Pundit-cide

Is this the latest breach of the edit/ad wall? Timesmagazine editor Adam Moss sounded more bemused than worried: "Because of the design, it will be clear to almost all readers that it is an ad." And the story, points out Moss, is part of a well-known series. Absolut has also commissioned vodka-drenched writing by litterateurs Dominick Dunne, Julia Alvarez, and Douglas Coupland, and its ads featuring bottle art are ubiquitous. Indeed, Irving's Absolut story has itself run in New York, GQ,and The New Yorker, whose editor, David Remnick, sounded slightly more uneasy about it: "We take very seriously the division between editorial content and advertisements in The New Yorkerand don't want the reader to get mixed up between the two. And when there is that danger, we make the difference clear with a label."

But the Irving ad did not have a label affixed to it in The New Yorker.This despite the fact that both magazines did slap notices on other ads running in the same issues. The Times Magazine posts the word advertisementthroughout the pages of a Florida real-estate supplement that's stapled into the magazine, and The New Yorkerdoes the same for a Bvlgari bag ad that features a leather-loving short story by novelist Ernesto Mestre. And while, as Moss suggests, the Absolut ads may not confuse many, the copycat typefaces seem to invest the Irving copy with the imprimatur of both magazines. Moss acknowledges that "It's unfortunate that the typeface is close but not identical to our body type," but though "it's an interesting point worth thinking about, it doesn't trouble me deeply."

Only a year ago the magazine world was awash with warnings about the incursion of advertisers, following Esquire's decision to kill a David Leavitt story deemed likely to offend Chrysler. Then, though, alarums were raised by an advertiser's demand for product-friendly editorial. Here, the advertiser has supplied its own happy copy— at, reportedly, $25,000 to $30,000 a pop— and merely asked magazines for a wink. And that, it seems, is not too much to ask.

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Now that Gingrich has fallen, the hagiography begins. Saturday's Times carried a report from Newt's "Self-Reliant" Georgia district, where "a lot of people," wrote Rick Bragg, "felt that Mr. Gingrich believed, like they did, in a person's paying his own way." One of those people, a landscape consultant, put it this way: "People here don't look to the Government for their well-being. That's the way it should be. Gingrich believed that." Gingrich certainly believed that for poor inner-city kids and their moms, but thanks to him, his suburban Atlanta district is, as Common Causemagazine put it five years ago, "hooked on federal handouts." Only two other suburbs received more federal money. . . .

Friday's Wall Street Journalhad a fine piece on online mistakes, prompted by two notable gaffes. Last Monday, the ABC News Web site inadvertently posted fake results for Tuesday's elections. That led to some loud guffaws, especially from conservatives who noted a surfeit of Democrats winning races that hadn't yet been run. Snickers turned to silence a day later, of course. Then, on Thursday, a market analyst discovered that the Bureau of Labor Statistics had posted the number of jobs created last month a full day ahead of schedule. The leak led to a flurry of bond market activity. The Journal used the occasion to review the history of Internet blunders, including Pathfinder's infamous "GUILTY!" headline at the conclusion of O.J.'s trial, and AP's premature declaration of Bob Hope's death in June. But the Journalforgot to list one of the most notorious Internet miscues: its own Web site's February pronouncement that White House steward Bayani Nelvis had told Ken Starr's grand jury he had seen Bill and Monica alone. Five days later the Journalretracted the story. The retraction, coupled with a similar snafu by the Dallas Morning News— not to mention the ascendancy of Drudge— precipitated a flood of hand-wringing analyses of journalistic standards in the age of cyberspace. . . .

Wish we'd said that: Steven Erlanger, chief diplomatic correspondent for The New York Times, to an audience at Duke University: "The Times is an incredibly smug institution . . . [that] believes it knows things better than other people do." (Okay, Erlanger also said, "Still, it's an extraordinary institution, and I cherish it.") Research: Soo-Min Oh
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