American Pie 07.03.02

For editors concerned these days about sending correspondents into danger areas there may soon be an answer: meet Ronnie the Robot Reporter. It’s the idea of a maverick researcher at the respected Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has designed a satellite-linked, solar-powered robot that he believes could do much of the work of a journalist working in a combat zone –  including taking pictures and even conducting interviews. A prototype has already been built and tested  by Chris Csikszentmihalya, a 33-year-old  engineer and director of MIT’s Media Lab.  He notes that the military is increasingly trying to limit journalist access to the battle front these days. "It will always be better if a human journalist is able to move around freely, but as they can’t why not design and build a robot? The military has drones, why not the media?," he says. Is he joking? No. His robot is modelled, he says, on Pathfinder, the robot that NASA sent to Mars. It’s three feet long, two feet wide and moves on 14 inch wheels. It has a videoscreen and a microphone on a four-foot "neck-like" pole. "Sort of like a teleconference on wheels," he explains.


There has been a sudden rush of visitors to the Newseum in Washington. The reason: the museum, the only one of its kind in the US  devoted to journalism, is closing down –  although only temporarily. A new, much bigger museum is under construction in the centre of  Washington, at a cost of more than $300m (about £200m), but it won’t be ready until 2006.  

Tina’s old digs are on the market. The chic  Manhattan office space occupied by Tina Brown and  the staff of the now defunct Talk magazine is being advertised as a sub-let. The 30,000 sq ft office, which has its own private entrance and lift, is on the market for $30 (about £20) a square foot. Guaranteed gone are the pesky little mice that so upset Tina when she first moved in.


There are so many Aussies working at The New York Post, starting with editor-in-chief Col Allan, that it’s claimed the standard morning greeting in the newsroom these days is "G’day, mate". Actually there are almost as many Brits. Among them, Colin Myler, formerly of the Sunday Mirror, who’s the Post’s managing editor (news); photo editor David Boyle, formerly of  The Sun; and ex-Daily Telegraph man John Lehmann, just back from covering the Winter Olympics. But there are some Americans on the staff – including managing editor Joe Robinowitz, who calls  himself "Murdoch’s only Texas Jew".  

Staff at The Wall Street Journal, still grieving over the death of their colleague Danny Pearl, have just received some more bad news. Driven out of their downtown Manhattan offices by the destruction of the adjacent World Trade Center, they have just learned it will be another four months, at least, before they are allowed back in their old quarters. Holding up the return is a big asbestos clean-up. In Florida, more than 400 staff of the National Enquirer and its sister tabloids are also waiting impatiently for news of when they will move into proper offices again. Since the anthrax letter attack, which took the life of British photo editor Bob Stevens, they too have been working in temporary offices scattered around Boca Raton.

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