American Pie 04.07.02

CNN may have weathered the storm over its alleged biased coverage of the Middle East conflict, but US cartoonists are still coming under fire. Nine months after September 11, American political cartoonists say they are under intense pressure to be more patriotic and not to criticise the actions of President Bush. Some have refused to bow to pressure and claim their work is being rejected, while others say they have been threatened with the sack. Many working for small newspapers are self-censoring to get their work published. Steve Benson, who draws for the Arizona Republic and whose work is syndicated, said: "I’ve had editors pull my cartoons because readers have marched on their offices and demanded retractions. I’ve even had death threats and have been told I’m a traitor." Ari Fleischer, the President’s spokesman, recently criticised the Concord Patriot cartoonist for a piece showing a plane marked "Bush Budget" flying into the twin towers labelled "Social" and "Security".


A battle is brewing in fashionable Long Island resort The Hamptons. Conrad Black, aka Lord Black of Crossharbour, owner of The Daily Telegraph, Jerusalem Post and Chicago Sun Times, is part of a group taking over a family of weeklies known as "Dan’s Papers". The $20m deal is expected to add "more velocity" to The Hamptons media scene. Meanwhile, Arthur Carter, owner of the weekly New York Observer, is reportedly negotiating to sell his 50 per cent interest in the East Hampton Star. He is also said to be trying to offload the Observer. Asked if the paper was for sale, he replied: "Yes, every week – for a dollar a copy."


Like a small ray of sunshine on a cloudy day, a group of newspaper executives meeting in New York said the worst of the 18-month advertising recession appears to be over. After a 13 per cent decline in the last quarter of 2001, the drop-off is now below one per cent. The area most likely to benefit in the next year is television – because of upcoming political campaigns.


Which are the most powerful media dynasties in the US? Business magazine Forbes named five. Top is Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, based on the company’s total revenue – almost $14bn last year – plus its global influence. Measured by total family wealth, in second place is Cox Enterprises, established in 1898 and owner of many Southern papers. The greatest political influence could be claimed by the Sultzbergers, who own The New York Times (annual revenue $3bn). Competing closely is the Graham family, owner of The Washington Post (revenue last year almost $2bn). The greatest cultural influence might be claimed by the Newhouse family, owners of Vogue, Vanity Fair and other magazines bringing in more than $4bn each year. The Forbes editors said for modesty’s sake they had omitted the Forbes dynasty, which would have achieved a place on the list.


Changes at Rosie O’Donnell’s magazine. After a big drop in news-stand sales following the talk show hostess’s public admission that she is in a lesbian relationship, the magazine has a new editor. Susan Toepfer is a former managing editor of People magazine. The publishers of Rosie (formerly McCalls) say the decline in sales is not linked with Ms O’Donnell’s private life. Perhaps it’s celebrity fatigue? News-stand sales of Oprah have dropped more than Rosie’s – the May issue by 44 per cent, June by 55 per cent.

Jeffrey Blyth

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