New York Sun Editors Discuss Their Game Plan, the Risk and Their Four Employees

Well, they’re almost here. On Tuesday Jan. 15, The New

York Sun, New York City’s conservative-leaning, next daily newspaper,

officially announced itself to the world as a defender of, among other things,

“lower taxes and school choice.”

But while many pieces of Sun

gossip were publicly confirmed by the announcement-boldface investors like

Conrad Black; Ira Stoll and Seth Lipsky as the paper’s editor and managing

editor, respectively-it failed to mention when the paper might be coming out.

Sources told Off the Record that The Sun was hoping for a mid-March arrival,

but Mr. Stoll was more vague. “We’re saying spring,” he said. “It’s kind of

like the special forces moving into Afghanistan. You don’t want to exactly say

when you’re coming in.”

The paper has hired some reporters, however: Rachel P. Kovner, a

2001 Harvard Crimson editor who has written for Mr. Stoll’s New York Times -critiquing Web site

Smartertimes.com and is the daughter of Sun

investor Bruce Kovner, as well as Ben Smith, a former stringer for The Wall

Street Journal Europe , who also has contributed to the Web site.

“We’ve hired four people,” Mr. Lipsky said. He said the other two

were his longtime personal assistant, and someone to help set up the computers.

“But we’ve been inundated with résumés, hundreds of them. We’re in the process

of working through them.”

Sources said, Mr. Lipsky and Mr. Stoll have also reached out to

Seth Mnookin-the former Inside.com

media writer who worked for the pair at their previous incarnation, Forward . Neither Mr. Mnookin nor Mr.

Stoll, however, would comment on the situation.

Sources also said the paper might turn to some outside columnists

to help fill their pages. One name mentioned was Caroline Baum-a columnist

covering bonds for Bloomberg News. A longtime Federal Reserve watcher, she was

once described by Alan Greenspan as “the only person who can make the

flattening of the yield curve sound pornographic.”

When asked for comment, Ms. Baum said, “I really have no idea.

You’d have to ask Seth Lipsky or Ira Stoll about it.” Mr. Lipsky confirmed his

appreciation of Ms. Baum’s work, but declined to say if her byline would appear

in the paper.

“I’m a huge fan of Caroline Baum,” Mr. Lipsky said, “Huge. But we

haven’t hired her and we haven’t subscribed to her column.”

In the meantime, there are plenty of other issues left to solve.

The skeleton staff has barely moved into the paper’s offices at 105 Chambers

Street. Mr. Lipsky said they were still unsure where the paper would be

printed, how many pages an average issue will be and how much it would cost.

The Sun’s team of investors are reportedly putting up $15 million to launch the

paper, a figure some skeptics have found paltry for a daily start-up.

“All I can say is that it’s

risky and it’s worth the risk,” Mr. Lipsky said of the financial naysayers.

“I’m here and I’m doing it.”

-Sridhar Pappu

Throughout the dot-com boom, Jason McCabe Calacanis

played the part of P.T. Barnum, hyping New York Internet companies to the high

heavens in the pages of his magazine, Silicon

Alley Reporter , and his handful of e-mail newsletters.

When it came to self-promotion, Mr. Calacanis was no slouch,

either. But there is the possibility of doing something too well. For example,

take an Oct. 8 story in The New York

Times . The news was that Mr. Calacanis had decided to stop publishing Silicon Alley Reporter and instead

launch Venture Reporter , a magazine

that would chronicle venture-capital deals and trends. It’s a canny move; after

all, with nearly every dot-com strapped for cash, learning who’s got the money

has become that much more important.

“The story’s over,” the quotable Mr. Calacanis told The Times of his decision to shut down Silicon Alley Reporter. “You can’t have

a magazine about unemployed people. You can’t have a magazine about people who

are taking time off.”

But when the story appeared, with the headline “Requiem for a

Cheerleader: Silicon Alley Magazine Is Dead,” the piece backfired on Mr.

Calacanis: Many people in the industry (including this reporter) assumed that

Mr. Calacanis and his trade publishing company were going out of business. They

weren’t going out of business; they were simply folding one magazine and

launching another.

