As the recipient of the 2000 National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association New York Sportswriter of the Year Award, perennially cranky New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick is entitled to three days of all-expenses-paid fun in the sun in late April in Salisbury, N.C., where the traditionally fit and svelte NSSA membership will hold their annual hoe-down.
But Mr. Mushnick isn’t going. Turns out that the NSSA winners-who this year include Bob Costas and Mr. Mushnick’s Post colleague and NBC loudmouth, Peter Vecsey-have their way paid by corporate sponsors, including Nike.
Readers of Mr. Mushnick’s column know that the curmudgeonly scribe ha-a-ates Nike. And, true to form, Mr. Mushnick hated the fact that his potentially pleasant sportswriters’ weekend was going to be partially paid for by an athletic-wear manufacturer stained by repeated allegations of worker exploitation, not to mention its commercialization of athletics in general.
“It was disappointing to see a journalistic entity have Nike sponsorship, on a personal level-and only on a personal level-because I think a good sportswriter or a good sportscaster should really just be beating the shit out of Nike for how it’s bastardized sports,” Mr. Mushnick said.
Taking a moral stand isn’t always a picnic, however. They have a really sweet golf course down in North Carolina. But when it was made known that Nike would sponsor the golf tournament, Mr. Mushnick Just Couldn’t Do It.
“They have a beautiful golf outing at a Salisbury country club,” Mr. Mushnick said. “But when I saw that it was Nike, I thought, ‘I’m just going to say that I’m busy.'” (Turns out Mr. Mushnick actually is busy; he’s got a bar mitzvah to attend.)
Barbara Lockert, the program coordinator at the NSSA, was familiar with Mr. Mushnick’s problems with Nike, but it didn’t sound like she was ready to scrap the tournament. “Phil has problems with a lot of things,” Ms. Lockert said, “but as far as I’m concerned, the only way we can pay for three days of people coming down here is through our sponsors.”
In a two-tabloid newspaper war, no slight should go unnoticed. That’s why Daily News publisher Mortimer Zuckerman has people like Ken Frydman on his payroll.
One night last December, Mr. Frydman, the Daily News publicist, was home watching the WNYW-Fox 5 10 O’Clock News when he noticed that a catchy regular segment entitled the “NY Minute” featured a few seconds of footage from a Daily News–sponsored event. But while the event-a student sing-along entitled “Festival of Voices 2000”-was mentioned, the Daily News wasn’t, even though it occurred at the newspaper’s headquarters on West 33rd Street. According to Fox, it just happened “in midtown.”
Mr. Frydman wondered: Had WNYW Fox 5, which is owned by New York Post publisher Rupert Murdoch, instituted a blackout of all mentions of the Daily News?
Apoplectic, Mr. Frydman called up during that night’s broadcast to complain. According to a letter he recently wrote to Fox 5 news director Susan Sullivan, he was told by the night assignment editor, Joe Farrington, that the station had begun “‘enforcing a longstanding policy’ of either not crediting the Daily News for stories … or simply omitting any mention of the Daily News.”
Holy Pravda! Off the Record called Mr. Farrington to see if his recollection of the conversation jibed with Mr. Frydman’s version, but we were quickly rushed over to Fox 5 general manager Michael Wach, who said that no policy of blacking out the Daily News exists-and that Mr. Farrington denied ever telling Mr. Frydman that one ever existed.
Of course, you know what happened next. On the following day, Dec. 19, Fox 5 picked up two stories plugged as exclusive in that day’s Daily News without giving the paper any credit: a news feature about Donald Trump’s legal battle with his nephew, and an investigation into the city’s crackdown on illegal loft apartments in Brooklyn.
While the loft story was chased by various city outlets-fueled by some remarks reacting to the News’ story at Mayor Giuliani’s press conference that day-it looked as if Fox 5 had simply lifted the Daily News reporting on the Trump family squabble without ever saying where they got it.
According to Mr. Frydman, he was told by the TV station that a Daily News credit had been in the original Trump story script but had “fallen off,” which Mr. Frydman believes was intentional.
In Fox 5’s defense, Mr. Wach said the Daily News is regularly credited on his newscasts-about five times a month, he said-just not in these instances. “I’m not going to get into specifics about who said what and when because it’s useless,” Mr. Wach said. “We have demonstrated a policy of crediting the Daily News when necessary, as we do with any other media outlet.”
Starting March 1, Us Weekly design director Rina Migliaccio will be trading publisher Jann (“Mr. Clean”) Wenner’s immaculately kept offices for the recently de-moused headquarters of Talk magazine, where she’ll take the reins as design director. Ms. Migliaccio, who started at Us when it was still a monthly-ah, those carefree days, when reflective Us staffers could smell the celebrity roses and didn’t have to crash breaking stories like they did last week for Tom and Nic’s breakup-gave the Wenner title its shiny new look when it went weekly last year.
So is Ms. Migliaccio going to start messing with Talk? A spokesperson for Talk downplayed any major aesthetic changes in the magazine. “There is no redesign. She’s here to strengthen what we already have,” said the spokesperson, who said that Ms. Migliaccio will work alongside Talk’s moonlighting creative consultant, Oliviero Toscani.
One office perk Ms. Migliaccio gets by coming to work for Tina Brown: free magazines! Sources at Wenner Media said that after the company found out it was blowing more than $300,000 on magazine subscriptions, it decided to cancel them all. Staffers now need approval from their bosses-“Sir, mind if we sign up for an annum of Horse & Hound?”-to buy maggies.
“When you have eight years of growth, there’s a lot of fat,” one Wenner insider said of the subscription rollback. “So we’re looking at subscriptions, like any company would do.”
Word going around the office is that the most popular subscription at Wenner was Men’s Health, a stiff competitor to Wenner’s Men’s Journal.
David Zinczenko, Men’s Health’s editor in chief, was thrilled to hear the news on a recent night at Lotus, where the Emmaus, Pa.–based magazine was celebrating its fashion issue. “If they [Wenner Media] cancel all their subscriptions to Men’s Health, where are they going to get all their ideas from?” Mr. Zinczenko asked.
Yo, yo, Pinch-Dogg! Check it, son! If nothing else, the theatrical trial of Sean (Puffy) Combs is proving to be an opportunity for The New York Times to give its well-mannered readership a badly needed Berlitz class in hip-hop terminology.
Primary teaching duties go to Times reporter Katherine Finkelstein, who thus far has informed the paper’s readers that inside the hip-hop world Mr. Combs and his associates inhabit, unloading a handgun is called “busting off,” wealth is known as “bling bling,” “two pulls” on a marijuana cigarette constitute two puffs, and diamonds are known as “ice.”
Also thanks to Puffy, Times readers who typically get their swerve on with Paul Krugman or the Saturday Arts & Ideas section learned that refusing to smack Mr. Combs five in a hip-hop nightclub may be enough to provoke trouble; that a fight may occur when someone throws a wad of cash in someone else’s face; and that a large man may be described as “Ray Lewis, two levels down,” in a reference to the Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.
Whether any of this surfaces in William Safire’s Sunday “On Language” column, of course, is anyone’s guess. But mad props to Ms. Finkelstein and the rest of her N.Y.T. posse.