Charting the Masthead
Cricinfo.com Goes Glossy
Gay Talese’s Basement
Mortifying Magazine Moments
The 2006 New York Review of Magazines presents the past year’s most embarrassing moments in magazine journalism:
Worst Issue, Period: Vanity Fair’s March 2006. Designer Tom Ford’s Hollywood issue, featuring stars in the nude and/or doing weird stuff, wasn’t a great idea. At least we didn’t have to see Ford naked.
Biggest Celebrity Cover Oops: Not that we expect accuracy from celebrity “journalism,” but usually they have a rumor or a source or something to back up their “scoops.” Not so for Celebrity Living, whose Dec. 12, 2005, cover screamed, “Jessica’s Baby Weight Battle: She’s Finally Pregnant!” Not so much. Jessica Simpson was busy splitting from husband Nick Lachey and was decidedly unpregnant.
Most Undeserved Praise of the Year: Samir Husni, the University of Mississippi journalism department chair self-dubbed “Mr. Magazine,” lauds Celebrity Living as one of the 30 most notable launches of 2005. But what’s notable about another trashy magazine from Bonnie Fuller? If we needed any proof that the praise wasn’t worth its salt, Celebrity Living announced it was folding in April.
Worst Launch of the Year: The only launch to surpass Celebrity Living in cheesiness would have to be Chicken Soup for the Soul Magazine. As if the “Chicken Soup” books were not schmaltzy enough, now we have a magazine that promises “to paint a truly moving portrait of the American soul.” We got sick of the book series about a decade ago, and we’re sure the magazine would leave our souls standing still.
Least Child-Friendly: Studio 17, a prom-dress advertiser, mistakenly included the address of a child-porn website in its ads in the Spring 2005 issues of teeny-bop publications YM Your Prom and Teen Prom. Fairchild Publications, which published YM Your Prom, yanked 200,000 copies of the magazine off the newsstand because of the misprint, but Hearst Magazines chose not to pull its Teen Prom issue. Either way, the inappropriate URL probably nullified the mandatory you-don’t-have-to-have-sex-on-prom-night advice column.
Way to Stand Up: Almost a month after an October 2005 agreement fell through, Time Inc. settled a $20 million lawsuit over a 2003 Sports Illustrated story alleging that Mike Price, the former University of Alabama football coach, had sex with two women in a Pensacola hotel. Price, who was fired from Alabama days before the story was officially released, admitted that he was drunk and patronized a strip club, but said he never had sex with anyone. Um, OK. Sports Illustrated stood by its story, which depended partly on anonymous sources, so why did Time cave?
Worst Error: While we’re not blaming Newsweek for all the furor that followed, its May 9, 2005, Periscope item alleging that American interrogators had flushed the Quran down the toilet had unequivocally serious consequences. The story was followed by anti-American riots in Afghanistan that killed at least 15 people. Editor Mark Whitaker at first refused to print a retraction, saying, “We don’t know what the ultimate facts are,” but after plenty of pressure from the White House, Newsweek issued a correction in its May 23 issue. With an allegation that damaging, the story should have been airtight. And without any solid evidence, the magazine should have retracted its story much sooner.
What Goes Around Comes Around: According to Gawker.com, Time magazine’s Dorinda Elliott, who wrote the silver-lining cover story on Ford Motor Co. shortly before the company announced up to 30,000 layoffs on Jan. 23, was laid off by Time Inc. right before Christmas. Bummer.
Worst Journalistic Invention: First there was Bennifer. Then, the gossip magazines combined the names of 2005’s most overcovered couples—Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes—christening them Brangelina and TomKat. Ugh. The celebrity nickname machine really needs to take a rest.
Most Gullible: After the April 2005 issue of Allure featured an interview with Britney Spears, a columnist at The Philadelphia Daily News wrote a spoof of the interview, with fake quotations from Britney. Believing the interview was real, MSNBC.com published an idiotic-sounding quote. Then Us Weekly and several newspapers, including The Washington Post and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, picked it up. So although this gem—“Like omigod, I have to tell the maid to buy diapers and get the pool boy to walk the dog? Can’t I just make out with Kevin all the time? Being married sucks”—sounds like real Britney, unfortunately it’s just another example of failing to fact-check.