American Pie 12.06.03

The Associated Press scoop over Hillary Clinton’s memoirs created a lot of storm and fury. Time Inc, which reportedly agreed to pay $100,000 (£60,000) for the rights to excerpt the memoirs in Time and People, hurriedly called a conference to decide whether to go ahead with the deal – including running Clinton’s picture on Time’s cover. Not unexpectedly, in view of the publicity, they went ahead. More serious was the threat by the book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, to sue AP for breaking the embargo – although how that could succeed when no advance copies were sent out to the press is debatable. However, there is a precedent. In 1983 the US Supreme Court ruled that The Nation magazine had infringed the copyright of a memoir by former President Gerald Ford, when the magazine quoted some of the “dramatic passages” from the book several weeks before publication and its serialisation, again, in Time. The court ordered The Nation to pay $12,500 (£7,500). How AP got its scoop the news agency wasn’t saying. All a spokesman would say: “We got it by good, old-fashioned reporting.”

Smoking can be dangerous – in more ways than one- as Steve Dunleavy, the New York Post’s chief columnist learned when he popped out of the Post’s favourite hangout, Langhans, for a quick puff (now that smoking is banned in the city’s bars). Of course, it was 3.30am and the newsman admits he was sloshed. Two pickpockets realised that too, and knocked Dunleavy down. They fled with his wallet – but not before he had landed a kick in their rears. Fortunately cops on duty outside the Post’s offices across the street were quickly on the scene, chased the pair, arrested them – and retrieved Dunleavy’s money, credit cards and his New York Police Press pass.

Selling magazine ads is a real game these days. Next month, New York’s Grand Central Station is being transformed into a near-replica of Wimbledon, thanks to Tennis Magazine. To coincide with the tournament, the magazine is constructing the Centre Court with artificial grass and spectator stands. There will even be the traditional strawberries, but no champagne. “These days just selling ads is no longer enough” said publisher Jeff Williams.

Having computer problems? Maybe you have been threatening to do it harm. According to a magazine called New Witch, computers are sensitive. “Do not curse, yell, smack or otherwise vent your anger on your computer,” says Galina Krassnova, editor of the magazine which describes itself as a journal for the “young, hip new breed of witches”. What is really bad is casting spells with your computer on. “Turn the computer off when you are working magic,” it warns. If you do curse your computer, and who hasn’t, there is a remedy. “You can clean away the bad energy by shaking a coffee can full of coins around, or better still, you can bless the machine.”

Prompted by an inquiry from the BBC’s Alistair Cooke, the NYT’s word maven, William Safire, has been looking into why the US State Department refers to the “Near East” when most of the rest of the world says “Middle East”. According to a State Department spokesman, Middle East is a modern term. Before the Second World War the term used most often was Near East and the State Department had a Near East Division. In 1949 it became the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Obviously no one wants to pay for changing the name over the door!

By Jeffrey Blyth

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