More Bad Vibes at Miller Publishing

The announcement Aug. 4 of the departure of Danyel Smith as editor of Vibe -she was replaced, oddly many at the magazine felt, by the magazine’s fashion editorial director, Emil Wilbekin-was followed Aug. 9 by the announcement that three people running the Vibe Web site were quitting.

Those three people are Nathan Misner, Reggie Miller and Leslie Sokolowsky. They also ran the on-line versions of Spin and Blaze magazines, which are put out by Vibe ‘s parent, Miller Publishing Company.

“We’re starting our own thing,” said Mr. Misner.

Apparently, the three have privatized themselves. The three offered to continue doing their jobs on contract from the outside, rather than as Miller staff members.

Anne Welch, vice president of operations for Miller Publishing, said she hasn’t decided whether to take them up on their proposal, which they gave to her on Aug. 10. “I told them I’d give them an answer by the end of the week,” she said. But Ms. Welch didn’t sound like she was in a hurry. “I just don’t feel handicapped right now without them,” she said.

The three who quit apparently were frustrated that Miller wasn’t funding the on-line versions of the magazines heavily enough, while at the same expecting them to make a good profit.

Miller’s on-line operation has not run aground. “There are still people working on all these titles,” said a Miller spokesman.

Sex columnist Amy Sohn is leaving the New York Press for the promised land of the New York Post ‘s Living section.

Ms. Sohn started writing for the Press after sending in an unsolicited manuscript about her romantic frustrations in 1996. At the time, she was nine months out of Brown and trying to make it as an actress. Her column, which seemed to give detailed accounts of her sexual adventures in New York, was a hit for the free weekly. On the strength of the column, Ms. Sohn got a deal for a novel with Simon & Schuster; the book, Run, Catch, Kiss , came out in July. Naturally, Ms. Sohn is now working on a screenplay. Her last column is set for the Aug. 17 issue of the Press .

It was easy to leave. “We have no contracts with writers,” said Press editor in chief and chief executive Russ Smith. “They don’t get benefits. They’re freelancers.”

Ms. Sohn described her departure as “not at all Siftonesque,” referring to Sam Sifton, a former Press writer and editor who left for Talk magazine. Following that departure, Mr. Smith had some bitter words for Mr. Sifton in his Mugger column.

Will Ms. Sohn miss the Press ? “Hmmmmm, I’m gonna miss it because it was a great launching pad for me,” she said. “But am I going to miss writing about the most intimate details of my life every week for 250,000 people? No. And besides, I have a boyfriend now.”

At the Post , Ms. Sohn will join such notable life style columnists as Meredith Berkman and Susan Brady Konig.

Three freelance writers for Bikini magazine are suing its parent company, Ray Gun Publishing, for allegedly not paying them, and several others are considering doing the same thing. Bikini , a men’s monthly, has veered away from its artsy roots in an attempt to become profitable since it was sold a year ago in April. But staff paychecks were late this past April.

One writer said she has been having trouble trying to cash a check she got from Ray Gun Publishing. “In a week’s space I went five times,” she said. “They basically laughed at me.” She’s been reluctant to sue so far. “I feel like I’m putting in more work getting paid than the actual work I did for them,” she said.

Writer Craig Rosen said he’s owed “at least $1,000 for two features and one record review I did for Bikini … Yes, I’m considering suing. It’s turned me off freelancing for life.” Jennifer King said she’s owed $1,250 for an article for the May 1999 Bikini. “Since they fired my editor, Erik Himmelsbach, … I have not heard a peep from them, despite numerous phone calls, e-mails and invoices.” She’s planning to file Aug. 16 unless she gets paid in cash. Other writers apparently owed money include Jennifer Vineyard and David Ulin, who said he was planning to file Aug. 11 if he didn’t hear back from the magazine.

Mr. Himmelsbach filed suit Aug. 2 over $600. Freelancers Sandy Fertman and Vince Beiser, who are each owed about $1,000, have also filed. Calls to Ray Gun Publishing president Seth Seaberg were not returned.

