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For four days last week, Republican delegates were bombarded with leaflets, pamphlets, and circulars. The sheer amount of paper being handed out guaranteed that most of it would be bound for the recycling bin without so much as a passing glance. But this didn’t deter what had to be one of the most expensive print projects at the RNC—New York Convention Daily, a glossy eight-page tabloid published by New York magazine.
The idea was to convince the out-of-towners that New York is the preeminent authority on New York. “New York City is our subject,” says New York editor Adam Moss, who was brought in this year to revamp the flagging weekly. “The Republican convention was the story in New York. The Daily was a good, interesting way to cover it. It was also a way to show our brand, which is serious and fun at the same time.”
Convention Daily was overseen by big-shot editor Maer Roshan, who supervised a 25-member staff. Each afternoon, 40,000 copies of Convention Daily were dispensed to delegates and media folk. Printed on heavy stock, the tabloid certainly cornered the market on sleek.
New York‘s foray into the daily business wasn’t unprecedented—Us Weekly has printed a daily for Fashion Week in past years (though not this time around). Boston magazine went daily for the Democratic National Convention—but only online. Editor Jon Marcus says that the ad revenue simply wasn’t there to support a daily print publication. “The hotels were booked up, so they didn’t have to advertise,” says Marcus. “I was not convinced there was a lot of advertising out there for the magazine.”
But Marcus is convinced that Boston‘s online coverage, and the 20-member staff that made it happen, did succeed as an exercise in corporate branding. “I was really proud of [our coverage], and forgive my lack of humility about this,” says Marcus. “We didn’t cover the speeches. We covered how Bill Clinton scored an order of fries at four in the morning.”
Convention Daily took a similar approach, with mixed success. Readers saw musings on Rudy’s assumed 2008 White House run, and evidence of a serious fetish for Libby Dole’s knees. “Most [publications] treated the convention in political terms,” says Moss. “We treated it in anthropological terms. We were covering this from the perspective of the city, as opposed to from the perspective of the convention itself.”
Ultimately, New York was able to pull it off without digging itself a financial hole—full-color ads from the likes of Grand Marnier and American Express covered the tab. Or so Moss says. “We broke even,” says Moss, who, like publisher Larry Burstein, declined to specify how much the whole endeavor cost or made.
Long enough to count
The New York Times wasted no time in going after Lord Conrad A. Black, former chief executive officer of Hollinger International, and the company’s inept board members. Black resigned from his post after he was found to have received over $30 million in unauthorized payments from Hollinger last year.
Since then, the company has been warring with Lord Black over collection of the unauthorized fees. Hollinger owns the Chicago Sun-Times and The Jerusalem Post, among other newspapers. But from 1997 to 2003, according to the Times‘ September 1 report, the company was mainly in the business of lining the pockets of Lord Black. David Radler, Hollinger’s former chief operating officer, and Black pilfered the company for 95 percent of its net profits.
The article featured a damning account pulled together by a Hollinger-appointed panel, and was accompanied by another story, this one headlined “A Heavyweight Board, Light on the Supervision.” The Times editorial board then jumped in, castigating Lord Black and Radler, as well as Hollinger’s board: If there was ever a mess that made the case for the SEC’s using its post-Enron reform power to force boards into greater vigilance, this is it.
But what the Times neglected to mention was that a key member of Hollinger’s “hapless board” was once one of its own. Richard Burt worked as a national-security reporter for the Times from 1977 to 1980. He pops up in several Times reports on Hollinger, identified as a onetime ambassador to Germany. Incidentally, Burt could also have been ID’d as ex-boy toy of embattled Times scribe Judith Miller.
A spokesperson for the Times asserted that given the time difference between Burt’s employment and the Hollinger debacle, the paper had no special responsibility to offer a full disclosure. Burt “has held several jobs including an ambassadorship since then,” the Times responded via e-mail. “He has been mentioned in our stories only in passing, and his association with us, nearly a quarter-century ago, seemed far below the relevancy line. If we get to the point of profiling the Hollinger board in detail, we will probably mention it at that time.”
Ethical experts in the field tend to side with the Times, noting that while there is no hard-and-fast rule for disclosure, two decades’ distance probably meets the standard—if a standard actually existed. “There really are no rules,” says Kelly McBride, a member of the ethics faculty at the Poynter Institute. “What you have are some values that apply here, that might indicate what a reasonably responsible journalist might do. Now, 25 years ago is a long time. I would have hoped that they would have discussed it. It could be one of those things that’s so insignificant for disclosure.”
Back in June, when Fahrenheit 9/11 was breaking box office records for documentaries, John Young, opinion editor for the Waco Tribune-Herald, got to wondering why Michael Moore hadn’t brought his opus to central Texas. So Young penned an open letter to Moore in the pages of the Tribune-Herald (circulation 41,000), instructing the director to send a DVD version of the film in a paper bag.
Young’s hope was that Fahrenheit could then be screened to Greater Waco’s minuscule community of liberals. “He took me up and sent the film in July,” says Young. “We had a showing and 3,000 people showed up. Michael Moore was going to show up, but he elected not to, which is good. There were some anti-Moore protesters there, and things might have gotten personal.” That’s because Greater Waco includes Crawford—Bush’s adopted hometown.”It’s a community that’s extremely sensitive to any type of criticism of the president,” says Carlos Sanchez, editor in chief the Tribune-Herald. “There is an expectation of benefit, with having the president present in the community, and when stories arise that are critical we frequently get criticism from the community that we’re going to displease the president.”
Since coming to the Tribune-Herald in 1984, Young has made habit of staying on the wrong side of a right-wing community. “I describe it as creative-tension galore,” he says. Yet Young, whose picture is in the paper, says he rarely gets harassed. In fact, he sometimes gets a pat on the back. “There is a modicum of acceptance,” he says. “Probably the best compliment I ever got was from some guy who said, ‘Mr. Young. Everyone in my office hates you, but I think you’re wonderful.’ “