Top News

This Week | The Top 5 news stories as measured by coverage in The Washington Post, USA Today, and NBC Nightly News from July 24 to 30

Issue: "Tools of a tyrant," Aug. 10, 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.


the quecreek nine

153 Points | The human-interest value of the "Quecreek Nine" propelled the 77-hour saga of trapped Pennsylvania coalminers and the happy ending to TopNews status. Television and newspaper reports even allowed God to have some of the credit for the miners' safe rescue after being trapped 240 feet underground. The word miracle made it into stories on all the major networks, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and other papers. At the same time, the coverage praised the resilience of the miners and the community. This theme, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, was typical: "[T]hose who saved them and those who prayed for them reflected on the remarkable triumph of engineering, technology and, most significantly, the human spirit." The miners were trapped after breaching the wall of a flooded and abandoned mine next to them, releasing a torrent of ground water into the area where they were working. But rescuers drilled a 26-inch-wide rescue shaft and lifted the miners to safety one by one. Most of the rescued miners, after several decades in the business, said it was time to change jobs. "I've got seven grandkids, and I want to see them grow up," said Thomas Foy, 51. Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker said he would appoint a special commission to examine the mining company's conduct, the state permitting process for mines, and mine accident rescue procedures.


"we're going to find you"

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149 Points | In a large East Room event, President Bush signed a new law cracking down on corporate accounting abuses. The new package, which rushed through the House and Senate in the wake of front-page accounting-scandal headlines, creates a Public Company Accounting Oversight Board to oversee accounting practices, increases funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission, and aims to protect against self-dealing CEOs, auditors, and securities analysts. TeamBush hailed the arrest of former executives of Adelphia Communications for fraud, and the president talked tough about a corporate crackdown. "If you're a CEO and you think you can fudge the books in order to make yourself look better, we're going to find you, we're going to arrest you, and we're going to hold you to account," he said at a South Carolina event. Legislators aren't done with business. The next idea gaining favor is denying federal contracts related to homeland security to any company that locates facilities overseas to escape U.S. taxes.


rebound, recrimination

83 Points | Explosive stock-market rallies are beginning to convince financial analysts that the rebound could be real. A dramatic gain of 447 points in the Dow Jones industrial average on July 29, just days after a 489-point jump, soothed fears of another recession. The season of second-quarter earnings reports wrapped up without any crushing disappointments overall. But stocks have only gained to where they had been two weeks before, which is still well below previous market peaks. At the summer meeting of the Democratic Leadership Council in New York, Sen. Hillary Clinton defended her husband's stewardship of the economy in the 1990s, saying the recovery was "not a fluke or a bubble," but the result of sound economic policy. "When it comes to fiscal responsibility and economic growth, this administration is all blame and no game plan, all response and no responsibility," an interesting choice of words from a leader of the Clinton "war room" rapid-response team.


shame & service

61 Points | Speaking to hundreds of thousands of young Roman Catholics at World Youth Day festivities in Toronto, Pope John Paul II urged them not to be discouraged by the scandal over child-abusing priests and the church officials who sheltered them instead of the children. "Do not be discouraged by the sins and failings of some of her members," he said in an open-air Mass in a muddy urban park just north of the city. "The harm done by some priests and religious to the young and vulnerable fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame. But think of the vast majority of dedicated and generous priests and religious whose only wish is to serve and do good." Groups of abuse victims criticized the remarks for failing to tell the young audience that they need to listen to and support those who say they have suffered abuse. The pontiff also traveled to Guatemala and Mexico, and plans on visiting his homeland of Poland later in August.


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