ROLL CAMERAS: American Media’s reality show may be burning in development hell, but Jann Wenner‘s contribution to the candid camera genre is coming along nicely. Casting gets under way this week with an ad in the new issue of Rolling Stone calling for applications. “Respected music magazine seeks dynamic, culture-conscious writers to work at Rolling Stone and be on MTV,” reads the copy. Would-be participants will be instructed to submit videos of themselves, along with writing samples or links to their blogs, for a shot at one of six to eight slots on the as-yet-untitled program. Shooting is scheduled to begin in mid-June.

Defying the usual conventions of reality TV, the cast members will be selected based largely on merit as opposed to, say, sex appeal and a penchant for sociopathic behavior, according to Gary Armstrong, Wenner Media’s chief marketing officer. “Because this is journalism, writing skills are going to take the lead, as opposed to ‘Do you have a lot of tattoos and are you sexy?'” he said. They’ll also be judged on their responses to a questionnaire that asks “What three stories would you pitch to your editor?” and “What do you think are the most important qualities for a journalist?” “It’s totally earnest,” affirmed Armstrong.

Maybe too earnest for its own good. The last MTV reality series based on the magazine world, “Miss Seventeen,” also touted its own high-mindedness — and drew so few viewers that the network dropped it. But whereas “Miss Seventeen” had an all-girl cast, the Rolling Stone show will be co-ed. That will provide the necessary frisson, said Armstrong, noting the show’s casting director also cast “Laguna Beach” — which easily outdrew “Miss Seventeen.” “There will be [sexual] tension,” promised Armstrong.

Now, about that American Media show: A spokeswoman took issue with a report in WWD Tuesday that AMI chairman David Pecker had expressed reservations about giving camera crews unfettered access to the company’s offices. “David Pecker has no involvement in the ‘One Park’ project and he does not have any concerns about the journalistic standards of AMI’s publications or about the behavior of company employees,” said the spokeswoman in a statement. “Any suggestions to the contrary are patently false and not based on fact.”
Jeff Bercovici

This story first appeared in the March 22, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

T BILL: The New York Times Magazine may not have generated much buzz since Gerald Marzorati took it over in 2003, but Marzorati’s expansion of it into a group of titles that includes the T luxury and the new Play sports brands has been among the few bright spots of the paper’s weakened bottom line. As a vote of confidence, he was promoted to assistant managing editor at the Times on Tuesday. In his new role, Marzorati’s duties will include scouting editorial talent internally and working with a team of editors to map out a future for the paper.

“I think a big part of it is simply a recognition that….[the Times] is not something that’s simply going to be a broadsheet anymore,” he told WWD Tuesday. “That to me makes this a very exciting time to be part of the leadership of this place.”

Marzorati will also continue to have editorial oversight of the magazine, at least for the time being. “I need to be working on a tangible product. I don’t think I can function as well as an abstract manager,” he said.

As for the cushy digs that typically come with a promotion, he exhibited a surprisingly Zen attitude: “I’m still in the same office I’ve been in for seven or eight years. I didn’t take the office I was offered when I got the magazine job because it had lousy feng shui … I’ll get a new office when we move into the new building,” but that won’t happen until next year.
Sara James

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