American Pie 30.10.03

US journalists, who like to believe they have the most free press in the world, have been taken aback by the latest report of Reporters Without Borders. The US comes way down in the list of countries that respect press freedom the most – in 31st place – alongside Greece, Poland, Albania, Bulgaria and Nicaragua, and below 27th-placed Britain – flanked by France and Portugal. The list is based on a survey of several thousand journalists, researchers, lawyers and human rights activists. Some 166 countries are on the list, headed by Finland.

The legal battle between Rosie O’Donnell, who lent her name to the magazine Rosie, and Gruner+Jahr will reach a New York courtroom this week. The German publishing company is suing O’Donnell for breach of contract. She in turn claims they took editorial control away from her when the magazine started doing badly. She pulled out last year saying, “I cannot have my name on a magazine if I cannot be assured that it will represent my vision and my ideas”. Rosie folded a few weeks later.

She has had blood poured on her doorstep, a dead animal plonked on her plate and animal entrails left near her office – all the work of animal rights activists because she refuses to condemn the wearing of fur coats. Now Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue, is the target of an unauthorised biography by former National Enquirer reporter Jerry Oppenheimer, whose previous targets have included Hillary Clinton, Barbara Walters and Martha Stewart. He is reported to have received a $500,000 (£295,000) advance, with which he has hired a team of researchers who are digging into every aspect of the 53-year-old British-born editor’s life, including her affair with Texas businessman Shelby Bryan. Oppenheimer has himself reportedly travelled to Britain to interview old friends and colleagues, without, it is said, much success. Wintour, the daughter of former Evening Standard (and Press Gazette) editor Charles Wintour, has asked friends and associates not to co-operate.

It’s still quite a way to 1 April, but the editors of Maxim here have pulled what can only be compared to an April Fools joke of their readers. The latest issue has two covers – one of them the regular cover, the other filled with offbeat cover lines filched, it is admitted, from other magazines. They include, “Twenty Five Dazzling Kitchens and Baths”, “Telecom: What’s Next?” and “Savor the Flavor: The Incredible Edible Eggplant” – taken respectively from Kitchens & Baths, Smart Money and Vegetarian Times. The last cover line on the ersatz list is a clue what was going on. It reads “Maxim Editors Too Lazy to Write their Own Cover Lines”. Actually what happened, admits editor-in-chief Keith Blanchard, is it was only realised at the last minute there were blank spots on a special bonus magazine that they were polybagging with the regular issue. It only proves that the staff at Maxim will do anything for a laugh, even if it confuses their readers.

Red is heading for the US. Hachette Filipacchi is planning an expansion of its magazine empire here and is specifically looking at magazines catering for women and sports enthusiasts similar to Woman’s Day, Elle and Car & Driver. Under consideration is a US edition of Red. Said one executive: “There is nothing quite like it in the US.” If the plan gets the green-light, the move should come early next year.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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