American Pie 01.06.01

It’s like a non-stop merry-go-round. The changes in editors at US women’s magazines has everyone reeling. The latest: Conde Nast is not renewing the contract of Canadian-born Bonnie Fuller, editor-in-chief of Glamour. Three years ago she was lured from Cosmopolitan following the departure from Glamour, after 30 years in charge, of veteran editor Ruth Whitney. Fuller’s mission: to make the magazine sexier. Despite such coverlines as "15 New Sex Positions to Test-Drive Immediately", the circulation has not gone up. In fact, last year it dropped 10 per cent. This year the fall has been steeper. Although all magazines here are suffering, for Glamour, which relies on news-stands for 50 per cent of its two million circulation, it was devastating. The new editor is to be Cindi Leive, editor of Self for the past three years. Now Self is looking for a new editor. Tipped for the job: Lesley Jane Seymour of Redbook. Other magazines are said to be locking their doors.

It’s not just magazines appointing new editors; so is The New York Times. Taking over in September from Joe Lelyveld, who has held the top job since 1994, is Howell Raines, a former foreign correspondent (he was its bureau chief in London for a year), who has been in charge of the paper’s editorial page for the past eight years. The question is: what difference will he make? Unlike his three predecessors, Raines is not a New Yorker. He was born in Alabama in the Deep South. As a youth he deplored racial segregation. A feature he wrote for the Times Magazine on segregation in 1992 won him a Pulitzer Prize. He likes rock ‘n’ roll. But colleagues describe him as intensely political. Raines is expected to increase the Times’s national and political coverage, at the expense of its international coverage, and at the same time increase investigative coverage – often neglected in the past.

The US Supreme Court – by a vote of six to three – has ruled personal privacy is secondary to the right of the press to publish information that should be made public. Even if it’s obtained illegally. The landmark case followed a radio journalist’s broadcast of a tape recording, made secretly, of two union officials discussing on their cellphones plans for a teachers’ strike in Philadelphia. In it they talked of violence against school board members. Secretly recording phone conversations is against the law in the US, but in this case the broadcaster was provided with the tape by a listener who said it was dropped anonymously in his mailbox. There is a proviso to the court’s ruling: the right of the press to broadcast or publish information obtained secretly is not legal if the journalist is the one who breaks the law.

Tina Brown’s Talk is under attack again. It’s no secret that the magazine’s backers include two Hollywood moguls, Harvey and Robert Weinstein, who own Miramax, the big movie company. In fact, when Talk was launched, one of the objectives was to find books or news stories that could be made into movies. But critics are saying the June issue is so full of plugs for Miramax that it’s now virtually a house magazine for the movie company. It’s even been suggested the name should be changed to Miramax.

The White House is cracking down on sloppy journalists. Staff who clean up after press conferences – some call them Bush’s "neat-freaks" Ð complain about the half-eaten pizzas, empty coffee cups and crumpled newspapers. Correspondents have been warned, if they are not tidier, they may have to clean up themselves.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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