The Arizona Republic fires columnist Julie Amparano for allegedly making up interviews.

The Indianapolis Star and News suspends television writer Steve Hall for three weeks for plagiarizing a column from another newspaper.

The Wall Street Journal says it would not have published a Monica Crowley essay on Richard Nixon if it had known of "striking similarities in phraseology" to an 11-year-old piece in Commentary.

ABC medical correspondent Nancy Snyderman has to return $53,000 in profits after she and her husband broke federal rules by quickly flipping an insider's batch of stock on the Web site Drkoop.com.

What were these people thinking? Were they in hibernation during the journalistic fiascoes involving Stephen Glass, Patricia Smith and Mike Barnicle? Doesn't this sort of corner-cutting encourage the view that journalists are slackers, scoundrels and knaves?

But the silver lining is that all these embarrassments were disclosed by the press, in several cases by the news organizations themselves. In that sense, they underscore the extent to which media criticism has become part of the journalistic mainstream. Incidents that once would have been swept under the rug are now exposed to the glare of sunlight.

Journalist Sydney Schanberg argued in The Post's Outlook section last weekend that "the press doesn't cover the press" and has gone "soft" on itself. But Schanberg misses a recent explosion of media criticism--on Web sites like Slate and Salon, in magazines such as Brill's Content and in alternative newspapers that nip at the heels of big-city dailies.

It's no accident that the conduct of the press became an issue when reporters kept pounding Texas Gov. George W. Bush over whether he had ever used cocaine--to the point that the questions have faded for now. And political chat shows routinely focus on whether the Fourth Estate is out of control.

As for media scrutiny, the story about ABC's Snyderman was broken by the Wall Street Journal; the Journal also 'fessed up about its contributor Crowley.

Crowley, a former Nixon aide, denies any plagiarism. But among the examples cited by Slate, the Commentary piece said: "So great was the inequity of Nixon's downfall that future historians may well conclude he would have been justified in allowing events to take their course and in subjecting the nation to the prolonged paralysis of a public impeachment, which at least would have given him the opportunity to defend himself by due process of law."

Crowley wrote: "Given the inequity of Nixon's downfall, historians may yet determine that he would have been justified in allowing events to take their course and subjecting the country to a prolonged process of impeachment, which would have given him the chance to defend himself by due process of law."

The Indianapolis Star and News reported Hall's plagiarism even though the column was never published. Hall, who will lose his column, has apologized for a "stupid mistake."

Former Republic columnist Amparano strongly denies inventing any interviews and is considering suing the paper. In a 2,900-word story, the Republic said it couldn't find 20 of 24 people named in her column and that a phone number Amparano provided for one of them turned out to be listed to her niece.

Media organizations remain hypersensitive to criticism, but that criticism is clearly here to stay.

Culture Clash

A Cuban American reporter who recently left The Washington Post has delivered a public blast at her former newspaper. Writing for Hispanic Link News Service, Maria Elena Fernandez says she quit in part because a black female editor told her that some of her wardrobe was too revealing and was creating a stir in the office.

"The Post editors may be trying to recruit Latino talent, but the message I deduced from this episode was this: It was OK for me to have a Spanish surname and even speak a little Spanish, but I should not be diverse in my thinking, actions and personal style. . . . My purple silk sheath, my chartreuse two-piece suit, and my electric blue pantsuit stood out in the navy, khaki and gray world of The Post."

Fernandez says her problem began while she was covering the D.C. police. First, she says, Police Chief Charles Ramsey asked her for a dinner date, which Fernandez turned down after a discussion with her editors. She says Ramsey apologized.

Fernandez says that after the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in May, to which she had invited him on The Post's behalf, a police officer delivered a letter in which Ramsey apologized for leaving the dinner early. He also "expressed he was still attracted to me" and had "enjoyed my company," Fernandez says. She says she and her editors agreed that she could no longer cover the department and she was relieved by their response.

Ramsey says that while "Maria is an attractive woman. . . . I wasn't looking for dating, just company on occasion. . . . The only relationship I've had with Maria Fernandez is 100 percent professional. I had no other intentions."

The chief says they dined together once, as he has with other reporters, and that he agreed not to seek another dinner after learning that "she felt uncomfortable with it." He says he sent her a note of apology for leaving the White House dinner early because of illness, and had an aide drop it off because Ramsey was at The Post on other business. Ramsey says he sees no need to make "a mountain out of a molehill."

Shortly afterward, Fernandez says, the wardrobe discussion took place with a Metro editor, Jackie Jones, which left her "stunned and hurt."

Jones says she was merely trying to explain to Fernandez "how she's perceived in the culture of the Post newsroom" and that as an editor, "you're always trying to help someone. . . . I think it can be difficult to be a person of color here, period. That's true of newspapers in general."

Fernandez, now with the Los Angeles Times, said in an interview that while she left in part because of unrelated job frustrations, "I always felt I didn't fit in, and that has to do with my background."

Racial Shootout

Conservative writer David Horowitz says he's deeply wounded at being labeled "a real, live bigot" by Time magazine. Calling the charge "a hateful, racial lie," Horowitz wrote Time's managing editor that he has "never written or spoken a word--or committed an act--that any reasonable person could call 'bigoted.' "

The contretemps began when Time columnist Jack White, who is black, eviscerated Horowitz over his Salon.com piece titled "Guns don't kill black people, other blacks do."

In ridiculing an NAACP lawsuit against gun manufacturers, Horowitz accused civil rights leaders of being "demagogic race hustlers . . . supporting a fantasy in which African Americans are no longer responsible for anything negative they do, even to themselves." He added that "the myth of racial oppression . . . is an exercise in psychological denial."

Inflammatory? Sure. But is it racist to point out that 90 percent of black murders are carried out by other blacks?

White thinks so, writing that "blatant bigotry is alive and well" and that Horowitz is "a conduit through which extreme political ideas gain access to the mainstream." But Horowitz notes that he raised money for an embattled black radio commentator in Los Angeles, tried to draft Colin Powell for president and founded the organization Hollywood Concerned to help "charities that benefit minorities and poor people."

While backing away from a threat to sue Time, Horowitz is now negotiating over the length of a reply. White and Time had no comment.

CAPTION: Maria Elena Fernandez on the police beat for The Washington Post. She says she quit the paper partly because her clothes were criticized.