American Pie 30.01.06

Page Six, the Fleet Street style gossip page in Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post,. is going glossy. This month, after weeks of secret planning, The Post is launching a magazine-style insert, with pictures, on glossy paper, that will be included inside the paper once a week. Richard Johnson, who edits Page Six and has spent the past few weeks working on the project (to explain his absence the paper merely said he was “on assignment”, .:presumably to try and mislead the rival Daily News), said “It will be a mix of all the stuff we usually have on Page Six.. There will be some gossip, picture-features, a night-life guide and stories about new clubs in New York”. The first issue will run to over 70 pages, about half of which its claimed will be ads.

At the same time Page Six is the inspiration, it’s said , of a new play being offered around Broadway by Sarah Jessica Parker with the odd-sounding title of “Don’t Follow Me, I’m Lost Too” Its about a husband-a-wife gossip columnist team working for a tabloid, and revolves around an incident back in 1988, which The Post would probably prefer to forget, about a gossip columnist who turned in a very detailed account of a gala benefit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, replete with lots of names of celebrities. A few days later a rival columnist revealed about a third of those named had never turned up. Neither it appeared had the columnist who was at the time on holiday in the Lesser Antilles and had written her report from a Press release. The play – in which Sarah Jessica Parker hopes to star along with her husband Matthew Broderick – has yet to find a backer. If that wasn’t enough about The Post a former writer, Ian Spiegelman, has written a thinly-disguised novel about working on Page Six called ‘Welcome to Yesterday” Among the easy to recognize characters in the book is a Tasmanian publisher with a resemblance it’s said to Lachlan Murdoch and of course Page Six editor Richard Johnson.

Move over People magazine! The Wall Street Journal, succumbing to the trend towards celebrities. has started running more stories about “people in the news.” It is even running an index of all the people who are mentioned significantly in that day’s issue. Explaining the move, managing editor Paul Steiger, told the NY Times: “”People like to read about people. We are going to go with more names and a device that will help people if they or their best friends, or worst enemies, are somewhere in the paper” There will also be a new daily feature on a top executive or business leader – and not just American but from all over the world. The changes are separate, the WSJ insists, to the redesign that is planned for early next year when the paper will be reduced in size from l5 inches to l2 inches wide.

More cut-backs at Time Inc. Another 80 jobs are being slashed, both on the editorial and business side. The new layoffs come just a month after 105 employees were fired, including Eileen Naughton, who had been president of Time Group, and Richard Atkinson, head of news and information. Although Time Inc owns some of the most profitable publications in the US, including People and Real Simple, it also owns several that have been slumping lately including Sports Illustrated and Time. Cutting staff doesn’t always solve the problem – as The New York Times which laid off 500 workers in September, has found out. Largely because of expenses related to the job cuts, notably pay-offs, plus the rising cost of newsprint, the company’s profit in the last quarter of last year fell 41 per cent. Its net income dropped to just under $65 million, compared to $110 million at the same time the year before. As a result the paper is raising its home delivery rate to just under $10 (almost seven pounds) a week in New York, more outside the city. .

At least some newspapers here are not too pessimistic about the future. The Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post, twin papers published in Colorado are pushing ahead with plans to build a new twin-tower office in Denver itself, costing at least $90 million, and also a new printing plant just out of town costing another $130 million. Denver is one of the few two-newspaper towns left in the US. The expansion is not without its critics, including local advertisers who claim, despite declining circulations., that ad rates in the two papers have soared and some readers who complain that the cost of the papers has climbed between $100 to $150 a year. Also, creating controversy, the two papers have started charging for obits. A 30- line obit now costs $500 – or almost 300 pounds.

Would you let your readers pick the stories for your front page? The editor of the Wisconsin State Journal, Ellen Foley, is doing just that. She has asked readers to let her know each day which stories they think rate Page One treatment. She did so after receiving an e-mail from a reader, a male as it turned out, complaining about how many sports stories were running on the front page. “Please stop it” the reader urged . “You have a sports section, that’s where they belong The front page is for important news.” Not all readers agree . In fact – judging by the paper’s website – sports stories and columns are the most viewed. Nevertheless the paper, on its web, now offers each day four or five story choices, ranging from local to national, entertainment to sports. The next day the most popular story will be labeled “Readers’ Choice. ” Explaining her decision, The Journal’s editor, added “Letting our readers actively participate in setting the news agenda is one step into a new world built around interactivity than the traditional one-way delivery of news.”

One of the ironies of the bomb attack and the injuries suffered by ABC newsman Bob Woodruff in Iraq is that he was trying, when he went out on patrol with the Iraqi Army, to show how Iraq is getting back to normalcy! No matter how normal the country gets, according to most American journalists who have worked the story, Iraq will for a long time be the most dangerous place in the world for journalists . And the danger is escalating. As one reporter, Patrick Kerkstra of The Philadelphia Inquirer, confessed that when he went to Baghdad he had orders to stay inside his hotel unless he had an armed escort. To get round this he grew a beard, dyed his hair black, wore native style clothes and learned to respond to the Iraqi name “Bassem” when out in public. He admitted it was probably a useless effort. No Iraqi within 10 feet would have been fooled by the get-up. “But it made me feel better and that was something” he said Breaking down the toll among journalists (61 at the last count) half of those who have died have been reporters, 20 have been cameramen, seven of them tv producers and three technicians. Five have been women .

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