American Pie 07.10.05

After almost three months behind bars working in a prison laundry,
New York Times reporter Judith Miller, jailed for refusing to testify
about a source, was unexpectedly released after her source had agreed
to her naming him. He turned out to be an assistant to US
vice-president Dick Cheney. Leaving prison, the Pulitzer Prize-winning
newswoman refused to discuss the case – except to say she had no
regrets. “It was a matter of principle,” she said. “I went to jail
to preserve the time-honoured principle that a journalist must respect
a promise not to reveal the identify of a confidential source.” What
she missed most during her time in prison was access to news. She had
no computer, had limited access to television news channels (her fellow
inmates preferred soap operas or light entertainment), her phone calls
were limited and her daily paper arrived a day late. She was allowed
visitors (a maximum of three a day), who included many politicians and
diplomats, such as former vice-president Bob Dole and numerous
journalists, plus top executives from the NY Times.

For the first
time for a while, Americans are expressing more confidence in the
media, according to a new poll. Of course, it may have to do with the
criticism of the federal government in the wake of hurricanes Katrina
and Rita. The press, in general, got full marks for its coverage –
although it now turns out some of the coverage was exaggerated. A
separate survey, conducted by a state university in Indiana, has taken
an in-depth look at how Americans use the media.

One surprise
finding is that most Americans spend nearly nine hours involved in some
way in the media. TV topped the time spent – an average of four hours a
day. Women spend more time than men reading – 13 minutes a day reading
newspapers, compared with a man’s average of 11 minutes. When it comes
to newspapers and the age of readers, there is a big divide.
Fifty-five-year-olds to 64-year-olds spend almost 35 minutes a day
reading their papers, compared with 18- to 24-year-olds who, on
average, spend a mere five minutes a day reading papers. That to most
newspaper executives is a sobering – if not depressing – figure.

Add to the list of prize New York apartments on the market these days the Park Avenue apartment of Conrad Black.

It
is a huge 3,400 square feet apartment boasting a circular gallery,
living room overlooking Park Avenue and four woodburning fireplaces.
The asking price: $10.5m – or roughly £6m.

Being married to a
sports celebrity has its problems – as many footballers’ wives can
testify. Now there is a new magazine here called The Professional
Sports Wives Magazine. Aimed at the wives of American athletes, coaches
and players, it’s the idea of Gene Pitts, wife of American footballer
Mike Pitts. She has nurtured the idea for 20 years while working as her
husband’s unpaid secretary, as well as running her own child day-care
company. “People think we lead a glamorous life, but it’s lonely and
can be overwhelming,” says Mrs Pitts. Projected features include
stories on personal finance, bringing up a family in the sports world,
how to hire a nanny and even preparing gourmet meals for a hungry (or
tired) husband when he gets home from the game.

A new
eye-catching feature looming on the Manhattan skyline is the steel and
glass headquarters of the Hearst Corporation. Just off Central Park, it
is costing at least $500m. When it is finished it will be home to all
the Hearst publications, including Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and
Esquire – along with the company’s 2,000 New York employees. The
original Hearst headquarters, opened in 1927, was envisioned by William
Randolph Hearst as a media and entertainment centre with a skyscraper
tower, but the Depression intervened and plans for the tower were
shelved, until now. Now the question is who will get the prized top
floor with views over Central Park. The betting is the best space will
go to Cosmopolitan, considered Hearst’s biggest money-maker.

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