New Yorker Learns Reports of García Márquez’s Death Are Grossly Exaggerated

On July 9, The New Yorker received, via fax, “what looked like a press release from Newsweek.com” announcing the death of the Nobel Prize-winning Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez. It was a hoax. It nearly worked, sending New Yorker staff members into a flurry of phone calls.

“It was Friday, when the magazine closes,” said New Yorker literary and fiction editor Bill Buford, who said he’d called several of his friends with the bad news. “We had a story by García Márquez that could have run. It could have been embarrassing. But it didn’t check out.”

Like all convincing hoaxes, this one was effective partly because it had some grounding in reality: Mr. García Márquez, 72, was admitted to a hospital in Bogotá on June 24, suffering from “general exhaustion syndrome,” and had previously been treated for a tumor in his lung.

A woman at Mr. García Márquez’s agency in Barcelona confirmed that the writer was still alive and that reports of his death were “just a stupid joke, probably.”

Faced with paying for its expensive coverage in Kosovo, The New York Times asked its various departments in mid-May to try to cut back 5 percent on spending for the rest of the year. But according to sources in the photo department, the collateral damage fell especially hard on them: The photo department has been asked to cut back around 20 percent of its budget.

The photo desk is “definitely the hardest hit,” said one Times source. The Times is laying off nonunion workers at the photo desk and editors are being “more circumspect” in making photo assignments to freelancers, according to Times sources.

But Times assistant managing editor Allan Siegal said, “The request for budget savings has been no greater for photo than for any other department.” He would not go into specific numbers about how much people were asked to save, but noted, “The budget is a very fluid thing here.”

The Star wants to move beyond the supermarket checkout line. Right now it’s not much different from its sister publication, The National Enquirer . But when American Media chief executive David Pecker gets through with it, it’ll be his version of the celebrity-fuzzy holy grail of magazines right now, In Style , or the European fame chronicler, Hello! That’s the plan, anyway.

Peter Arnell, who designed Elle when Mr. Pecker ran its parent company, Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, is redoing the Star and setting up an ad campaign for the fall to knock home its new image. American Media is also looking for midtown space for the Star , which has its headquarters in Tarrytown, N.Y. The Enquirer ‘s offices are in Lantana, Fla. A proper New York bureau is going to be set up for it under its new news editor, Barry Levine, who was brought in from the syndicated TV show Extra last month.

Mr. Pecker had talks with the New York Post ‘s Page Six columnist, Richard Johnson, this past spring about having some role at the new Star , but nothing came of it. “Richard chose to stay at the Post because he’s got such a good job,” said Ed Hayes, the lawyer who represents Mr. Johnson.

Condé Nast skipper Steve Florio completed his nautically themed Oyster Bay, L.I., home not long ago, and you can examine his taste in the new issue of the Condé Nast magazine House & Garden . Mr. Florio is coyly referred to as “a top executive at a large media company” in the text. Adding to the giggles, the piece tells about how, when planning the house, his wife “went through dozens of magazines (she could!)” to find what she was looking for.

Condé Nast spokesman Maurie Perl confirmed that it was Mr. Florio’s house, explaining that, “it’s a fairly common practice” to not include the owner’s name in the magazine, so that “the focus is on the house and the architect and not on the owners.”

The house, described as a “turn-of-the-century shingled cottage with a dramatic foyer, graceful wraparound porches and … views from every window,” is situated near those of Richard Aurelio, the retired president of New York 1 News, Charles Dolan, the chairman of Cablevision Systems Corporation, and Charles Wang, the chief executive of Computer Associates International Inc. It’s across an inlet from the Seawanhaka Yacht Club, where Mr. Florio is a member.

True to his job as Condé Nast president, Mr. Florio has got the product placement going: Ralph Lauren Home Collection is his designer of choice. Apropos of nothing, a white box marked “Chanel” is pictured on the living room table.