Atlanta Magazine Editor Faults Rolling Stone Over Allman Brothers Article

WILL COLUMNIST-TURNED-EDITOR Michael Kelly get the best out of The Atlantic Monthly –knock some roughness and vibrancy into that genteel publication–or will it get the best of him?

“It is a little bit more formal than some places,” Mr. Kelly said, soon after putting the final touches on his first issue, which will be out Feb. 15. “It is a place that consciously has decided not to do the new thing just because it’s the new thing.”

He added that he likes the magazine’s editing system, which still relies on pencils and paper.

“This is a form of editing that you could say is formal and old-fashioned but it is a superior way of editing,” he said. “Both the author and the piece are treated with great respect.”

His first issue is in keeping with the magazine’s traditional mix of Brahmin social conservatism and good government. The cover story deals with the relationship between research universities and the corporations that fund their work. Inside, an essay by Joseph Bottum, the books and arts editor for The Weekly Standard , who argues that the ubiquity of music in public life–in Starbucks or the Gap, say–is tantamount to a moral pollution.

“He makes a wonderful–and to many people, infuriating–argument that this is what is wrong with the world,” Mr. Kelly said.

Mr. Kelly selected articles for the first issue out of what was left over from William Whitworth’s reign. For future issues, he said, he wants to “see more narrative, long-form nonfiction–again, this is in the tradition of the magazine.” He also said he wants to beef up the literary coverage, with more book reviews as well as coverage of the literary world.

All of this, he admits, won’t radically increase The Atlantic ‘s profitability. “I think you have to go into this with it as a given that this is a very hard way to make money,” Mr. Kelly said. “If you are modest in your aims financially and ambitious in your aims editorially, hopefully you can find some middle ground.”

Mr. Kelly, who is originally from Washington and first hit it big as a political reporter at the Baltimore Sun in the late 80′s, has handed off day-to-day control of the other magazine he edits, the National Journal , but is keeping his title of editor in chief–or, as he put it, “annoying kibitzer.” He’s shuttling between Boston and Washington. Both publications are owned by David Bradley.

JIM SEYMORE, who has filled the managing editor’s slot at Entertainment Weekly for the last 10 years, has signed up for three more years of running the magazine.

Mr. Seymore’s run is some kind of record within the new Time Inc. None of the other current managing editors has stayed put as long as he has. Since Norman Pearlstine came aboard as editor in chief of this Time Warner branch in 1994, the only No. 1 editors at the Time Inc. magazines (including Time , People and Life ) not to have been swept out the door or nudged to other assignments are Mr. Seymore and Martha Nelson of In Style .

He took over in June 1990, just four months after the launch, when the magazine was looking like a disaster. In the decade since, Entertainment Weekly has become a cash cow for Time Inc., posting record circulation and advertising numbers for 1999. Ad revenue for last year was up 23.9 percent over 1998, at $206 million.

ROLLING STONE ran a brief clarification on its letters page in the Feb. 3 issue, stating: “Some of the information on the Allman Brothers Band in R.S. 826–particularly that concerning the death of Duane Allman–came from Scott Freeman’s Allman Brothers’ biography, Midnight Riders . The book should have been credited as a source in the article.”

That clarification was not enough for Mr. Freeman, a senior editor at Atlanta magazine. “I’m not satisfied with what they did, because they did the least they could possibly do,” he said.

Mr. Freeman was particularly displeased with the notion that his Allman Brothers book was “a source” for the Rolling Stone article. As far as he’s concerned, it was the source for the article, which was written by Gavin Edwards and ran in the Nov. 25 issue of Rolling Stone .

So in a Jan. 25 letter to Rolling Stone assistant managing editor Joe Levy, he wrote: “Joe, right here and now I offer you a challenge. Meet it and I’ll shut up forever,” he wrote. “I challenge you to show me where Gavin Edwards found his information …” He added, “I don’t think you’ll send the source material. I don’t think you can send it. Gavin Edwards never had it. He had my book. Period.”

Mr. Freeman sent his first angry letter to Mr. Levy on Nov. 11. “Let’s be real: Your writer has no source for that information other than Midnight Riders ,” Mr. Freeman wrote. “This guy took something I worked on for two and a half years and basically stole it in broad daylight. All he had to do is attribute the information once or twice, make a gesture. My God, how much effort does that take?”

Reached for comment, Mr. Levy said, “The book should have been credited,” and added, “It was my understanding that Scott was satisfied with the correction that we ran, that he was satisfied with the way the magazine dealt with the problem he saw.”

Mr. Edwards, a freelance writer, could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Freeman said he spent a weekend with his girlfriend comparing passages from his book to Mr. Edward’s article and discovered many similarities. Then he consulted a lawyer, who told him he probably didn’t have much of a case.

“Legally speaking, I don’t have a case for plagiarism,” said Mr. Freeman, “but morally–certainly.”

STEVE DUNLEAVY, the cop-friendly columnist for the New York Post , visited a Des Moines jail on Jan. 22. No, he wasn’t trying to make sources in Iowa. He was sobering up.

As it was first reported in the Des Moines Register , Mr. Dunleavy, 65, was arrested that evening at the Des Moines International Airport for public intoxication and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors.

“The pilot said, ‘He’s drunk and I’m not going to take him,’” said Sgt. Bruce Elrod of the Des Moines Police Department.

As the responding police officer arrived at around 7 P.M., according to the report, he heard Mr. Dunleavy threaten two airline workers, saying if he got stranded, his buddies would “fuck them up.”

The officer gave Mr. Dunleavy a choice of either leaving the airport and coming back when he was sober, or going to jail. “He said, ‘You might as well take me to jail, it would make a great story,’” according to Sergeant Elrod.

At the police station, the Iowa cops asked Mr. Dunleavy to take a Breathalyzer test. “He told the officer he was too drunk to know if he wanted to take the test,” said Sergeant Elrod.

Mr. Dunleavy spent four hours in jail, the minimum for someone picked up on public intoxication charges, and then was released on a $325 bond (which he paid in cash). Despite the unplanned trip, Mr. Dunleavy still managed to file columns for Sunday and Monday.

Post spokesman Howard Rubenstein read Off the Record this statement: “The New York Post will not make any comment concerning Dunleavy. He continues to write a brilliant and exciting column for the newspaper.”

Once his trial date is set, he has the choice of returning to Iowa to plead not guilty, or sending a lawyer who can plead guilty for him. Mr. Dunleavy faces up to a $100 fine and 30 days in jail for each of the charges.

Mr. Dunleavy, now in New Hampshire, could not be reached for comment.

At the bottom of the report, the arresting officer wrote: “Suspect was making irrational comments and said he was worried I hadn’t fought in a war.”