baseball and steroids is the story of the 21st century. Maybe it's that Ken Burns documentary from a few years back, maybe its the fact that, as Maggie feels, "a lot of little boys who played on the YMCA teams as little boys with they were still playing t-ball instead of doing the 'girly' thing and writing for a paper."
Someone's decided this overlabored "issue" (one seven e-mailers call "boring" this morning) is changing the world as we know we it. It's not worthy of the front page, the Times has wasted far too much space and ink on this non-issue that belongs in the sports pages.
Now maybe if you own a baseball team, this new, "stricter policy" is "news." The rest of us appear to be yawning and wondering when the men who write about it, edit these stories and put them on the front page will realize that they're men now with real issues to face and that if they want to fantasize about "what if," they need to do so on their own time because readers are sick of the Times continued obsession with this non-issue. The front page should focus on real issues.
And heads up for the Times, Ken Burns is focusing on boxing lately.

b) "Reform Effort at Businesses Feel Pressure" would make a nice magazine feature. It's not a front page story and attempting to "name check" in the first paragraph doesn't make it newsworthy -- it reads like a gossip column.

c) "Elisabeth Bumiller. What else can you say?" wonders Ben.
That does pretty much sum it all up, sadly. "For President and Close Friend, Forget Politics" reads like some sort of "male bonding" tales from the pages of Reader's Digest.
How this piece of fluff passes for front page news is beyond me. It's badly written, the topic is not of any importance, and there are a few real stories inside the paper.
Bumiller's obsessed with this "male bonding" theme. Or as Keesha writes, "Bumiller's turning out another one of her star-crossed lovers theme."
Two over privileged males go to college together and stay close. Yawn. If she's thinking this is material Hollywood will lap up, they did. In 1973, as a subplot to The Way We Were. Leave it Bumiller to get lost on a subplot. Leave it to the Times to hawk it on the front page.

Inside the paper, there are stronger stories with topics that are worthy of the front page:

Douglas Jehl's U.S. Panel Sees Iraq as Terror Training Area

Eric Lichtblau's Justice Dept. Opens Inquiry Into Abuse of U.S. Detainees

Christine Hauser's Shiite Cleric's Representative Killed in Iraq After Prayers

Kate Zernike's Army Reservist's Defense Rests in Abu Ghraib Abuse Case

Michael Wines' Thatcher's Son Pleads Guilty in Coup Plot, Avoiding Prison

an Associated Press article entitled Colombia Admits It Hired Agents to Abduct Rebel in Venezuela

On the subject of Thatcher's son, here's the Morning Edition story link (from yesterday morning):

Thatcher Pleads Guilty in Africa Coup Plot
Sir Mark Thatcher, son of famed former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, pleads guilty to inadvertently bankrolling an alleged coup plot in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea. Thatcher will pay a $563,000 fine in a deal that lets him leave South Africa to rejoin his family in the United States. NPR's Jason Beaubien and NPR's Steve Inskeep discuss the case.