Hollywood movies and glossy magazines–they go together like peanut butter and chocolate in this town, but rarely do they resemble anything like Rolling Stone ‘s weirdly prominent role in the promotion of the teenybopper film A Knight’s Tale .
For years, of course, movie companies have lifted choice phrases (“A Wow-Pow, Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Action Fest!”) out of critical reviews in newspapers for use in promotional materials. Sometimes, as with an artsy-fartsy movie, a film company may choose to run a large, gaseous excerpt, or maybe even an entire review, to impress the hyper-articulate cineaste audience.
But it’s rare for a major Hollywood film to pluck and exploit a single review for such a campaign. Yet that’s exactly what Columbia Pictures did with Peter Travers’ breathless endorsement of A Knight’s Tale in Rolling Stone.
“Forget Pearl Harbor, Jurassic Park 3, The Mummy Returns and the other hard-sell generic blockbusters heading for the multiplexes. The real deal is coming in under the radar,” Mr. Travers raved about the $41 million under the radar film in Rolling Stone ‘s April 12 “Cool” Issue.
That quote, naturally, went big and bold in subsequent advertisements for A Knight’s Tale under the heading: ” Rolling Stone Has Chosen One Cool Summer Movie.”
And there were more of Mr. Travers’ musings. ” A Knight’s Tale is a fourteenth-century jousting adventure in which armor is pierced and heads are cracked while Queen roar, ‘We will / we will / rock you.’ OK, it sounds like it sucks. But the movie plays like a dream.” Mr. Travers went on to praise star Heath Ledger as an “Aussie hunk” who lives up to the promise of his earlier hype, and lauded director-screenwriter Brian Helgeland for mixing up “pop-culture styles that span centuries with an unerring sense of fun and romance.”
“Purists be damned,” Mr. Travers’ mash note concluded. “You won’t be able to wipe the grin off your face.”
Saatchi & Saatchi couldn’t have done it better themselves. It was enough to make you think that Jann Wenner, Mr. Travers’ boss, had gotten back into the movie-producing biz. The last time around, Mr. Wenner was part of the colossal 1985 flop, Perfect , which featured John Travolta as (what else?) a Rolling Stone writer who was investigating an article about (and falling in love with) an aerobics instructor played by Jamie Lee Curtis. And, of course, there was last year’s Oscar-winning Almost Famous , which followed the adventures of adolescent Rolling Stone rock writer Cameron Crowe. Needless to say, Almost Famous enjoyed friendly press from the magazine that inspired it.
But no: All this was, a spokesman for Columbia assured Off the Record, a simple case of a movie company liking a movie review and using it prominently in its advertising.
And that was how Mr. Travers saw the incident, too. “I think Sony saw an opportunity to reach the teen market, and since that review was out there early, they exploited it.” Mr. Travers said he had little problem with the way it was used: “I don’t have an objection, because that’s what I said and that’s what I printed.”
Initially, the ad copy read: ” Rolling Stone Has Chosen the Cool Summer Movie!” Mr. Travers asked that the “the” be changed to “one” because he hadn’t seen most of the summer movies when he wrote his review–and even then, he had featured two “cool” movies. (The other is Waking Life , by Slacker director Richard Linklater.) Mr. Travers said the studio made the change when he asked for it.
The publicity people at Rolling Stone couldn’t sound happier. To Stu Zakim, the chief corporate communications officer at Wenner Media, the whole episode is yet another branding event for the magazine. “The studio’s embracing us furthers our reputation as being on the cutting edge of what is hip,” Mr. Zakim said. ” Rolling Stone has survived for 35 years because the consumer trusts its judgment. We didn’t do this to please Columbia Pictures.”
Of course, the studio has reason to be pleased: A Knight’s Tale opened on May 11 and brought in $17 million in its first weekend.
Talk magazine has a new editorial director: Maer Roshan, New York ‘s deputy editor.
Tina Brown had been trying to convince Mr. Roshan to come over to her fort for some time. Now he’s heading over to West 20th as Talk ‘s editorial No. 2, taking over for Bob Wallace, who was promoted to vice president of Talk Media.
Mr. Roshan’s hiring naturally raises some interesting questions. For starters, what will his chief responsibilities at the magazine be? Better yet: How does his hiring affect the involvement of Ms. Brown?
Ms. Brown said that Mr. Roshan’s job description does, in fact, include overseeing Talk ‘s day-to-day operations and assembling upcoming editorial lineups. Essentially, Ms. Brown said, Mr. Roshan will be running the magazine on a daily basis.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time on [the magazine], and I think it’s great to have Maer progress the editorial lineup so that writers can feel taken care of and don’t feel like it takes too long to get me on the phone,” Ms. Brown said. “Bob [Wallace] and I can really focus on the stuff we keep putting on the back burner.” Those back-burner items, Ms. Brown said, include concentrating on the book publishing and conference elements of the Talk Media business.
But make no mistake: Ms. Brown isn’t riding off into the sunset. Of Mr. Roshan, she said: “He knows that I’m very much still the editor in chief, and he knows he and I will work it out as things go by.” But, she added, “he has a lot of authority here to progress the magazine, to take it into its final stage of development.”
Mr. Roshan hinted that it was this type of authority–to oversee the editorial content of the magazine–that drew him to the job.
“It’s just this great opportunity,” he said of Talk . “Tina and Bob and [publisher] Ron [Galotti] have put together a great staff … I think they have done a great job with it so far.”
Still, Mr. Roshan said, “I have a million ideas.”
