American Pie 05.12.02

American women’s magazines still rarely feature black models or actresses on their covers because conservative publishers fear they may hurt their news-stand sales. But a change may be coming. A survey of over 400 covers of more than 30 magazines showed that last year one in five featured black or Hispanic people, nearly double what it was five years ago But it’s not the same for men. Black males are seen rarely except on the covers of sports or music magazines. Only teenage magazines seem to be blind to the colour barrier. They use many more black celebrities – as many as 25 per cent – on their covers.

 

For nearly a century since it was founded, Poetry magazine has struggled. Its circulation, even though it published works by some of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, rarely exceeded 12,000. At times its assets were less than $100 (£64). But it never missed an issue. Today its worries are over. In the Seventies, a reader submitted poems she had written. All she got was rejection notes. But she didn’t take them to heart. The would-be poet was Ruth Lilly, an heir to the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical fortune. Now 87, she has bequeathed to the magazine a part of her fortune – about $100m (£64m) according to her lawyers. It will make Poetry one of America’s wealthiest magazines.

 

Reader’s Digest is making moves into the movie and TV business. Once the largest-selling magazine in the world with a circulation of over 15 million, it has been going through hard times. Its circulation has dropped to around 11 million and its stock price has also fallen heavily. So the company has hooked up with the big Hollywood agency, William Morris, to market some of its editorial material for films, radio and TV. "We would like to be on TV on a regular basis," says Frank Lalli, the former editor of George who is now Reader’s Digest’s vice-president of new developments. The ideas include a daily news and talk show and made-for-TV movies. In another new departure, it has linked up with Universal Press Syndicate, which world wide sells such columns as Dear Abby and the Doonesbury comic strip to syndicate its features and interviews to newspapers in America.

 

Although the Pentagon is playing cosy with America news organisations, former CNN war correspondent Peter Arnett doesn’t believe it will improve the coverage if war comes. Back in Baghdad, this time working for Camera Planet, an independent group, he believes coverage will be bigger and better than it was in the Gulf War. "There are a lot more savvy reporters around, and an enormous amount of competition that wasn’t there before," he says. Many of the new crop of news men and women have been bloodied in Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan and are ready to show their stuff, with or without the Pentagon’s help. But he still doubts that reporters, despite all their training, will be allowed to accompany troops into combat. He predicts the biggest fighting, journalistically, will be between Fox, the Murdoch channel, and MSNBC, the cable spin-off of NBC.

 

The New York Sun, the new newspaper launched back in April, is getting bigger and cheaper. It’s increasing its pages from 12 to 14 and slashing its news-stand price in half to 25 cents. Its circulation is now 20,000, with a goal of 30,000 by next year.

 

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