Search Results for: John L. Hess

May 1 2000

Statistical Bias

Journalists find 'comfort' after the Diallo killing

When New Yorkers went into shock over the 41 bullets fired at Amadou Diallo, journalist Elizabeth Kolbert found “comfort”–her word–by recalling the sodomizing of Abner Louima. The business with the broomstick, she explained in the New Yorker (3/29/99), was not what we hire the police to do, whereas we do pay them to accost characters who fit a certain pattern. That fusillade, she said, “may not be racism at all but something new, a form of racial bias that is statistically driven and officially sanctioned.” She meant, of course, profiling, and it’s hardly new. Nor was there anything new in […]

Jan 1 2000

The Family Behind the Times

Powerful but no longer private

The Trust: The Powerful and Private Family Behind the New York Times By Susan E. Tifft and Alex Jones (Little Brown) On one memorable evening at the New York Times in mid-20th Century, a newly hired Hungarian charmer cried across the city room, “Darling, zay are changing my story!” When the echo reached the publisher of the New York Herald-Tribune, he garrumphed, “Drink is the curse of the Herald-Tribune, and sex is the curse of the New York Times.” We who toiled for the Good Gray Lady cherished that tale, implying that she was not as prissy as she looked. […]

Jul 1 1999

A Mote in Their Eye

Felicity Barringer, the New York Times media reporter (“Week in Review,” 4/25/99), scolded editors for publishing an Agence France Press photo of a corpse in Kosovo, an Albanian refugee killed by a NATO bomb, without adequately warning that the Serbs could have arranged the body for dramatic effect. She quoted a CBS news executive who pointed out that with regard to news put out on our side, “You’re able to challenge and question and dig back and check in with sources.” The front page of the same “Week in Review” section carried a handsome color photo, also from AFP, taken […]

Jun 1 1999

Invisible Ink

June 1999 The Times ran a disclaimer (3/19/95) for a remark it would not repeat. It said the computer did it. The remark had turned up in a March 15 dispatch about Texas Governor George W. Bush studying to become president. One of the Times ‘ many editors, the correction revealed, had added in a comment to that story that was intended only for the eyes of other kibbitzers. It was written in what they call a nonprinting script, like invisible ink. Only there was a glitch. It got into print. But what was the comment? The Times didn’t say. […]

May 1 1999

Can We Get Back to the Sex?

When the press gets serious, that’s when it’s time to worry

The pundits prayed for the long national nightmare to end, and free them to enlighten us on serious business like shoring up Social Security. They said the public had it up to here with tawdry scandal, that we craved nothing more than closure. But the vote of closure came at the start of Sweeps Month; what we got was more Monica and Jane Doe No.5 or, in extremis, JonBenet. And during the commercial breaks…Bob Dole, peddling Viagra. It must have occurred to many that this man came very close to becoming our president. Considering his avowed erectile dysfunction, that might […]

Mar 1 1999

Something Stinks

Francophobia at the New York Times

For the Times of London and the Times of New York, it is still quite proper to say the natives stink– provided they are French. When French soap merchants followed the lead of ours to persuade their public that it had B.O., the Timeses were happy to confirm it. The one in London (11/21/98) whinnied: “It’s True!: The French Really Are the Smelliest in Europe.” In fragrant New York, it was “Hygiene Poll Bares Source of the French Je Sais Quoi” (11/24/98). Craig Whitney’s lead chortled: “The French invented perfume because they had to. In the 17th Century, even Louis […]

Nov 1 1998

Brookings: The Establishment’s Think Tank

“I want it implemented…. God damn it, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.” So railed President Richard Nixon (Abuse of Power, Stanley Kutler) to his aides about papers regarding the Vietnam War that he thought were at the Brookings Institution. The documents the White House apparently wanted to get hold of allegedly showed that Johnson curtailed the bombing of Vietnam in 1968 to boost the Democrats’ election prospects. How things have changed: In the strange world of 25 years ago, stopping a bombing boosted a president’s standing, and Brookings could be at serious odds […]

Mar 1 1997

Here We Go Again

Can Social Security Survive Another "Rescue"?

The rescue of Social Security has been a staple of American journalism for 20 years now—a story all the more remarkable in that Social Security has never been in peril except from its rescuers. The rescues have all been based on faulty arithmetic. First, in 1977, the rescuers humbly confessed that they had made a mistake in adjusting benefits to inflation, as a result of which Social Security was threatening to go broke. (They never say the Army is threatening to “go broke,” only that it needs more money to do the job that it’s asked to do.) Not to […]