American Pie 13.05.05

As feared, sales of newspapers here are plummeting. It’s the worst
drop-off for a decade. Hardest hit are some of the biggest newspapers –
among them the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times,
Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and the NY Daily News. Some
have dropped as much as six per cent. Only three out of ten papers were
able to report an increase in sales. Total daily circulation of
America’s 800 or more papers has declined to just over 47,000,000 – a
drop of almost two per cent in a year. Sunday sales are down almost
four per cent. Analysts say they don’t see any signs of the situation
improving. To make matters worse, ad income is also on the decline.
According to Wall Street’s Goldman Sachs, this has been the worst
quarter for newspapers for several years. Even a pushback in the $35 a
ton increase in the cost of newsprint, which was to have gone into
effect in March, hasn’t helped. The reason is still the same story:
young people have stopped reading newspapers. One newspaper that is
trying a very radical idea is The San Francisco Examiner and its sister
paper The Washington Examiner, giving away copies to families with an
income of over $75,000 (around £40,000) a year. The paper’s owner
insists they are not trying to make things worse for their rivals, The
Washington Post or The San Francisco Chronicle. As publisher Scott
McKibben puts it: “We are living in a time when folks don’t really
believe they should have to pay for access to news.”

 

Was it worth paying half a million dollars, as reported, for the
holiday snaps in Africa of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (Press Gazette,
6 May)? Us magazine doesn’t seem unhappy. It claims its newsstand sales
for the issue that ran the pix topped 1,200,000 copies – compared to an
average lately of 850,000. The magazine’s rivals, somewhat cynically,
claimed that even so, Us didn’t make its money back. If it made an
extra $360,000 it was lucky, asserted one rival. But a spokesman for Us
said it wasn’t just about money. It was a case of journalistic prestige
and enterprise. And how about its rival, Star magazine, which dropped
out of the bidding for the original pictures from Africa, but ran its
own “reconstructed” pictures of the celebrity couple? It sold about
900,000 copies on the newsstands – about what it sells most weeks.
 

Religion played a big role in the re-election of George Bush.
Now there is a slew of new magazines coming out with a religious slant,
mostly aimed at teenagers – especially girls. They have names like Teen
Virtue which has a glossy magazine look, runs features such as “I’m
Saving It” and “Virginity Lane – Exit When Married” and is already
selling well, according to the Christian Book Association.

Even
long-established magazines such as Seventeen are not ignoring the
trend. Says the magazine’s editor, Aloosa Rubenstein: “Girls are
getting much more spiritual.” She has launched a new column in her
magazine called “Faith”, which profiles girls and their religious
beliefs.

 

The
Devil Wears Prada, a roman-a-clef written by a former assistant to
Vogue editor Anna Wintour, was a quick best-seller last year – mainly
because of its portrayal of a caustic, demanding women’s magazine
editor.

Now it’s to be made into a movie. The Anna Wintour-like role will be played by Meryl Streep.

 

The
condemnation of anonymous news sources (Press Gazette, 1 April) is
spreading – even to the White House. Washington journalists have
launched a campaign to persuade the White House to abandon its
off-the-record briefings. Ron Henderson, who works for the Knight
Ridder chain, was brave enough to tell White House press secretary
Scott McClennan that readers are sick of un-named sources. It’s one
reason newspaper readers are becoming suspicious about what they read.
Off-the-record briefings are very common at the White House, perhaps as
many as two or three a week. Under present rules, sometimes the
correspondents are not even allowed to name who holds the briefing. So
far, however, no-one has yet agreed to boycott any off-the-record
briefings.

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