American Pie 04.03.04

Stars & Stripes, the paper that kept GIs all over the world up to date on news throughout the Second World War, is reducing its issues to six days a week and closing its printing plant in Germany. Once fully subsidised by the military, Stripes is now a partially civilian venture and receives limited funds from the Government. Covering the Middle East is costing it a lot and the decline in the dollar hasn’t helped. Also having financial problems is The Christian Science Monitor. Officials of the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston have warned staff of a cutback in operations, which may include job losses and killing off some titles.

More women than ever are signing up for journalism schools here, but it’s not reflected in the number of jobs in journalism going to women. A new survey shows more than six out of 10 journalism graduates at US colleges are women. Two out of three seats in classrooms that train people as reporters, editors, radio and TV producers and TV anchors are taken by women, but newsrooms are still dominated by men. Paradoxically the number of women in journalism is falling.

It’s blamed on the long working hours, the difficulties of combining work and marriage and the influence of the old-boy network.

The survey by Indiana University found the largest group of women (43 per cent) work for news magazines, while the smallest (20 per cent) work for papers and news services. Where are the women journalism graduates going? Many end up in advertising or PR.

It was touch and go for Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, who has been in financial difficulties (Press Gazette, 30 January) and was told his New York mansion would have to be sold to pay his debts. There was a removal van outside the house, a locksmith ready to change the locks and three sheriffs set for the eviction. At the last minute came news that financing had been arranged. The saviour? Florida businessman Marc Bell who has ambitions as a publisher. He is investing $50m (£27m) in Guccione’s empire, with one proviso: he wants to turn Penthouse into a young men’s magazine like Maxim or FHM.

Jayson Blair, the former New York Times reporter who was exposed as a liar and plagiarist, has written a mea culpa in which he admits his sins – but blames them on cocaine, alcohol and manic depression combined with ambition. In Burning Down My Masters’ House, he admits: “I lied, and then I lied some more. I lied about where I had been, I lied about where I got my information, I lied about how I wrote the story.” At first the Times said it intended to ignore the book. In a staff memo, editor Bill Keller said: “He is a fabricator who spews imaginary blame in all directions.” However, the paper did a U-turn and ran a news story about the book, pointing out that since Blair left it has tightened up its newsroom practices.

It’s 30 years this month since the launch of People Magazine. The first issue, featuring Mia Farrow on the cover sucking a lollipop, sold more than a million copies. Soon it was selling three million a week, the most successful title ever launched by Time Inc. It’s been said that the covers helped. Dick Stolley, the first editor, was once asked for the secret. He came up with “Stolley’s Law of Covers” – which he maintains still applies. It includes Young is Better than Old, Pretty is Better than Ugly, Movies are Better than TV, TV is Better than Music, Anything is Better than Politics and Nothing is Better than the Death of a Celebrity. The top 10 People covers include the deaths of Princess Grace, John F Kennedy and Princess Diana.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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