American Pie 22.07.04

The murder in Moscow of Paul Klebnikov, the American editor of the Russian edition of Forbes Magazine has highlighted just how many American magazines and newspapers are being published in other countries. Hearst Corporation, for example, publishes 135 editions of its magazines in 30 languages in more than 100 countries. It has four magazines in Russia and seven in China. Many are licensed to local publishers, such as the South African editions of Popular Mechanics and O, The Oprah Magazine. The trend accelerated in 2001 when global advertising began to decline and US publishers started licensing titles to overseas companies, sometimes even competitors. For example, Gruner+Jahr, the German company, produces a Polish edition of Condé Nast’s Glamour. Even National Geographic is published in Polish under license. In Russia Newsweek is published by German company Alex Springer and in Germany itself Playboy is published by Burda while Rolling Stone, owned by Wenner Media, is also published by Springer.

A campaign has been launched to change the rules that have resulted in several foreign journalists, notably Elena Lappin of The Guardian, being refused admission to the US because they lacked the proper papers. Lappin was even handcuffed, put in a cell and deported back to Britain. In the past 18 months 13 foreign journalists without the proper visa have been deported. The Los Angeles Times, which is leading the campaign, pointed out the anomaly that tourists and business people from 26 countries, including Britain, are allowed to visit the US for 90 days without a visa, but not journalists. The head of US Customs has said that in future journalists arriving without a visa will be allowed entry – once only. “It’s an encouraging first step, but not enough,” said the LA Times.

Whether Rupert Murdoch was responsible for the New York Post’s gaffe in predicting the wrong politician as would-be president John Kerry’s running mate (Press Gazette July 12), several former members of staff have since admitted it is not unusual for Murdoch to provide news tipoffs. Dan Cox, a senior reporter at the Post in 2002, said it was sometimes hard to make the stories stand up. “Sometimes they were right, but sometimes wrong,” he said in an interview. “We were expected to use them without attribution of course.” There was, he added, never any argument: “After all, Rupert was signing the cheques” Comic pages in American papers are getting smaller. In the past year many papers have reduced the size of their funny pages to save on newsprint. Some, such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, even asked cartoon syndicates to reduce their charges. Most refused. But as many newspapers now belong to big chains they are insisting on cuts. The Ridder group, which owns 31 dailies, is demanding a 20 per cent reduction in rates or else, it warns, it will reduce its annual expenditure on cartoons by at least $100,000.

A twist to the plagiarism scandals. At the Miami Herald a show-biz reporter was fired for plagiarising half a dozen stories from the San Francisco Chronicle. It turned out that the stories were written by the reporter himself when he worked for The Chronicle. But so concerned about plagiarism are papers here these days that “self plagiarism” was not considered an excuse. The firing stood.

The September issue of Vogue is set to be a record breaker. At 820 pages it will be the biggest-ever edition. “It will be the largest monthly magazine ever published,” claimed a Condé Nast spokesman.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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