American Pie 03.04.03

In anticipation that troops in Iraq will eventually have time to read magazines, publishers are shipping out tons of them to the war zone. Among the first shipment are 5,000 copies of Sports Illustrated, with the promise of copies every week for the next six months. Time Inc is also sending 80,000 copies of Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Popular Science and Golf Magazine – not that the troops are likely to have much time to practise their game. Perhaps the ones that will be grabbed faster will be the copies of Maxim, Stuff and Blender that Dennis Publishing is sending, For the female troops, Hearst is sending copies of Marie Claire and, believe it or not, Good Housekeeping. Altogether, almost 200,000 magazines are now on the way.

News from the home Front: there was a brief flurry of increased newspaper sales here in the first days of the conflict. But not as big as many publishers had expected. Many papers, such as the Dallas Morning News and Newsday on Long Island, increased their press run by 40,000 to 50,000 copies. The New York Times even increased its print by 200,000. At the Dallas Morning News, however, the publisher admitted: “They didn’t sell like the hot cakes we had anticipated.” Instead, it was television, especially the cable news networks, that grabbed the audience. The biggest winner was the Fox Network, owned by Rupert Murdoch, which pulled way ahead of CNN. In the first week of the war, Fox pulled in an average of 5,580,000 prime-time viewers, while CNN clocked 4,370,000, more than a million less, in the same period.

The Daily Mail proclaimed “For Queen and Country” on its masthead for years, but most American newspapers have eschewed slogans on the front page, except for the NY Times, which has always run a box on page one proclaiming “All the News That’s Fit to Print”. Just days after the war began, the NY Post started printing the Stars and Stripes alongside its title. Although no one directly criticised the Post, the sporting of tiny American flags on the lapels and shirts of some TV news commentators has provoked criticism. One professor of journalism at St Lawrence University commented: “It’s not appropriate for the media to use American flags in their coverage. Most would see it as pro-war. It’s a serious violation of the principle of journalistic neutrality.” A spokesman for the NY Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch, would not say who ordered the flag to be flown on page one – but insisted it did not come from the top.

What to call the war in Iraq? Some papers here use the term “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. Some others have dubbed it “Operation Liberty”. Time magazine is using a much simpler term – Gulf War II.

To fill in gaps in their home-front news teams, some newspapers have been calling veteran journalists, especially military experts, out of retirement. The Washington Post even recalled Rick Anderson, one of its former war correspondents who covered the first Gulf War, and is now in Iraq with the 101st Airborne. Another Post old-timer, Vietnam War vet and former Middle East correspondent, 62-year-old Tom Lippman, was even persuaded to give up a position at the World Wide Fund for Nature to do the daily lead story for the Post’s website. The oldest American journalist is believed to be Carl Nolte of the San Francisco Chronicle. He is 69 and covered the first Gulf War in 1991. Nolte is now “embedded” with the same infantry unit in which he once served as a soldier.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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