COVER WARS: One Year Later Biz Mags Treat Recession with Pot and Spray Paint

The media loves one-year anniversaries, hundred-day anniversaries — any excuse to zoom in on the thing they’ve been covering all along. This week’s one-year anniversary of the financial crisis — a gold mine for business magazines! Or a call for gold spray paint, if you’re BusinessWeek.


Mary Louise Parker — the maintstream, not to mention sterile, face of rampant marijuana use, after her five-season success on Showtime’s Weeds. With her help, and some magic leaf, this cover could actually grab a few non-Fortune-reading stoners. And “Wall Street: One Year Later” up top is a nifty hard-news peg.

Mediaite Grade (B+): Hey, an issue of Fortune about pot — that’s pretty cool. Oh wait, Sage, the color, what are you doing here? You’re not very cool. If this cover was trying to make marijuana seem staid (which it probably is), then it’s a wild success. We wonder how their pot story stacks up to New York mag’s.

economistBefore we snub The Economist, we want to get one thing straight: We know the cover isn’t what sells the magazine (it’s the incisive content, dummy). That said, we have to ask if these Economist covers are a nose-in-the-air smirk at the rest of the magazine industry, or just the product of uninspired designers who hate sharing an office with neurotic econ-types?

Mediaite Grade (D): We don’t need to "> beat a dead horse, or a series of plastic horses revolving in a circle, but this cover is bush league. Tucking the dollar sign ornament at the top of the carousel into the deck? It’s not cute. It’s not imaginative. We worry that a bunch of professionals actually sat down together and brainstormed this cover, or spent any time thinking about it at all. We’ve seen you do your best work before, Economist design team, now keep it up. If for no other reason, to set a good example for Newsweek (their cover this week — yikes).

GOOD FORBESMagazines are at their best when they jump on the next hot thing, rather than just distilling a week or month’s worth of news. The latest edition of Forbes does both, highlighting the story of high-speed computer trading, which has been percolating all summer —  a smart and timely take on the one-year anniversary of the financial collapse.

Mediaite Grade (A-): Visually, the cover’s play with font and depth is sharp; the psuedo-pyramid of faces at the bottom, illuminated by the chilling glow of computer screens, is electric. Pick up Forbes for a smart, forward-looking take on the financial world, one year after the collapse.

businessweekIt’s a scary time for BusinessWeek. People are talking about buying the magazine for $1 . We wanted ">this cover to be a ray of light for the floundering title. Though cheap, spray-painting a gun gold and pasting it on the cover, wasn’t exactly the sizzle or pop we were hoping for.

Mediaite Grade (C+): We wonder, is there a BusinessWeek intern walking around somewhere with gold spray paint on his hands? We like the idea of putting a gun on the cover, but this one looks too fake, too gold. And the yellow at the top of the cover doesn’t exactly complement the gold below (not even yellow could make the “America’s Manufacturing Crisis” banner exciting). Add BusinessWeek’s big, red, blocky masthead to the mix and watch the colors clash. Let’s see some hustle, BusinessWeek.

COVER WARS WINNER: Forbes nailed the one-year anniversary with a cover that subtly acknowledged the bench mark, but took the story in a new direction — the future of finance. And they had fun with the cover — not too conservative, not too boring, not too tacky. Take notes, BW, before you’re liquidated.

E.L. Doctorow: Prophet, Comedian and Marriage Counselor

panelnerds-i-disagree-sir1Who: E.L. Doctorow in conversation with Anna Quindlen

What: Reading for Homer and Langley

Where: Barnes and Noble Union Square

When September 15, 2009

Thumbs: Up

E.L. Doctorow has been called many things in his lifetime, most notably one of the greatest writers of all-time. But now he can add a new moniker to that list: prophet.

Anna Quindlen speculated that Doctorow knows something the rest of us don’t as he has published several of his books at opportune times. During the heart of the Civil Rights era, Doctorow delivered Ragtime; The March coincided with the Iraq War; and now, as we grapple with the consequences of economic excess, Doctorow releases a novel depicting the Collyer brothers, famed New York City hoarders.

The book, Doctorow said, covers the mythical side of the Collyer brothers, and not the historic. He says, in general, he prefers to imagine rather than to research. Yet, when Doctorow speaks about the Collyer brothers, he describes them in full detail as if he knew them personally and intimately. It was difficult at times to determine whether Doctorow was discussing the Collyers as men who once lived or as characters in his novel who come alive for him in his book.

