American Pie 06.05.04

The conflict in Iraq has spread to the comic pages and created a huge controversy. It started when Garry Trudeau’s strip, Doonesbury, which runs in about 1,400 newspapers around the world, included a panel in which one of the characters loses part of a leg in combat in Iraq and exclaims: “Son of a bitch!” It wasn’t the injury, but the profanity that caused the stir. Many editors refused to run the strip. Some said they found the language inappropriate. Others deleted the offending words. But many readers suspected the panel was dropped because of its war theme. The editor of The Minneapolis Star reported that he had hardly drunk his first cup of coffee when the e-mails started pouring in.  Ironically The Boston Globe, one of the papers that elected not to run the installment, ran on its front page that day the heatedly-debated pictures of US soldiers’ flag-draped coffins being flown home from Iraq.

As if writing a weekly column for The Washington Post and anchoring a weekly TV interview programme is not enough, Tina Brown has signed a contract to write a book about money, power and the way many US business figures fall from grace. It includes figures such as Martha Stewart who, in Brown’s words, ” lost their moorings”. The former editor of Vanity Fair and Talk magazine, who insists The Icarus Project is not a memoir, has been paid an advance reported to be in the “mid-six-figure range”.

It’s been said before, there is still life in Life . Again there are plans to revive the once biggestselling picture magazine in the US – as a weekly Sunday paper supplement. The first paper to make a commitment to the revived Life is the New York Sunday News, plus probably The Chicago Tribune, Newsday and the Los Angeles Times. Also being courted are The Miami Herald, the San José Mercury News and the Philadelphia Inquirer. If they all sign up, the new Life could have an even bigger readership than it had in its glory days.

Once voted the magazines most likely to succeed, such publications as Seventeen ,YM and Teen had combined circulations of more than six million. But those days are over. People, Cosmo, Elle and Vogue have all rolled out teenage versions. Teen was the first to fold. Seventeen ‘sad income has declined. YM’s circulation is falling and even Teen People, which once had 1,600,000 readers, is fading. “The field has become too crowded,” says Brad Agate, a media researcher. Cosmo Girl, which has adjusted its target to 13 to 15-yearolds, is up 18 per cent to 1,200,000. Seventeen and YM are now aimed at an older market – 17 and upwards. It may, however, be too late. The celeb mags, notably the new glossy Star, US Weekly and In Touch, are already aimed at that market.

Greg Gutfield, who is taking over the editorship of the British version of Maxim, (Press Gazette, April 16) is looking forward to his move to London – because of the food. He told the NY Times: “I love British food, especially those packaged sandwiches you can buy almost anywhere I usually buy three or four, go into a dark room by myself and eat them while listening to soft jazz.” Was he joking? When Gutfield was editor of Stuff, the biggest selling men’s mag in the US, he was known for his practical jokes. He once turned up at a fashion show wearing a bear’s skin and hired three dwarfs to disrupt a Magazine Publishers’ Association seminar in New York, whose topic was “How to Create Buzz”. A Dennis Publishing spokesman said: “I think he will bring a welcome jolt to UK’s men’s magazines.”

By Jeffrey Blyth

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