American Pie 21.10.04

“From Our Own Reporter in Baghdad” is still a desirable dateline. But as more journalists become targets of insurgents, many US news organisations are re-considering their on-thespot coverage of Iraq. Many journalists are now virtually confined to covering the story from their hotels, because even walking the street has become dangerous. Although no major American news organisation has closed its operations in Baghdad, some are having problems finding reporters willing to work in Iraq. Some papers assign armed guards to escort their correspondents when they venture outdoors. Newsweek has pulled its American staff out of Iraq although is keeping its Baghdad bureau open with local stringers. Some journalists are saying how tough the job has become. In Iraq there is danger everywhere, even eating in a restaurant. To avoid attention, some journalists have started to dye their hair brown, grow beards and avoid speaking English in public. Even publicly voicing the problems can be dangerous. A reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Farnaz Fassihi, who aired misgivings in an e-mail home which was read by her editors in New York, has temporarily left Baghdad, ostensibly on holiday. Her editors say it is not because of her e-mail, which referred to Iraq as a disaster. She was due for a well-earned break, they insist.

Time reporter Matthew Cooper has been sentenced to jail-for as long as 18 months -for refusing to reveal his sources in an official investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA employee. He is free while he appeals. His magazine also faces a $1,000a-day fine. This is on top of a similar sentence imposed-but also in abeyance- on NY Times reporter Judith Miller, who has also refused to name her source in the same case. Both insist they were only doing their job and are protected by the First Amendment. Many journalist organisations are rallying to the cause. If either is jailed, it will have a chilling effect on the use of unidentified sources, which is an essential tool of journalism, says Ann Cooper of the Committee to Protect Journalists. Not helping are the recent scandals at The NY Times and USA Today, in which reporters were revealed to be fabricating their sources.

Back when he was a young reporter, or even when he became editor of The Sunday Times, little did Harry Evans think he might one day stand on the stage of a Broadway theatre, before an audience of several hundred celebrities. But it has happened. The occasion was a preview of a TV series, based on Sir Harry’s latest book They Made America, sub-titled “From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine-Two Centuries of Innovators”. Sharing the stage were several of the people profiled in his book, among them film-maker Martin Scorsese, Fedex founder Fred Smith and Ted Turner, who launched CNN.

Bob Guccione, who started Penthouse more than 40 years ago while working for the long-defunct London American , has finally given up his connection with the once big selling skin-mag. Now 73, he has turned down an offer to remain on the mag’s board of directors, following its acquisition by a group of Mexican-based investors. The new owners say they offered Guccione $500,000 a year for a guaranteed ten years, if he would let them use his name on the mast head. Lately the magazine, which generated many millions of dollars in its heyday, has suffered a big decline in circulation, from more than 3 million to 400,000.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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