Tough Time for the Times

It’s not been a good fortnight for the St. Petersburg Times.

First, the Times was sued by the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP. Among others, the chapter had noticed that the Times’ board of directors was lily white. Oops.

For such a self-righteous, self-congratulating citadel of diversity and proponent of affirmative action, it was an embarrassing revelation. The Times will talk the talk with the best, but then walk away from follow-up where it matters most in-house. Publisher Andy Barnes seemed properly chastened and vowed to do better with the two years left on his black-and-white watch.

Worse yet, on the editorial side — where it really counts — the Times found itself reporting on the Tampa Tribune’s reporting on the Sami Al-Arian case.

The Trib , which sent reporter Michael Fechter to Israel for research, cited anonymous Israeli intelligence sources who said USF’s most notorious professor helped establish, among other involvements, the governing council of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Al-Arian’s role with the council, called Majlis Shura, was in fundraising and political ideology, said the Israeli sources.

Although the Times was unsuccessful in reaching USF President Judy Genshaft, it was able to reach Paul Tash, its own executive editor. While acknowledging wariness over using anonymous sources, Tash said the Times did so on the merits and impact of the Al-Arian saga. Said Tash, according to the Times: “It could have some bearing on a controversy that is playing out in the Tampa Bay area.”


For All Eyes Only: The Washington Post recently reported on secret U.S. plans for dealing with Iraq. The Post reported that President Bush had signed an intelligence order directing the CIA to undertake a comprehensive, covert program to topple Saddam Hussein. Such a program, informed the Post , included the go-ahead to use lethal force.

Thanks for sharing.

Anyone else see a certain incongruity in the public reporting of covert plans? Was this part of the Post’s celebration of its Watergate anniversary?

Chung News Network: In its haste to keep up — actually, catch up — with the media Joneses, as well as the O’Reillys, Van Susterens and Banfields, CNN has brought in Connie Chung. She’s now its marquee player. The days of Bernard Shaw are as remote as the days of Howard K. Smith at ABC.

Yawn. Ten years ago this sort of high-profile defection from ABC would have been, well, news. Now it’s just another show biz salvo in the ever-ratcheting network-and-cable-news ratings wars.

Besides, a decade ago most of us didn’t know Connie Povich.

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