Top News

This Week | The Top 5 news stories as measured by coverage in The Washington Post, USA Today, and NBC Nightly News from Sept. 11 to 17 | by Tim Graham

Issue: "The GOP's Latino outreach," Sept. 28, 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.


arrested development

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234 | The atmosphere of uncertainty about where and when the war on al-Qaeda would move next ended when Pakistani authorities captured major operative Ramzi Binalshibh, 30, and turned him over to U.S. authorities. In initial interrogations, Pakistani authorities said Mr. Binalshibh readily admitted his involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, but would not give away al-Qaeda names or locations. Said one American official: "He's got American blood all over his hands," including the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, which killed 17 U.S. sailors. The focus also veered to the Buffalo suburb of Lackawanna, N.Y., where five Yemeni-Americans were arrested on charges that they provided support to al-Qaeda forces. Some of the defendants said the group was present at the terror group's camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan, when Osama bin Laden visited. If prosecutors prove they were admitted to the camp, convicting them of aiding al-Qaeda should be easy, since admittance usually requires an oath of allegiance.


showdown setup

225 | Saddam Hussein gave the anti-war left new talking points with his regime's announcement that Iraq would accept UN weapons inspections. "Inspections, not war," chanted three protesters, who interrupted Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld's congressional testimony last week, before Capitol police led them away. After Mr. Rumsfeld commented that the women enjoyed the kind of freedom not allowed in Iraq, he continued making the case with lawmakers for a war resolution. "The goal is not inspections," he emphasized. "The goal is disarmament." Mr. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and even the president himself kept the pressure on Congress not to dither in the face of Saddam's maneuvers. Inspections could mean huge delays. International Atomic Energy Agency officials said they would need a year before making any determination about Iraq's nuclear-weapons program. Moreover, it wasn't long after the Iraqi letter offering "unconditional" inspections that an Arab League diplomat in Europe suggested the UN inspectors should only be granted access to "military sites." All that adds up to tactics of delay, which President Bush hopefully suggested was "not going to fool anybody." A few Democrats want to await the results of new inspections, but even Senate leader Tom Daschle promised a pre-election vote on authorizing the use of force: "The real question is what will the resolution say."


"let us watch and listen"

147 | Anyone who wanted to spend Sept. 11, 2002, without any mention of that anniversary would have had to ignore television, radio, and newspapers as the nation took time to remember. As much as most people would say they're sick of the story, special issues of magazines on 9/11 sold well. (Time's newsstand sales were up 63 percent.) If it sells, the media will stick with it. The Seattle Times published raves from readers over its unusual 9/11 front page-nothing but white space and a little painting of the World Trade Center, in what it called a "moment of silence." Television had trouble remaining silent, as TV critics across the board fussed at anchors for feeling the need to talk over memorial services and cut into speeches with their own thoughts. Media-watcher Howard Kurtz lamented, "I wished the anchors would just shut up and let us watch and listen."


reno's star fades

106 | When former Clinton Attorney General Janet Reno, a longtime media favorite, announced she would run in the Florida governor's race, Democrats cheered and reporters touted her chances. But when the primary was over, her campaign against Bill McBride ended like Al Gore's. She lost by less than 1 percent, and voting officials in the heavily Democratic counties of Broward and Miami-Dade were again suddenly discovering incompetence at the polls and hundreds of uncounted votes. But Democrats did not support fighting for the sanctity of every uncounted vote in court. After a week of intense pressure and little media support, Ms. Reno folded-leaving the field to Mr. McBride to campaign against Gov. Jeb Bush. The other state attracting media attention is Texas, where reporters are talking up the Democrats for fielding a Hispanic candidate, Tony Sanchez, against Gov. Rick Perry, and an African-American, Ron Kirk, in the race to replace Sen. Phil Gramm. TeamBush is expected to put on a full-court press to avoid any embarrassing surprises in November.


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