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Morning Report

Arts And Entertainment Reports From The Times, News Services And The Nation's Press.

January 30, 2002

THE ARTS

A Cover-Up in the Justice Department?

The Great Hall in the Justice Department building, completed in 1934, is unexpectedly in the spotlight.

According to ABCNews.com, U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft--a conservative former U.S. senator who reportedly leads daily prayer sessions at the Justice Department--was embarrassed by two largely naked sculptures placed at one end of the hall: a female depicting the Spirit of Justice and a male representing Majesty or Law situated at the end of the space.

Last week, they were covered up with draperies costing more than $8,000, the news outlet says. What provoked the move was a November news conference in which Ashcroft was photographed with a bare-breasted sculpture as a backdrop.

Ashcroft told the New York Post that he never ordered the drapes--and Justice Dept. officials back him up.

"It's not something he thought about one way or the other," said his spokeswoman, Barbara Comstock. "He's got better things to do."

The draperies, she said, were ordered up by an Ashcroft aide because they make for better TV pictures.

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TELEVISION

Fox News Channel Eclipses CNN in Ratings

Relative newcomer Fox News Channel surpassed 2-decade-old CNN in January to become the most-watched cable news channel for the first time, according to Nielsen Media Research figures released Tuesday.

For the month, Fox drew an average 656,000 viewers during the 24-hour day, compared with 596,000 average viewers for CNN. Fox News, which is 51/2 years old, also handily won in the prime-time hours in which most viewing is done.

MSNBC was third on a total-day basis for the month, while business news channel CNBC was fourth and CNN Headline News was fifth.

Compared with a year ago, Fox was up by 109%, while the rest of the networks except CNBC showed double-digit gains--a result of increased viewer interest in the continuing war on terrorism. CNBC, however, dropped 25%.

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Study: Opinion Is Up in TV News After Sept. 11

A new study conducted by Columbia University's Project for Excellence in Journalism charges that, in its coverage of the war in Afghanistan, TV news has put more emphasis on opinion than on facts.

Immediately following Sept. 11, "factual stories" dominated the airwaves, the findings showed. But by December, they had declined from 64% to 57% of the newscasts.

Punditry and analysis rose from 35% to 43%. ABC's "Good Morning America" and "Nightline," in particular, were praised for having the most factually packed and serious reports.

CNN showed as much pro-administration bias as the traditionally more conservative Fox News Channel, the report went on. And TV was far less likely to air criticism of the Bush administration than newspapers. The number of people who called media coverage "excellent" dropped from 56% in September to 30% two months later.

Network executives said the findings were skewed because the group only looked at three days each in September, November and December.

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O'Donnell's Book Said to Be Full of Surprises

A sales representative for Warner Books, quoted in Publisher's Weekly, says people will be "very surprised" by Rosie O'Donnell's upcoming book "Find Me," due out April 23.

Among the topics the talk show host is expected to tackle: the death of her mother, her estrangement from her father ... and, according to insiders, being gay.

A source quoted in Sunday's New York Daily News says that O'Donnell "talks about her relationship with women and having a girl break her heart in college." The Warner representative also said that the book hinges on a phone call the comedian received from a girl.

According to E! Online, "Find Me" has broken the top 250 on Amazon.com's sales rankings, three months before its publication date.

Although O'Donnell dedicated her Daytime Emmy award to her constant companion, Kelli Carpenter last May, she's never officially come out. Though her camp hasn't denounced the report, neither has it confirmed it--preferring to describe the book as the comedian's "personal journey."

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