BYE BYE, BONNIE: It’s been a rough week at Star magazine. Three staffers, including co-executive editor Mark Coleman, have turned in notices and are said to be headed to rival Life & Style. Coleman left Life & Style to lead Star’s West Coast bureau just 14 months ago, and moved into the New York headquarters earlier this year, disrupting the reporting structure and causing unease among some editors there. “No one is sad to see him go,” sniped one source. Coleman’s wife, however, never moved from California, and is now eight months pregnant. Coleman declined to comment on his plans, but the non-compete clause standard for top editors at American Media means he’ll likely have to cool his heels for a few months before taking up a position with a competitor. (The other two defectors are West Coast senior editor Maxine Page and senior photo editor Maria Fernandez-Buda.)
Why the sudden rash of exits? The general sense of uncertainty at American Media in the wake of last month’s drastic cost-cutting certainly has something to do with it. The large neon question mark hanging over editorial director Bonnie Fuller, whose contract is up for renewal in July, isn’t making people feel any more settled. But Star’s faltering newsstand sales may be a more immediate stimulus. According to estimates based on checkout scan data, three of the most recent four issues have sold between 600,000 and 700,000 copies on the newsstand — far fewer than the average of 863,508 reported to the Audit Bureau of Circulations in the second half of last year. Only the April 24 issue, whose main cover line read, “Britney’s Baby Fractures Skull!”, broke the 700,000 mark, sources said. An American Media spokeswoman said, “Our rate base is 1.5 million and the magazine will achieve its rate base. But we don’t give out numbers for individual issues.”
— Jeff Bercovici
OH SO RICE: Who knew conversation topics at Good Housekeeping luncheons weren’t limited to roast recipes and pruning techniques? On Tuesday, the day a letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to President George W. Bush was made public, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was grilled about the administration’s position on Iran during a private luncheon for 25 mostly media people hosted by the magazine. At the Hearst Corp. temporary corporate offices at Sixth Avenue and 54th Street, Rice began by talking about her piano-playing days, but Time managing editor Jim Kelly, who had escorted Rice around the Time 100 event the previous night, and Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker redirected her in a Q&A session. Whitaker wanted to know the status of negotiations with Iran, while Kelly asked for Rice’s opinion on Ahmadinejad “as a man and as a politician.”
The luncheon followed a piece in Good Housekeeping’s May issue in which Rice was interviewed about her mother, Angelena Ray Rice, who passed away in 1985 when Rice was 30. Also in attendance: Good Housekeeping’s editor in chief Ellen Levine, Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, Esquire editor in chief David Granger and O editor at large Gayle King.
— Sara James