A seemingly routine attempt to advertise a book about Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson has been swatted down by the coach amid shouts of censorship by the publisher.
The contretemps began when Henry Holt and Co., through its advertising agency, signed a $2,900 contract to place an ad in the basketball program sold to Georgetown fans at home games. The ad promotes the publication next January of "Big Man on Campus," a biography of Thompson by Leonard Shapiro, The Washington Post's sports editor.
Bill Shapland, Georgetown's director of sports information, says he rejected the ad after consulting with Thompson. He says the Shapiro book is "an unauthorized biography, and Coach Thompson is coming out with his own book. I don't think it makes much sense for us to advertise a book that competes with Coach Thompson's book."
But Holt editor John Macrae notes that Thompson's book, which is being written with Sports Illustrated reporter Ralph Wiley, apparently hasn't found a publisher yet and may not come out for a year or more.
"Thompson has this need to control everything," Macrae says. He says the Shapiro book is "very straightforward," but that "if it were authorized and only flattering, it would be very dull. Thompson is by any measure a controversial figure."
Jeff Stewart, Holt's advertising agent, fired off a letter saying he was "astonished and outraged," adding: "Does this mean you won't run an Adidas ad because Thompson endorses Nikes?"
Shapiro calls the incident a "classic example" of "Hoya paranoia." He says Thompson refused to be interviewed for the book, although "I've known the guy for 20 years" and "consider him a friend." The coach urged former players, assistants and others not to cooperate, and even some Georgetown professors refused to discuss Thompson, Shapiro says.
"They just felt uncomfortable talking about a guy who's sort of treated as God up there," he says.
Jolie Solomon had barely finished unpacking when she reported for work Monday at the Wall Street Journal's Philadelphia bureau. "I was really looking forward to being deputy bureau chief," says Solomon, who transferred from Washington.
The following day, the Journal announced it was closing the bureau. Seven employees were laid off and four, including Solomon, offered other assignments. Solomon has since resigned to accept an offer from the Boston Globe.
The Philadelphia shutdown comes after the financially troubled paper has frozen salaries, trimmed its overseas operations and asked a dozen senior people to take early retirement. "We're all shell-shocked," says one staffer.
"The information coming out of New York has been minimal. People spend a huge amount of time in speculation and worry."
A Question of Class
When the Boston Globe broke with its long Democratic tradition and endorsed Republican William Weld for governor of Massachusetts, editorial page editor Martin Nolan "walked out in a huff," as one insider put it.
The veteran scribe, who had written a draft editorial backing Democrat John Silber, did not return to the paper for days, prompting Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr to joke that the Globe might have to put Nolan's picture on milk cartons.
Now Nolan has resigned as editorial page editor to become a roving national reporter. But he says the move was "unrelated" to the flap over Publisher William Taylor's decision to back Weld, who narrowly defeated Silber.
"After 11 years as Washington bureau chief and 10 as editorial page editor, it's time for me to get time off for good behavior," Nolan says.
Still, the swirl of speculation around Nolan underscores how the Weld endorsement split the Globe newsroom, with some old-line Irish hands grumbling about a "Yankee conspiracy." To them, the blue-blood Taylor family, which has owned the Globe for more than a century, was simply closing upper-crust ranks behind Weld, a wealthy, patrician Boston Brahmin.
In a comment widely repeated around town, Nolan is reputed to have said that the endorsement was decided "about 300 years ago, before the Mayflower came over." Silber, the confrontational Boston University president, exacerbated the schism by repeatedly accusing the Globe of biased coverage. "There was a feeling among some that we were being too tough on Silber," an editor says.
The dissension was no secret. Columnist Mike Barnicle suggested that Weld "wear one of his family's 200-year-old raccoon coats" and "simply beg for the support of every Episcopalian in the commonwealth under the theory that the state still belongs to them. The Irish and the Democrats have merely been renting it."
Nolan insists he is not miffed at being overruled. "As A.J. Liebling said, freedom of the press belongs to those who own the presses," he says.
A Gender Slant at NPR?
Is there a gender gap at National Public Radio? That's the charge being leveled by S. Robert Lichter, who says female correspondents there gave Michael Dukakis almost twice as much good press as George Bush got during the 1988 campaign, while reports by their male counterparts were evenhanded.
Lichter, co-director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, says NPR's admirable record in hiring women has produced a marked "slant" in political reporting. According to Lichter's study, which essentially classified the sound bites about each nominee, the NPR women gave Dukakis roughly equal amounts of praise and criticism, while their reports on Bush were 3 to 1 negative.
Lichter was particularly hard on reporter Linda Wertheimer, saying 68 percent of those she interviewed had favorable things to say about Dukakis, compared with 14 percent for Bush.
Wertheimer says her coverage was "balanced" and that such comparisons are misleading because she spent most of her time with the Dukakis campaign and filed numerous reports about official announcements.
"We tend to do more pieces that just simply say, 'Dukakis presented his education plan and here it is,' " Wertheimer says. "It doesn't have to be hot to get on. I used to argue strenuously during the campaign that what we're supposed to be doing is covering the issues."
Neal Conan, NPR's acting managing editor, says that the charges are "ridiculous" and that Wertheimer is "one of the most respected political reporters in the country."
Lichter, who argued in a previous study that female journalists are more liberal than men, says women in the profession "may not respond to the old journalistic norms." Anticipating a possible backlash, Lichter quickly adds that his co-director at the center is his wife, Linda.
Newsday Publisher Robert M. Johnson recently sent around a letter announcing that the paper will publish on Thanksgiving for the first time in its history. After solemnly describing its responsibility to readers and advertisers -- "to solidify their faith in our commitment to serve their needs" -- the publisher offered this sweetener:
"As a special thank you, every employee will be given a turkey."
Newsday Editor Anthony Marro says that the giveaway will involve coupons and that recipients are free to donate their birds to the homeless. "I don't think we'll back up a refrigerated truck at the loading dock with 3,800 Butterballs," he says.