American Pie 01.01.06

Despite a spate of magazine closures (the most recent examples : the demise of the newly revived Radar after just three issues and the folding of Inside TV, a spin-off of TV Guide) some publishers are undeterred – even eager to get into the fray. For example, the Lagardere Group, parent company of Hachette-Fillipacchi, is pressing ahead with its plan to launch a magazine called Shock, a US version of the French magazine Choc, which is notoriously filled with pictures that, well, shock , including horrifying car wrecks and off-beat medical operations.. Hired to put together the US version, Mike Hammer former editor in chief of Stuff. For a time he worked with Keith Blanchard, another veteran Dennis Publishing executive to put together a lad mag for Hearst to be called Bullet. Until it was put on the back burner last summer. No-one at Hachette is saying much about Shock, not even when its likely to hit the news stands, but if it goes ahead it will be the biggest launch by Hachette since it backed John F Kennedy Jnr’s magazine George which folded a few months after his untimely death in a plane crash., The only other big launch by the company lately was a US version of Red but only one issue ever came out – and has not been seen since.

More belt-tightening: At Time Inc orders have gone out that this year’s budget has to be slashed by $100 million. That means, it’s estimated, at least 400 job cuts. That’s on top of the more than 100 jobs – including some top executives – whose jobs were eliminated over the holidays. Expected to be hardest hit: Fortune and Sports Illustrated, Meanwhile The Los Angeles Times after 13 years has abandoned publishing a national edition. Long under fire as an extravagance, the national edition was largely kept alive to give the paper’s reporting staff a presence in Washington and New York, Lately it has been cut back in size and for prestige sent by fax every day to about l,500 readers in Washington and a few hundred in New York. It will however continue to be available on-line with plans to beef up its Washington coverage. At the same time Business Week is planning to close its European and Asian print editions. Again it will replace them with an enlarged on-line version – as well as shipping its US print edition to Europe and Asia That’s for those readers who still prefer the printed word.

Once tossed aside by most airline travelers, in-flight magazines are beginning to boom. They are newly popular with big advertisers – especially as its now possible to make in-flight purchases by computer. It’s predicted that in-flight mags will pull in at least $1,000 million in ads this year. Helped it’s said by an upswing in international travel, notably in Asia and Europe.

To tv viewers the Press Room at the White House looks as neat as a pin. A truly professional board-room looking space. But what the cameras don’t show are the dilapidated school-room desks and chairs, and the tangle of frayed wires and camera cords that many claim are a fire hazard. Now after months of debate the Press Room is to be renovated, including removing the wooden floor that covers the famous swimming pool where Franklin D Roosevelt swam in the 1930’s No-one is saying what it will cost, and to the reporters, ,much as they would like to have a more modern (and safer) place to work, it also means they will be kicked out of the White House itself, possibly for at least seven months. They will be relocated several streets away. The big fear is that it may not be just a temporary move. It was Hillary Rodham Clinton, when she was First Lady, who first proposed ousting the Press and re-opening the swimming pool for the use of the White House political residents.

New York Police are expanding their probe into the ghoulish trade in human remains by some city funeral homes. Much more may come out. It’s now suspected the business has being going on for years and included scores if not hundreds of victims, including BBC journalist Alistair Cooke who died over a year ago. In most cases bones and other body parts were sold for transplants Sometimes, as in Alistair Cooke’s case, for several thousand dollars… Its since been disclosed there have been numerous cases of people being taken ill, even dying from contaminated body parts. In Alistair Cooke’s case – in funeral parlour documents – he was said to have died from a heart attack and not cancer. His age was also reduced by almost ten years. His daughter’s name on a document is believed to have been forged. Members of his family, including his widow, now in her nineties, are too shocked to talk about the case. Now there is even a suspicious that his ashes which were handed over to the family and scattered in Central Park may not even have been his..

On the eve of the Golden Globe film awards, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which hands out the awards, , has been shaken by the suicide of one of its members. Nick Douglas who was the Los Angeles correspondent for an Irish film magazine called The Big Buzz, A year ago the 40 year old writer was suspended from the organization because he allegedly broke two rules – selling a picture of himself and actor Tom Sellick, taken at an FPA event, to an American tabloid, The Globe,for $50 and also taking home with him a carton of beers from a reception thrown by MGM. He was also barred from attending Press screenings and junkets for five months. Reportedly he was so disturbed by the suspension which affected his ability as a photo-journalist he returned to Northern Ireland to seek a new job or assignment. When he failed to do so he started working in a charity resale chop in Belfast. It was there he was found hanged early last month. Former colleagues on The Big Buzz – for whom he had worked for almost 12 years as a photographer and columnist – claimed he had been despondent when he couldn’t find work as a journalist .According to the magazine’s editor, Barry O’Kane, he particularly missed Los Angeles, where he had worked most of his adult life .

The Hollywood FPA which has a small membership, limited deliberately to less than 100 members, (and only five new members are allowed to join each year – and last year there was only one) has been split by the suicide. Some blame it on the organization and its very strict rules. The organizations president Philip Berk, who writes for publications in Australia and the Far East , insisted: “We have had many people suspended for actions we deemed harmful to the association – we are just trying to protect our image – . and certainly none ended up in suicide. I don’t think you can say there’s a causal relationship.” The organization, which is mostly made up of free-lance writers, only a few of whom work or write for well-known or important international newspapers, earns it is reported more than $5 million a year from the Golden Globes Awards which for several years has been syndicated internationally by NBC television.

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