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 AJR  The Beat

From AJR,   March 1994  issue


By Chip Rowe
Chip Rowe, a former AJR associate editor, is an editor at Playboy.     

Don't Mess With

Those Car Dealers

New Haven Register Editor David Butler suspends copy editor Tony Moura for two weeks without pay after car dealers protest a wire story and headline in an advertorial section that trumpeted how readers could avoid paying full price for a new car. Because such copy is prepared by the newsroom staff rather than advertising, Moura was overseeing the section. (Outraged staffers took up a collection after Moura's suspension to make up for his lost pay.) A newsroom source says Butler called a meeting after suspending Moura to insist that advertorial copy be triple-checked to avoid further "errors." Soon after Butler became editor in 1988, he had suspended another copy editor, Mary O'Leary , but rescinded the order after two days when staffers organized a petition. Her crime? While changing the front page just before deadline, she had used 's rather than s' in a head. Butler referred questions about Moura's suspension to Publisher William Rush , who declined comment.

Television News

MTV 's Melissa Rivers , 25, daughter of talk show host Joan Rivers , begins contributing reports to "CBS This Morning." "My high school English teacher is absolutely freaked by the fact I'm a legit correspondent," she tells USA Today ... ABC hires Peggy Wehmeyer , formerly at WFAA in Dallas, as its first religion reporter... NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert launches a weekly show bearing his name on CNBC to discuss the inner workings of the media... Andrea Koppel , formerly at Miami's WPLG and the daughter of ABC's Ted Koppel , joins CNN as a Tokyo-based reporter. NBC, meanwhile, names Lucky Severson as its Tokyo reporter... Knight-Ridder , which publishes the Philadelphia Inquirer , plans to debut an hour-long evening newscast this summer based on the daily's reporting. "The Inquirer News Hour" will air on Philly's WPHL ... Emily Rooney , the outspoken Boston newswoman who became executive producer at ABC's "World News Tonight," steps down after just eight months. Rooney, who is succeeded by former "PrimeTime Live" Executive Producer Rick Kaplan , says she is talking with ABC about another position but may not remain with the network... NBC approves a job-sharing agreement between Victoria Corderi and Lisa Rudolph , who will each contribute part time to "Dateline" and "Now" (see our June 1992 issue)... WNBC crime reporter John Miller moves from the beat to the heat, taking a $12,000 pay cut to become deputy commissioner for public information with the NYPD. "It's every bit as stimulating as I expected," he says.

Associated Press

The AP sets November 1 as the launch date for its international video news service. Based in London, APTV will draw on the wire's 92 bureaus in 67 countries. The service also names Bill Dedman , who won a Pulitzer in 1989 for reporting at the Atlanta Journal and Constitution , as its first director of computer-assisted reporting.

Columnists Feel Heat

Lisa Baird leaves the Record in Hackensack, New Jersey, after Editor Glenn Ritt spikes her column arguing that black-on-white crime receives more coverage than it deserves. Ritt told Baird in a memo that the Record had to be careful about expressing "raw emotions" so soon after the Long Island Railroad shootings (in which the suspect is black). Baird, now an assistant metro editor at the New York Post , says Ritt was being "very dishonest and cowardly" by not stating his "real" reason for killing her column: "He was not willing to risk upsetting white readers." Ritt did not return phone messages... The Kansas City Star suspends sports columnist Gib Twyman after readers complain that one of his columns resembled an article that appeared that week in Sports Illustrated . Twyman, who has been on leave since the incident, defended himself in a later column, saying he had read the SI story but did not steal from it. Editor Arthur Brisbane says that "an appropriate disciplinary step" was taken but would not elaborate.

Inside Newspapers

The Miami Herald 's Spanish-language sister, El Nuevo Herald , promotes Assistant Managing Editor Barbara Gutierrez to managing editor. At the same time, the daily begins its search for a successor to Editor Carlos Verdecia , who departs after six years at the paper... The New York Times announces a plan to reduce its editorial and non-production staff by 10 percent over the next few years through buyouts and layoffs... USA Today hires David Lieberman from TV Guide to cover electronic media... The Sacramento Union , founded in 1851 and billed as "the oldest daily in the West," closes its doors after years of declining circulation... Rick Kogan , formerly TV critic at the Chicago Tribune , takes over as editor of the features section, replacing James Warren , now Washington bureau chief... The Los Angeles Times hires Robert Reinhold , most recently L.A. bureau chief for the New York Times, as an editorial writer... Martin Kaiser leaves Baltimore's Sun , where he was associate managing editor, to become managing editor of the Milwaukee Journal .

