The cover of last week's Time magazine was any writer's fantasy. It featured novelist-lawyer Scott Turow with the headline "Making Crime Pay: Scott Turow scores big with a new novel about family, money and the law."

But Turow's splash has been bothering some veterans of the magazine trade because what is good for Turow is also good for Time's parent company -- Time Warner Inc., the newly formed communications giant.

And Time failed to mention the connection.

Turow's 1987 bestseller, "Presumed Innocent," has been made into a movie by Warner Bros. -- a fact that wasn't mentioned in the long cover story on Turow or in the short article about the difficulty of finding movie characters to suit Turow's book.

Turow's paperback publisher is Warner Books, another fact not mentioned in the Time cover story. "Presumed Innocent" sold 4.3 million paperback copies in the United States. The paperback rights for his new book, "The Burden of Proof," sold for a record-breaking $3.2 million.

Peter Costiglio, vice president for communications for Time Inc. Magazine Co., said that in a general-interest magazine like Time, it doesn't always make sense to mention who publishes every book and who makes every movie.

Costiglio also said there were no plans for a policy decision that each publication should mention any possible corporate connections.

"The best we can do is to rely on professionalism and integrity of our journalists covering the stories that they call it as they see it," he said. "I think that instead of a corporate policy it is better to basically let journalists be journalists."

At Time, Assistant Managing Editor John Stacks said, "We have been fairly rigorous in business stories {to mention any Time Warner interests}. In business stories we always make the affiliation clear... . But when we're talking about their products, sometimes it's germane, sometimes it's not."

He noted that not all Warner movies have earned praise from Time's critics. "We didn't like 'Batman,' " he said.

Among those raising the question about whether one arm of a mega-corporation should mention something being produced by another arm was Newsweek, which is owned by The Washington Post Co. The item ran in this week's issue under a headline that said, "Time: No Conflict."

Message Mischief Starting a rumor in this city, even as a joke, is like rolling a snowball downhill. Once launched, it is hard to stop.

So a mischievous whisper quickly turned into a roar last week: Paul Steiger, deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, was being "courted heavily" for a top job at the Los Angeles Times. Throughout media circles in New York, Washington and Los Angeles, journalists were talking about the possibility that Steiger would return to the Times, where he was once in charge of the financial section.

Turns out that the Los Angeles Times computer system, and several Times pranksters, were the culprits.

It all started during the U.S.-Soviet summit in Washington earlier this month, when journalists were working elbow to elbow at the huge George Washington University news center. Reporters could easily peer into each other's computers, and the Times's computer system is such that any message being sent to a reporter appears in bold letters at the top of his screen.

When Times reporter James Gerstenzang got a request to check out a potential scoop, he sent back a message to reporters in the Times's Washington office that said, in essence: Any message sent to me is sent to the world.

Gerstenzang's warning incited instant response, but not exactly what he expected.

"I got close to a dozen not particularly clever messages like 'Raisa wears combat boots.' Then a priceless one," he said. The priceless message came from Times reporter Doyle McManus, who knew that the Wall Street Journal staff was seated right behind Gerstenzang and automatically looking over his shoulder. The message asked whether it was true that the Journal's second-in-command was being wooed by the Times.

A reporter from the Journal, on seeing the note, looked stunned, so stunned that Gerstenzang told him it was a joke.

But somebody else saw it and apparently didn't know it was just a little friendly hoax. So last week Times staff members, including Gerstenzang, started hearing their rumor repeated as truth.

Well, does their mock rumor happen to be a real one? Times executives say the rumor is nothing but a rumor. Steiger says, "It's a complete mystery to me."

"Who spread it? I don't know," said Gerstenzang. "I guess this is another lesson in how dangerous practical jokes can be."