LUMP OF COLE: It hasn't exactly been a banner 1998 for St. Louis Post-Dispatch editor Cole Campbell, has it? The year was punctuated by plagiarism and libel disputes at the paper. The libel dispute was the one Campbell created for himself last spring when he attempted to strong-arm the St. Louis Journalism Review and its editor, Ed Bishop, by sending a letter to the paper before SJR published a profile of editorial-page editor Christine Bertelson. The letter told Bishop that publishing "any statements alleging that her appointment was made for personal reasons" would be libelous on its face -- "to her and to me." Bishop published the profile -- and Campbell's letter -- anyway. The plagiarism hubbub came in October, when the RFT found that an editorial by P-D editorial writer Mubarak Dahir cribbed from an article in the New York Times. Several national experts called it plagiarism, but Campbell didn't, preferring to write an editorial note stating that the piece's "failure to attribute its key source violates the spirit of our standard." (RB)

MARKETING MARK: Seventy home runs? OK. Seventy million references to Mark McGwire? Well, it wasn't actually 70 million references to McGwire in local media -- but with McGwire pushing hurricanes, plane crashes and national and international news off the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch every day, it seemed like it. The October issue of the St. Louis Journalism Review found 1,812 P-D articles with McGwire mentions through Sept. 14 (compared with a mere 961 mentioning Monica Lewinsky), and the final article count probably topped 3,000. The highlights of Post-Dispatch coverage included a profile on local people named "Mark McGwire" or some variant of the slugger's name, and a front page on Monday, Sept. 28, that had nothing but McGwire news. It was a boon for circulation, however, with the paper selling out of a number of special editions and reaping a publicity jackpot. The question now is how the Post-Dispatch will handle the Pope's upcoming visit. We're betting on McGwire treatment. (RB)

KASEN THE JOINT: It's rare that the story of a radical radio station can be told within a calendar year, but that's what happened at KKWK (1380 AM) -- the brainchild of local talk-radio gadflies Mark Kasen and Onion Horton. Kasen brokered an amazing Rube Goldbergesque deal that saw local radio giant Emmis Broadcasting donate a station to local minister the Rev. B.T. Rice, which Rice then allowed Kasen and Horton to run. The motley crew of malcontents that the dynamic duo chose to staff the talk slots early this year quickly landed the station in hot water, as hosts traded insults -- some racially charged -- over the airwaves. In July, Rice cut his losses and traded in the gab for jazz. But the story doesn't end there. Kasen and Horton are now suing the law firm and the lawyers (Lee Platke and Stuart Berkowitz) who helped put together the deal, claiming that they were wrongly aced out of the station. What do Kasen and Horton want? They want the station back, of course. And the radio carousel spins on.... (RB)

POL POSITIONING: Back in September, the RFT sat down for an interview with respected local TV reporter and anchor Don Marsh, who was retiring from the TV biz to run In the Line of Duty, a police-training-video business. Among the most provocative things Marsh said in the lengthy interview was that "the political coverage on local television today is the ad. That's it." The RFT decided to see whether Marsh was right about that, and our resulting survey of local television news one month before the 1998 elections found that the eminent TV newsman was completely vindicated. Only Marsh's former station, KDNL (Channel 30), ran more than one minute of local political news at 10 p.m. for the entire week. KMOV (Channel 4) didn't run any. Veteran GOP political consultant Don Sipple (who headed up Bob Dole's presidential run in 1996) put it bluntly to the RFT: "You want to control the agenda with paid advertising." In 1998, that was all too true on the local TV screen. (RB)

TRIPPED UP: You've heard so much about the nation's ongoing political saga of 1998 -- President Bill Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky -- that you've probably gagged on it a few times already. So let's not rehash the seamy details (the dress, the tapes, the oral sex) at length once again. History has rarely been made from less substantive stuff, but that's the funny thing about history -- people shape it with their immediate actions, but they don't get to write it themselves. In the early days of the scandal, the RFT went to Washington to get a firsthand view of the madness, and David Carr -- editor of the Washington City Paper -- summed up the year succinctly and correctly only a week into the scandal. Noting that the story had advanced little beyond the allegation that Clinton and Lewinsky had a sexual relationship, Carr said that "the template of the story has been down since day one. Now (the media) has got to take these little balls of lint that are left and roll them into something." Carr was absolutely correct, but who could have predicted that we'd have such a big ball of lint (and an impeachment) as this misbegotten political year draws to a close? (RB)

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