AMI PUBLISHES DESPITE SCARE
Byline: Lisa Lockwood
NEW YORK — The Star, National Enquirer and Globe supermarket tabloids published by American Media Inc. managed to meet their press deadlines Monday night, despite the turmoil caused by an FBI investigation of an anthrax incident that suddenly closed its Boca Raton, Fla., corporate headquarters Sunday night.
“We put out this week’s issue. We were under the gun, but it came together,” said Barry Levine, New York bureau chief for the National Enquirer. “Reporters in Florida were getting tested and received medication, and at the same time, hustled along to get into the satellite offices to put out the paper. It was the most dramatic issue we’ve had in terms of getting it out.” The issue will be distributed Friday in New York.
Levine said the Boca Raton facility is the National Enquirer’s main office for its editors, reporters, research and production personnel. On Monday, some of that staff moved into AMI’s advertising and payroll offices in nearby Delray Beach.
“Fortunately, we had some pages done. Some of the pictures we had related to some of the terrorism stories, and they were sent to the new facility. We had to scramble to find other pictures,” he said.
Levine added that AMI is actively looking for temporary office space in Florida for all its tabloids.
Asked if he believes speculation that the National Enquirer’s coverage of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks might have been at the heart of the anthrax incident, Levine said: “While our presentation may be livelier and bolder for the audience, in terms of the coverage, we’re doing the same stories that reporters are filing for the New York Times and the Washington Post. We’re not doing anything differently.”
A spokesman for Howard Rubenstein Associates, which represents American Media, said that after the FBI shut down the Boca Raton headquarters Sunday night, the company dispersed staff to a half dozen locations in southern Florida. The Boca Raton building houses 300 people. The newspapers are printed in regional plants, said the spokesman.
He said the company’s other publications, like the Examiner, Weekly News of the World and The Sun, are expected to close on time this week. He said all the publications would meet their distribution deadlines.
Asked if anyone knew how anthrax got into the building, the spokesman said “everything is speculation,” but added that there might be a criminal investigation and the company is awaiting further word from the Justice Department.
David Pecker, chief executive officer of AMI, couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
Correspondents were left this week not knowing to whom in Florida they should file their stories, or how to retrieve photographs and other information.
“There’s been a bit of a communication gap that’s being closed rather rapidly,” said the spokesman.
“It’ll be really difficult,” said Janet Charlton, the Los Angeles-based gossip columnist for The Star. “Our main office is in Boca Raton, and it’s hard to contact anyone. The e-mails were turned off over the weekend.”
It’s also been difficult to reach anyone by phone. She said reporters weren’t able to get back into the building to retrieve their Rolodexes or files. “They can’t get back in….But we’ll pull it together,” she said, adding that the building is expected to be closed for 30 to 60 days.
One AMI employee, Robert Stevens, a 63-year-old photo editor for The Sun, died Friday from anthrax inhalation. Another employee was exposed to it, and traces of the the deadly bacteria were found in the work area. All employees and recent visitors to the building are being tested and given preventive antibiotics.