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Eastern Standard Times The New York Times will celebrate Inauguration Day with an inaugural of its own: A Washington edition of the Times will hit the streets. Andrew Rosenthal, Washington editor of the Times, says it’s not a zoned edition but an attempt to regionalize the franchise. Up to now, D.C. residents have had to content themselves with a trucked-in New York edition with an early deadline. Rosenthal says the Washington editionthere will also be a Boston versionwill be composed to meet the needs of the Washington reader and close later because it will be printed locally. “It’s going to be fresher news, more up to date, and it will even have local weather.” Maybe the first dispatch will note competitive flurries in the Post’s back yard.
Bumping Rights On Tuesday, the day of oral arguments in Paula Jones vs. the Commander in Chief, what story anchored the skyline of the Post’s front page? Why, it was an exclusive preview story about the president’s plan for the District, graciously provided by willing administration sources. Add in an irresistible piece about black veterans receiving overdue medals from Bill Clinton, and voilà, there’s only a single column to chronicle his alleged contretemps with Jones. That’s how the Post was spun.
Why Do You Think It’s Called Giant? On Jan. 8, the Washington Post published a story suggesting that a three-week-old strike by Teamster truck drivers was hurting Giant Food’s ability to stock its stores. In a box accompanying the story about the supermarket chainone of the Post’s biggest advertiserswriter Margaret Webb Pressler suggested that Giant won’t settle in part because it wants “the union to agree to other cost cuts to keep Giant competitive with Safeway Inc. stores in the area.” (Last year, Safeway received concessions from Teamster Local 639 in return for agreeing to build a new local distribution center rather than farming the work out to a nonunion shop in New England.) The day after Pressler’s story ran, the Post published a correction stating, “In its settlement offer Giant does not seek to cut costs.” The correction is hairsplitting of the silliest sort. The truckers are striking because Giant wants the right to send future delivery work to nonunion contractorswhich sounds remarkably like an attempt to control costs. The Post’s correction qualifies as serious butt-kissing or frantic ass-covering, although it’s always so hard to tell when big ad revenue is at stake.
Why I Read the Washington Times The Times never has disagreements with the people who buy two-page spreads in its front section, because they own the joint. On New Year’s Eve, the very Rev. Sun Myung Moon ran a two-page ad in Section A of the Times ringing in 1997 with “A Special Message for the Age.” Judging from the text, the God of the Rev. Moon is very much in touch with earthly concerns. Under the heading “One With Your Body,” the Rev. says, “When you were young, did you ever taste the dried mucus from your nose? Does it taste sweet or salty? It’s salty, right? Since you can answer, you must have tasted it! Why did you not feel that it was dirty? It is because it was part of your body. Reverend Moon has figured out something that no one in the world knew.” Or cared to know.
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Less Than Reliable Sources The Annies of the Post’s Reliable Source caught former Peace Corps Director Sargent Shriver giving holy hell to a mysterious woman during lunch at the Au Bon Pain on G Street NW. In a Jan. 7 item, the Source reported that the woman was working on a history of the Kennedy Foundation and pissed off Shriver when she interrupted his monologue about his life history with questions about more contemporary concerns. Shriver balked at her indolence and decided it would be better to work at a greater distance. “So now he’s going to tape his thoughts, and the author, whom Shriver wouldn’t name, can ask questions later,” explained the Reliable Source. Hard to believe that neither Annie Groer nor Ann Gerhart recognized the mystery writer as Ivy Harper, a local free-lance writer who has been working on the foundation history for some time, and who just happens to be the sister of Postie Marla Harper. Harper fills in for the Annies as the editor of Names and Faces when the Reliable Source doesn’t run. Small world, but you wouldn’t know it from reading the Reliable Source. Groer, who doesn’t exactly have a franchise on circumspection, declined comment, saying, “We never talk about sources or how we get stories.”
What Liberal Media? The Post broke its last link to its liberal origins on Jan. 7, when it gave columnist Colman McCarthy a shove out the door. The paper has buried his column for the last several years and its syndication has dropped from a peak of 73 papers in 1981 to 27 last year. Managing Editor Robert Kaiser was quoted as saying that the column, which began running in 1968, “had run its course,” whatever the hell that means. For years, McCarthy was marketed as the “liberal conscience” of the Post, but it’s tough to find a whiff of either in today’s neo-cant Post.
