American Pie 07.08.03

When the New York Times makes a mistake the rest of the US press suffers. That’s why the paper’s decision, after consistently refusing in the past, to appoint a “public editor” to check complaints from readers and, even independently, investigate any suspected mistakes or biased reporting, is generally hailed here. On the paper itself there is some concern, but most journalistic organisations have welcomed the plan.

While many papers here have for years had an “ombudsman”, the Times consistently rejected the idea. That is until the recent scandals involving ‘faker’ Jayson Blair and another Times man who quit for misusing freelance bylines. The Times, acknowledging its errors, has said it would appoint not one watchdog but two, the second to monitor newsroom and reporting ethics. There will also be an annual review of every staffer’s performance. Meanwhile, Jayson Blair has been hired by Esquire to review an upcoming film about disgraced journalist Stephen Glass, who admitted fabricating stories he wrote for Rolling Stone. Several journalists’ bodies have criticised Esquire for giving Blair the assignment, suggesting it feeds the growing scepticism about the press. Esquire editor David Granger insists he will make sure Blair goes to the movie’s screening.

No US newspaper that I read mentioned in their Bob Hope obituaries anything about his infidelities or marriage problems. Yet the London-born comedian was not even in his grave before British papers were tearing at his image with stories of his extra-marital activities. The Daily Mail even ran a virtual catalogue, with names and dates, of his conquests. One of the oddities here was the New York Times obit – one of its longest ever – which carried the byline of Vincent Canby, once one of paper best-known showbiz writers.

Canby died two years ago.

The controversy over same-sex marriages is spilling over on to the pages of some unlikely magazines. After more than 70 years of advising brides on how to plan their weddings, Bride’s magazine has an article on same-sex weddings. It’s the first time any of the five top-selling bridal magazines here has run such a feature. The article discusses recent developments in same-sex ceremonies. Editor-in-chief Millie Martini Bratten says: “Lately we have been receiving lots of letters asking about what to wear – and what to do – at a same-sex wedding.”

The magazine’s advice to readers invited to a gay wedding: “Don’t panic.” So far, Bride’s publisher, Condé Nast, has not had any adverse reaction from advertisers.

Maxim gone military! -that’s the idea behind new magazine Drill, due out here next month, which plans to be a lads’ mag with a military spin. Subtitled “For Men Who Serve”, it is a joint venture between the UK’s John Brown Publishing and a group of US investors and will be sold in military bases around the world.

The cover of the dummy features a model wearing a camouflage bra. Features include a letters-to-the editor section (“Permission to Speak”), an entertainment section (“At Ease”) and a sex-advice column (“Private Parts”).

The first US journalist to return from Iraq and have his souvenirs seized, Boston Herald reporter Jules Crittenden, has had all 55 items returned to him, except one: a 5ft oil painting of Saddam Hussein. US Customs did not impose any penalties or taxes but ther’s no explanation for why they kept the painting.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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