American Pie 16.10.03

New York is on the brink of a new newspaper battle. This time it is freebies.

Although almost every street corner in the city already has batches of news boxes stuffed with papers, many of them giveaways, at least two new ones are due out soon. One is a product of Metro International, the London-based chain that publishes tabloids in 25 markets from Paris and Hong Kong to Boston and Philadelphia.

It has been advertising in The New York Times for editors and reporters. First off the mark, however, is amNewYork, which is being put out by the Tribune Co, publisher of Newsday, the Long Island newspaper. It’s due to hit the streets this week. But the real coup in the battle of freebies went to the New York Post, which a few days ago gave away free its entire print run – courtesy of AOL, which took 12 pages of advertising in that day’s issue. Not only that, the Post doubled its usual print run to more than a million copies. News dealers were instructed to give away the copies – but being New York many charged their customers anyway.

It’s 40 years since the assassination of JFK in Dallas. And stories still keep coming out that we haven’t heard before. The latest, according to a new book chronicling how the press covered the assassination, relates that so few people showed up for Lee Harvey Oswald’s funeral that seven reporters assigned to cover the event had to serve as pallbearers. In the book, President Kennedy Has Been Shot, AP newsman Mike Cochran recalls that at first he refused, but when he found out that a reporter from rival UPI had agreed, he also acquiesced.

The dream job in journalism? A couple of US journalists, man and wife team Joan and Gregory Miller, claim they had it back in the late Seventies when they edited the ship’s newspaper aboard the QE2. For a year they travelled the world, crisscrossing the Atlantic and sailing the Caribbean, eating and drinking with passengers when they were not putting together the ship’s four-to six-page daily paper with items radioed from New York and London. Of course, before the Millers the job of putting out newspapers aboard Cunard ships had been entrusted to the Daily Mail and later The Daily Telegraph. That ended when reporters assigned to the job spent more time enjoying the pleasures of shipboard life than performing their journalistic duties.

One newsman, however, who can claim to have a journalistic dream job is Harry Basch, who writes a cruise column for the Los Angeles Times. So far he’s clocked up more than 200 cruises. When I met him he was completing a week’s cruise aboard the Paul Gauguin in the South Pacific. At Papeete he disembarked, lugged his typewriter across the dock and joined another vessel for a 10-day cruise in the waters of French Polynesia.

It all started innocently enough – a wall map in one of the offices of Vogue, marking with coloured pins the extensive travels of Anna Wintour’s advertising staff. Then someone had the idea of turning it into sex map, the pins marking where and when. Soon the map was a forest of coloured pins – from the Atlantic to the Pacific. One spy reported: “One ad girl went on a road trip with her boyfriend. There was a line of pins from Texas to Georgia.” For months the map hung on the ad department’s wall, until word reached the New York Post.

The day after a Post reporter asked about it, the map came down.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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