American Pie 01.04.04

In the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal at The New York Times and tales of alleged fabrications kery by USA Today’s Jack Kelley, there are more reports of fakery. Journalists have been punished or dismissed at 10 papers, from the Chicago Tribune to small-town rural weeklies. Some cases involve copy-cat movie reviews; others concern reporters who were unable to substantiate quotes. A writer on the Vancouver Sun was dismissed for a sex and dating column that closely mirrored a column in another paper. Are editors being more vigilant? A survey by the American Society of Newspaper Editors indicates that papers have tightened up their rules. Papers such as the Albuquerque Journal have started sending out letters to readers who may have figured in a news story. asking if the report, or their quotes, were correct. “It’s not foolproof,” says editor Ken Waltz, “but it may help.” Meanwhile, Howell Raines, the NY Times editor who was forced to quit in the aftermath of the Blair scandal, admits there was a lack of vigilance. He claims, in a cover story in Atlantic Monthly, that there was an atmosphere of “mañana” journalism at the Times, an indifference to competition and an acceptance of sloppy work, charges that have upset many staff, some of whom see the article as an exercise in score-settling. One charge, that few have denied, is that the Times had become calcified and there was an instinctive resistance to change.

Are we about to see a new generation of magazines sold exclusively in specific stores? Some experts, who have been waiting for the September debut of All You from Time Inc and Wal-Mart, believe so. It will have an initial print will of 500,000, be edited by Isobel Mckenzie Price and will be sold exclusively in Wal-Mart. It could spur even upscale department stores to put out similar magazines. Clothing chain Benetton is reportedly ready to relaunch Colours, a provocative glossy magazine it published in the Nineties.

The battle between the unionised members of The Wall Street Journal over a new contract is escalating, mainly because of stories of how much is being paid to Peter Kann – the chairman and chief executive of parent company Dow Jones – and his wife Karen, publisher of the Journal. Both got double-digit increases last year – 58 per cent for Kann, 32 per cent for his wife. Kann’s total take-home pay last year was $2.1m (£1.15m), which included a $540,000 (£297,000) bonus, plus stock options worth an estimated $2.6m (£1.43m). His wife’s pay was upped to $870,000 (£480,000). Journal staff, who have rejected the management’s latest pay offer, have started sending postcards of protest to their boss’s home and deliberately turning up late for work.

Want to relive the Battle of Waterloo? New magazine Armchair General puts readers in the middle of military battles. It’s a new product from Eric Weider, who says: “The perception of military history is that it’s a bunch of old guys in recliners. We are aiming at a younger audience.” One of the features of the magazine is called You Command and allows readers to secondguess key decisions in major battles.

Metro International is getting ready to launch a free paper in New York on 1 May. The launch was delayed, the publishers claim, because of the debut last year of amNewYork, backed by the publisher of Newsday. It ended the year with a circulation of 173,000, mostly in Manhattan. Metro publishes more than 30 free papers globally, including Boston and Philadelphia.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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