If the 78-year-old’s vigor wasn’t enough, Doctorow showed off his exceptional sense of humor. He was outgoing and personable, proclaiming that he tries to add a level of playfulness even to serious topics. Along those lines, Doctorow said that he enjoyed the musical version of Ragtime because it showed a softer side to a controversial era.

He even made light of his own controversy, stemming from public remarks he made in 2004 at Hofstra University. He said that he’s kept his personal beliefs out of his work, seeing speeches and other public engagements as opportunities to do something else entirely. He then spent some time revealing what a thrill it was for him to deliver a speech at the 35-yard-line of a football field.

What They Said

“Characters come to you whole. You don’t imagine them. They’re just there.”

- E.L. Doctorow’s description of writing characters reminded us a lot of Quentin Tarantino’s description

“It’s probably a dangerous thing in a marriage to let your spouse read your book.”

- E.L. Doctorow, whose  wife is the first reader of his works, like to live dangerously

“I got to the end of the book and I burst into tears, and I offer that to you with admiration.”

- Anna Quindlen’s closing remarks to E.L. Doctorow, a fitting tribute

“There are three things in life that will never fail you: Chekhov, Mozart and vodka.”

- E.L. Doctorow says his schedule backs up this claim

What We Thought

  • Quindlen began the night by talking about what she thought the book was about (brothers) versus what reviewers have argued (American consumerism). She has not only read the book in anticipation of the event, Quindlen has considered it and internalized it. This led to a natural dialogue as Quindlen got the chance to ask the author all of her questions from reading and examining the book.
  • It was interesting to listen to Doctorow defend the Collyers’ lifestyle saying that pack rats is not an accurate term to use for them. He called them aggregators and curators of their own museum of American life. We were moved by the brotherhood that Doctorow seemed to feel for the Collyers.
  • Doctorow entered publishing through the movie industry. He read a book a day for a film company and wrote memos outlining which books would be good motion pictures. He said he was encouraged to write a book after reading so many bad ones.


Some audience behavior seems to repeat itself panel after panel. We’ll be updating a running list of “PANEL RULES!” that will help ensure that you are not the dweeb of the Panel Nerds.

Panel Nerds don’t like…Rabble Rousers

The first rule of asking a question at a panel is that you must ask a question. (The second rule is “Don’t talk about Fight Club” – unless it’s a David Fincher panel.) If the hostess has to ask you to phrase your point in the form of a question, you’ve already shown why you shouldn’t have been called on in the first place. Bonus Panel Nerds suggestion: to ensure you are asking a question, use the word who, what, when, where, or why.

Panel Nerds Etan Bednarsh and Danny Groner are New York-based writers and avid panel-goers. Want them at your panel? Email them here:

Meet The Prensa: El Diario’s Case Against The “Hateful Lies” of Lou Dobbs

eldiarioloudobbs2New York’s preeminent Hispanic newspaper has had a spirited week.

On Monday, El Diario reprinted Sunday’s editorial of sister publication La Opinión, which made a good case for —take a deep breath, Representative Wilson— extending health care rights to illegal immigrants.

A few passages:

Excluding these residents from healthcare reform is a very bad public policy no matter how you look at it. In principle, we believe that access to medical attention is a basic human right. But beyond the issue of fundamental human compassion, health coverage for all those who reside in this country is an issue of health and the economy.

First, there is the obvious danger of the transmission of diseases, not because they are being brought from other countries but because of the lack of medical attention in the face of the local spread of the illness. Next, there is the issue of dollars. Preventive care is the most effective way to control costs. An early visit to the doctor is much cheaper than the emergency room visit by a seriously ill patient.

It is unacceptable that healthcare reform is being used to make immigration policy. It is outrageous that an insulting outburst [that of Joe Wilson] receives public condemnation but is a hidden victory that wrongs immigrants by taking away the little that they already have.

Now, Rossana Rosado’s newspaper has joined the Drop Dobbs campaign, an effort led by Latino rights organizations and Media Matters, and launched a full-force attack on the CNN anchor.

