Top News

This Week | The Top 5 news stories as measured by coverage in The Washington Post, USA Today, and NBC Nightly News over a one-week period from June 11 to 18

Issue: "Bureaucratic burial," June 29, 2002
Scoring system: 5 points for news stories appearing on the front page of The Washington Post, 3 for stories on the next two pages of the "A" section, and 1 thereafter. Same formula for USA Today, except the values are doubled to account for its national circulation. Stories carried on NBC Nightly News receive 10 points if they run before the first ad break, 6 between the first and second break, and 2 thereafter. Anchor-read stories earn 2 points early, 1 point late.
'Tragically slow,' but the bishops respond
156 points | In the midst of the most publicized bishops' meeting in church history-including live CNN and C-SPAN coverage-the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted 239-13 to adopt a new national policy to remove priests from any job connected with the ministry if they were found guilty of sexual abuse. (See pages 3 and 11.) But the bishops backed away from laicization, the formal process of defrocking a priest. The bishops heard from abuse victims, and conference president Wilton Gregory apologized for "our tragically slow response in recognizing the horror of sexual abuse." In the midst of the conference, a jury awarded $800,000 in damages to a former altar boy and his mother, as the Omaha archdiocese admitted negligence in supervising Daniel Herek, a priest who was convicted in 1998 of child sexual assault and making child pornography while serving at St. Richard's Catholic Church in Omaha.
terror suspect held-at this point, just for 'what he knows'
81 points | Donna Newman, lawyer for suspected terrorist Jose Padilla (aka Abdulla al-Mujahir), filed a motion protesting her client's indefinite detention as an enemy combatant in a military brig in Charleston, S.C. Government officials said the suspect was moved into military custody because he refused to cooperate with FBI agents and U.S. attorneys investigating his alleged plan to detonate a "dirty bomb"-a conventional weapon armed with radioactive material-in the United States. Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld said a trial for Mr. Padilla wasn't a priority. "We are not interested in trying him at the moment or punishing him at the moment. We are interested in finding out what he knows." The Senate Intelligence Committee summoned CIA Director George Tenet for a closed-door briefing on how far the Padilla plot had advanced. White House officials dismissed criticism that Attorney General John Ashcroft caused too much alarm by announcing allegations against Mr. Padilla.
Exploiting grief?
73 points | Television news networks' focus on the missing-persons case of a 14-year-old Utah girl, along with a wistful Father's Day news hook, propelled the case of Elizabeth Smart to "TopNews" status. ABC News carried an item questioning why this case in particular has gripped the attention of national news directors and editors. One conclusion advanced was that wealthy, attractive, white girls are more important to the reading and viewing public than those who are not. Still, ABC figured prominently in the chorus of coverage. Media critic Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post called the tragedy "cable's new Chandra Levy story." (See Andree Seu's column, p. 31.) He quoted approvingly from an angry Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article demanding to know why the national news media are not as interested in a similar local abduction story: the case of a 7-year-old African-American girl who disappeared in May on her way to school. "It's fair to ask" that question, he wrote. But Mr. Kurtz left out of his criticism the judgment of his own newspaper, which sent a staff writer to Salt Lake to cover the story. A search of the Lexis-Nexis journalistic database turned up almost 900 stories on the Smart case since June 5, when she was abducted from her bedroom.
War on terror: the casualties
71 points | The continuing threat from Islamic militants became clear when a car bomb exploded outside the heavily fortified U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, killing 11 Pakistanis on the street and injuring more than 50. The only U.S. casualty was a slightly injured Marine, and damage to the consulate building was not serious. A Hamas-backed Islamic bomber in Jerusalem killed 18 when he detonated a powerful bomb aboard a crowded bus. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the bomb site and walked past a row of at least 10 body bags: "The terrible sights we have seen here are stronger than any words." Yasser Arafat condemned this latest blast, but Israeli government officials highly doubted his sincerity. In Afghanistan, military investigators are puzzling over the crash of a U.S. Air Force transport plane in eastern Afghanistan that killed three soldiers, while the other seven aboard suffered nothing worse than a broken leg. Among the dead was 31-year-old Staff Sgt. Anissa Shero of Grafton, W.Va., the second woman killed in Afghanistan during the war on terrorism.

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