Are the days of beer and babes drawing to a close? New circulation figures suggest that lads’ mags such as Maxim, Stuff and FHM may have hit their peak, and not because of the ban by Wal-Mart. There are indications, it’s claimed, of a burn-out. That’s why old-timers such as Playboy and GQ have hired new editors and are revamping their content and layout. Already there are several new magazines waiting to cash in. According to Paul Turcotte, who was formerly with Ramp and is now publisher of Premiere, there are at least two million men in the US who every year stop reading lads’ mags – but are still habitual magazine buyers. Although still in their twenties or early thirties, many now have a wife and kids. It’s these readers the new magazines are after. Among the emerging titles are Ramp, Gear and a US version of Jack, to be called Jaqk. There is even a new magazine in the works at Time Inc. It will be called Love and aimed at women in their twenties and thirties looking for romance.
US journalists returning from Iraq are being warned that even genuine souvenirs and gifts are liable to seizure by US customs. A Washington Post reporter, Richard Lelby, discovered this when he landed at Washington’s Dulles Airport and customs seized a copper tray, a gift from a retired Iraqi police lieutenant with whom he had become friendly in Baghdad. Even though he declared the gift – for which his policeman friend had paid the equivalent of £15 – the agents seized the tray, detained the newsman for two hours under armed guard and wouldn’t even let him call his wife, who was circling the airport in their car. The tray remains in custody, while The Post seeks its liberation.
Since The New York Times invited readers to let them know of any other instances of plagiarism or fabrication by any of its reporters, hundreds of complaints have poured in. So many are there that The Times has set up a committee to investigate and also look into the way the paper may have fallen down in not discovering and acting on the misdemeanours of Jayson Blair. The Times has even recruited the retiring head of Associated Press, Lou Boccardi, to sit on the committee. What has angered The Times’ staff most is the way the 27-year-old reporter is now laughing at the exposure of his misdeeds. He even claimed in interviews with Newsweek and The New York Observer that he had become a symbol of what is wrong with The Times. He even referred to the paper as a snakepit – and said he was the victim of racism. Meanwhile most other US papers have devoted yards of newsprint to covering – and trying to analyse – what has become the biggest newspaper scandal in decades. It has also been a field-day for comedians and critics of the press. One of the unkindest, perhaps, was the Jay Leno joke that Iraq’s former Minister of Information had got a new job – as a fact-checker at The NY Times.
Despite the cloud hanging over it, The NY Times is still the US paper which has the most online readers. Most of the big papers that have websites enjoyed a significant increase in log-ons in the past year – but the NYT in March had almost eight million visitors, an increase of almost 25 per cent. Next were USA Today with six million and The Washington Post, with five million. Virtually all US papers make no charge, except The Wall Street Journal, which still came in seventh with 1,600,000 visitors.
By Jeffrey Blyth