El Diario has repeatedly made the case against Lou Dobbs, proving the falsity of some of his statements and connecting his nightly rants to the beating and killing of Hispanics in the Tri-State Area. This time, the provocation was Dobb’s appearance at the “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” conference in Washington, organized by anti-immigrant group FAIR.

Says the editorial:

Latinos, immigrants and others have stomached the hateful lies of pundit Lou Dobbs for too long. Dobbs has crossed one too many lines on his CNN-supplied nightly platform. He has triggered a backlash that has grown across the United States and into Latin America.

For several years, Dobbs has relentlessly attacked immigrants on an almost daily basis. His disdain for Latinos and immigrants is as obvious as his disdain for facts.

For Dobbs, it was okay to report that “illegal aliens” were causing an increase in leprosy. False. For Dobbs, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is in cahoots with drug cartels. False. And for Dobbs, it was okay to fundraise on his CNN web site in support of a Pennsylvania town’s harsh anti-immigrant ordinances. Outrageous, all under the CNN umbrella as “the most trusted name in news.”

After displaying a graphic that came from the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, Lou Dobbs Tonight acknowledged its faulty vetting process. The Network called this action “regrettable.”

But the reality is that Dobbs does not think twice about working with white supremacists. He partners with the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a group he deems credible. The so-called “FAIR” was founded by the nativist and xenophobe John Tanton, who reportedly still sits on its board. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, FAIR was bankrolled for nine years by the Pioneer Fund, an outfit once described by eugenics expert Barry Mehler as a “neo-Nazi organization.”

…This begs questions about CNN. What responsibility does CNN itself have for turning its nightly prime-time broadcast over to a hate monger? Would the Network bring on KKK members to talk about issues affecting blacks? Would it allow Holocaust deniers to appear as regular experts on issues affecting Jews?

If this coalition will have the power to force Dobbs out of CNN remains to be seen. It would be an unprecedented victory for immigrant advocates in the middle of a complicated and explosive political scenario. But El Diario’s campaign seems unusually determined. For tomorrow, they promise an editorial on “the nativist groups that love Dobbs”.

Boycott Brewing Against Lou Dobbs

Campaign Video:

José Simián is a producer at NY1 Noticias, where he hosts a literature and music interview segment. His writing has appeared in NY Daily News, Huffington Post, Sports Illustrated Latino and Billboard en Español. He will be writing the “Meet The Prensa” column for Mediaite.

The Nation’s Health Care Headlines And What Obama’s Sunday TV Blitz Is Up Against

43245378Yesterday we reported that President Obama — who has made more public appearances than perhaps any sitting president in history — will be doing a “El Completo Ginsburg” on Sunday, hitting five Sunday shows. On Monday he’ll be on Letterman. It may be that the health care bill gets passed based purely Obama’s persistent willingness to shill for it.

Then again, maybe not. The media deluge of the last few weeks certainly hasn’t appeared to change the tone of the debate or the headlines. This morning ABC’s Rick Klein twittered out “read through healthcare headlines today and tell me why POTUS wouldn’t want a full Sunday circuit – if only to try to regain some order.” I still think the President should consider taking a chalkboard with him (or employ the term jackass more liberally). In the meantime, here’s a quick look at today’s headlines. It’s not encouraging.

“Baucus Offers Health Plan, Trimming Cost to $856 Billion” (NYT)

“Alarm Bell on Health Reform” (WaPo)

“Senate Health Bill Draws Fire on Both Sides” (NYT)

“Revolving door for health care aides” (Politico)

“Young Adults Likely to Pay Big Share of Reform’s Cost” (WaPo)

“Clergy focus on ethics of health overhaul” (USAT)

“Mandated Health Insurance Squeezes Those in the Middle (WSJ)

“Health costs to rise again” (Boston Globe)

“Snowe falls away, leaving Senate Dems without GOP health support” (The Hill)

“Obama takes heat from other side of immigrant healthcare debate” (LAT)

Imitation Is The Sincerest Form of Flattery, Or Something: The Atlantic 50

Picture 2Mediaite experienced some déjà vu this morning when the press release for the brand new Atlantic 50 landed in our inbox. The ‘50,’ we were informed “follows hundreds of leading opinion-makers and commentators to provide an essential framework to the day’s best analysis and most daring and important arguments.”

