American Pie 17.06.05

One of America’s oldest and most prestigious publications appears
likely to be one of the first big victims of the fall-off these days in
newspaper readers. The Christian Science Monitor, launched almost a
century ago in 1908, is considering switching from print to the web. At
one time the paper – the voice of the Boston-based First Church of
Christ Scientist – had a circulation of 160,000 but is down to little
more than 50,000 today. The church, founded by Mary Baker Eddy, had
reading rooms in many of the world’s biggest cities.

It has
suffered recently from budget cuts and staff lay-offs. In recent years
it has had to sell off its radio and TV stations. One of its big
problems is that because it is distributed by mail, many subscribers
get their copies a day late. At the same time its website is popular
with almost two million visitors a month. And that may be its
salvation. As one of the elders of the organisation put it: “We are
doing a lot of praying these days.”

Another sign of declining
newspaper readership in the US. At one time there was a newsstand on
virtually every street corner in New York – an estimated 1,500 in the
1940s. Today there are fewer than 280. One news vendor claims his sales
are down 90 per cent. Even a new law that allows newsstand operators to
sell soft drinks and cigarettes hasn’t helped much. The biggest income
for news vendors, they claim, is no longer from newspapers. For
example, although the NY Post sells for 25 cents, the vendor gets only
four cents a copy.

Their biggest income comes from lottery tickets.

Who leads the world in jailing reporters? No, not Cuba these days.

any of the South American countries. It’s China, where at the end of
2004 no fewer than 42 journalists were in jail. This is the sixth year
that China has topped the list, according to the Committee to Protect
Journalists, which keeps track of these things. The latest journalists
to be jailed are two who worked for foreign news organisations – one of
them a researcher for the NY Times, the other a reporter for the
Singapore Straits Times.

old stories, even your own, can have embarrassing repercussions, as
Michael Cooke, editor of the NY Daily News, discovered. Last week his
paper ran a story by him about a trip to Hovey Castle in his native
England. Some with a sharp memory recalled the same story ran in the
Chicago Sun Times a year ago, when he was editor of that paper. The
intros were virtually identical. Both began: “It was my old pal Sandy
on the phone. ‘How about you and me spend a couple of days at an
English castle?'” And went on, almost verbatim. The story was quickly
picked up by the rival NY Post. Although it wasn’t plagiarism (“How can
you steal your own story?” the Post admitted) there was still a
question of journalistic ethics. One question that was asked was
whether Cooke got two free trips to England for one story. Also, who
was Sandy? It turns out he is the chief PR in the US for Hovey Castle.
Did British Airways provide two complimentary flights to the UK for the
same story?

They wouldn’t say. Nor would the Daily News discuss
the duplicate story – although some of the paper’s staff were reported
to be upset. One was quoted saying: “If a reporter did this he would be
fired.” Others said they thought it a bit cheesy. Finally Cooke, who
took over the editor’s desk at the News only a few months ago, made a
cryptic and, some say, nonsensical comment. He said: “Action is
character, and character is action.” He suggested the NY Post had
turned the story into a personal vendetta and an attack on the News.

to cash in, presumably before, as many predict, the real-estate bubble
bursts, Rupert Murdoch has put his old apartment in New York – a
triplex in the So-Ho area of downtown Manhattan – on the market. The
asking price: $28m. Just a few weeks ago Murdoch bought an even more
expensive apartment on Manhattan’s Fifth Ave overlooking Central Park,
for $44m, the most ever paid for an apartment in NY.

His old
apartment is in a building that was once a candy factory, but was
converted to a co-op in 1971. It has 23 rooms, 11ft ceilings and a
fireplace made from volcanic stone.

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