American Pie 03.07.03

Can Bonnie Fuller, the editor with the reputed “magic touch”
who revitalised Us Magazine and increased its news-stand sales more
than 50 per cent in little more than a year, do the same for the
equally flagging US weekly tabloids? The 46-year-old Canadian-born
editor has been lured from Us – reportedly for a guaranteed $3m-a-year
(£1.82m) – to be editorial director of The National Enquirer, Star,
Weekly World News and the other tabloids and magazines owned by
American Media. It makes her the highest-paid magazine editor in the
US, if not the world. Her switch – after just 16 months as editor of Us
– staggered not only her staff, but also Jann Wenner, owner of the
magazine (and Rolling Stone) who was under the impression that he had
her tied down to a three-year contract. He was not aware of the
behind-the-scenes negotiations with David Pecker, chairman of American
Media, who just a few weeks ago was lamenting how his publications were
losing circulation to Us, to the tune of almost a million copies a
week. One other question is how will the new “Queen of the Media” –
notorious for her micromanagement and the long hours she makes her
editors work – get along with the staff of The National Enquirer and
its sister papers, many of whom came originally from Fleet Street and
Australia. The NY Post, which has more than a share of Aussies and
ex-Brits, anticipated the reaction with the headline: The Fear of
Fuller – American Media Staff Dreading Bonnie’s Arrival.

Although the heroism of Private Jessica Lynch has been debunked,
even in the papers here that ran the stories of her alleged
ill-treatment at the hands of the Iraqis, there has still been no
let-up in the efforts to secure the first interview with her. One of
the big US TV networks even promised to make her an “instant star” with
the implied possibility of a TV movie deal, a celebrity concert in her
home town, plus a book deal – in return for an exclusive interview. At
the hospital where she is recuperating, she has been deluged with
letters and pleas from journalists, mostly newswomen, for a private
chat. One newswoman even suggested Lynch should give her the exclusive
– because they both shared the same star-sign.

Wal-Mart, the big US supermarket chain that banned the sale of
Maxim, Stuff and FHM and also ordered plastic covers for three of the
US’s biggest women’s magazines because the cover lines were considered
too sexy, is going into the magazine business itself. It is
co-financing a women’s magazine, one that is expected to be a lot less
risquŽ than most of the women’s magazines. In fact, it’s unlikely there
will be any sex in it at all. If anything it will stick to such safe
subjects as food and decorating. “A mass-market, low-end women’s
magazine with a low-end price” is how it has been described. One thing
it will be assured is lots of space at the check-out counters.
Wal-Mart, which has 2,500 stores, is responsible for 15 per cent of the
US magazine industry’s single-copy sales.

Despite all her travails, and the possibility of a prison sentence
for her alleged attempts to cover up charges of “inside trading” on
Wall Street, Martha Stewart is pushing ahead with plans for a
digest-sized magazine called Everyday Food – which she started
test-marketing earlier this year. It’s all about preparing meals from
easy-to-buy supermarket food. There is one big difference from her
other magazines: It will be the first that won’t feature the
redoubtable Stewart’s picture or name on the cover.

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