It’s ironic that, just as the US media has been seeking praise for its coverage of the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, there should be a report bringing the media here down to earth. A survey shows that an increasing number of Americans believe the press has too much freedom. For the first time, more than half of those polled believe the First Amendment of the US Constitution goes too far. And the least popular First Amendment right is the freedom of the press. Some 42 per cent say the US press has too much freedom, and more than 40 per cent said that newspapers should not be allowed to freely criticise the US military, its strategies and performance. Half of those surveyed said the US press has been "too aggressive" in asking officials for information about the war on terrorism. Four in 10 said they would bar criticism of US military policy. A spokesman for the institute that conducted the survey said it was ironic that many Americans have doubts about these fundamental freedoms just 12 months on from the terrorist attacks – especially as the terrorists make no secret of their contempt for Americans’ personal liberties and see them as a weakness.
Many business magazines have been hit by the meltdown on Wall Street and the growing number of accounting scandals. Bad business news makes it difficult for the big companies to spend as much on advertising as they did in happier times. The three biggest titles in the sector – Fortune, Business Week and Forbes – have suffered a drop-off in advertising of around 37 per cent. The gloom has also turned off many readers and sales are declining.
One segment of the magazine industry that is on the up is the teenage market. There are twice as many magazines on the news-stands for teenage girls than there were five years ago. The biggest are still Seventeen and YM, both with circulations of over two million, but others are creeping up, including Teen People, CosmoGirl!, ElleGirl and Teen Vogue. There are, according to the latest census, almost 32 million young Americans between the ages of 12 and 19, and not overlooked by publishers they spend over $170bn (£109bn) on clothes, gifts and other "necessities" every year. There have been some failures – both Mademoiselle and Teen have closed in the past year – but others are thriving, perhaps because, like their big sisters, they have just a touch of sex in them. As ElleGirl editor Brandon Holly put it: "We know our girls don’t need to learn how to kiss a boy. We give them more serious information."
The title of "world’s biggest magazine" – based on the number of copies printed – may soon be claimed by Modern Maturity, the magazine sent out to members of the Association of Retired People. It is being combined with My Generation, a magazine launched last year for the association’s younger members. Modern Maturity now has a print run of 21,500,000.
A plan to make a movie about a reporter who invented most of the stories he wrote for magazines such as Rolling Stone, Harpers, New Republic, and George is creating controversy. The story about Stephen Glass’s fakery, which ran in Vanity Fair, has been snapped up by a film company, which says the movie, Shattered Glass, won’t glamorise the journalist. But there is a feeling it won’t do journalism any good. As one critic pointed out: "It’s hardly a training film for would-be journalists" Or maybe that’s the problem. That’s what it may turn out to be.