American Pie 02.08.01


Are the days of movie junkets numbered? Possibly. Following the revelation that a Hollywood studio created a fictitious movie reviewer and made up quotes to promote its new movies, the spotlight has fallen on the way Hollywood lavishes trips and treats on journalists. One new revelation is that some studios use their own staff in what appear to be spontaneous on-the-spot interviews after a movie opening. Of course the comments are invariably glowing. But it’s the junkets to places such as New York, Los Angeles and even Europe that have come under real fire. Now, a group called Citizens for Truth in Movie Advertising is threatening legal action. The group alleges the studios are perpetrating fraud on the movie-going public. Although some newspapers and magazines refuse to accept freebies, it is estimated the studios pick up the tab for 50 to 75 per cent of reporters on the press trips.


It may not be the best-known magazine in US, nor even a big seller, but Rupert Murdoch is hanging on to The Weekly Standard. It’s a small political weekly (circulation around 65,000) published in Washington. Editor Bill Kristol assures readers that although News Corp is seeking buyers for Maximum Golf (Press Gazette, 27 July) there are no plans to sell The Weekly Standard, even though when Maximum Golf is sold it will be the only magazine in News Corps’ US stable. "We are chugging along just fine," he insisted.


Good news for Murdoch on the TV front. After a lengthy battle he has finally won approval from the Federal Communications Commission to acquire a second TV station in New York – without having to give up ownership of the New York Post. Until recently there have been strict rules in the US about dual ownership of TV stations and newspapers in the same area. However the waiver is only for two years – and in that time Murdoch will have to restructure his New York empire to conform with other regulations. Meanwhile, the two TV stations, WWOR and WNYW, together will command 11 per cent of the viewers in the New York area.


Anna Wintour, 51, is catching up with the idea that women in their 50s and 60s need special attention in magazines. Taking a cue from magazines such as More, a spin-off from Ladies’ Home Journal, which caters exclusively for women over 40 (even the models are over 40) and which has had a growing circulation since it was launched just over two years ago, this month she is putting out a special edition of Vogue labelled 60+. The Age Issue, as she is calling it, will feature "fashion’s golden girls", among them Sigourney Weaver, 51, Charlotte Rampling, 56, and Mica Ertegun, 71.


The writers at some magazines are getting younger. Notably at Time Inc, where once most of the journalists and editors were veterans with years of experience. Now, because of layoffs, buyouts and a campaign for early retirement, the average age of the staff at such publications as Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money is declining. As one veteran said: "We have 25 year olds turning out cover stories these days." Recently 535 staff over the age of 50 were offered early retirement. Nearly 300 accepted. There is a belief that Time Inc’s whole future may be more youth oriented. For example, Time Inc now owns Loaded, one of the original lads’ magazines. Will it bring it to the US? No one is yet saying.


By Jeffrey Blyth

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