Off the Record

On Sept. 8, The New York Times Magazine , led by the newspaper’s architecture critic, Herbert Muschamp, will lay out its own vision for what is already a subject of fierce public debate: the future of Ground Zero. The Times has assembled a crew of architectural-world heavyweights for its proposal, and the paper’s plan is likely to become an instant 800-pound gorilla in the selection process.

According to sources, the Times package will resemble something akin to an architectural Pro Bowl. Among those included, they said, are Fred Schwartz, a popular local architect who helped with the redesign of the Whitehall Ferry Terminal; Rafael Viñoly, the socialite architect responsible for the new Jazz at Lincoln Center on ColumbusCircle;Charles Gwathmey, who did restoration work and designed the addition to the Guggenheim Museum; Peter Eisenmann, Richard Serra’s partner on ex–German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s favorite design for the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin; Richard Meier, who designed the twin glass condo towers at Perry Street, where Martha Stewart and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, among others, are moving; Bernard Tschumi, outgoing Columbia University architecture dean; and Stephen Holl, the avant-gardist who built dormitories at M.I.T. with suicide-proof windows (they open only 45 degrees).

Also involved is graphic designer and transportation guru Stephen Van Dam, who produced the “downtown transit overhaul” presentation for the Civic Alliance.

“There are a variety of plans being talked about,” Mr. Van Dam said. “There’s one in particular that will totally reshape downtown. It’s imaginative and does what needs to be done.”

Messrs. Schwartz and Viñoly did not return calls seeking comment. Mr. Gwathmey declined to comment. A representative from Mr. Tschumi’s office said he was traveling and unavailable for comment, adding that she was “not at liberty to discuss the project.” Mr. Eisenmann would only confirm his involvement. A representative for Mr. Meier declined a request for an interview, saying only that “an architectural study project had already been announced” in The Time s.

To date, The Times itself has not released any formal details of its Ground Zero design initiative. However, Mr. Muschamp did make a reference to the project in his July 17 evisceration of the six plans for the W.T.C. site produced by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, disclosing in his critique that The New York Times Magazine “is sponsoring an architectural study project on the future of the financial district. I have advised the editors on the composition of the design team. An overview is scheduled for publication in September.”

Mr. Muschamp, of course, has long been a heavyweight himself in architectural circles. Several sources familiar with the Times project questioned whether Mr. Muschamp’s presence as organizer puts him in a precarious role-a critic now serving as the overseer of people whose work he also covers and judges. Said one source: “It’s a very odd role for a critic to play. I’ve never heard of it. It’s one thing to have a newspaper sponsor a competition; here he’s pre-selecting the group and imposing his own bias.”

Mr. Muschamp did not return calls for comment. However, Mr. Van Dam felt that The Times ‘ arrangement was both proper and useful.

“I see nothing wrong,” Mr. Van Dam said. “I think the Fourth Estate weighing in is good. What’s wrong with Muschamp convening these people? Shouldn’t you get the best people to brainstorm the possibilities?”

Still, there have been complaint. Sources said that the architects have grumbled about having very little technical information about the site. Following contentious meetings with Mr. Muschamp, these sources said, some members of The Times ‘ design panel have wanted to withdraw altogether.

“Some of them are afraid that the thing’s going to come off half-baked,” said one source. “They’re afraid of people thinking that they don’t live in the real world.”

Indeed, it’s the real-world considerations that concern sources involved with the development process the most. While big play within the covers of The Times Magazine can do a lot of good, sources indicated it may just be a tease for the general public.

“The danger here,” one insider involved with the redevelopment said, “is the absolute lack of framework. And, well, given the credibility The Times has to offer, it could be potentially destructive.

“When you give people sexy drawings to get [them] excited,” the source continued, “[but] with no basis politically or financially, it could be devastating.”

But others defended The Times ‘ search, hoping it could produce results that are both practical and visionary. “It is strange,” said real-estate developer Richard Kahan, who now heads the nonprofit group Take the Field, “but no one else is doing it. No one else is going outside the box. This could be one of the great places in the world. If it produces exciting concepts, it could be great for the process.”

Times Magazin e editor Adam Moss was on vacation and unavailable for comment. A Times spokesperson declined to answer questions from Off the Record, saying: “We believe it would be inappropriate to discuss coverage we may or may not be planning.”

As Wall Street Journal staffers resettled in their old digs at the World Financial Center, they were joined by a welcome and familiar face: senior editor Rich Regis.