A new byline in the Circuits section of The New York Times has been catching readers’ eyes lately: Jennifer 8. Lee.

It looks weird. It’s not a typo. And it’s working for her.

Ms. Lee, a Times intern, is a cheerful recent graduate of Harvard College. “Every place I’ve ever worked, someone’s written a story about it!” she said. So here’s another one. Her résumé includes internships at The Boston Globe , where a giveaway paper called The Improper Bostonian wrote about it, and The Washington Post , where the Washington City Paper did a piece on her. She’s also written for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal . All have printed her distinctive byline, although The Journal gave her some trouble about it. The Times , Ms. Lee said, “was very chill about it. It’s the least problem I’ve had at any paper.”

Circuits editor Jim Gorman backed her up on this. Was Allan Siegal, the assistant managing editor in charge of guarding Times style, resistant? “As far as I know, there was no question,” Mr. Gorman said. “I had a casual conversation about it and I said it’s her middle name, so I guess we’re going to run it. They said O.K.”

What good is a middle name like “8.” if you can’t get a piece out of it? Ms. Lee wrote one, in the Living section of The Globe ‘s Aug. 8, 1996, edition: “My wacky middle initial arose from the generic quality of the rest of my name. In their great wisdom, my parents decided to pair Lee, the second most common Chinese surname, with the most popular name for newborn girls in 1976, Jennifer.”

Clearly something had to be done. So she adopted that wacky “8.,” “a lucky numeral in Chinese numerology,” she said. It’s on her Harvard diploma, it’s on her driver’s license, checks and credit cards. Best of all, in the clutter of The Times , it has gotten her a memorable byline. A brand. Everybody needs a brand these days, right?

“I guess, ah, yeah,” Ms. Lee said. “I never thought of it that way.”

Condé Nast Publications abandoned 350 Madison Avenue with its executives claiming that the place was old and falling apart. For one thing, they said, the elevators kept getting stuck.

So it was rather upsetting that the elevators in the gleaming new building at 4 Times Square seemed to be having problems, too. Almost as soon as the magazines began moving, there were rumors of elevators making sudden multifloor drops or the doors opening and there be nothing but … shaft … where the cabs should be. All of which could be dismissed as paranoid urban legend until Allure editor Linda Wells was trapped in the elevator the evening of Aug. 4.

Jill Bright, the head of Condé Nast’s human resources, sent an e-mail out on Aug. 6, not naming Ms. Wells but explaining that a rider was “detained” by the elevator as a result of a safety feature. Apparently, “when the computer which monitors elevator service detected that the safety switch was not functioning properly, the elevator was automatically placed in a locked position until the potential problem could be detected and remedied.” The memo went on to say: “While this delay was very unfortunate, and of course concerning to the individuals in the elevator, it was the result of a precautionary feature which is critical to the safety of the elevator. Our elevators are equipped with several such features to ensure the safest elevator service possible.”

Ms. Wells was alone in the stuck elevator. To get out, she said, she “pressed the alarm. That went off for a while and nothing happened. So I shouted. Finally, one of the maintenance workers heard me and rescued me.” She added that she likes the new building very much.

Katherine Betts, the new editor of Harper’s Bazaar , is remaking that magazine in the image of her last place of employment: Vogue . Ms. Betts, who has been spending her time lately in East Hampton, L.I., on maternity leave, has hired away Vogue fashion writer Kristina Zimbalist, Vogue production director Dawn Roode. She has also looked to Condé Nast Publications for Allure market editor Samira Aboul Nasr. And the Betts regime at Harper’s Bazaar will go forward without features director Eve MacSweeney. who left the magazine Aug. 9. “Resigned to pursue other interests,” said a magazine spokesman.

Former Philadelphia magazine editor Eliot Kaplan, now serving as Hearst Magazines’ talent scout, has been helping the new editor find new people. Ms. Betts took the job of Harper’s Bazaar editor in July, months after the death of Elizabeth Tilberis. Meanwhile,as the Daily News reported Aug.10, Vogue editor Anna Wintour has hired Harper’s Bazaar fashion director Tonne Goodman. What’s next, a panty raid?