American Pie 19.06.03

What’s next? That’s what they ask these days at The New York Times. Trouble keeps spilling over at what was once regarded as America’s most prestigious newspaper. After the plagiarism scandal, the byline theft allegations, the resignation of editor Howell Raines and his deputy, then an effort to revoke a Pulitzer Prize the paper was awarded back in the Thirties – whose validity, in truth, the Times itself always questioned – now comes news that Jayson Blair, the reporter who faked so many stories during his four years at the Times, was guilty of many more fabrications than earlier believed. A new investigation shows that, in addition to the 50 or more already tallied, he stole either quotes or descriptive sections from at least a dozen more stories during the past two years. Subjects ranged, the Times has found, from the popularity of black comic strip heroes and the decline of online magazines, to the surge in Spanish-speaking immigrants and even the effect of bad weather on local amusement parks. All these stories, the Times admits, included stolen passages or made-up quotes. But despite all the crises, the Times does seem to have weathered a feared financial storm: on the stock market its shares have not appreciably gone up or down.

It’s not just the beer and babes magazines that Wal-Mart, the big US supermarket chain, is targeting (Press Gazette, 30 May). It has now ordered plastic covers for at least four of America’s most popular women’s magazines: Redbook, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and Glamour. The plastic obscures all but the magazines’ titles. The move has been applauded by some Wal-Mart customers who have complained about some of the magazines’ recent coverlines. It’s true, as one columnist here pointed out, the days of coverlines such as “Flirting with Flair” have long gone. This month’s Redbook offers readers “Three Amazing Sex Moves”, Glamour’s coverlines include “Men Beg You: Don’t Stop”, while Marie Claire is promoting a “Men and Sex Survey”. Cosmo labelled its latest issue a “Sex Special”.

Rosie O’Donnell, the retired talkshow hostess, is still at loggerheads with German publisher Gruner + Jahr over the demise of Rosie. The magazine (originally McCalls) folded last year after sales started plummeting following O’Donnell’s admission that she was a lesbian. Both are now suing each other. O’Donnell offered to drop her suit if G+J would pay her legal fees, estimated at around $4m (£2.4m), and give the $6m she claims to have invested in the magazine to a charity: “Your last chance,” as she told the company. So far G+J have ignored her e-mail.

Playboy, which soon celebrates its 50th birthday, has been compiling statistics about its famous Playmates. The total number, over the years, has been 595. Most common names: Susan, Victoria, Deborah and Karen. Average measurements: 36-23-35. Average age: 22. Oldest Playmate: Rebecca Rand, who appeared in the January 2003 issue. She was 35.

Overlooked in most obituaries of Art Cooper, recently retired editor of GQ, was the irony that he suffered the stroke that killed him in the Four Seasons restaurant on New York’s Park Avenue – where, just a few weeks earlier, friends and colleagues had gathered to toast him on his retirement after his 20-year editorship. During his tenure he turned what had been a fashion magazine mostly bought by gay men into one of America’s most respected and successful magazines.

by Jeffrey Blyth

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