A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Odds & Ends

By Quill


A Voice of America journalist who landed an exclusive and controversial September interview with the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, has been taken off the air and reassigned to what she and the agency’s news director call a “useless job.”

The reporter, Spozhmai Maiwandi, and the news director, Andre de Nesnera, said that the job change is in response to outside pressure that has prompted the VOA’s chief to impose a ban on interviews “with any official from nations that sponsor terrorism.”

Although the VOA does broadcast clearly defined U.S. government positions, its charter calls for presenting news in an “accurate, objective and comprehensive way.”

The Washington-based Maiwandi technically was promoted to a position where she apparently has little to do and is not allowed on the air, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Maiwandi conducted the interview by telephone with Omar. It was his next-to-last interview before he disappeared.

About 40 seconds of the interview were used to produce a radio report that also quoted President Bush, a Northern Alliance leader and a Georgetown University academic.

But that report was put on hold amid criticism from State Department officials, a move that infuriated many within the VOA who opposed the action as censorship. The report eventually was broadcast in English on Sept. 25 and in Pashtu on Sept. 26.

“I am being punished for the fact that I did a good job, that I did my job,” Maiwandi said.

Maiwandi, an Afghanistan native who has worked for the VOA in Washington for 20 years, has headed the agency’s Pashtu language service for the last 10 years.


In an effort to collect the most embarrassing errors that ran in The New York Times, editors Linda Amster and Dylan Loeb McClain looked at 20,000 to 25,000 corrections over the course of a year-and-a-half to select almost 500 for the just-published book “Kill Duck Before Serving: Red Faces at The New York Times.”

“While we profoundly regret every error, there was no denying that we’re human and have a sense of humor,” said Allan M. Siegal, the assistant managing editor of the Times who wrote the book’s introduction.

The errors range from amusing misspellings to the rewriting of history, according to Editor & Publisher.

Amster, the newspaper’s news research manager, said she and McClain are avid readers of the corrections section and thought it would be fun to come up with a compilation of some of the best ones.

The book suggests that The Times seems to sometimes have a problem with numbers: “In some editions of The New York Times, the White House Office of Communications was quoted as having said that 175,000 lawyers were involved in various Watergate inquiries. The phrase should have read 175 to 200 lawyers.”


While covering the biggest story in decades, Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report saw their circulations increase in their traditionally modest newsstand sales.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations showed that Time and Newsweek each had an 80 percent rise in their average weekly newsstand sales during the second half of 2001, compared to the year before. U.S. News’ single-copy sale rose about 48 percent in the period, which was marked by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and ensuing war in Afghanistan.

Time’s average jumped to 281,000, and its total circulation increased 3.2 percent, to nearly 4.2 million. Newsweek averaged 260,000 on newsstands and was up 5.2 percent overall, to 3.3 million. U.S. News, up to 73,000 on newsstands, said total circulation rose about 2 percent, to 2.1 million.

Despite U.S. News’ increased circulation, the magazine is reducing the number of annual issues, cutting the total number of issues to 47, according to the New York Post.

“We’re looking for ways to deal with a terrible advertising marketing, and this seems to be the smart thing to do,” said U.S. News Publisher William Holiber.

Meanwhile, People’s average newsstand sales increased 4.7 percent to 1.5 million in the second half over the previous year. Its total circulation rose 4.8 percent to 3.7 million.

Us Weekly was up 8.1 percent on newsstands and increased its total circulation by 12.3 percent, to 929,000.


Less than three years after it was started, Talk magazine, the glossy monthly that struggled to turn a profit, has become the latest publication to fall victim to the dismal economic climate.

Tina Brown, the former New Yorker editor who founded Talk, said that the magazine was shutting down after the February issue.

“It cannot be anything but sad for all of us,” Brown said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we had to be realistic about the fact that 2001 and 2002 to date represent the worst period in memory for general-interest magazines.”

Talk was introduced in 1999 and backed by two media giants, Miramax Films and Hearst Corp.

Despite an overall downturn in magazine advertising, Talk registered a 6 percent gain in advertising pages in 2001 compared to 2000. The magazine also had a strong circulation of 651,000, according to the most recent figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

However, backers were concerned about how long it would take to turn a profit.


A Suffolk County, Mass., jury awarded Dr. Lois Ayash $4.2 million in February for lost wages and emotional distress for the way she was treated by The Boston Globe and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute following two chemotherapy overdoses in a medical experiment she designed and oversaw.

