While it may not be the scoop of the century, Life magazine has the first interview with a member of Lt. Col. Oliver North's family -- his wife Betsy.

The only problem for some readers may be that the magazine does not reveal who conducted the interview with the woman who has been described as a "roses and picket fence" type person. Life merely credits the interview to "a friend" of the North family.

David Friend, whose byline appears on the story but who is not the "friend" who did the interview, said last week that the questions were asked by "a third party who wants to remain anonymous." Photographer Greg E. Mathieson said that the interviewer is "sort of" a journalist, and that he or she "has a journalistic background, just is not a writer."

The interview, which reveals little beyond the perfect helpmate image that has already been portrayed, was still a tough one for Life to get, Friend said. He said he had been sending letters to North's lawyer since January, mailing back copies of Life to Betsy North and asking her to keep a journal so that Americans could "hear your side of the tale."

Oliver North's lawyer Brendan Sullivan called Friend and Mathieson "pests" at one point. Friend, however, said that he thought Sullivan admired their persistence.

Betsy North, 43, a born-again Christian who concentrates on being wife and mother of their four children, does offer a few insights:

When North proposed to her he brought one rose with a miniature Naval Academy ring on one of the leaves.

Even though the man she calls "Larry," from his middle name, kept most of his White House business to himself, she says, "I trusted him. I rarely knew where he was going."

She says she made her daughter's prom dress while watching the first week of the hearings, and although they sometimes make her "very angry," she says her husband's appearance before the joint congressional Iran-contra committee starting tomorrow may bring "a great relief for him ... He's not bitter. He's hopeful he can get the real story across ... His motives were pure."

The one thing that makes her "very upset" is when she sees news reports that do not attach a name to information from "a White House source" or "a former colleague."

The Fellow Traveler Fight If the National Geographic Society has its way, Conde' Nast's plans to launch an ultrafancy travel magazine this September may be halted in midflight.

The problem for the Geographic Society is the newcomer's name, its use of paper stock so glossy you can see your face in the front page, and its aim at readers who are well-heeled, well-educated and globally mobile.

So last month lawyers for National Geographic Traveler magazine asked a U.S. District judge in Manhattan to stop publication of Conde' Nast's magazine, Traveler.

In the Traveler versus Traveler matter, National Geographic lawyer J. Timothy Hobbs said the request for an injunction was filed because "the magazines appear to be virtually indistinguishable." Asked about a variety of other magazines that are also called Traveler, Hobbs said they were in the "submarkets of travel journalism," not the lofty plane being contested by these two publishers.

In the complaint, the Geographic Society said that since its magazine was started in 1984, it has acquired 660,000 subscribers and has spent more than $7 million for advertising and promotion alone.

Meanwhile, Advertising Age has estimated that Conde' Nast has spent a total of about $40 million so far in launching its new venture.

And Conde' Nast Traveler Editor in Chief Harold Evans -- formerly editor of The London Sunday Times and The London Times, and a contributor to U.S. News & World Report -- has been spreading the word about how his magazine is going to be different from those in a travel magazine market that Advertising Age calls "already as crowded as steerage."

"It's going to be totally honest and we're not going to take free trips, which is unusual," Evans boasts. "It's going to be the first journalistic travel magazine."

Among the writers he says have already promised such stories are Jimmy Breslin, who will write about Costa Rica, Mimi Sheraton, Peter Matthiessen, John Kenneth Galbraith, Nicholas Von Hoffmann, Christopher Buckley and Robert Hughes.

"Our principal asset is going to be candor," says Evans, who later apologized for the fact that his lawyers have told him not to talk about the National Geographic suit.

The Twomey Tempest On the list of possible flaws in the business of daily journalism, Steve Twomey's is arguable.

But because the former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter won a Pulitzer this year for his view of life aboard an aircraft carrier, his story has become a source of discussion among a number of editors around the country.

The reason? One section of the article -- a version of how the British frigate Sheffield was hit by an Exocet missile -- was written so dramatically that a reader could feel the explosion underfoot. And some editors thought Twomey had an obligation to advise his audience that he wasn't really there -- that the drama came from his rewriting of news reports and at least one book by British journalists.

The Pulitzer judges have reviewed the criticism in recent months and decided that it wasn't valid. And a team of experts on plagiarism at the Nelson Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., decided that Twomey hadn't committed that truly grave sin. He had simply breathed life into the clips and books he found in the newspaper library.

But some readers -- even an editor of The Inquirer who wrote the cover letter for Twomey's Pulitzer entry -- assumed he was present for all of the things he wrote about. (One result: The Associated Press ran a correction on the description of Twomey's article a month after it was awarded.)

"What did it cost him to attribute the stuff?" says Dan Thomasson, editor of Scripps-Howard News Service. "I don't want to make a federal case about it, but I would have attributed it."

"We don't attribute history," Inquirer Executive Editor Eugene Roberts said, adding that all current matters were attributed in Twomey's story. "It didn't belong in that article. It would have broken the flow, and if I had seen it in there -- 'according to news reports' or some such for something that was already in history books -- I would have taken it out."

Roberts is particularly angered at the feisty editor of the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune, John L. Perry, who has been perturbed about Twomey's article ever since he and other editors attended a workshop in San Francisco last April at which Twomey described his sourcing. Perry and one of his reporters, Rebecca Masters, have written several articles on the matter.

Twomey, contacted in California, where he is on leave from The Inquirer for a year, said he saw the argument over his story as a "tempest in a teapot." But he added that the whole "slow drip of rumbling" about it had taken away most of the glow from winning the prize.

"It's kind of ruined the whole thing for me," he said.

McLaughlin's Pakistan Plug If it's June, it must be Pakistan for television host John McLaughlin.

Fans and followers of "The McLaughlin Group" may have thought it a bit odd that McLaughlin led off the shouting match on June 19 with a discussion of Pakistan. But the reason was that McLaughlin, who takes an occasional turn at interviewing the world's leaders, had been to visit Pakistan's President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq for his "One on One" interview show that aired June 28.

Plugging one show from another is not new in television, but when McLaughlin said he believed Zia's assertion that Pakistan did not have the nuclear bomb or its components, he got a bit of a ribbing from his panelists, even conservative confederate Robert Novak.

After the laughter died down, Novak said: "I happen to be a great admirer of President Zia; I really am. I think he's a great leader and a friend of ours. But do you really think he would have told you, 'Yes, Dr. McLaughlin, I've got the bomb'?"

Another interesting fact was that on June 21, McLaughlin's "One on One" program aired an advertisement for Pakistan International Airlines.

But no, no, it's not what it seems, McLaughlin explained. The airline gave McLaughlin and crew passage to Pakistan in return for a spot on the show, and there were no strings about the use of the interview.

"I would not take a free ride from them," McLaughlin said. "It was a straight trade {tickets for advertising} and it's a common practice.

"I would not want to put myself in any position of indebtedness to any advertiser or sponsor," he added.

Special correspondent John Kennedy contributed to this report.