American Pie 12.02.04

In anticipation of the death of the Pope, which, whenever it happens, could be for many the biggest story of the year, US news organisations are already competing for prime locations in Rome. And paying top dollar. One network has reportedly agreed to pay $2m (£1.07m) for the use of a balcony overlooking St Peter’s Square.

Despite the turmoil, in the wake of the acrimonious Rosie O’Donnell court battles, Gruner+Jahr, it seems, is going ahead with plans to launch a US version – possibly this autumn – of Gala. Launched 11 years ago in France, Gala has climbed fast as a high-scale fashion and celebrity magazine. Test issues suggest there is a market in the US although a full-scale launch is expected to cost G+J at least $100m (£53.8m).

Condé Nast is planning to launch Cargo, a bimonthly shopping guide for guys. It will offer advice on everything a man might want, from socks to sports cars. At the same time, Fairchild, which publishes Women’s Wear Daily, is planning a magazine called Vitals. And if that isn’t enough, Ziff Davis is planning to launch a magazine called Sync, which will cover the latest in digital gadgets for men. All three hope to emulate the success of Lucky, a shopping magazine for women, which Condé Nast launched three years ago and now has a circulation close to a million.

The White House is still trying to clean itself up, well, at least the area outside, where the TV and radio correspondents do their stand-up reports, an area known as ‘Stonehenge’ because of its ancient flagstones. Last year the White House spent a lot of money cleaning up the area, but it’s back to what it was before – or so President Bush’s staffers complain. They are upset by the cigarette and cigar butts, the food wrappers and other trash. A warning has gone out: “No Smoking Anywhere. No Exceptions.” Also, journalists have been exhorted to use the trash cans. There is even now a ban on camp chairs and other lawn furniture. At stake is a future clean-up of the Press Briefing Room inside the White House, which correspondents have long been pressing for. They have been told that if they can’t clean up their own area outside the White House they can’t expect a cleanup inside.

The transgressions lately of some US journalists have led to several books, at least one TV documentary and a movie. Now heading for Broadway is a play called The Story, loosely based on the famous Washington Post scandal back in 1981 when Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Janet Cooke confessed to fabricating a story about an child heroin addict. Her confession not only cost her her job, she also had to hand back her prize. At the time the play’s author, Tracey Scott Wilson, was still at school, but was fascinated by the scandal.

It’s now official, The New York Times has banned its correspondents, photographers and even freelances from carrying guns. The issue arose when a Times man in Iraq was discovered to be packing a weapon. The Times will allow its correspondents to hire security guards on a “case-by-case” basis.

US journalists still can’t seem to get the hang of Harold Evans’s knighthood. The New York Sun, reporting on a luncheon the former London Times man gave, called him the Lord. The Daily News got the title right but referred to his wife as Lady Tina Brown.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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