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YOU HAVE 90 SECONDS…: Time is being coy about the inevitable naming of Barack Obama as Person of the Year, but GQ is all set to unveil its choice. The president-elect appears on the December cover as a Man of the Year, though he has to share in a rotation with Michael Phelps (that other winner this year), Leonardo DiCaprio and Jon Hamm of “Mad Men.” The tribute to Obama is written by Sen. Ted Kennedy, who endorsed Obama for the Democratic nomination at a crucial stage.
Some titles (including GQ rival Esquire) have made do with pick-up art throughout the campaign season and since Obama won, but GQ sent Mark Seliger to join the candidate’s press corps and hope for two minutes access. He got just under that time in Philadelphia, shooting Obama in front of a white sheet hung in a doorway after a rally. “It was very guerrilla,” Seliger told WWD.
This story first appeared in the November 17, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
GQ put Obama on its cover in September 2007, selling 245,105 copies on the newsstand, slightly down from the comparable issue in 2006. In the story, chief strategist David Axelrod told Ryan Lizza, “Frankly, I could do with fewer cover stories generally….It can get overdone. This is a really profound guy in many ways, and you don’t want him trivialized.” These days, Obama has created his own newsstand bounce among weeklies and commemorative editions bearing his face.
Compared to the more boyish and eager cover last year, Seliger said, “I think he looks really like a man. He looks a little bit more mature and he certainly looks wiser and strong.”
One of last year’s Men of the Year was Bill Clinton, who reportedly threatened to yank access if GQ did not kill an unfavorable story by Joshua Green about his wife’s campaign. At the time, GQ editor in chief Jim Nelson told the Washington Post, “I guarantee and promise you, if I’d have had a great Hillary piece, I would have run it.” Much of the material ended up running in The Atlantic, by that point illuminating the internal squabbles that helped derail her campaign.
— Irin Carmon
NOT TUNING IN: Anne Slowey and her Elle colleagues aren’t quite hot couture when it comes to TV. According to Nielsen ratings, Elle’s reality show on CW, “Stylista,” has gathered an average of only 1.97 million viewers a week in its first season to date — small numbers for a broadcast network. The Wednesday night program ranks behind new program “90210,” which gathers 3.1 million viewers, and CW’s successful drama “Gossip Girl,” which attracts 3.2 million viewers so far in its second season. But “Stylista” looks more fashionable compared with another style program that premiered this year, “The Rachel Zoe Project,” which garnered a mere 688,000 viewers during its first season on Bravo. And Slowey and Elle can take some solace in the fact that the Bravo reality hit “Project Runway” — which made Slowey’s former colleague-rival Nina Garcia a household name — took time before gathering nearly three million viewers a week. The show attracted just one million viewers by the end of its first season. Neither CW nor Elle could be reached for comment on the ratings.
— Stephanie D. Smith
MORE PAPER CUTS: Forbes and Bauer Publishing have joined the league of publishers cutting back as they try to survive the looming recession. At Forbes, the company decided to fold its automotive site, forbesautos.com, and lay off some staffers at forbestraveler.com. The company also closed its conference group and let those employees go. A company spokeswoman confirmed the moves, but added Forbes had not yet decided if the conference group would live on through outsourcing the functions. The company did not reveal the number of employees let go Friday, though sources close to the publisher estimate nearly three dozen staffers were dismissed.
Meanwhile, Bauer cut five editorial positions at Life & Style across various functions. A Bauer spokeswoman explained, “In an effort to be more efficient in this challenging economy, Life & Style is going through a small editorial staff restructuring. Not unlike other publishing companies, we are looking at ways to streamline and maximize our resources.” Forbes and Bauer’s layoffs follows cuts on Thursday at Time Inc., where the company trimmed 25 staffers across Entertainment Weekly, 10 staffers at Essence and 10 people at In Style on both the edit and business sides. Time Inc. is set to cut 600 jobs from the publishing group under a major restructuring unveiled last month.
STRANGER THAN FICTION: Remember the Valerie Plame leak scandal? That murky moment that saw the Bush administration leaking the name of a CIA operative and the jailing of The New York Times’ Judith Miller for refusing to name her source has slipped from the radar, but a new movie might just revive it. “Nothing But the Truth” was screened in New York Thursday with many of the major players in tow, including Miller herself, who is played by Kate Beckinsale in the movie.
“It got the moral ambiguity of it,” Miller said at a dinner following the screening. She called Beckinsale’s performance “spectacular” but said, “It was harder than I expected to look at it.” Said Beckinsale, “Judy was seated one row away from me, and she hit me with her handbag during the movie, so that was a good sign.” Prior to the filming, Miller had lunch with the actress, mostly to talk about her prison experience.
The evening was cohosted by MSNBC anchor Dan Abrams and his father, noted First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, who argued Miller’s case. The elder Abrams served as a technical adviser to the film, and even makes his acting debut with a sizeable role as a judge.
There are significant divergences from reality in the movie, which says it is fiction inspired by actual events. Many of the changes raise the stakes of the Beckinsale character’s heroism in the film: she is now the devoted mother of a seven-year-old and faces starker physical and personal consequences in jail, and there’s no sign of the separate, still-acute criticisms of Miller’s reporting leading up to the Iraq war. Miller is now an analyst at Fox News.
The introductions to the film emphasized the protection of anonymous sources as crucial to exercising the First Amendment. Self editor in chief Lucy Danziger (whose magazine features Beckinsale on its January cover) reminisced about her newspaper days and said, “Of course we celebrate Judith Miller and honor her,” to general applause, and director Rod Lurie talked about the “heroes of the First Amendment.”
Though Miller seemed pleased with the film, former Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper, now at Portfolio, who was also ensnared in the case, confessed he was relieved not to have been included. “Once they couldn’t get [George] Clooney…”