Many of his colleagues at New York felt that this day would eventually come. Mr. Roshan was first approached by Talk in 1999, after then-executive editor David Kuhn left for Steve Brill’s Contentville.com. (He later became editor in chief of Brill’s Content. ) Reportedly, a substantial offer was made–about twice Mr. Roshan’s New York salary, the word was–but Mr. Roshan opted to stay put after his New York boss, Caroline Miller, countered. “I didn’t double his salary,” Ms. Miller told Off the Record. “We offered something in the middle.”
But Ms. Miller didn’t think she’d keep Mr. Roshan forever. Indeed, Mr. Roshan was later tempted by Jason Binn’s start-up Gotham , but demurred. “Maer has expressed the desire to run his own shop for some time, and he thinks this is his opportunity,” Ms. Miller said. “I’m very happy for him.”
Mr. Roshan returned the praise. He said that Ms. Miller had been “very good” to him and called New York magazine, where he worked for six years, an “amazing place.” As an editor, Mr. Roshan had acquired a reputation for packaging cover stories and wooing subjects for feature articles. He played the central role in the formulation of New York ‘s recent “Gay Life Now” edition, and created a mild stir when he complained that prominent people were reluctant to pose for the magazine’s cover.
Mr. Galotti said he hoped that at Talk , Mr. Roshan would take national the “concepts he’s executed locally.”
“He gets the sensibility of Talk very well,” Mr. Galotti said.
Added Ms. Brown: “He always creates an energy with all the stories that he does. I thought his gay issue was absolutely terrific …. Everything that I’ve enjoyed in New York magazine seems to be one of the things he’s thought up. I think Caroline Miller is a terrific editor, but I know the Maer stories, if you know what I mean.”
You’re excused if you missed it, but on Friday, May 11, The Miami Herald and USA Today beat the big, bad national media consortium with the results of the first comprehensive examination of all the contested Presidential ballots in Florida. And the winner is … local Florida election officials, whose job doesn’t look so easy after all.
All in all, The Herald and USA Today (along with Herald parent Knight Ridder, and several Florida newspapers) looked at 111,261 overvotes and 64,826 undervotes and discovered–just shy of five months after the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the Florida debacle–that if you counted ballots using some methods, George W. Bush still would have won. If you counted the ballots using slightly more far-fetched methods, former Vice President Al Gore would have won. Essentially, this examination reinforced what we all knew at the time.
Meanwhile, the national media consortium–which includes The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, CNN and the Associated Press, among others–is still far away from releasing the results of its own study. But some associated with the consortium project say that they will probably produce results that are as gray as the Herald-USA Today examination .
“That may be the story,” said Ford Fessenden, a reporter and one of the consortium’s coordinators for The Times . “The story ultimately may be that this was too close to call.”
Originally The Herald, which was later joined by USA Today , had planned to examine only the undervotes. They hired an accountant and began cataloging the dimples and hanging chads of the undervotes in January. Soon after they started that process, however, Herald managing editor for news Mark Seibel said that USA Today reporter Dennis Cauchon came up with an idea for how to quickly examine overvotes by using election officials’ electronic records instead of manually examining each of the 111,261 overvotes. And so the papers quietly began a project to match the consortium’s effort.
Now that they’ve beaten the consortium to publication, Mr. Seibel said he’s pretty confident about his paper’s work. “Our ballot review is comprehensive,” he said. “We have looked at every ballot in the state now.” Of the consortium’s efforts, he said, “They’re fond of saying that what they have is the gold standard. I’m always very excited to look at the gold standard.”
The consortium is still weeks away from releasing its own results. A major delay has been caused by the consortium’s pursuit of all undervotes and overvotes reported on Election Day. Mr. Fessenden said that they have found in several counties that the number of overvotes and undervotes is less than the number election officials reported on election night. As a result, he said, the consortium has been going back to about a dozen county election supervisors and asking them to sort out the undervotes and overvotes again. In some instances, this has required litigation, he said.
“The attitude of the steering committee has been to do it right,” Mr. Fessenden said. As for why The Herald ended up so far ahead of the consortium, he said, “They started before us. And they haven’t been as picky about browbeating the supervisors to get more ballots.”
There are some personnel changes afoot at The New York Times. For starters, Todd Purdum will become the new Adam Clymer. Around Labor Day, Mr. Purdum, the Los Angeles bureau chief, will move over to the Washington, D.C., bureau, where “in due course,” as D.C. bureau chief Jill Abramson put it in a recent memo, “it is expected he’ll emerge as our next Washington correspondent.” Mr. Clymer is currently the Washington correspondent.
Adam Nagourney will then become the new Todd Purdum and move to La-La Land. Mr. Nagourney, the paper’s metropolitan political writer, will stay in New York until the end of the Mayoral campaign. No word yet on who will replace him.
Elisabeth Bumiller will become the new Frank Bruni. Ms. Bumiller, currently the City Hall bureau chief, will move to D.C. to cover the White House. Jennifer Steinhauer will be the new Elisabeth Bumiller. Ms. Steinhauer, who currently is a health reporter, will take over the City Hall job.
For his part, Mr. Bruni will be the new James Bennet. Following the pattern of the last young (for The Times, at least) reporter thrown into the crucible of a Presidential campaign, Mr. Bruni will get off the daily grind and take up a spot as a political writer for The Times Magazine .
James Bennet will be the new Deborah Sontag. Mr. Bennet will go back to reporting by taking over the Jerusalem job. Ms. Sontag, in turn, will be returning to New York and writing for the Magazine .
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