A summary of developments in the news industry for the week of June 5-12:
AP Joins with New Century Network to Plan On-line Services
NEW YORK (AP) _ The Associated Press and New Century Network, an organization of nine large newspaper groups, have established a working group to identify areas where they can jointly help newspapers build local on-line services.
The working group will examine such areas as assisting in the implementation of local newspaper on-line services with starter kits and consulting services, as well as the distribution and exchange of interactive information.
Peter Winter, vice president of market development for Cox Newspapers Inc. and interim chief executive officer of NCN, said June 6, ``As NCN and AP have begun to understand each other’s strategic objectives in the interactive marketplace, we’ve realized that the time is right to evaluate the various opportunities that this marketplace provides.″
Winter added that NCN will be open to discussions on potential cooperation with any company whose products or services may help achieve the initial objective of enabling at least 75 daily newspapers to launch Internet-compatible services by 1998.
``We had a very productive meeting with NCN″ at the Newspaper Association of America meeting in April in New Orleans, said John Reid, vice president and director of communications and technology for AP. ``Those discussions are continuing, and we are eager to explore how AP and NCN can work together to serve the on-line publishing needs of local newspapers.″
Reid said AP’s efforts with NCN will not affect AP’s work with any individual AP member newspaper or group that may not be part of NCN. AP, a membership cooperative, is owned by the 1,550 daily newspapers that use its services.
The AP, founded in 1848, is the world’s oldest and largest newsgathering organization. Headquartered in New York, AP provides news, photos, graphics, audio and video and the technology to deliver and use these services to more than 15,000 newspapers and broadcast outlets worldwide.
New Century Network was formed in April to help local newspapers provide local on-line services. It is operated as a joint venture by Advance Publications Inc., Cox Newspapers Inc., Gannett Co. Inc., The Hearst Corporation, Knight-Ridder Inc., The New York Times Company, The Times Mirror Co., Tribune Company and The Washington Post Co.
Reporter Given Until June 16 to Reveal Source or Go to Jail
UNION, S.C. (AP) _ A newspaper reporter faces the threat of being jailed June 16 unless she reveals the source for reports concerning the sanity of a mother who confessed to drowning her children.
If Twila Decker of The Columbia State does not reveal the source or get an appeals court to intervene, she must report to the Union County sheriff, Judge William Howard ruled June 7.
Howard found Ms. Decker in contempt of court on May 26 after she refused to reveal her source for a story that doctors found Susan Smith sane and competent to stand trial.
Ms. Smith faces two murder counts after confessing she allowed her car with her 3-year-old and 14-month-old sons to roll into a Union County lake on Oct. 25. If convicted, she could be sentenced to death.
An angry Howard had refused to release the mental evaluation report and ordered those involved in the case not to talk about it.
Although he found Ms. Decker in contempt, he allowed her to stay free pending an appeal.
OSHA Won’t Issue Repetitive Strain Regulations
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Under pressure from Congress, the Clinton administration has decided not to issue rules covering repetitive strain injuries, which afflict hundreds of thousands of workers a year.
Labor Department officials say they will continue to work on developing regulations to protect workers, but said June 12 that draft rules are not sufficient to attack the problem.
``In the face of congressional intervention in OSHA standard setting, it is not possible now to publish a standard which has the breadth necessary to attack this problem,″ said Joseph A. Dear, assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.
``Given the magnitude of the problem, OSHA must continue development of a standard which will have support from reasonable people. OSHA will also use its resources to support education, training, consultation and enforcement activities to address this workplace epidemic,″ his statement said.
In March, OSHA released draft rules that were far less demanding on employers than a blueprint developed last year.
But the mood in Congress has been to reduce government regulation. Some GOP congressmen were unhappy that OSHA continued working on the proposed rules as Congress tried to put a moratorium on federal regulations.
Indeed, Republicans added to a $16 billion deficit reduction bill a provision to prevent the administration from issuing any repetitive strain regulations. President Clinton vetoed the bill.
Repetitive strain injuries affect more than 700,000 workers a year, and account for $1 of every $3 spent on workers compensation, OSHA says.
Supreme Court Lets Louisiana Libel Defense Stand
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court refused to revive a Louisiana doctor’s libel lawsuit against Thomson Newspapers for reporting that the hospital where he was the sole obstetrician had the highest Caesarean rate in 34 states.
The justices, without comment, let stand on June 12 a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling that dismissed Dr. Alton Romero’s lawsuit before it reached a jury. The state court ruled that the allegedly libelous article was substantially true and therefore constitutionally protected.
In 1992, Romero was an obstetrician in Vermilion Parish. He was the only obstetrician practicing at Abrom Kaplan Memorial Hospital in Kaplan, La.
That year, the Washington-based Public Citizen’s Health Group issued a report entitled ``Unnecessary Caesarean Sections: Halting a National Epidemic.″
The report, based on a study of more than 2,000 hospitals in 34 states, said Abrom Kaplan Memorial had the highest percentage of Caesarean births _ 57.5 percent of all births.
Louisiana’s overall Caesarean rate of 27.3 percent was the third highest among the 48 states surveyed by Public Citizen.
The report was the basis for a May 13, 1992, article published in The Advertiser, a Thomson newspaper in Lafayette, La.
David Hawkings, an Advertiser reporter in Washington, reported that the hospital attributed its high rate to a large number of repeat Caesarean patients.
Romero quit his practice shortly after the article appeared. He also sued Thomson Newspapers and Hawkings, among others.
The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled last January that no trial was needed.
New York Times Reviews Newsprint Contract
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) _ The New York Times is reviewing its newsprint contract with forestry giant MacMillan Bloedel because of concerns about clearcut logging in a Vancouver Island rainforest.
Times vice president Stephen Golden said June 7 a decision will be made after the British Columbia government responds to a report by a scientific panel about logging around Clayoquot Sound.
The independent, government-appointed panel recommended last month that clearcut logging be limited around the sound, the site of a massive anti-logging protest two years ago.
The Times buys only about 3,850 tons of newsprint from MacMillan Bloedel annually, less than 1 percent of its total yearly purchase.
But environmentalists, who are urging U.S. and European customers of MacMillan Bloedel to cancel contracts, say a decision by the paper against clearcuts would encourage other U.S. corporations and consumers to follow suit.
The provincial government decided in April 1993 to allow MacMillan Bloedel to log around the sound. It has promised to respond to the panel’s report by June 30.