MEAN GIRLS: When Atoosa Rubenstein talks about the evils of gossip, she knows whereof she speaks. The Seventeen editor gave the keynote address at a breakfast meeting of the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York on Wednesday, blasting celebrity tabloids that treat teenage stars as grist for the rumor mill.
“By supporting publications that talk about their bodies in a lewd way or magnify their shortcomings, we punish these young women for being bold,” she said. “I guess one hurt girl and almost a million happy customers doesn’t seem like such a bad trade-off to some people.”
Some in the audience detected the faintest whiff of hypocrisy in Rubenstein’s remarks. Perhaps that’s because the November issue of Seventeen (which was in the gift bag given out at the breakfast) features a bevy of Page Six-worthy blind items in its tear-out entertainment section. For example: “Which action star’s male assistant does more than just bring him lattes? The two get into X-rated business in his trailer, but the actor gets furious when anyone hints that he’s gay.”
Asked about the items, Rubenstein said, “They’re just for fun and they’re usually about older people.” Anyway, she continued, “We decided as of the January that we’re revamping the entertainment section and the blind items are going to be gone.” Fair enough. But, Atoosa, last time we checked, older people have feelings, too.
— Jeff Bercovici
LADDIES AND GENTLEMEN: Ed Needham, Maxim’s new editor in chief, has been busy renovating his masthead. Needham, who came over from Rolling Stone in June, recently made three hires and one big fire, getting rid of his number two, editor Greg Williams. Dennis sources said Williams, who once edited the U.K. men’s title Arena, was originally brought on to edit the Maxim Fashion spin-off and didn’t have much to do after it was discontinued. His axing comes on top of about 15 layoffs made last month at Maxim, Stuff and Blender.
The new hires are art director Matthew Warner, who was formerly associate art director at FHM; entertainment editor Eric Gillin, who was at Thestreet.com, and assistant editor Steve Mazzuchi, formerly of Muscle & Fitness. Gillin is also editor in chief of The Black Table, a pop culture Web site he helped found. Maxim also has a new celebrity wrangler, Aric Webb, who previously worked in marketing at Stuff.
Not everybody leaving Dennis was dismissed: Senior editor Laura Gilbert is leaving to work at Bauer Publications, and senior associate editor Eric Alt recently joined The New York Post, where he edits the Pulse section.
PREEMPTIVE STRIKE: In the celebrity weekly wars, there are no points for subtlety. With the launch of Bauer Publishing’s new Life & Style Weekly less than two weeks off, Us Weekly introduced a new lifestyle section in the current issue. The new eight-page section, which will appear every week, covers shopping, homes and travel — in other words, much of the same turf as Life & Style Weekly, which has been pitching itself to advertisers as a cross between Us and In Style. “It’s definitely a coincidence,” Us editor Janice Min said of the new section’s timing, but added, “Obviously we are aware that they’re coming out. Somewhere in the back of our minds, it may have played a role.”
CABLE TALK: Producers at CNN have studied the media landscape and determined that what the viewing public needs is…another talk show. This weekend, the network will unveil “Off Topic With Carlos Watson,” a one-hour show which political analyst Watson describes as a hybrid of a Barbara Walters’ special and “Charlie Rose.” “He talks to a wide range of people. She got up close and personal,” explained Watson. “This will be younger, hipper and fun.” For the first episode, which premieres Sunday at 10 p.m., Watson went off-topic with basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, model Heidi Klum and Illinois senate candidate Barack Obama. Klum talked about being a single mother and running her global business — in Watson’s words “from candy to shoes” — while walking through Central Park and playing video games at Game Time Nation arcade. “For the average person watching CNN, she defies every stereotype of a supermodel. She’s funny, honest, tough, shrewd and savvy as a businesswoman,” raved Watson. “She’s got what I’ve seen before in very successful people — balanced optimism.” A follow-up episode of “Off Topic” will air on Dec. 12, and producers hope to take the program weekly next year.
— Sara James