American Pie 28.01.05

The spate lately of awards for movies, TV shows and music has
spotlighted what’s becoming known here as “swagland”. That is the goody
bags that are given out not only to prize winners, nominees, guests and
even journalists who attend the ceremonies. Of course the winners do
best – with goody bags that contain expensive cosmetics, jewellery,
clothing, bottles of champagne and even DVD players and cell phones.
Even this year’s Oscar nominees are being bestowed with a 7.2 carat
diamond and pink sapphire brooch, black lace panties from Victoria’s
Secret and an expensive leather clutch stuffed with cosmetics. But
journalists don’t do badly – in fact many have come to expect lots of
freebies, including tickets to Broadway shows and the loan of luxury
sports cars. Some journalists have even been known to ring up in
advance and ask if there is a goody-bag– suggesting they may not turn
up if there isn’t. At some events journalists are even allowed to pack
their own gift bags from an array of freebies. Even at events such as
the Golden Globes, organised by the Hollywood Foreign Press
Association, which has less than 100 members, most of them unknown
writers for barely-known publications, there is no shortage of swag.
This year they walked away with goodies estimated to be worth several
hundred dollars. Many were not content with one bag. Several this year
were heard to ask if they could have a second – for their secretary or
wife who couldn’t attend! Some editors – among them the editors of
Women’s Wear Daily, Jane, Details and W, dismayed over what they
consider blatant attempts to corrupt or influence their staff – have
tried to stop the gift-giving. But most writers, told not to accept
gift bags, ignore the order – and have the gift bags shipped to their
home address.

The New York Times is shrugging off criticism that
it is linking up with not just a company whose executives tell racist
jokes (Press Gazette, 21 Jan) but a company that sells porn movies. The
latest revelation that Metro International, which publishes freebie
papers in Europe and in the US, and in which the NY Times planned to
invest, is also linked with Modern Times Group, a porno-publishing
outfit that also telecasts x-rated movies in Europe, does not appear to
faze the Times . Spokeswoman Catherine Mathis insists that buying a
share of Metro does not put the paper “into bed” with a porn publisher.
Nevertheless, it is seen here as a new embarrassment for the
scandal-plagued NY Times . “It’s getting a little messy,” was the
comment of one Wall Street analyst.

A new unauthorised biography
of one of America’s best-known British editors, Anna Wintour of Vogue ,
is becoming the talk of New York. It seems to be headed to be a
best-seller, at least among the publishing fraternity. One of the
headline-making claims in the book, called The Front Row: The Cool Life
and Hot Times of Vogue’s editor-in-chief, is that in the late 70s
Wintour had an affair with reggae singer Bob Marley. The book also
claims that years ago, when they were both young, she had a brief
romance with then Daily Mail columnist Nigel Dempster. Wintour,
daughter of former Evening Standard editor Charles Wintour (who for a
time after leaving the Standard was editor of Press Gazette ) asked
friends not to talk or give away secrets to the author of the new book,
Jerry Oppenheimer, but was apparently not too successful.

How do
you spell (or even pronounce) Better Homes and Gardens in Chinese?
That’s what they are asking in Des Moines, the midwestern home of the
well-known American home-style magazine which has just signed a deal to
publish a Chinese-language version.

BH&G, a sister
publication of the even more venerable Ladies Home Journal , is
published by Meredith, which is making its first venture into
foreign-language publications. Experts here think it could be a success
in China because potential readers there are becoming more affluent and
four out of five urban Chinese now own their own home. And as a result
are becoming, it’s believed, more interested in cooking and gardening.

Al-Jazeera
, the controversial Arab television news network, is opening new
offices in Washington. It is spending something like $7 million on
splashy new studios, doubling its US staff and expanding its American
coverage, including a new English-language channel to compete, it’s
hoped, with CNN and the BBC. But it’s still keeping a low profile.
Fearing that its presence will tend to attract the wrong kind of
attention (including of course demonstrators and pickets) the sign
outside the office will read Peninsular Productions, the network’s less
high-profile American affiliate.

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