Soon after the story was published, Mr. Calacanis complained to

Tim Race, the Monday business editor at The

Times , and asked for a correction.

“I’m furious about this,” Mr. Calacanis told Off the Record. “I

lost advertising over this. I can’t tell you how many sales calls I’ve been on

where people say, ‘I thought you shut down,’ and then we spend the first 10

minutes explaining how The New York Times got it wrong.”

Still, it was a muddy situation, because the story about Mr.

Calacanis’ plans, written by Amy Harmon, was factually accurate.

“The Silicon Alley Reporter

… has published its last issue,” Ms. Harmon wrote. But later, she noted that

“Mr. Calacanis, 30, plans to begin publishing a magazine about venture capital

investment called Venture Reporter

beginning in December.”

If anything, the confusion might have been caused by

headlines-along with the “Requiem” headline, there was a teaser on the digest

of the Business Day section which used the headline, “The Silicon Alley

Reporter Closes.”

So now, as Mr. Calacanis touts his new title, he’s been sure to

take a few digs at The Times .

Recently, he sent out an e-mail announcing the first issue of Venture Reporter had come back from the

printers. “What, you thought we were out of business just because the New York Times said so?!?!?! Please,” he

wrote.

That was enough for Mr. Race to write back, “Whatever it takes to

be off your list of gratuitous swipes at the Times , please do.”

Mr. Calacanis replied, “You’re not on a list Tim … was a personal

email from me.”

Mr. Race thinks The Times

did nothing wrong. “As I’ve tried to tell him any number of times, anyone who

read our Oct. 8 article and came away with the idea that he and his company had

gone out of business doesn’t read well enough for their opinions to count for

much in public discourse,” he told Off the Record.

Mr. Race said he feels The

Times didn’t err because Mr. Calacanis had in fact been planning a mock

funeral for Silicon Alley Reporter .

“He had been planning to hold a mock funeral for the publication, until the

events of Sept. 11 made Jason conclude that such an event might be in bad

taste,” he said. “For having that much good sense, I give him full credit.”

-Gabriel Snyder

The New York Times Book Review has

decided to start placing original poetry alongside its reviews, best-seller

lists and page-long ruminations about how it’s really O.K. to hate your books. Book Review editor Charles McGrath said

the decision was a natural one, given the fact that the review had published

excerpted poems in the past. “It won’t be every week,” Mr. McGrath said. “I

don’t want to be in a position where we have to fill a slot that we can’t

deliver on.”

-S.P.

The events of last

fall led lots of suddenly heartfelt, earnest magazine editors to put less

“relevant” projects aside. Esquire

editor David Granger canceled the magazine’s annual “Dubious Achievement

Awards.” GQ eliminated its “Man of

the Year” award show. And, as it turns out, Vanity

Fair ‘s Graydon Carter put a completed, special issue of the magazine into

publishing purgatory, where it remains to this day.

The doorstop in question is a

prototype of a Vanity Fair devoted

entirely to design, according to Spencer Beck, the man who put it together. Mr.

Beck, formerly the editor in chief of Los

Angele s, said he spoke to Mr. Carter about the project for a couple of

months before he moved back to New York in January 2001 to work on it. Over a

period of several months Mr. Beck toiled on the project with the art department

and a few senior editors.

Mr. Beck declined to comment on the contents of the issue, saying

only that it was “devoted to design A-Z, but with a Vanity Fair point of view.” After Sept. 11 Mr. Beck said he and Mr.

Carter spoke about the project, but that “Graydon’s attention is now on stories

about terrorism.”

A Vanity Fair

spokesperson said Mr. Carter was unavailable for comment. When asked if the

prototype would ever emerge in actual, distributed form, the spokesperson said:

“We don’t know. Right now we’re not sure what we’re going to do with it.”

-S.P.

There was something reassuring about the party Harper’s Bazaar threw for itself on Jan.

14. The magazine had decked out the large space of Eyebeam Atelier, a sprawling

event space on West 21st Street, in red carpeting, red couches and red light in

honor of Glenda Bailey’s first “official” issue at the helm.

