American Pie 04.10.01

 Women journalists have been to the fore in the coverage of events in Pakistan and other places in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Some, such as CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, who had to leave her husband and baby in London to fly to Islamabad, have had to make personal sacrifices. For most women, covering the story has not been easy – having in many cases to cover their heads, even their faces at times, and to wear long ankle-length clothes to avoid being harassed. Ashleigh Banfield of MSNBC even resorted to cutting her hair and dying it black so she wouldn’t stand out. Amanpour, who has covered many trouble spots, said in a message home that this was proving one of her toughest assignments: "It’s difficult here being a TV reporter, but worse being a woman."

 

One of the biggest worries for news organisations preparing to cover what fighting there may be is how much they will be allowed to report. Will it be like the Gulf War, when journalists had to rely on the military for information? Or like the Second World War, when news copy was censored? Might there even be deliberate misleading information – as in 1988 when war broke out between Iran and Iraq and reporters were fed misinformation about US naval movements? One Pentagon spokesman admitted it may be necessary at times to lie. "This is an information war," he said. News executives fear restrictions will be tougher than ever. On top of this, news organisations are strapped for cash. Covering the war is proving expensive with some organisations, especially TV networks, already sharing correspondents. There is also a shortage of satellite video phones. One manufacturer reported selling more than 200 units in one day – at $20,000 a piece – and had none left.

 

The gossip columns are slowly coming back. For a time many were dropped – or relegated to remoter sections of papers and magazines. The New York Post, after dropping it completely for a couple of days -the first time in 25 years -Êmoved its page-six gossip column to the back of the paper, alongside sports and TV listings. Now it’s inching its way forward again. But who’s dating who is no longer a staple. America’s best-known gossip columnist, Liz Smith, went so far as confess to her readers about the trivial nature of her work. "I want to go somewhere and volunteer," she wrote. "To hell with gossip and entertainment."  

The editors of monthly magazines watched in anguish as their September and October issues hit the news-stands with covers that were grotesquely inappropriate – but they could do nothing about it. CondŽ Nast Traveler had a cover line, "New York, Hoopla on the Hudson", about kayaking on the Hudson River with a full-page picture of the Manhattan skyline – with, of course, the Twin Towers. October’s Elle has a profile with a smiling picture of the US Solicitor General Ted Olson and his wife, Êbroadcaster Barbara Olson, who was aboard the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.

 

Publishers are facing difficult times, with millions of dollars in ad revenues lost  and few signs that it will pick up. Shares in media companies have plummeted. One of the worst hit has been Primedia, whose shares have fallen to a six-year low. There are reports it is trying to unload New York and perhaps other magazines.

 

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