American Pie 28.11.02

The Pentagon is finally co-operating with the media and is conducting special courses for correspondents likely to be sent to Iraq. Some 60 journalists from more than 30 news organisations in three countries have already gone through a week of "boot camp" at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington. The course included everything from firefighting to surviving nuclear, chemical and biological attacks. Three more week-long courses are planned in the next few months, including one possibly to be held at a US military base in Germany and one at a Marine Corps base, on which newsmen will be exposed to live fire.


The US edition of the Financial Times, which has just celebrated its fifth birthday, expects to surpass the UK circulation within five years. That’s the prediction of circulation analysts here. Today, the FT’s American edition sells, on average, 125,000 copies a day – an increase of about 14 per cent in the last year. The UK circulation stands at about 160,000. When it was launched in 1997 the US edition sold about 30,000 copies. By comparison, the Wall Street Journal was selling around 1,800,000 last year. But FT executives here insist they have no intention of trying to take on the WSJ. At least not head-on.  

Meanwhile, things are not that happy at the WSJ. There has been a blizzard of "pink slips" as staff have been laid off. Some star reporters who covered the recent Wall Street scandals are among the victims. Almost all the paper’s legal team has been fired. So far the cuts amount to about five per cent of the WSJ’s US-based news staff. The management explains that despite its big circulation it has suffered more than most other big papers because of advertising cut-backs, especially in the technology field. Reuters, a big rival, is also cutting its US staff. So far, 150 people have been let go. More layoffs are expected and it’s predicted as many as 20 per cent of the editorial staff will go.


After 17 years Consumer Reports is scrapping its Travel Letter because subscriptions are down 17 per cent in the last year. This is all blamed on the decline in holiday and business travel. Also tightening their seatbelts are Conde Nast Traveller, whose circulation is down almost 3 per cent, and Travel and Leisure, down almost 4 per cent.


Who will be Time magazine’s man or woman of the year? The selection committee is in session and members have dropped some hints for the first time. The shortlist ranges from George Bush to Osama bin Laden. Time’s managing editor Jim Kelly (who hasn’t revealed which way he will vote) says many felt the magazine "wimped out" last year when it picked New York’s then mayor Rudy Giuliani over bin Laden. One other possibility is a "generic terrorist". An outsider: Harry Potter author J K Rowling.


The New York Post, buoyed by its recent big jump in circulation, is considering launching a special West Coast edition in California. It already sells a few papers in Los Angeles, but they arrive a day late. Editor Col Allen describes it as a "low-level foray". It would be the basic New York edition, with a little touch of sunshine. The Post, which now has a circulation in NY of almost 600,000, has a similar deal in Florida, where it sells 10,000 copies, mostly to New Yorkers on vacation or living there in retirement.

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