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

Bylines   

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


Hoaxer Strikes Again

Notorious media hoaxer Joey Skaggs , who has been duping the press for 30 years (see "Wanted for Media Hoaxing," April 1992), strikes again. In a December 29, 1995, CNN segment Skaggs posed as NYU research scientist Dr. Joseph Bonuso, luring CNN into an elaborate prank that had the network reporting on a revolutionary new computer program called Solomon. The program supposedly utilized artificial intelligence to produce accurate verdicts. Skaggs' peg for the story? The O.J. Simpson trial, of course. The fictitious Solomon, when given Simpson trial testimony, produced a guilty verdict, and the Orange County Register and the San Francisco Chronicle , as well as CNN, took the bait. Skaggs, a self-described performance artist and media satirist, is pleased with the results of his latest scam, but insists his true intentions are misunderstood. "I use media attention to educate, enlighten and inspire... Hopefully there's a lesson in these performances for everyone to be more media conscious and more media literate. Don't just look to one source as the information source. Go out and question authority."

News Around the Clock

The line to get into the 24-hour news business gets longer every day. Media baron Rupert Murdoch responds to Ted Turner 's threat to squash him like a bug by naming Roger Ailes , former Republican political consultant and CNBC president, chairman and chief executive of his network in the works, " Fox All-News Network ." It's scheduled to debut by year's end... NBC teams up with Microsoft for its venture into 24-hour news, MSNBC. The new network will provide an online service in addition to its cable television programming that will enable computer users to view the news from their PCs. CBS new media veteran Mark Harrington will be vice president and general manager of MSNBC, coming to a monitor near you in July.

Magazine Moves

Time names Bill Saporito , formerly a senior editor at Fortune magazine, business editor... The New Yorker shakes up its staff a bit, promoting "Talk of the Town" editor David Kuhn to the new position of features director. Also being retitled are two New Republic alums, Dorothy Wickenden and Hendrik Hertzberg . Wickenden assumes Hertzberg's old title of executive editor, while Hertzberg becomes editorial director, a position that will allow him more time for writing... The Utne Reader undergoes a temporary changing of the guard as the magazine's founder and editor in chief, Eric Utne , embarks on a one-year sabbatical. Taking his place is Hugh Delehanty , formerly a senior editor with People magazine... Eric Etheridge , citing the ever-popular "editorial differences," leaves George after three issues as editor. The move leaves cofounder and Editor in Chief John F. Kennedy Jr. alone in overseeing editorial operations of the new glossy, poised to go from bimonthly to monthly almost a year ahead of schedule, giving him the opportunity to prove he's more than just another pretty name.

Whacking Wicker

Audobon magazine kills an article by former New York Times political columnist Tom Wicker . The piece, concluding that President Clinton 's renewed dedication to the environment was more reelection strategy than ecological fervor, was pulled by John Flicker , the National Audobon Society's CEO. Flicker says it was axed because it would have been stale by the time the bimonthly went to press, but many at the magazine believe it was because it might have interfered with the society's lobbying efforts. The decision hardly sits well with Audobon Editor Michael W. Robbins , who says he's "very concerned about the precedent this sets for the future, if indeed this sets a precedent." While Wicker says he can understand that Flicker's agenda might differ from the magazine's, he points out that in his 30 years at the New York Times he never had a similar experience. "You would think," he says, "that a profit-making organization would be more likely than a nonprofit to do this sort of thing, but I guess not."

Channel Surfing

Rick Kaplan , executive producer of "World News Tonight with Peter Jennings ," is named executive producer of special projects at ABC . Kaplan, a 17-year ABC veteran credited with starting "PrimeTime Live," will be replaced at "World News Tonight" by Kathryn Christensen , formerly the show's senior producer and executive producer of weekend news... Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf gets a TV gig as a national contributor and military analyst for NBC . In addition to shedding light on military matters, Schwarzkopf will contribute several stories each month on people and events that "make America work."... In radio news, Robert Garcia , formerly executive producer for CBS Radio Stations News Service in Washington, D.C., is named general manager of CNN Radio , a network of more than 500 global affiliates, based in Atlanta.

The Endangered Sunday Mag

The Detroit Free Press suspends publication of its Sunday magazine as a cost-cutting move prompted in part by the seemingly never ending Detroit newspaper strike that began last July 13... Also bailing out on its Sunday magazine is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel . While staffers at Wisconsin will be reassigned to other positions at the paper, Journal Sentinel Editor Mary Jo Meisner says discontinuing the magazine was the most feasible way to cover increased newsprint costs... And just when it seems like Sunday newspaper magazines are quickly disappearing, one is rescued from the brink of extinction. Two issues of the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine never saw print while its fate was being decided, and circulation of the magazine in outlying areas has been scrapped indefinitely, but the magazine was ultimately saved thanks to guild concessions.

Newspaper Nuggets

Tom King , editor of the El Paso Herald-Post for the past seven years, moves westward to become editor of the Redding Record Searchlight in California. King succeeds Robert W. Edkin , who retires after 23 years as editor. Taking King's place is Georgiana Vines , former deputy managing editor of the Knoxville News-Sentinel ... Julia Wallace , managing editor of the Chicago Sun-Times , resigns to take over the editorship of Oregon's Salem Statesman Journal . Wallace replaces Mike Whitehead , now executive editor of the Shreveport, Louisiana, Times .... John F. Oppedahl , executive editor of the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette , moves from the newsroom to the corporate suite, assuming the position of publisher and CEO of Phoenix Newspapers, Inc., which owns the papers.... The New York Times names Iver Peterson media writer, replacing William Glaberson , who moves to the metro desk as a reporter. Peterson had been Trenton bureau chief... Donald Forst , editor of the late New York Newsday for 10 years and most recently editor of Newsday 's Queens section, goes to work for his onetime rival, the New York Daily News, as metro editor.

Politics Online

With the 1996 election season officially under way, Time magazine and CNN join forces to launch a Web site devoted entirely to political news called, appropriately enough, "AllPolitics." The site will provide campaign news, poll results, texts of stump speeches and a "virtual primary." Michael Riley , a former Time bureau chief, is the site's executive producer.... PBS unveils its "Correspondence with Correspondents" project on the Web. The venture will feature correspondence between students in selected high schools around the country and 15 political reporters.

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