Brill vs. the New Yorker

Court TV chief Steven Brill charges that the New Yorker fabricated quotes in a "Talk of the Town" item about his cable network. The quotes, which appeared in an article by Rolling Stone staff writer Rich

Cohen , made Brill appear to be choosing stories based on their blood, guts and racial content. The New Yorker maintains that while it regrets that "errors of reporting, checking and editing found their way into the story," all but one of the quotes appear in Cohen's notes. (Cohen declined comment.) New Yorker Executive Editor Hendrik Hertzberg says the weekly did not admit falsifying quotes, "although Brill acts as if we have." As for the errors, Hertzberg says they've been blown out of proportion. "After I'd seen the tenth story that said this was the first correction in our 70-year history, I went to our library and found there's actually been something above 300," he says. "The New Yorker has a well-deserved reputation [for accuracy], but every great journalistic enterprise occasionally makes errors."

Info Highway, Exit 1

The St. Paul Pioneer Press plans to invest $1 million and add 11 newsroom jobs to expand coverage and launch audiotex and fax services... Carl Crothers , formerly assistant managing editor at the Tampa Tribune , leads an effort by parent Media General to offer the daily and possibly two others over the Prodigy online service. The Tribune plans to have a 16-member staff, including Crothers, produce the edition. The Los Angeles Times also teams up with Prodigy and names World Report Editor Dan Fisher as editor/online services.

Energy Crisis

The California Court of Appeal reinstates reporter J.A. Savage 's lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric after ruling the utility does not have the right to blacklist reporters. Savage charges that PG&E executives, led by then-spokesman David Monfried , refused to provide her with information for stories and successfully lobbied editors at Energy User News and the Journal of Commerce to dismiss her. PG&E complained that Savage had a conflict of interest because years earlier she had organized an activist group that did battle with the utility over an aging nuclear plant. Now with Dun & Bradstreet , Monfried says he did nothing unethical or illegal; PG&E news manager Greg Pruett insists the utility judges reporters solely on their "balance, objectivity and accuracy."

New York, New York

Kurt Andersen , who left Time to co-found Spy and later returned to the newsweekly, accepts the editor's spot at New York . He succeeds

Edward Kosner , now at Esquire . Michael Kinsley , the CNN "Crossfire" co-host and New Republic columnist, had earlier turned down the job, saying he doesn't New York. Ironically, Andersen finds himself working for Henry Kravis of parent K-III , whom Spy once crowned a "dwarfish takeover maniac." Nevertheless, Andersen says he and Kravis had an "entirely civil" first meeting. "We're both grownups."

Washington Post

Mike Getler , formerly assistant managing editor/foreign, takes over as deputy managing editor to oversee personnel reforms recommended in a November task force report. Pentagon reporters Barton Gellman and John Lancaster move overseas – Gelman to Jerusalem, Lancaster to Cairo. And the daily loses Michael York , who becomes a media lawyer after spending the last two years covering federal courts. "I went to law school in the '70s and always wanted to do this," he says. "The problem was I had so much fun being a reporter."

Other Washington Faces

ABC steals John Cochran from NBC as its new Capitol Hill correspondent. He succeeds Jackie Judd , now a reporter for "World News Tonight"... The Star Tribune of Minneapolis snags investigative reporter Greg Gordon from the Detroit News and brings in agriculture reporter Sharon Schmickle from Minnesota to cover Con-gress... Jill Zuckman leaves Con- gressional Quarterly to cover Congress for the Boston Globe ... The Chicago Sun-Times names Lynn Sweet , its veteran political reporter recently transferred from Chicago, as bureau chief. She succeeds Jerome Watson , 55, who died in December... Newsweek hires Mark Hosenball , who spent the last three years as a producer at "Dateline NBC," as an investigative reporter.