American Pie 06.09.01

Is the Golden Age of journalism over? A leading academic fears so. After six years interviewing more than 100 US journalists, Harvard professor Howard Gardner concludes that many are pessimistic about the future. Most, he reports, are depressed and frustrated and would like to cover and report stories they deem important and to do so carefully and objectively. Instead, they face pressures to sensationalise stories, cut corners in research and avoid costly, time-consuming research that may even undermine the financial interests of the paper or TV station’s owner. Former Sunday Times editor Harry Evans told him: "The problem many organisations face is not to stay in business: it is to stay in journalism."

Now we know where all the money went! In bankruptcy documents filed by the owners of the now defunct Industry Standard, it’s revealed that the magazine owed more than $20m (£13.8m) when it went belly-up. The largest sum, over $4m (£2.75m), was for leases on penthouse-style office space overlooking San Francisco harbour. A lot of money is owed to catering firms, hotels and restaurants hired for the legendary, lavish Friday-night parties thrown by the staff. One former Industry Standard staffer, Patricia Sullivan, recalls that on Friday evenings a line of young dot-commers would snake around the block, eager to be first at the food and liquor. More than 2,000 guests attended the magazine’s second anniversary party, which boasted searchlights – just like those at a movie premiere.

 

More news on cost-cutting: staff at Rolling Stone, US and Men’s Journal, all owned by Jann Wenner, have been told not to tip more than 15 per cent when lunching contacts. Some magazines are cutting back on the complimentary copies they send out to journalists, while others are reducing the number of morning papers they take, insisting staff share copies. There are even offices asking employees to bring their own coffee mugs instead of using office-supplied paper cups. Some papers are dropping special supplements on science, health and even travel. In another sign of the hard times, many regional papers are not sending fashion writers to the autumn fashion shows in New York. The spring shows in Paris are definitely out.

 

Famous journalists’ watering holes around New York’s Rockefeller Plaza are vanishing. The best known of them all, Charley O’s, is being turned into a Japanese electronic toy store. Just around the corner, Hurleys, although it is still open under a new name, has been converted into a fancy restaurant with oyster bar and champagne counter. Hurley’s was a real spit-and-sawdust bar and once the only bar in town with a direct line from the neighbouring NBC newsroom, so that urgently needed reporters and cameramen could be called back to the office. Back then it was known at NBC as Studio 1-H.

 

In a break from tradition, the October cover of Vanity Fair features not a sexy celebrity, but rather young actor Daniel Radcliffe, who has the lead role in the forthcoming movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The magazine sent famed photographer Annie Liebovitz to London to shoot the entire cast. Vanity Fair is running an extraordinary 22 pages of pictures, which editor Graydon Carter hopes will make it a collector’s issue.

 

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