American Pie 11.10.01

Celebrities are back! After predictions it would be a long time before frivolity returned to US magazines, it took only a few weeks. After three issues devoted to the aftermath of the terror attacks, People hit news-stands with a cover of Jennifer Lopez getting married. The picture was of J.Lo in her frothy wedding dress carrying a huge bouquet of flowers. People managing editor Carol Wallace did admit she was thankful it wasn’t a see-through dress, adding: "I think readers still care about the rich and famous." Rival US also ran a photospread on the wedding. In fact, at many magazines, while trying to step carefully, the feeling is, "Let’s get back to normal".


What went wrong at Mademoiselle? While mourning the folding of the 67-year-old magazine – once a leader in its field – many here ask why it had to die, especially as it still had a loyal readership of close to a million. Could Mandi Norwood, recruited two years ago from London to give the it a new look, have done more? Magazine analyst Professor Samir Husni thinks not. "You can only have so many facelifts before it starts eating into the core personality. Every two years Mademoiselle was screaming, ‘we’re changing, we’re changing’." He believes it got caught between Ms and Cosmopolitan. According to Helen Gurley Brown, who made Cosmo the top seller of the women’s mags, Norwood was trying to turn it into a baby Cosmo, but there wasn’t room. Norwood also had tough competition from Glenda Bailey, who is making Marie Claire the talked-about women’s mag of the moment. There was also criticism that Mademoiselle had become not only saucy but bawdy. Critics cited the last Christmas issue when readers were urged to "Have a Happy Horni-Day". Others suggested the magazine, towards the end, had degenerated into an Abercrombie & Fitch fashion ad – a far cry from the days when it was once noted for its literary tone. It was sadly, most agree, a magazine that lost its way.


There is a noticeable increase in foreign news in US newspapers – and on TV. Whether it will last long is another question. Before the terrorist attacks there was, apart from Israel, little foreign coverage – and it was getting less. Even CNN was cutting back on news. And bureaux were closing around the world. Now there is a rush to find correspondents and stringers. For news executives worried there may be a paucity of pictures, especially for TV, from inside Afghanistan, ABC news anchor Peter Jennings recalls there were hardly any pictures from the Falklands War. "Some of the most compelling reporting I was ever involved in was the Falklands, in which we were reduced, in terms of actual combat, to radio reports or voice reports. We’ll get along fine."

Despite the new mistrust of skyscrapers, The New York Times is pushing ahead with its new headquarters in Manhattan. It is to be built just west of Times Square – and will be at least 55 storeys high. Despite greater safety features, suggestions that the glass-walled building should present a lower profile were rejected.


A tally of media jobs lost here since February shows how hard the industry has been hit by the economic turndown: Knight Ridder 2,100; LA Times 1,611; Chicago Tribune Co 1,400; Reuters 1,340; NY Times 1,200; CNN 420; NBC 385; Dow Jones 375; and ABC 260. Total jobs lost: 9,091.

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