Tabloid on trial
A Florida tabloid went on trial yesterday on two misdemeanor counts of publishing the name of the woman who says William Kennedy Smith raped her on March 30 at the Kennedy estate in Palm Beach.
The case against the Globe of Boca Raton represents the first criminal prosecution under the 1911 Florida law that prohibits publishing a rape victim's name.
Globe attorneys say the statute is unconstitutional because the state's interest in protecting rape victims' names is not strong enough to override the First Amendment right to freedom of the press.
They also say the law is too broad, making no exceptions if the rape victim's name already is known, for instance. Globe attorneys also argue that the law singles out instruments of mass communication but has no provisions to regulate gossip.
Palm Beach County prosecutor David Bludworth said protecting rape victims' names is in the interest of encouraging them to report the crime. The trial is expected to last for three days.
The Bergen Record, one of New Jersey's largest newspapers, laid off 138 employees yesterday while its sister newspaper, the Woodbridge News-Tribune, dismissed 57.
A spokesman for the Record, the state's largest afternoon newspaper at 162,564 daily circulation and 232,368 Sunday circulation, said the layoffs had affected every department and were effective immediately.
Newsroom employees at the Record learned they were out of a job when they reported for work and found they could not log onto the computer system, a reporter said.
The Record, serving New Jersey's most affluent county, had experienced a sharp drop in advertising revenues, although LTC circulation figures were still growing. The paper had been in a hiring freeze since 1990 and cut $3.7 million out of its 1991 budget by banning overtime and cutting back on editorial space.
Courting an archrival
Gannett Co. is quietly pursuing a formal effort to try to sell the Arkansas Gazette, its money-losing paper in Little Rock, say several newspaper executives.
They said yesterday that Gannett had already arranged to sell the paper to its archrival, the Arkansas Democrat, but must first satisfy the Justice Department's antitrust division that the Gazette was unprofitable and that no other buyer could be found than the Democrat.
Speculation has been swirling through Little Rock for weeks that Walter E. Hussman Jr., the Democrat's owner, would acquire the Gazette and close it or convert it to a five-day afternoon paper, leaving the mornings and Sundays to the Democrat.
For the charter
The White House is urging cost-conscious reporters to stick ** with the chartered press plane that accompanies the president on trips and not switch to less expensive commercial flights.
President Bush's spokesman, Marlin Fitzwater, says abandonment of the press charter would result in the scrapping of the White House press filing center on the road and cancellation of services such as the distribution of transcripts of presidential remarks and other press releases.
His appeal was prompted by the decision of 39 members of the press corps to opt for commercial flights for Bush's trip to New York earlier this week to address the United Nations rather than to fly on the charter, which presumably would cost more. Thirty-one other reporters signed up for the charter.
The per-person cost of the charter depends upon the number of people who use it, since the cost of the plane is divided equally among the paying passengers.
The cost would be $1,000 for each reporter if only 31 members of the press rode the charter. It would fall to a little more than $400 apiece if the 39 commercial travelers switched to the charter.
Commercial shuttle flights are available between Washington and New York for $142 each way.
Change at NBC News
NBC News has merged its weeknight "NBC Nightly News" and "Weekend Nightly News" operations into one unit headed by Steve Friedman, the executive producer of Tom Brokaw's weeknight newscast.
The move puts Friedman in charge of three programs. He also runs the "Expose" series anchored by Brokaw.
John Terenzio, formerly in charge of the weekend newscasts, now is "discussing other assignments" with NBC officials, says a spokeswoman for the news division.
Friedman ran "Today" for seven years when it was No. 1 in ratings among the morning news shows.
Cox Newspapers has announced it has acquired Val-Pak Direct Marketing Systems Inc. of Largo, Fla., for an undisclosed price. Val-Pak is one of the nation's largest direct mail coupon companies. . . . United Press International's chief financial officer has told a bankruptcy judge that the news service will not survive without major concessions from the Wire Service Guild. . . . The New York Times is raising the price of its local newsstand copies from 40 cents to 50 cents at the end of the month. . . . About half of the Miami Herald's independent distributors in Dade County have filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging the newspaper is harming their livelihood by selling directly to "street-hawkers."