American Pie 03.06.05

The decision by German firm Bertelsmann to say auf wiedersehen to
the American magazine business – selling the women’s magazines run by
its subsidiary Gruner & Jahr to an American company, the Meredith
Corp – took most publishers by surprise. But none more so than its own
American staff, including top executives, who were unaware that for
almost a year, it had been the subject of secret talks – not in the US,
but in Germany. The $130m sale, which includes Family Circle, Parents,
Child and Fitness, makes Meredith, a family- oriented company based in
Iowa (which owns Ladies’ Home Journal, Better Homes and Gardens and
More) the second largest publishing company in the US, at least in
circulation. Although it says it will try to retain most the G&J
editorial staff, it’s expected many will be laid off. For a decade
G&J struggled to make its mark. One of its biggest mistakes was
trying to turn the venerable McCalls magazine into a celebrity-oriented
journal and renaming it Rosie, after the talk show host Rosie
O’Donnell. That ended in an acrimonious court battle, followed by
allegations of inflated circulation figures. Executives were fired.
Advertisers began to disappear. Staff were slashed. It was the
beginning of the end.

Feel underpaid? Think you could do better in the US? A new survey here of working journalists reveals what many of them earn.

usually start at around $28,000 a year (about £15,000), experienced
reporters make on average $33,500 (just under £18,000), while senior
journalists are paid just over $43,000 (around £22,000).

Of course some editors earn $100,000 or even more – but there are only a few jobs like that.

the publication of pictures of Saddam Hussein in his prison skivvies, a
Manhattan newsvendor allegedly called the New York Post, which ran the
same photos, and threatened to blow up its circulation offices. The
Yemeni man, who has lived in the US for many years, was arrested after
the call was traced to his news stand. He now faces charges of making a
terrorist threat.

on to those old notebooks and news clippings. You never know what they
may be worth one day. Former Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and
Carl Bernstein (pictured)n have given their notes on the Watergate
scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon to the University of
Texas Humanities Research Center. The price: $5m. Now comes news that
Norman Mailer has sold his archives, photos, notebooks, plus 25,000
letters and even his cancelled cheques, to the same centre for $2.5m.
Altogether they filled 500 boxes – that’s about $4,000 a box. But he is
not the first to cash in. Poet Allen Ginsburg received $1m from
Stanford University for his private journals, old manuscripts and
memorabilia such as his high school report card, a pair of old tennis
shoes and clippings from his beard. Ginsburg used the money to buy a
loft on Manhattan’s Lower East Side where he died in 1996.

the papers of gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson, who committed suicide
in February, are reportedly being catalogued – presumably until the
best offer comes along.

Yet another survey shows a discrepancy
between the political leanings of most journalists and those of the
public. Some 29 per cent of the nation at large describe themselves as
conservatives, compared to eight per cent of journalists, most of whom
call themselves “liberals”.

On social issues, 59 per cent of
journalists approve of same sex marriages, compared with 28 per cent of
the public. And while 40 per cent of Americans say they attend
religious services at least once a week, fewer than one in five
journalists do. As the people who conducted the survey put it:
“Journalists and the public seem to be on different pages.”

hope Hollywood is going to have a good year, and that the latest Stars
Wars movie (with fans like the one pictured) marks the start of a boom.
At many big papers, movie ads bring in more income than anything except
car sales and phone company ads. But movie advertising is down 11 per
cent from a year ago and ticket sales have been shrinking.

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