American Pie 14.08.03

There is a new newspaper war on Capitol Hill between two papers competing for readers among America’s lawmakers. Roll Call has been around since 1955, The Hill is a newcomer. Both papers have British connections: Roll Call is owned by The Economist; while The Hill is owned by News Communications Inc, a company partly run by Lord Black. Recently The Hill appointed a new editor, Hugo Gordon, a former Daily Telegraph man. His ?rst decision was to increase publication to twice a week, redesign the layout and almost double the reporting staff. Now Roll Call is planning to publish four times a week. Both are said to be pro?table titles but are seeking a larger share of the more than $100m a year spent on advocacy ads by such organisations as the Pharmaceutical Association. Roll Call is credited with breaking more important stories, but the war has resulted in both titles turning as much to gossip as law-making. Recently both ran big stories about a woman member of Congress falling down an escalator.

TheWashington Post’s effort to lure younger readers by giving away a tabloid called The Express (Press Gazette, 25 July) has had a mixed reception. About 100 vendors in bright yellow aprons and hats handed out copies at Washington’s train and bus stations – but many commuters suspected they were promotional ads and tossed them in waste bins. Others did say: “If it’s free I’ll read it.” About 150,000 copies were given away the ?rst day. There was also some unexpected competition. Another Washington paper took the opportunity to produce a spoof giveaway called Expresso. It had only eight pages (compared with the 24 of The Express), but proclaimed: “Half the content, twice as free.” Copies were even given away outside TheWashington Post’s of?ces. But no one shooed them away.

A new ?nd-your-old-friends website called Mediabuddies is catching on here Of the 400 who have signed on so far (membership is free the ?rst year), more than half are US journalists.

David Davis, formerly of the Press Association and The Times, who conceived the idea after trying to locate an old colleague from his days in Croydon – only to ?nd himself attending a memorial service instead of the hoped-for reunion – says that he has had enquiries from journalists all over the world, from as far away as South Africa and India.

In the wake of recent scandals, the NY Times is expanding its byline policy. In future it will give more credit to freelances and other non-staff reporters who contribute to the paper. Who should get credit on a story became an explosive issue when a well-known Times man, Rick Bragg, a Pulitzer-Prize winner, was suspended when it was discovered that a story that appeared under his name was largely the work of an unpaid intern. Bragg subsequently resigned, but the scandal contributed to the later departure of Times editor Howell Raines.

Playboy, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, is auctioning off some prized pieces of 20th century culture. On the block are original manuscripts by James Bond author Ian Fleming and Lolita author Vladimir Nabokov, nude photos of Marilyn Monroe, pin-up drawings of Vargas Girls and even an original bunny costume. There are even said to be some of Hugh Hefner’s original “black books” – but the names in them, it has admitted, may be long out of date.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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