Just days after Sept. 11, Mr. Regis-who, along with the rest of the staff, was forced to evacuate the paper’s offices at the W.F.C.-came down with a mysterious illness that produced a perforated colon, sepsis and kidney failure.

“He spent three months in hospitals,” Journal managing editor Paul Steiger wrote in a memo announcing Mr. Regis’ return, “and many more recuperating from a brutal series of immune-system disorders and infections. His absence compounded a difficult year for us all.”

Though Mr. Steiger had told Off the Record in October that Mr. Regis’ ailments may or may not have been the result of debris inhalation on Sept. 11, Dow Jones vice president Steve Goldstein said on Aug. 5 that Mr. Regis’ illnesses were “not definitely tied to 9/11. What is most important is that Rich is back and healthy, and we couldn’t be happier.”

Mr. Regis declined Off the Record’s request for an interview. However, he did say, “I’m feeling fine.”

Since April, The Wall Street Journal has run a column called “Cubicle Culture”-a Dilbertesque look at the high jinks in corporate America.

But recently, Cubicle columnist Suein Hwang decided that she needed a little help. In a July 22 memo to reporters sent out by editors and Ms. Hwang, The Journal asked its reporters to “to keep an eye out for companies that issue silly statements, self-defeating propaganda, embarrassing motivational strategies and all manner of draconian policies cloaked as human resources, public relations or efficient employee management.”

The memo went on to say, “Reporters who provide column-generating ideas will win a box of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, occasional opportunities to write the column (if they so desire), and the columnist’s undying gratitude.”

Macadamia nuts?

“I’m from Hawaii,” Ms. Hwang explained to Off the Record. “My mother can go to Costco and buy a box of them for $3.”

Needless to say, the e-mail-and Ms. Hwang’s column itself-has been the basis for snide remarks and observations about The Journal and its parent company, Dow Jones.

“Since I started the column,” Ms. Hwang said, “I’ve become a repository for ironic commentary about Dow Jones. I think I could probably write a year’s worth of columns about Dow Jones.”

Ms. Hwang said she was inclined to stay away from her “home turf” for now, but added, “If I write a column about a company doing something silly, and Dow Jones is doing the same thing, I have to mention it.”

When it comes to bad news, there’s nobody that delivers it quite like Cathleen Black. At 5:16 on Aug. 5, staffers of SmartMoney , a magazine jointly run by Dow Jones and Hearst, received word that they should head to the conference room for an important announcement. When they got there, according to SmartMoney sources, they found Ms. Black-president of Hearst Magazines-and Barron’s editor and president, Ed Finn. (Dow Jones also owns Barron’s .)

Sound familiar? Last January, on that cold Friday evening, it was Ms. Black-flanked by a teary Tina Brown-who told Talk staffers their services would no longer be needed, while blaming Sept. 11 for the magazine’s demise.

“There were a fair number of people,” one SmartMoney source said, “who thought we were going to be laid off.”

In this case, the magazine wasn’t folding; nor were there large-scale layoffs in the works. But Ms. Black’s presence did bring a few rattling announcements. She announced that Peter Finch-in California on business-was being demoted from editor in chief to editor, and that Christopher L. Lambiase-the magazine’s president and chief executive-was becoming its president and publishing director, while the current publisher, Robert P. Fritze, was leaving the magazine. At the same time, Mr. Finn-who remains in charge of Barron’s -was named chairman and editor in chief, with both Mr. Lambiase and Mr. Finch reporting to him.

When asked about the matter, a Hearst spokesperson said that Ms. Black was traveling and unavailable for comment.

It didn’t take very long for new Rolling Stone managing editor Ed Needham to start taking a page from his upstart laddie rival Blender -literally.

In its Aug. 22 issue featuring Bruce Springsteen on the cover, Rolling Stone had included an unattributed quote from David Bowie in its “Loose Talk” section, a summary of pithy lines from the rock world.

“I’m very shy,” Rolling Stone quoted Mr. Bowie as saying. “That’s probably one of the reasons I got so heavily into drugs.”

Granted, “Loose Talk” pulls from a variety of sources, including other magazines. But it seems this quote came from an extended four-page interview with Mr. Bowie that appeared in Blender ‘s August issue, which hit the stands in early July.

When reached, Mr. Needham said he was unaware of the quote’s origin. “I can’t really comment,” Mr. Needham told Off the Record, “because I don’t know where it came from.”

Meanwhile, fellow Brit and Blender editor in chief Andy Pemberton said he was aware of the matter.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” Mr. Pemberton said. “It’s very nice of them to pay tribute to us.”