American Pie 23.05.02

US sports writers are outraged by a demand from the US Golf Association that reporters agree to a background check before they can be issued with press credentials for next month’s US Open. Any criminal record must be declared – even traffic offences. It’s a bid to prevent terrorists posing as journalists. But sportswriters think it’s going too far. They fear the security checks could go into more personal information, including credit records and medical files. They feel being an accredited reporter working for a recognised news organisation should be enough. Among those to have written letters of protest are AP, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, the NY Times and Washington Post. They fear other sports bodies might follow the USGA, including the US Tennis Association, which is contemplating asking for security checks on journalists covering the US Open. 

These are worrying times for the ‘Kings of Porn’, Al Goldstein, Hugh Hefner, Larry Flynt and Bob Guccione. Not only are they facing financial problems, law suits and even jail sentences, they have all seen sales of their magazines plummet. Even before the court case over its use of pictures of heiress Judith Soltesz-Benetton – which it said were of Anna Kournikova – Penthouse was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. Sales have plunged from five million to just over 650,000. Even Hefner’s Playboy, which once sold seven million a month, now sells only half that. Sales of Flynt’s Hustler have fallen from two million to under a million. Sales of Screw are down to a trifling 70,000 and its owner Al Goldstein has been sentenced to 60 days in jail for harassing a former secretary with abusive phone calls and letters. Goldstein turned up for sentencing defiantly garbed in a convict’s striped costume. Court officials added the handcuffs. After six days in jail he was released on bail.

Smart Business didn’t turn out to be a smart investment after all. The last issue of the Ziff-Davis high-tech publication comes out in June. The publishers blame the recession.

Blender is stirring thing up. Sales of Dennis Publishing’s music magazine, which made its debut here last May, are soaring. After seven issues its circulation is over 350,000, about half in news-stand sales, always a good measure of a new magazine’s success. In fact, Blender is planning to switch from six to 10 issues a year starting in August. It has also caused a shake-up among rivals , Spin and even Entertainment Weekly. Rolling Stone publisher Jan Wenner is seeking a new editor to replace Bob Love, who is leaving. Among those interviewed for the job have been Mark Golin, former editor of Maxim. Spin is replacing some executives and aims to introduce more "fun and excitement". Entertainment Weekly has launched a spin-off music supplement with an initial circulation of 500,000. Meanwhile, Vanity Fair and GQ are to boost their music and entertainment coverage.

Talk magazine lives on. Stories and features that were destined for the March issue, which never appeared, are now turning up in other publications. Entertainment Weekly and The Face snapped up portions of a cover story about Courtney Love. Rolling Stone grabbed profiles of Marlon Brando and John Kerry, while Details picked up an article about the trial of a Miami sex lord. Vanity Fair dipped in for a piece for its June issue and so have The New Yorker, New York Magazine and even the new New York Sun.

Jeffrey Blyth

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