Whose 'Talking'?

The U.S. News version is also hard to explain. It is presented on the Web site as "the text of a document, grammatical errors included," that Lewinsky gave to Tripp. One sentence--"You have never observed the President behaving inappropriately with anybody"--appears four paragraphs from the bottom, whereas in most other versions it is the last sentence. Similarly, the last sentence in the U.S. News version appears in the middle of most other versions.

U.S. News associate editor Julian Barnes, who handled much of the weekly's early Lewinsky coverage, said U.S. News had received what it believed to be an authentic copy of the memo "from an independent, non-media source," and that discrepancies between its version and other versions "are clearly not typos."

"It's interesting enough that we are probing deeper," Barnes said.

ABC's Web site contains two versions with discrepancies that include using a different word in the same sentence. Despite repeated requests, ABC News failed to provide an explanation.

The Fox and Gillis report and supporting documents can be found at www.ucs.usl.edu/~jfg0701/ essays/tripp.html.

Laos-ed Up?

It was intended as an exercise in Time Warner synergy. But the nerve-gas-in-Laos story broadcast and published in early June by NewsStand: CNN & Time may have bombed synergy back to the Stone Age.

After loud and repeated attacks from several quarters--including the resignation of CNN's military adviser--the supposed sister organizations are now going back to see if they left something important out of their reports that in 1970 a U.S. unit used sarin gas against suspected American defectors.

Last week, CNN announced that it had hired attorney Floyd Abrams to conduct its probe; Time is using its Pentagon reporter Mark Thompson.

Officially, the two organizations say they "plan to keep reporting the story." But unofficially, journalists feel they're investigating each other. At Time, staffers gripe that CNN doesn't know how to do investigative journalism. At CNN, they complain about Time's arrogance, pissed off that Time staffers will be poring over work both sides were meant to share.

The stakes are highest for April Oliver--the CNN producer responsible for the segment--and for CNN president Rick Kaplan. CNN has been struggling with ratings-dissipation for more than a year, and if Kaplan's much-hyped newsmagazine was launched with a bogus story, there will be significant pressure for him to go. (The right-wing monitor group Accuracy in Media has already called for Kaplan's resignation if the network proves to have flubbed the story.)

Some argue that CNN made a bizarre choice by using attorneys for its investigation. Abrams is a respected First Amendment lawyer, but that doesn't necessarily give him the skills to reinvestigate a story that has some 200 sources, or make a sound judgment on producers' decisions. Tapping Abrams, says one CNN staffer, "is like asking your babysitter which nursing home you should put your parents in. They're just very different roles." Abrams did not return a call for comment.

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  • An assistant to former Wired editor and publisher Louis Rossetto phoned last week to say that Rossetto does not accept my characterization of him as a "onetime pornographer" ("Estimated Prophets," June 9). Rossetto's book Ultimate Porno is not, his assistant explained, a book of ultimate porno; it is a chronicle of the making of a pornographic film. Hope this clears it up. . . .

  • Can Mort Zuckerman go an entire year without dumping the top editor at one of his publications? In his parting speech to U.S. News&World Report staffers Monday morning, James Fallows--who has been replaced by Stephen Smith from National Journal--made an interesting claim about the magazine's business side: "If a single advertiser, General Motors, had not radically changed its advertising plans this year (strongly favoring TV over print) . . . we would have had more pages in the first quarter of this year than ever before." But he left no doubt that "owner-editor interaction" was his main problem. Having pledged to many journalists he recruited that he would stay for three years, Fallows apologized for leaving in under two: "If the choice were mine I would not be leaving right now. The choice is not mine ."

    Research: Leila Abboud

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