American Pie 04.05.01

The unexpected switch of editors at the New York Post caused not only surprise but also some anxiety among staff. Taking over from 36-year-old, Portuguese-born, Scottish-educated, Fleet Street-trained Xana Antunes, who had a meteoric rise from business editor to top job in just six years, Col Allan, a veteran Murdoch newsman, is considered by many colleagues a journalistic Crocodile Dundee, a rough, tough-talking Aussie. Although the Post has put on circulation lately (up almost 50,000 to 492,00 at the end of March) it is still losing money hand over fist – reportedly around $20,000,000 (£13,910,140) a year. And Murdoch is not that happy over its recent news coverage. Allan, 47, is no stranger to New York. New York Post staff have been warned he has ink in his veins, but rules with an iron fist. Not that his fists are much good when it comes to real fighting. During a previous stint in New York he got into, it’s said, several bar-room brawls, which sometimes ended up with him flat on the floor, and earned him the nickname of ‘Canvas Back’.


When, if ever, did you last hear someone say "Stop the presses!" Talk editor Tina Brown did it at the opening here of new Broadway musical The Producers, based on Mel Brooks’ 1968 movie. The show opened to rave reviews. So impressed was Brown that she left her seat at intermission, called her office and told them to scrap the cover planned for her next issue. It was to have featured Estella Warren, model and star of the soon-to-be-released new version of Planet of the Apes. Instead she ordered that it should feature Mathew Broderick and Nathan Lane, stars of the new musical. And hang the cost! Could it perhaps be because the new musical is being bankrolled by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who is also a co-owner of Talk? Brown insisted not. "I hope I’m still enough of a journalist that I can make a change over something I am enthusiastic about," she said. "This is a phenomenal show."


Not everybody looks down on gossip columnists. A new speakers’ group here called Enlightenment Enterprises has just made its first annual Good Gossip Award. One of the six winners was Gloria Steinem, a founder of MS Magazine. She got the award for publicly stating that Linda Tripp, the whistle-blower in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, should be criticised for her actions, not her looks.


The US version of The Week, after just two issues, continues to win applause. Some media critics here compare it to the early days of Time and Newsweek when there were no bylines and the stories were short and pithy. Not major theme pieces. One Washington magazine distributor, after reading the first issue, upped his order from 1,500 to 5,000. Meanwhile the US editor of The Week, William Falk, who won a Pulitzer when he worked for Newsday, the Long Island daily, revealed that material in The Week was culled from 1,500 different newspapers from around the world, and over 5,000 magazines. Falk said that for the first time – he is only 40 – he is thinking of having to order reading glasses.


This week’s signs of the (bad) times: 1) The New York Times has shelved its plan to co-produce a nightly 11 o’clock newscast, National Edition, because it couldn’t find any co-sponsors; 2) Time Inc (now a partner of AOL) once renowned for its lavish late-night suppers for staff working overtime, has warned it may soon be serving boxed pizzas. Complimentary soft drinks in the office have already gone.

by Jeffery Blyth

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