SECOND OPINION: In Touch is about to find out how serious a breathless celebrity tabloid can really get. The weekly from Bauer Publishing is forgoing its usual cover mix of Britney, Lindsay and Brangelina to focus on the tragedy at Virginia Tech, where 32 people were murdered. For this week’s issue, which hits newsstands today, the magazine bumped the celebrity headlines that normally make up its main cover image for the Virginia Tech shooting, leaving stories on Hollywood hookups relegated to smaller images on the side.
The title — and, for that matter, celebrity weeklies Star, Us Weekly and Life & Style — rarely puts real-people stories on its cover or even inside, but such stories play to People’s roots of mixing real-life stories with celebrity events and giving cover space to national tragedies, from the Amish shootings last summer to the killing of Jon Benet Ramsey. People, which appears on newsstands Friday, is likely to put the Virginia shooting on its cover with an extensive feature package inside, as are the newsweeklies Time and Newsweek. (People declined to comment.)
In Touch editor in chief Richard Spencer was convinced the Virginia story was worth covering in a major way after watching his staff’s obsession with the news. “When you see everybody stopping in the office, in horror, you say, ‘Oh, I want to read this,'” said Spencer. “When so many people have died, [it is] hard to be so fixated on how crazy Britney [Spears] is acting.”
In Touch covered the tragedy in four pages, mostly in photographs. The Bauer title also had a good source at the scene — a features editor has a brother who works at Virginia Tech.
Media observers will be watching newsstands sales for the week to see if In Touch eats into newsstand sales of People. Meanwhile, Us Weekly said it would not cover the tragedy in its pages. —Stephanie D. Smith
JAGGER JIGSAW: The Times of London jumped the gun on news of Jade Jagger‘s fate at Garrard — and got it wrong. In an article published Saturday, the Times Magazine referred to Jagger as “the erstwhile creative director of Garrard” — which was news to everyone, including the folks at the venerable jewelry house. According to a spokeswoman for Garrard, Jagger, who has been creative director since 2001, is still negotiating her contract with the house. Jagger’s spokeswoman confirmed this. The author of the Times piece, Lucia Van Der Post, a veteran fashion and luxury goods journalist who once edited the Financial Times’ “How to Spend It” column, said the error was due to a slip of the pen. “I think I might have made a mistake,” Van Der Post told WWD. It was an easy one to make: Negotiations between Garrard and Jagger have been rumbling on since last June, when the creative director’s contract expired. The Garrard spokeswoman would not confirm when Jagger’s contract would be renewed, but said, “hopefully, soon.” — Samantha Conti
A LITTLE LIGHT MUSIC: Who knew the calorie- and cholesterol-obsessed folks at Cooking Light could get down with the best of them? Way Past Close is an unironically enthused bar band drawn from the magazine’s ranks and, somewhat like the Southern Progress division of Time Inc. that publishes the title, all-American in texture. Its playlist of covers fits the same bill: classic rock, Motown, a little country. The name, while on the surface a reference to late-night proclivities, some in evidence at the band’s gig at Connelly’s in Manhattan last Thursday, is also a wink to magazine publishing.
Last summer, Chris Allen, Cooking Light’s publisher, discovered that one of his sales assistants had “quite the voice,” and that a few account managers at Cooking Light and sales staff at Southern Progress had musical pasts. Way Past Close was born, and made its debut last year at a bar called Channel 4, near Time Inc.’s Midtown office. The event at Connelly’s was billed as “Bridge to Birmingham,” and, accordingly, the edit staff based there was in attendance. There was swing dancing and camera-phone snapping, and some of the dancers and snappers might even have been the invited advertisers. “We’re not that good,” said Allen modestly, “but we’re good enough.” — Irin Carmon