American Pie 26.06.03

The long-predicted day when we would get our daily paper hot off the computer appears to be here. For the past week, with my morning copies of The New York Times and other papers, my newsagent has delivered me a copy of the London Times, wrapped in plastic as fresh as if it was just off the presses, almost full size (although without colour) and 40 or more pages every day. I can have it every morning for $4 (£2.40), just a dollar more than I would normally pay for a regular day-old copy from a news-stand. And it’s not just The Times but also, if I want, the Daily Express, Daily Mirror, Daily Star or The Guardian. Or almost any other paper in the world – from Izvestia and Le Figaro, to Iceland’s Morgunbladid or the Shanghai Daily. Dozens altogether. At the same time The Daily Telegraph has launched its own e-mail edition which, for an annual fee, I can read on my own computer and enlarge and print out anything of interest. Similarly, guests in many US hotels and others around the world can do the same – with their home-town or favourite paper delivered to their room for $4 a copy. I am informed by my newsagent and Newspaper Direct, the company that has launched the project, that there has been a good response – despite the cost. It is printing more than 5,000 a day and the target is 100,000 a day. The papers most in demand are the International Herald Tribune, The Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, Le Monde, De Telegraaf, NY Times and The Wall Street Journal.

The success of the obituary writers’ conference in New Mexico prompted suggestions that there should be a magazine for people who like reading obituaries, called perhaps Obituary. It is pointed out that sports pages, comics and death notices, in that order, are the most popular features in most daily papers. It is also said that among readers over the age of 40, obits are often the first things they read. One problem: What happens as your readers grow older – and die?

After a two-year search, Associated Press has found a new home in New York. After 65 years in Rockefeller Plaza, the world’s largest news agency is moving to Manhattan’s West Side to an area once known as “Hell’s Kitchen”. Its new neighbours include the New York Daily News, which moved from its mid-town skyscraper to the same area after its near brush with bankruptcy during the time it was owned by Robert Maxwell. Although AP’s staff will miss the upscale restaurants and bars of Rockefeller Centre, the new headquarters will bring together all the new press and broadcasting operations AP has developed in recent years but which, at the moment, are scattered across New York. Also the rent is about half, saving AP about $9m (£5.4m) a year.

It’s not a bit like The Lancet or the American Medical Journal, but there is a new magazine in many doctors’ offices here. It’s called The Placebo Journal. If anything, it’s a mix of Private Eye and Mad magazine. It’s the brainchild of a couple of US doctors with a sense of humour who each month collect off-beat and wacky stories from their colleagues. It’s full of stories about patients who fake gruesome illnesses that no doctor is ever able to diagnose, plus a regular feature, with pictures, called the X-Ray Files, about the strange and odd things that find their way somehow into patients’ bodies (would you believe a set of dentures?). The magazine is intended for doctors’ eyes only – not to be left around the patients’ waiting room.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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