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American Journalism Review
Bylines  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   October 1996


By Suzan Revah
Suzan Revah is a former AJR associate editor.     

What's in A Name?

George Myers Jr. , book editor of Ohio's Columbus Dispatch , thought he'd have a little fun in cyberspace by starting his own online literary magazine, eponymously named george jr. The magazine, an extension of a print newsletter he had once distributed to family and friends, was little-known until it came to the attention of John F. Kennedy Jr. and the attorneys of George magazine. It seems that George's legal counsel was less than amused by the striking similarity between the banner of george jr. and the artwork on the glitzy political magazine's own Web site, and immediately obtained a cease-and-desist order. A flabbergasted Myers, who says he was merely exercising his right to use his own name, now finds himself in the bittersweet situation of enjoying national publicity for his literary efforts while fending off a legal challenge backed by the considerable power and resources of a Kennedy. Though representatives of George did not return phone calls, Myers' attorneys say the cease-and-desist order cited concerns that Myers' magazine might generate revenue from use of the seemingly universal name George. But Myers' site doesn't even have advertising. Myers' attorneys say they are trying to negotiate an out-of-court settlement. "George Jr. is my actual name, for heaven's sake," Myers says. "I do my home page in my home, in my basement, usually in my underwear. How could this possibly hurt anybody?"

Moving On

Public journalism guru and Wichita Eagle Editor Davis "Buzz" Merritt steps down to become a consultant to the Eagle's parent company, Knight-Ridder. A vocal advocate of public journalism (see "Missing the Point," July/August), Merritt will spend his time developing public journalism initiatives at the Eagle as well as at other Knight-Ridder papers. He'll remain a senior editor at the Eagle... Also stepping down is William W. Sutton , editor of Gary, Indiana's Post-Tribune for the past three-and-a-half years. Sutton says he had been in conversation with Post-Tribune parent Knight-Ridder over the past several months over his future and ultimately decided he needed to leave. "The Post-Tribune is ready to move into a next phase, and I'm not ready to be part of the next phase," says Sutton, who has been with the chain since 1980. "It's better for me to move on to other things and let the Post-Tribune move on." His future plans are uncertain, and no successor has yet been named for either Merritt or Sutton.

Climbing Uphill

Given the number of newspaper casualties in recent years, it might seem crazy for someone to try to launch a paper in a city that already has one. But Bob Blanchard , a former Emmy award-winning investigative reporter for WABC in New York City, was so certain that his hometown of Woonsocket, Rhode Island (population 43,000), desperately needed another daily, he did the unthinkable, launching the Blackstone Valley Record last month. Blanchard says that when he moved back to Rhode Island from Manhattan in 1986 to start his own computer business, he was underwhelmed by the local paper, The Call . Now 10 years and "every last dime" of his own money later, Blanchard is the publisher of his own paper. More than 3,000 people signed up to subscribe to his new daily tabloid based only upon a radio commercial. But the established paper professes to be unconcerned. A spokesperson for the Journal Register Co., which owns the 21,000-circulation Call, says the Trenton-based company "has always believed that competition makes for a healthier marketplace and remains confident that it will maintain its position." Blanchard, for his part, acknowledges an uphill climb. "I know I'm competing against the Journal Register Co., which is a humongous company, so if they choose to dump a million dollars into trying to bring me down, then I'll be in trouble," he says. "But the great equalizer is the people, and they're the ones who will side with me."

Media Maven Moves

Newsweek chief congressional correspondent Tom Rosenstiel steps down to resume what apparently had been his true calling all along: analyzing the media. A former media writer for the Los Angeles Times , Rosenstiel leaves Capitol Hill to become a consultant to the Pew Charitable Trusts, where he will develop an institute whose goal will be to help the press maintain and improve its standards in a changing marketplace. "We'll never be as sleazy as the sleazy shows, we'll never be as entertaining as infotainment," he says. "The one thing we do well is provide reliable, accurate and credible information in a disinterested way. We just have to have the guts to believe in that."..Also striving to improve journalism standards is Loren F. Ghiglione , former editor and owner of Southbridge, Massachusetts' News and a well-known figure on the journalism lecture circuit. Ghiglione, author of seven books on journalism issues, becomes the first James M. Cox Jr. Professor in Journalism at Georgia's Emory University.

