American Pie 04.04.02

It’s the battle of the titans. America’s two largest newspapers, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, are undergoing major revamps.

The NYT has introduced colour on its front page, plus an off-beat story that at one time would have been relegated to an inside page. It has also launched a weekend section, Escapes, which will feature travel, upmarket hotels and new cars. Not to be outdone, The WSJ is fighting back with a similar section three times a week. It is also unveiling a new look – one that the paper has been working on in secret for almost four years at an estimated cost of more than $200m (£139m). The most dramatic change is colour on the front page and, for the first time, headlines and stories over three columns, instead of the traditional single column. The news digest on the front page now includes graphics, colour-shading and what’s been described as "lots of bells and whistles".

 

Also undergoing dramatic change are America’s Chinese-language newspapers. Instead of being printed with the front page at the back, the stories running vertically with the type running right to left, they are switching to a Western-style layout. The two biggest Chinese papers, World Journal and Sing Tao, have already made the switch. Some older readers have complained, saying it’s too confusing. Others said it exhausted their eyes. But younger readers have welcomed the change – especially those who have lived in Taiwan where the papers have been that way for years.

 

Will sub-editors soon be an extinct breed? Researchers at Columbia University are working on a new computer programme that will be able to do all the work at present done on the subs table. Newsblaster is capable of taking, say, an intro from a wire service story and a few paragraphs from a reporter’s story and adding a wrap-up from a radio or TV report. Five years in development, Newsblaster was intended to make it easier for intelligence analysts to browse for information. But it has been adapted to edit masses of news material and turn it into a cohesive report. The designers admit the system is still quite crude, but they predict that ultimately human editing will be taken over by a machine.

 

After 30 years, Gloria Steinem has finally made the cover of Ms, the magazine she founded. She’s featured on the cover of the magazine’s spring issue. Now 60-plus, the journalist told a Reuters reporter in Washington: "It’s a bit odd to be on the cover of one’s own magazine, not that it was ever truly mine. But if Oprah can be on every issue, it’s OK for me to be on it once in 30 years." Ms still stands out from the crowd of other women’s magazines – its anniversary issue includes reprints of some of the early features, including one about female masturbation (with pictures) that caused a shock when it first appeared.

 

The bestselling face on the news-stands here last year was Jennifer Aniston, according to the latest list compiled by Media Industry Newsletter. She was a bestseller for Elle in September, for Redbook in July and (with her husband Brad Pitt) also for Ladies’ Home Journal in July. However, it seems the old Kennedy magic no longer works. The October issue of Good Housekeeping with Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg on the cover did not sell well. Others who bombed included Drew Barrymore, on the cover of the teenage mag YM, and Cate Blanchett on the covers of both In Style and W.

 

 

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