American Pie 17.05.02

Sales of daily papers have started to decline again. In the aftermath of the US terror attacks, sales of the New York Times went up about 4 per cent, the Daily News climbed just over 2 per cent, and Rupert Murdoch’s NY Post jumped a whopping 15 per cent. But latest figures show that sales have started dropping again. USA Today has been hardest hit. Although still the largest-circulation daily, it has dropped more than 3 per cent to just over 2,200,000. One reason: the drop-off in the number of travellers. Many copies of USA Today  are sold at airports, and most hotels buy in bulk to drop off at guests’ bedroom doors in the morning.  

Where’s Tina Brown? She didn’t show up at the New York Book Fair, even though she is still involved with the book division of Miramax, the Hollywood company that was a big partner in the now defunct Talk magazine. Some suggested she may be looking to new fields. In fact, before she took off on a trip to London, she threw a whole series of parties. One was for Lord Black, to mark the launch of the New York Sun, then one to celebrate the first anniversary of the US edition of The Week – for which husband Harry Evans is an editorial consultant.

Although it has been admitted it was an editorial mistake, the publication of topless pictures of fashion heiress and former model Judith Soltesz-Benetton may be the straw that brings down Penthouse. A suit, claiming $10m (£6.8m) damages, has been filed against the ailing magazine. A legal spokesman said the apology was three weeks too late, and there are no plans to drop the suit. A spokesman for Penthouse said the pictures came from a photographer who claimed they were pictures of tennis star Anna Kournikova stripping off at a Miami beach. "It’s the first time in 30 years anything like this has happened," added the spokesman "We apologise to both women." Nevertheless, the 20-year-old tennis star is also now suing Penthouse for $10m.

Pictures of Chelsea Clinton smooching with her boyfriend in a coffee shop in Oxford provoked suggestions that the photographer who took them, former Fleet Street cameraman Harry Benson, had been acting like a paparazzi. Benson, who has been taking pictures of US presidents and their families for decades, hotly denied the allegation. "I wasn’t up a tree, or hiding behind a tree," he insisted. He said he spotted the couple in the coffee shop, walked up and said, "Hi, Chelsea. I’m here to take your picture". She recognised him and said OK. He does admit he said to her, "Don’t tell your mum". To which he says she replied, "I’m a big girl now".

It’s official: the world’s worst place to be a journalist, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, is the West Bank. It has become more dangerous for newsmen (and women) than all the other hot spots.

Oprah Winfrey giving up her book talk show on television was bad news for book publishers. Now comes news that many papers are cutting back, even abandoning, their book sections. Editors explain that book sections never attracted much advertising, not enough to match the rising cost of newsprint. But some readers are complaining, saying they can’t understand why newspapers are playing down their greatest asset: the written word.

Jeffrey Blyth

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