Around Broadcasting

One person benefiting from the Joe Klein brouhaha is conservative commentator and former Reagan speechwriter Laura Ingraham . She replaces the no-longer-anonymous novelist as a commentator for CBS News' Saturday evening broadcast... Erik Sorenson , a former executive producer of the "CBS Evening News" who most recently was executive producer of CBS' syndicated afternoon program "Day & Date," joins Court TV as executive producer and executive vice president. A 16-year veteran of CBS, Sorenson will replace Steven Johnson , who moves to MSNBC as senior producer for daily news on the Internet.

Around Newspapers

Former Fort Worth Star-Telegram Executive Editor Debbie M. Price takes a step backward to take a step away from the controversy that surrounded her tumultuous tenure at the Texas paper. Price moves to Baltimore's Sun as a general assignment reporter covering the state. Jim Witt , a 10-year veteran of the Star-Telegram who was most recently publisher of its Northeast Tarrant County edition, succeeds Price... Two newspaper companies play musical papers as Cox sells off its six Tribune Newspapers in suburban Phoenix and Arizona's Yuma Daily Sun to Thomson Newspapers. In exchange, Cox will acquire two of Thomson's papers in North Carolina, the Rocky Mount Telegram and the Elizabeth City Daily Advance .

Enter the Fox

Fox presses ahead with efforts to join the world of 24-hour news networks, beefing up its roster for an October 7 launch. Though Fox News Channel will debut with only 16 hours of live programming daily, the network will nevertheless offer round-the-clock news breaks in addition to daily shows devoted to topics such as psychology, family and entertainment. Joining the fledgling network is former ABC "World News Tonight" and "20/20" correspondent Catherine Crier , who will host a live, nightly one-hour interview program. Crier will also join Mike Schneider , a national political correspondent for Fox's affiliate news service, in coanchoring the network's election coverage. Schneider, a veteran broadcast journalist who once anchored the weekend edition of NBC News' "Today" show, will also anchor an as of yet unnamed news program on FNC.

It's A Jungle Out There

New York magazine Editor in Chief Kurt Andersen is summarily dismissed after two-and-a-half years at the helm. Andersen was brought in to liven up the magazine and attract a younger readership, but apparently he did his job too well: K-III Communications, the magazine's owner, says he was driving off the magazine's older core readers. Andersen, praised by staffers for breathing irreverent energy into the Manhattan city magazine, was criticized by the owners for failing to boost overall circulation enough. A
K-III spokesperson rejected Big Apple speculation that Andersen got the boot for taking a few too many jabs at New York's elite, including Henry Kravis , an investment banker whose company owns K-III. Following Andersen out the door, but voluntarily, is the magazine's political writer and contributing editor, Jacob Weisberg , who joins former New Republic colleague Michael Kinsley at Slate as the online magazine's chief political correspondent.... The two top editors at Outdoor Life magazine, Stephen W. Byers and Will Bourne , quit following a decision to pull an article critical of a hunting practice called "bear-baiting." Apparently some of the magazine's subscribers, more than 75 percent of whom hunt regularly, got wind of the fact that the article was going to be written by Tom Beck , a Colorado wildlife biologist viewed by many in the hunting community as anti-hunting, and began flooding the magazine with complaints. Outdoor Life President Jason Klein , who pulled the article in collaboration with several of the Times-Mirror-owned magazine's editors, says Beck's piece might run in the future, when it could be presented in a way that would show both sides of the issue. "Outdoor Life should be properly credited with helping to establish the ongoing debate about hunting ethics," Klein says. "Our tradition has always been to...promote safe hunting and wildlife management."

Sweeping Clean

Just-appointed U.S. News & World Report Editor James Fallows wastes no time cleaning house. Before even showing up for his first day at the office, Fallows dismisses Executive Editor Peter Bernstein and Deputy Editor Christopher Ma , and promotes Harrison "Lee" Rainie , formerly assistant managing editor of the magazine's Culture and Ideas section, to managing editor. Inevitably, Fallows also axes the newsweekly's political reporter, Steven Roberts , whom Fallows had raked over the coals in his recent book about the media for accepting five-figure speaking fees (see "Take the Money and Talk," June 1995).



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