In the case against The Globe, a judge already had upheld Ayash’s charge that the newspaper libeled her in its coverage of the overdoses and that its reporter intentionally inflicted emotional damage and interfered with her job. Rather than a verdict on the merits of Ayash’s claim, that ruling was issued as a punishment for The Globe’s refusal to reveal confidential sources, according to the newspaper. The jury said The Globe must pay Ayash $2.1 million.

Globe Publisher Richard H. Gilman said in a statement that the verdict unfairly punished the newspaper for protecting confidential sources: “The Globe was denied the opportunity to present its case by an earlier judge who chose to punish us for our refusal to disclose confidential sources. The protection of sources is a cornerstone of our ability to report the news and, as we have in the past, we will continue to defend the privilege.”

Jurors found that the hospital violated Ayash’s right to privacy by disclosing details of its investigation into the 1994 overdoses that killed former Globe health columnist Betsy Lehman and severely injured another. The jury also found that Dana-Farber broke Ayash’s contract and retaliated against her by laying her off after she filed a lawsuit against the hospital, The Globe reported. The jury found the hospital owes her $2.1 million plus $5,000 in punitive damages.

The hospital and The Globe are expected to appeal the verdict.


The Georgia Supreme Court has declined to consider the appeal of Richard Jewell in the former Olympic security guard’s libel lawsuit against The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The court decided 6-1 against hearing the case, The Associated Press reported.

The state Supreme Court also upheld the lower court’s ruling that the newspaper did not need to identify its confidential sources of information about Jewell, who had challenged the Court of Appeals’ ruling that he was a public figure by the time he was identified as a suspect in the 1996 bombing at Centennial Olympic Park.

“The quest for justice for Richard Jewell now will move to the U.S. Supreme Court, and hopefully he will achieve justice there,” said Lin Wood, Jewell’s lawyer.

Peter Canfield, the newspaper’s lawyer, said the high court “recognized that the Court of Appeals correctly applied the law in this case.”

Jewell spotted the backpack that held a bomb that exploded on July 27, 1996. One woman was killed and 111 people were injured in the explosion.

Although Jewell initially was hailed as a hero for helping to evacuate the park, the FBI later investigated him, and The Journal-Constitution identified as a suspect. However, the Justice Department cleared him three months later.

Since 1999, courts have ruled that Jewell became a public figure when the media interviewed him about his hero’s role. That finding raised Jewell’s legal burden because a public figure must show that a publication not only printed an inaccuracy but that it knew or suspected the information to be false.


A Pennsylvania judge gave a Philadelphia Magazine reporter a suspended 30-day sentence and fined her the maximum $1,000 in February for speaking with a juror in November during deliberations in the Rabbi Fred J. Neulander murder trial.

State Superior Court Judge Theodore Z. Davis previously found Carol Saline guilty of contempt for violating an order by Superior Court Judge Linda G. Baxter, who presided over the Neulander trial. That order forbade media contact with the jury, and Saline had apologized to Baxter for the conversation.

In sentencing Saline, Davis said that by speaking to a juror during deliberations, the writer could have damaged the trial, which ended with a hung jury a few days later, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Neulander is accused of arranging the killing of his wife in 1994, according to The Associated Press.

Baxter declared a mistrial Nov. 13 after jurors said they could not agree on a verdict after more than 40 hours of deliberations. Neulander will face a retrial.


A federal appeals court threw out a jury decision that gave former boxer Randall “Tex” Cobb a $10.7 million libel award against Sports Illustrated and its owner, Time Inc.

Cobb argued that Sports Illustrated and Time libeled him by publishing a story in the magazine’s Oct. 4, 1993, edition reporting he knowingly participated in a fixed match that opposing boxer Paul “Sonny” Barch had arranged to lose. In addition, the magazine article also reported that Cobb used cocaine with Barch and Rick Parker, the promoter of the Sept. 15, 1992, bout in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

In January, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it rejected the jury’s January 2000 verdict because there was no evidence Sports Illustrated published the story with “actual malice” intent against Cobb, The Associated Press reported.

The jury in Nashville, Tenn., had awarded Cobb $8.5 million in compensatory damages and $2.2 million in punitive damages. However, the money has not been paid while the appeal was pending.

George Bochetto, Cobb’s lawyer, said he would appeal the ruling to either the full, nine-judge appellate court or the U.S. Supreme Court.