American Pie 01.11.01

Because of the deteriorating US economy and the drop-off in advertising, many magazines here are getting thinner. And switching to lighter-weight paper. This is hitting another industry: newsprint. The largest US producer of newsprint, Bowater, reports a third-quarter net loss of almost $2m (£1.4m) – compared with a $50m (£35m) net profit a year ago. As a result, the company is laying off workers at its biggest papermill in Alabama, has shelved plans to modernise another mill in South Carolina and even plans to sell 264,000 acres of its timberland. Newsprint makes up more than half of Bowater’s business, so a 10 per cent drop in the demand for newsprint has hit hard. And things are expected to get worse. A proposed price increase by the US Post Office, on which virtually all US magazines depend for distribution (newsagents are a rarity, except in big cities), is expected to lead to the demise of more titles in the coming year -and a further drop-off in demand for paper.

 

Amid all the gloom at this year’s conference of the American Magazine Publishers’ Association there was one shining light. Unlike most of her colleagues, Martha Stewart, the one-woman publishing conglomerate, who has turned home-making, cooking, gardening and other household pursuits into a flourishing business in a mere eight years, is expanding – across the Atlantic. She revealed plans to expand in four areas – magazines, television, merchandising and the internet – in England, Germany and France. And they won’t just be licensed versions of her US ventures, but the real Martha Stewart. Her ultimate goal is to go even more international – to Japan and ultimately China.

 

To avoid lay-offs, more magazines here are asking staff to accept pay cuts. The latest, US News & World Report, is cutting all salaries, apart from the lowest-paid, by 10 per cent. Even editor Brian Duffy is taking the cut. The staff who probably took the news hardest were those overseas covering the fighting in Afghanistan. "It’s a tragic irony, coming at a time when the staff is doing some of its best work," said Duffy.

 

Former Daily Express cameraman Harry Benson, who arrived in the US in 1964 with The Beatles and stayed on to become one of the best-known news photographers here, returns to his native Scotland this month. He is to host exhibitions in Glasgow and Edinburgh of some of his most famous pictures and sign copies of his latest book, Fifty Years of Pictures. Over the years, Benson, nicknamed Flash Harry in his early Glasgow days, has become a favourite of many US presidents. He has taken pictures of nearly all of them, as well as the famous picture of would-be president Robert Kennedy, the victim of an assassin, lying bleeding on the floor of the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Most of Benson’s pictures since leaving the Express have been for Life (before it folded), Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and People magazine. Understandably, as they helped make his name, the Fab Four take up a fair section of the book. The cover is, in fact, a photo of them in Miami Beach being punched – in fun of course – by Mohammed Ali, then known as Cassius Clay.

 

Which publication suffered the most from the attack on the World Trade Center? Fire Engineering – for 128 years the journal of New York’s volunteer firemen. Of more than 300 firemen who died, 10 were regular contributors listed on its masthead.

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