The End of Civilization The staff at Civilization magazine, a much-heralded 2-year-old upstart affiliated with the Library of Congress, exchanged unpleasantries instead of gifts over the Christmas holidays. Founding Editor Stephen G. Smith kicked off the bad cheer when he announced he was leaving to become editor of National Journal. In a farewell speech that had jaws dropping all over the office, Smith reportedly told staffers that they should have seen it coming. “If you were the journalists that I thought you were, you would have realized what was going on,” he said. Smith explained he was well justified in abandoning the struggling enterprise because he bore a significantly greater financial burden than the other staffers, including tuitions to private schools for his three children. Backers of the bimonthly mag, which won a National Magazine Award for General Excellence less than a year ago, responded to Smith’s exit by pulling the plug in late December. But now Capital Publishing, which publishes Worth and will soon launch The American Benefactor, has given Civilization a new lease on life. Civilization’s employees, who were dismissed in word and fact, are now back on the job and thrilled by the prospect of a well-financed, Smithless future.
Green Day One sure-fire way to capture the endorsement of the Post’s editorial page is to have David Maraniss cover your campaign. It worked for Clinton. And just look at the Green Bay Packers, who have received the kind of coverage from Maraniss that makes the NFL highlight films seem mitigated. Hypnotized by the pompoms Maraniss has been waving about, the touts at the Post’s editorial page endorsed the Pack in its romp toward Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans. The edit page linked arms with Green Bay’s team of destiny and saluted “Our fellow Cheeseheads.” Memo to the Post: Those guys in Wisconsin are not wearing brie.
Look What Ruth’s Cooking Up World-class word-lifter Ruth Shalit is back in the kitchen at New Republic under new editor Michael Kelly. In her first outing under Kelly, she wrote a follow-up in Washington Diarist to the Washingtonian’s “Why Washington Women Can’t Cook.” “My boyfriend has found he could ask for petits pois and coulibiac of bassand get them,” wrote Shalit. While the idea belonged to the Washingtonian, the words were all Shalit’s, according to Kelly. “I believe that Ruth herself did a good deal of work to understand what she did and why, and I am confident in her absolute seriousness in comporting herself in the most careful and professional manner.” Shalit, who was neatly defended by James Kincaid in this week’s New Yorker, has apparently found a friend in Kelly. He said that contrary to a report in George last month, he was not pressured by Marty Peretz to hang onto Shalit. “I made the decision. She is writing full-time at the New Republic.” Wonder if her professional rehabilitation at Kelly’s TNR includes Nexis privileges?
That’s It, We’re Moving to the District At a media forum held last Monday night at Foundry Methodist Church, Channel 4’s Tom Sherwood said the Post’s Jan. 13 Page One story on robberies near the Metro in D.C.’s part of Takoma Park was just the kind of item that spurs rapid out-migration. Trouble is, when Sherwood called the police in Takoma Park, Maryland, he found out they were reporting exactly the same troubles, including 10 armed robberies. That would have added a nice detail to the Post’s reporting, but it doesn’t fit with what Sherwood calls “the Vietnamization of the District. The Post thinks you have to burn the village down in order to save it.”
Broadcast Ego When the Clinton administration finally decided to weigh in on the District, it asked WTOP radio’s Capitol Hill correspondent Dave McConnell to show up at a White House press conference and get the ball rolling with a question about D.C. ‘TOP listeners were then treated to weeks of McConnell introducing each report about the White House effort by crowing, “In response to my question, President Clinton…” Two weeks later, he did the same thing with Hillary Clinton. (All the blowbagging obscures the fact that the reports that follow are dead on, and great radio to boot.) “The Senator,” as they call McConnell around ‘TOP, looks the part, with a shock of white hair topping off a ruddy complexion. And he took the nickname to heart last Tuesday when the White House held a press conference to introduce its proposed plan for the District, filibustering with question after question and generally holding forth as temporary dean of the White House press corps. Will the senator from ‘TOP please yield? David Carr
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