Sound familiar? To us, too! Some digging resulted in this explanation from Atlantic editors as to how they came up with their ‘50′:

* Influence: A survey of more than 250 Washington insiders – members of Congress, national media figures, and political insiders – in which respondents rank-ordered the commentators who most influence their own thinking

* Reach: Comprehensive data collection and analysis to measure the total audience of each commentator

* Web Engagement: In partnership with PostRank, a company specializing in filtering social media data, the Wire analyzed top commentators on 16 measures of webiness, including mentions on Twitter and performance on popular social media sites like Digg and Delicious

The final list is the result of an algorithm that brings together these three factors.

Such a great idea. Here’s part of the original explanation from our Mediaite Influence Index/Power Grid FAQ page:

What we feel is most unique about the rankings is the fact that our proprietary algorithm combines the traditional metrics used for judging influence, such as Rupert Murdoch’s estimated net worth or the estimated number of magazines Anna Wintour sells, or NBC’s estimated viewers, with less traditional metrics such as Google hits, Twitter influence, and amount of airtime on major television networks.

Somewhat similar, no? Smart ideas travel fast. Except, of course, instead of 50 people we rank 1581Paul Krugman’s power is not to be scoffed at! You can find them all here.

MPA Proclaims Dismal Newsstand “Solid” (Especially When Celebs Die!)

newsstandThere is a silver-lining to the ominous deathcloud hanging over the magazine industry — if you look hard enough.

The publishing advocacy group Magazine Publishers of America has ">disseminated a four-page document titled “The Full Story on Magazine Circulation Vitality” aimed at spinning the circ numbers released by the ABC at the end of August (single-copy sales are down 12 percent from last year).

But, according to the MPA, there’s plenty of good news:

• Subscriptions are up over the same period last year
• Newsstand sales increased in May through July compared to the first four months of the year
• Total circulation is stable (down only 1%) with subscription gains offsetting newsstand
declines in a tough economy and despite an unusual disruption of distribution
• Circulation executives are capitalizing on new technology options to market subscriptions
differently and more efficiently
• Magazine readership continues to grow

The White Sheet also mentions that for the duration of the recession consumers have substituted trips to warehouse stores and dollar stores for the supermarket, where glossies are readily available. The MPA also takes comfort in the $55 revenue spike from Michael Jackson commemorative issues and coverage.

Take comfort, American magazine publishers. It seems that nothing is wrong with your business models — it’s just that people won’t go out of their way to buy them unless a celebrity dies.

Photo courtesy of SubwayBlogger.

Despite Missed Deadline, Bloomberg Still Interested in BusinessWeek Bid

The deadline for final bids for BusinessWeek came and went yesterday, and the question on a lot of people’s minds was whether or not Bloomberg LP would bid. It’s been reported that the financial media giant expressed their interest in the troubled financial magazine very late into the process, so it’s expected that the company will get an extra couple of days to perform due diligence and decide upon its bid.

BusinessWeek’s Jon Fine reports:

Given Bloomberg’s late entry into the fray—-its interest kindled quickly last week, and a coterie of its company executives just met with BusinessWeek management on Monday—it’s expected that the company will get an extra couple of days to perform due diligence and decide upon its bid. (Slightly extended deadlines are not wholly unusual in sales of media properties.) A spokeswoman for Bloomberg declined to comment, and a McGraw-Hill spokesman did not respond to multiple messages on Tuesday evening.

A bid is expected from private equity player OpenGate Capital, the recent buyer of TV Guide, though a spokeswoman for the company declined to comment. Executives for ZelnickMedia declined to comment, though I see that private-equity player as a likely bidder as well. The ultimate intentions of Platinum Equity and Fast Company owner Joe Mansueto, both of whom have participated in the process thus far, were opaque, at least to me, as of 10 PM Tuesday evening. (Platinum is chasing a possible deal for the Boston Globe, according to the Globe itself; a Platinum spokesman said the company does not comment on potential acquisitions.)

Bloomberg is acting much like a company intending to place a bid, but then the same was true about Bruce Wasserstein a few days ago. As (horn toot alert) first reported here earlier today, New York magazine owner and Lazard Chairman Wasserstein decided not to bid for BusinessWeek after what multiple executives described as weeks of intensive study of the magazine’s operations–which continued into early this week. He and his representatives arrived at the decision to forego a bid late last night. Warburg Pincus also elected not to bid, say executives familiar with the situation.