American Pie 18.11.04

How many US newspapers are likely to follow The Times and switch from broadsheet to tabloid? Few, if any. One reason is most Americans associate “tabloid” with the sensationalist supermarket weeklies. “There is still a stigma associated with tabloids,” says Alan Jacobson, head of a newspaper design firm in Virginia. At the moment it’s said only two newspapers here are contemplating making the switch, and they are waiting to see what happens in Britain. The biggest reason most newspapers here are unlikely to change is because virtually all national ads in the US are designed for broadsheets -a size that lends itself, ad experts say, to displaying fashion models on runways and new cars. Also, historically, a newspaper had to be a broadsheet like the NY Times to be taken seriously, says Mario Garcia, head of another design firm that helped dozens of papers around the world make the switch-but not in the US. Even the fact that tabloids are easier to read on crowded buses and subway trains doesn’t seem to make any difference.

The result of the recent US presidential election hinged a lot, it’s been said, on religion and moral values. Some magazines here are latching on-notably some aimed at young readers. Seventeen, once best known for advice on how to choose the right lipstick, now has a section devoted to inspirational messages and personal stories of spiritual struggle. Verses from the New Testament are printed along with the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Editor Atoosa Rubenstein, who admits she prays for inspiration at difficult times, says she launched the new section because she noticed more and more of her readers were talking about faith. Experts on religion and youth tend to agree. They suggest that today’s teenagers are looking for rules to help them cope with day-to-day problems.

Celebrities are fighting back at the paparazzi. Many are seeking to buy a new device that reportedly jams the electronic cameras that many photographers now use, and makes picture-snatching almost impossible. The device has been developed by Hewlett-Packard, the computer and electronics company, and can be worn unobtrusively, New Scientist claimed, like a coat badge.

The oft-criticised Hollywood Foreign Press Association (mostly because a lot of its members, it’s claimed, are not full-time journalists) has ruled that two of this year’s most controversial films do not qualify for Golden Globe awards. One is Michael Moore’s blatantly anti-Bush Fahrenheit 9/11, the other is Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ. The reasons? Fahrenheit 9/11 is regarded as a documentary -and there is no Golden Globe category for documentaries. The Passion of Christ has been disqualified-at least in the best drama category – because the rules limit the top award to movies in English. Most of the dialogue in the Mel Gibson movie is in Aramaic.

The saga of Al Goldstein, who for many years lived lavishly on the profits of his sex mag, Screw , gets worse. The 68-year-old porn publisher, now on his uppers, has been fired from his $10 an hour job as a greeter at a trendy Manhattan delicatessen. He was fired after he was discovered sleeping in the restaurant’s laundry room. After his plight was reported in the NY Post he was offered a new job-as a doorman at a New York cigar store. It doesn’t pay so well-but he does get free cigars.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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