American Pie 09.09.05

One of
the ironies of the New Orleans disaster is that three years ago the
city’s leading newspaper, The Times- Picayune, published an
award-winning, five-part series on the perils facing the city in the
event of a hurricane. Entitled “Washing Away”, it pointed out the
vulnerability of a saucer-shaped city surrounded by water. When Katrina
struck, The Times-Picayune was among the first to suffer. Its offices
were flooded and evacuated. The 300 staff waded through four feet of
water, piled into delivery trucks and headed out of town. Unable
to print, the paper switched to its website but that didn’t help as
most of the readers had also fled town, or else had no power for their
computers. There is doubt that The Times-Picayune (published since
1837) may ever print on paper again. Covering the disaster was as
exacting for out-of-town newsmen as for locals. Even though they
had the financial clout of such big city papers as The New York Times
and Washington Post, most out-of-town reporters found accommodation
scarce, and food and drink in short supply. One reporter, who had
recently returned from Baghdad, said: “It’s worse than Iraq.”

The
scandal alleging some titles have inflated their circulation figures,
which began at newspapers such as Newsday, has spread to some of
America’s biggest magazines – among them Family Circle, House Beautiful
and Martha Stewart Living. “It’s sweeping through the industry like an
apocalypse,” said one publisher. As many as one in three titles could
have inflated their rate bases. Many advertisers are talking about
legal action to recover some of the money they paid for ads in mags
that are now alleged to have rigged their figures.

Are the days of the celebrity editors – at least in the magazine world – over? 

Some
observers believe so. With the exception of Anna Wintour, who helms
Vogue, many magazines no longer have editors whose names are known to
their readers. Tina Brown (pictured) – wife of Sir Harry Evans, who
once edited Vanity Fair, Talk and The New Yorker – has even given up
her weekly column and TV chat show, and is now researching a book on
Princess Di. Jane Pratt is giving up Jane, the magazine she launched
and named after herself, while Bonnie Fuller, the editor of
publications such as YM, Marie Claire, Cosmo, Glamour and Us Weekly, is
now doing behind-the-scenes duty as executive vice-president at
American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer and Star Weekly.
Oddly, the editor of In Touch, a magazine that has seen its circulation
soar to well over a million in six months, is virtually unknown. He is
Richard Spencer, a former soap opera writer. He works out of the
suburban offices of Bauer in unfashionable New Jersey.

It’s
belt-tightening season at Time magazine. Time Warner has ordered staff
to cut back on travel, entertainment and gifts. Employees have orders
to take the subway instead of booking limos when travelling in the city
– and when staff fly, it must be economy. The cut backs have been
ordered, a memo says, because this has been a “challenging year”
financially. Profits in the first half fell three per cent, largely
because of a drop in ads. Also, several new magazines have been
launched, none of which have yet shown a profit.

Stars and
Stripes, the American military newspaper that dates back to the
American Civil War – when Union soldiers captured a printing plant in
Missouri and began putting out a one-page daily – is returning to the
US. The daily paper for US forces overseas is launching a weekly
version that will be included in some American papers. Stars and
Stripes became an important part of America’s military during WW1 and
again in WW2, when printing resumed.

It now has five editions,
one in Europe, one in the Middle East and three in Asia. Its
circulation is around 100,000 and it sells to the troops overseas at 50
cents a copy. Its only British counterpart was Union Jack, which former
Mirror editor Hugh Cudlipp (then an army colonel) started in North
Africa in WW2 and subsequently took to Italy, where it folded in 1948.

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