In reality, Ms. Bailey, who had come from Marie Claire , had been hired last summer, and her hand could be

seen at work in the magazine’s pages since the November issue. But Bazaar Nation was in full

self-congratulatorymood, rolling out staple party props like a giant blow-up of

the new cover withGisele Bündchen, a logo-filled backdrop in the posing pen for

the paparazzi,and pieces of chocolate with Bazaar

printed on them. In a time when magazines have seen advertising revenues

plummet and party budgets have been severely cut, it all felt so very, pleasantly

… 1999.

Standing up front, Bazaar ‘s

creative director Stephen Gan was doing receiving-line duty while telling Off

the Record just how much time he’s been spending redesigning the fashion

magazine.

“Life is busy again,” he said, ” I started work and then 10 days

after I started work, the November issue had to go to print. So we had-” he cut

off to say goodbye to a fashion executive who was leaving.

“What day’s your show?” he said, referring to the upcoming

fashion week in Paris.

“The 25th,” the woman said. “Are you going to be there?

“I will! O.K., call me.”

After a four-month hiatus, the fashion crowd was back to being

busy, touting new projects, shimmying and jiving through the after-hours.

Later, Christy Turlington said, “I don’t go to that many fashion events, so

part of it’s reunion with a lot of people I don’t get to see.”

Ms. Turlington was busy these days, too. There was the yoga book

she had to turn in to Hyperion in March, and of course her cosmetics company,

Sundari, and then her role as editor at Yoga

Journal . “I have very little free time,” she said.

Elsewhere, Moby-gosh, it seemed like a million years since we’d

gotten to write about a magazine party with an obligatory Moby appearance-was

complaining about a deadline for the music he was writing for the closing

ceremony of the Winter Olympics next month.

Ms. Bailey played the frenzied host, darting from guest to guest

to the point where it was nearly impossible to catch a word with her. Off the

Record first tried to talk with her as she was coming off the dance floor set

up in the middle of the room. We started with a question and she asked, “Do you

want a drink?” We went up to the bar and as soon as she had put our order in,

the Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” came up. Ms. Bailey didn’t bother to order a

drink for herself. “I’ve got to dance to this,” she said, “I’ll be back,” and

then went back to the dance floor.

We caught up with Ms. Bailey a few songs later on the other side

of the room, standing with Susan Magrino, the publicist for the party. She at

first apologized (saying she had “passion for dance”) and then launched into,

“We love fashion, and we’re very, very fortunate. We live such a privileged

life because we’re able to go to fashion shows, we’re fortunate enough to see

the best designers in the world …. “

Before long, Ms. Magrino was introducing Ms. Bailey to Frank

DeCaro, a movie critic for The Daily Show

with Jon Stewart and writer for TV

Guide .

“Congratulations,” Mr. DeCaro said.

“Thank-you,” Ms. Bailey said.

“And thank-you for your note,”

Mr. DeCaro said. And Ms. Bailey was off again, heading back through the dance

floor.

That left us with Mr. DeCaro, who noted he had just finished a

new book proposal: Love Handles to Die

For: A Heartwarming Tale of Sexual Depravity . “It’s sort of about how a boy

named Phyllis became a man named Frank,” he said.

Dancing, Ms. Bailey was all elbows and hands, while shaking her

waist around. Bill Buford, literary editor of The New Yorker , who himself was staining the underarms of his blue

shirt while boogie-ing with Bazaar

senior features editor Jessica Green, called Ms. Bailey’s moves “arrhythmic and

exuberant.”

-G.S.

The Jan. 21 issue of Forbes

features as its cover boy Tom Siebel, the head of software giant Siebel

Systems. Along with Mr. Siebel’s handsome mug comes this cover line: “Betting

on the Comeback: Tom Siebel’s software saw the downturn coming. Now he says

tech is ready to roll.”

Fair enough. But open the issue and this is what you’ll see: A

full-page ad for Siebel Systems, placed adjacent to another portrait of Mr.

Siebel on the contents page, as if it were a two-page advertising spread.

A spokesperson for Forbes said this wasn’t a case of the

magazine’s editorial and business sides getting all warm and cozy.

“The contents page was the last to close and this was a

production error,” the spokesperson said, “which is always captured. But this

one is a big, red-faced ‘Oops!’ “

-S.P