American Pie 15.01.04

In an effort to win friends in the Middle East the US Government is about to launch a news service that will attract viewers away from Al-Jazeera. To be called Al-Hurra, which means The Free One, it is the most ambitious US sponsored media project since the launch of Voice of America in 1942. The cost? Sixty million dollars (£32.7m) in the first year. It is hoped to have the programme on the air within months. A team of journalists with Middle East experience and some Arab journalists have been recruited. It is claimed that the service will be “editorially independent” although it is acknowledged its aim will be counteract the anti-Americanism of many existing Arab TV and radio stations. Heading the project is Lebanese-born Monafac Harb, a former Washington bureau chief for the London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat.

Is there a market in the US for weekly men’s magazines? Publishers here are watching the launch in the UK of the new IPC weekly Nuts and Emap’s Zoo Weekly. If they are successful it could mean some US men’s titles try the same. A spokesman for Time Inc said it wouldn’t rule out the possibility, but felt it was too soon to evaluate. One big problem is the opposition that exists among some of the supermarket chains, Wal-Mart for example, against men’s mags such as Maxim. Also, the US does already have quite a few weekly magazines that are aimed at the men’s market, notably Sports Illustrated. Spokesmen for both Emap and IPC have said if their weeklies do succeed they will try to “export” them.

How do you say “Stop the presses” in Turkish, Romanian, Chinese and Yiddish? There is a printing plant in New York where the right expression is sometimes needed. And in a dozen other languages too. Stellar Printing prints about 100 foreign newspapers in at least a dozen languages. Plus the English-language versions of such newspapers as the Jewish Der Yid, the Albanian paper Bota Sot and the Mexican Diario de Mexico. The plant runs seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Some of the papers are big and successful, like Novoye Russkoye Slovo, but others are small-circulation, ethnic or community papers, of which it’s estimated there are at least 300 in New York alone. Although many immigrants to the US these days keep up with news from home on the internet, the ethnic press is flourishing.

Rolling Stone publisher Robert Gregory has resigned and is joining Dennis Publishing as publisher of US Maxim. At the same time Andy Cowles, the art director credited with making Rolling Stone much livelier, is returning to the UK. At celebrity magazine In Touch the departure of editor Steve LeGrice has meant that Sarah Pyper, who worked in the UK for Closer and edited Sugar, is now in charge. All at a time when the competition between the celebrity magazines is heating up. Expected to hit US news-stands is a version of Gala, a weekly that is a big seller in France and Germany.

Hang on, if you still have them, to those original copies of The Beano and The Dandy. A collector here is offering up to $1m (£545,000) for a “near mint” copy of the 1939 comic book that launched Superman. The book, Action Comics No 1, originally sold for 10 cents. However, fewer than 100 copies of the 64-page comic book, with Superman on the cover effortlessly lifting a car over his head, are believed to still exist. A similar comic book, Marvel Comics No 1, recently sold for $350,000.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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