Sunday, September 29, 2002


James DiBenedetto blogs the debate over random drug testing in public schools. I don’t have much to add, other than I think its all part of the same trend toward extreme and unreasonable restrictions on civil liberties by the education establishment that was occurring even before 9/11. (Conservative Justices Thomas, who authored the opinion permitting random testing, and Scalia, who signed on, should both know better.) Public schools may stand in loco parentis, but they are still government actors and students don’t leave their Constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door – especially when the coercive power of the state makes attendance mandatory.

An important news item was broken by The Washington Post on a Friday evening and received little or no play in the nation’s newspapers. Here’s a brief version:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Federal Election Commission has imposed a record $719,000 in fines against Democrats involved in the party's 1996 fund-raising scandals, according to a published report.

FEC documents described how Democratic fund-raisers demanded illegal campaign contributions from foreign nationals in China and other countries in exchange for meetings with then-President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

Ombudsmen Sanders LaMont, of the Sacramento Bee, and Lou Galfand, of The Minneapolis Star Tribune, respond to criticism that the story received little or no play in the newspapers.

LaMont explains why the piece didn’t run in the Bee:

[National Editor Marl] Melnicoe explained that there was "a ton of state/Capitol news" that night, it was a big news day generally and the story moved late for the next day's editions.

The Post wire service did not send out an advisory that the story was coming, standard procedure if they consider stories significant. It also was not on the Post's list of articles it was planning to publish on its front page, a list available to Bee editors working that night.

Melnicoe also states that the piece first moved on the wires at 7:30 P.M. Friday night and that it was “a well-done, comprehensive story that we should have run.”

The Star Tribune did run the piece, but it would have been an unusual reader who would have spotted it, buried as it was in Saturday’s paper on page A15. Gelfand responds to readers who complained that the newspaper buried the story by noting that several other newspapers, including The Washington Post, also chose not to give the story prominent coverage. He notes that The Washington Times chose not to publish the piece at all.

So, why did a story about record fines being levied in relation to a conspiracy that raised millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions, from foreign interests, on behalf of a sitting President, receive such little notice? I think the answer is several-fold. The first is that the story was released on a Friday evening, the traditional time to release embarrassing news so that it will receive light coverage. Second, The Post decided not to give the usual warning that the piece was coming, so that many editors simply missed the piece, or the importance of the piece. Finally the piece is, in a sense, old news, as the illegal acts relate to President Clinton’s Presidential campaign of 1996.

Still it is curious that the matter was released on a Friday evening without the usual warnings. It’s almost as if The Post didn’t want other publications to pick up the story.

James DeBenedetto blogged some of this a week ago.

Mickey Kaus picks up on the ramifications of a piece by Rishawn Biddle. It seems someone’s already figured out a giant-sized loophole in the McCain-Feingold anti-First Amendment campaign finance reform law. Perhaps it should now be called the McCain-Feingold tax-deduction-for-wealthy-contributors Act.

Unfortunately when I read Karen Hunter’s ombudsman column, in The Hartford Courant, about a full-spread photograph they published of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, I was suffering from 9/11 overload and didn’t take the trouble to look at the page.

This week, The Richmond Times-Dispatch's ombudsman, Jerry Finch, refers to that photograph as “spectacular.” He’s absolutely right. For the record, the photograph was taken from aboard a commercial airliner by Katherine Weisberger, a photography major at NYU.

Here are some links:
. Weisberger's photograph as a jpeg.
. A .pdf file of Weisberger's photograph as it appeared in The Hartford Courant. My favorite version -- use ([ctrl] [shift] +), once the image loads in Acrobat Reader, for the best view.
. A gallery of photographs related to 9/11, including this one, that sells 11x17 prints.

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