American Pie 23.10.03

The Los Angeles Times is still defending its publication, almost on the eve of the California Governor recall election, of allegations about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s behaviour towards women – stories it’s claimed were intended to influence the voting. The paper was even accused of promoting the incumbent governor. One result is that many readers have cancelled their subscriptions. The paper’s editors insist they only delayed running the stories until they were sure of their accuracy. Some reporters have, however, claimed there was a “hold back”. Most other US papers are supporting the LA Times. The executive editor of The Washington Post said: “They came out with it as fast as they could.”

But the editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer expressed misgivings over the timing of the stories. To which LA Times editor John Carroll responded: “Better to be surprised by your newspaper in October than to learn in November that your newspaper has betrayed you by withholding the truth.”

Time Inc is pushing ahead with its plan to launch a low-price women’s magazine, which should be out early next year. Two titles are under consideration: For You and Your Best. It is still not known who will be editor, although it has been reported that Time Inc has been looking in Britain, and an invitation to New York is believed to have been issued to at least one UK editor.

Latest to join the freebie war (Press Gazette , 17 October) is The New York Sun, the broadsheet-sized daily launched just over a year ago that claims to be “the fastest growing daily in America”. True or not, it will probably help that for a time copies of The Sun are being given away with copies of the NY Post and NY Times. News vendors who co-operate – and don’t try to charge for the paper – are being rewarded with a daily $25 (£17) cheque.

Launching a news weekly is an easy way, it’s said, to lose money. But the US version of Felix Dennis’s magazine, The Week, which he launched here in April 2001, is doing well. Its circulation has doubled and is now close to 200,000. Although a subscription is expensive ($75 compared with $41 for Newsweek), the pace of new subscribers is heating up. Of course, one way a magazine can save money is by having a small staff. The Week has no reporters, just 18 editors, who trawl newspapers and magazines from all over the world for its stories. It also has a wry sense of humour. Its slogan is “All you need to know about everything that matters”, with sections such as “Boring but important”.

Editors here are watching with concern a case in Washington in which a judge has ordered journalists at The New York Times, LA Times, Associated Press and CNN to reveal their sources for stories they printed in the waning days of the Clinton administration about Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwan-born former nuclear weapons scientist at Los Alamos who at the time was suspected of being a spy. The case was eventually dropped. Lee is suing the US Government for alleged harm to his reputation caused, he claims, by leaks to various newsmen. “This is kind of bad news,” admitted Lucy Daglish, director of the Washington-based Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press. The news organisations are seeking to have the order quashed. If they fail, they will have to decide whether to defy the judge.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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