ONE BECOMES TWO: Since Bonnie Fuller took over as the editorial director of American Media nearly two years ago, she’s made a host of changes to Star Magazine. She claimed, among other things, that the magazine would stop its practice of paying for sources, which many of its sister publications — including The Globe and The National Enquirer — continue to do. But it seems Fuller has found a novel way to get Star’s information for free: Have the Enquirer report the story and pay the sources, then move the information over to Star.
Call it the vertical integration of a supermarket tabloid empire.
This week, the Enquirer and Star ran nearly identical stories about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s not-so-secret African getaway. Each story announced that Jolie screamed so loud during one of their “frantic sex sessions,” security guards from the hotel the couple was staying at pounded on their door with clubs, fearing an intruder was inside attacking them. The stories even featured the same anonymous quotes.
An “insider” told the Enquirer, “People here have great respect for men with sexual prowess who keep their women pleasured. Ms. Jolie got so excited during sex that guards thought maybe Mr. Pitt was taking magic
ju-ju herbs to give him the strength of a lion.”
The same quote was run in Star, but it was split in two and attributed to two people. As in, “One onlooker [said,] ‘People here have great respect for men with sexual prowess who keep their women pleasured,’” while another allegedly said, “Miss Jolie got so excited during sex that guards thought maybe Mr. Pitt was taking magic ju-ju herbs to give him the strength of a lion.”
An AMI spokesman admitted the similarities in the stories pointed to an instance of what three AMI sources said has been going on for the last two years — the two publications “sharing information.”
“In the spirit of family courtesy,” the spokesman said, “we may exchange information amongst the different magazines, but then that magazine finds its own way to report that story. If the Enquirer has information that they deem to share with Star, Star will then use its own resources to expand the reporting. And it works both ways.”
But then how did Star come up with two people saying the exact same thing as one person in the Enquirer? “Star spoke to people on the island. That’s what they walked away with,” the spokesman said.
Maybe. And the three well-placed AMI sources said that “sharing” of information, as the spokesman referred to it, generally involved the Enquirer doing the reporting and the cutting of the checks, while Star reaped the benefits. Rarely, they said, does it work the other way. Nor were these types of exchanges acts of generosity on the part of the Enquirer. Rather, they followed an edict that came down from the company’s chief executive officer, David Pecker.
All of this is more than a little ironic to Enquirer staffers. Fuller has kept her name off the Enquirer’s masthead for fear the publication’s trashy reputation will rub off on her. She also has very little oversight of the publication, sources said. But she’s apparently more than willing to rely on the Enquirer’s reporters when her own staff at Star comes up short, which the sources said is often. “Her strength is in style and layout, not news-gathering,” a high-level company source said recently.
This week’s episode is simply the latest in Fuller’s madcap rush to stay on top of the Brad-Jen-Angelina soap opera. Last week, she was criticized for using a photo composite to depict Pitt and Jolie cavorting on a beach during the same trip to Africa. Three months before that, she wound up with egg on her face when she released a cover story on Pitt and his soon-to-be ex-wife, Jennifer Aniston, that said, “Brad and Jen Back On! It’s Baby Time!” The couple announced their split the same day the issue arrived at supermarkets all over America. At the time that story ran, sources at the company explained it had merely been written “to fit the pictures” they’d bought of Pitt and Aniston walking on a beach in Anguilla, holding hands. Company sources also told WWD that the photographs for that story were initially sold to the Enquirer, and then moved over to Star. Reporting on the story was shared in that instance, as well, they said, but because the story wasn’t given page one treatment in the Enquirer, the negative publicity mainly surrounded Star.
— Jacob Bernstein
MARTHA SPEAKS: Steve Florio, vice chairman of Advance Magazine Group (parent of WWD), has found a keynote speaker for his fall MBA course at New York University’s Stern School of Business. In early November, Martha Stewart will address Florio’s students on the topic of leadership in the communications industry. She won’t, however, “be going into any of this bulls–t she’s had to deal with lately,” said Florio, referring, of course, to Stewart’s recent incarceration at Alderson Federal Prison. Stewart joins the likes of Tom Freston of Viacom, Michael J. Wolf of McKinsey, Michelle James of James & Co. and Loews Hotels’ Jonathan Tisch, all of whom already have signed up as guest speakers.
Florio’s keynote speaker last year, Donald Trump, drew an audience of more than 500 people in a packed amphitheater, where the future Mrs. Trump, Melania Knauss, also responded to questions from the audience. “If [Trump] weren’t rich, would you be with him?” one student asked, according to Florio. Knauss responded, “If I weren’t beautiful, do you think he’d be with me?”
Florio, who met with NYU representatives this week to schedule classroom space, said he thinks Stewart will be “an even bigger draw.”
— Sara James
BOYDING HER TIMES: Suzanne Boyd has been doing more than just going to parties since Suede shut down in February. Boyd, who was Suede’s editor in chief, recently auditioned for a regular gig writing for The New York Times’ Style section. Several weeks ago, style editor Barbara Graustark showed Boyd around the Times’ offices and invited her to try her hand at writing a shopping column. But the sample column she turned in apparently didn’t make the cut. She was paid a kill fee for her efforts this week, according to sources.
But Boyd doesn’t seem to be taking rejection too hard. Her busy social calendar included an appearance at Kimora Lee Simmons’ birthday party Wednesday night. Boyd presented Simmons with cookies emblazoned with her image — the one that was supposed to grace the cover of Suede’s never-published May issue.
Meanwhile, other Suede refugees have been landing on their feet. Creative director Richard Christiansen is working at Radar, executive editor Serena French is freelancing for Time Inc., deputy editor Deborah Frank has turned up at Departures and beauty director Ying Chu recently started work at Vogue, where the beauty department has been shorthanded since Ning Chao left for Elle last fall.
— Jeff Bercovici
HAMMER GETS THE AXE: With Stuff in decline on the newsstand, Dennis Publishing finally took action Wednesday, removing editor in chief Mike Hammer and replacing him with Jimmy Jellinek, former editor in chief of Complex. It’s the second time Hammer has been taken off Stuff during his eight-year tenure at Dennis. Four years ago, Hammer was reassigned from Stuff, where he was executive editor, to a corporate role after coming into conflict with then-editor in chief Greg Gutfeld (who, in a neat bit of symmetry, was later booted upstairs and replaced by Hammer). This time, however, he’s leaving the company, corporate jobs being in short supply at Dennis these days.
Hammer’s departure comes after Stuff reported a 24 percent drop in newsstand sales, to 291,305, for the second half of 2004. (A Dennis spokesman said the title is up nearly 20 percent so far this year, however.) The title’s ad pages are down 12.3 percent year to date through May, according to Media Industry Newsletter.
Launched as a flanker to Maxim, Stuff’s identity always has been somewhat malleable, changing to reflect trends in the men’s category. Under Gutfeld, Stuff was essentially a lad-flavored humor magazine; Hammer repositioned it, increasing coverage of cars, clothes and gadgets. Jellinek, who starts his new job May 16, said he intends to keep “a consumption-based focus.”
— Jeff Bercovici