American Pie 18.07.02

"It’s War!" declared USA Today. No, nothing to do with the Middle East. It’s the big battle between the celebrity weeklies People and Us. Both have new editors, both women. At the helm of People – which for years has been Time Inc’s biggest money-maker – is Martha Nelson, 49, who was previously at In Style, which she helped launch and made into a glossy, star-filled big seller. At Us is Bonnie Fuller, a 45-year-old Canadian-born journalist who has been editor of YM, Cosmopolitan and Glamour. She’s a tough, veteran magazine journalist, who is taking on a big challenge. People, for almost 30 years, has been the No.1 celebrity weekly, with a circulation of almost four million. Us, which somewhat oddly was launched by The New York Times in 1977 but is now owned by Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, has a circulation of under a million. However, since Fuller took over, its news-stand sales – and advertising pages – have started to climb. She’s achieving this by giving Us a lot more tabloid-style brashness, lots of sensational coverlines and lots more celebrities. In its latest issue, Us ran 288 photos of stars – People ran 108. People is fighting back by hiring more celebrity writers – and luring staff from Us. At the same time, Us has hired several new editors and fired others. A tough task-master, Fuller often keeps her staff working through the night on deadline day. To criticism that in her bid to catch up with People she is making Us too sensational and sleazy, she responds: "I think we’re newsy, we’re colourful, we’re entertaining." What’s clear is her formula is attracting more readers.


Worldwide there were 118 journalists in jail at the end of 2001, up 40 per cent in 12 months, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The countries with most journalists behind bars were China (35), Nepal (17) Turkey (13) Burma (12) and Eritrea (11).


The demise of Film Four appears to have put paid to Toby Young’s hopes of a movie being made of his book How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. Undeterred, Young says he will now make some overtures to Hollywood. Another British journalist-turned-author who is looking to Hollywood is forrmer Mademoiselle editor Mandi Norwood whose book Sex and the Married Girl is due out soon. Her agent is negotiating the film rights.


Ms, the magazine which Gloria Steinem started in the Seventies, is being relaunched under new ownership later this year. The new editor is Tracy Wood, a former UPI war correspondent in Vietnam and LA Times investigative reporter. She promises the new Ms, which will hit the news-stands in October, will be a lot newsier and, as she put it, harder-edged. She will also still report on issues the magazine took on 30 years ago, such as domestic violence, child care and a woman’s right to have an abortion. After a chequered history, during which it changed hands several times, Ms is now backed financially by an organisation called the Feminist Majority Foundation, a research group that campaigns for women’s rights around the world. Steinem remains as "consulting editor".


Is there a cover-curse on Chief Financial Officer magazine? Just as Sports Illustrated and In Style seem blighted (Press Gazette, 14 June), in recent months top executives of WorldCom and Enron have been profiled in the magazine. Both companies are now in trouble – and both executives have been fired.


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