Among Media Elite, A Sweaty Pile-Up of Davos Wannabes

mediacouncilbutton Among Media Elite, A Sweaty  Pile Up of Davos WannabesFor media figures who have previously made the climb to the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, a new peak beckons: In planning the January 2007 edition of the event, Davos organizers are quietly passing around a list of prospective members of an even loftier sub-organization, to be known as the International Media Council.

Start polishing up those crampons, David Remnick. The New Yorker editor joins Fareed Zakaria, Graydon Carter and other name-brand media figures on the draft, which runs to more than 100 names.

“It’s kind of like a list of who we think would be wonderful,” W.E.F. spokeswoman Claudia Gonzalez said.

Ms. Gonzalez described the International Media Council as “just an idea,” but she confirmed that the W.E.F. is planning to have a “media council of some sort.” The project should take a more definite shape within four to six weeks, she said.

The W.E.F. already has a few other separate “communities,” like the International Business Council (the C.E.O.’s of Mittal Steel and Chevron are members); the Arab Business Council; and the Young Global Leaders (which includes young university professors, elected officials and high-powered executives).

“They told me that they wanted to create something like it,” said Mr. Zakaria, the Newsweek International editor and multi-year Davos veteran, about the proposed council. “That’s the extent of my knowledge. They have had groups like that in the past. I think they used to have a group grandiosely called the Club of Media Leaders.”

Arianna Huffington—who knows from critical-mass assemblies of celebrity—is also on the wish list, though she said she did not help to write it and doesn’t know what other names are on it. The Huffington Post founder is already planning to show up at the regular Davos conference next year, to take part in a panel on new media.

“I know [W.E.F. head] Klaus Schwab,” Ms. Huffington said. “He and I see each other, and we have lunch.”

Other new-media representatives on the list include YouTube co-founder Chad Hurely, MySpace co-founder Tom Anderson, BuzzMachine blogger Jeff Jarvis and Slate editor “Jacob Weissberg” [sic]. Don’t worry Mr. Weisberg! It’s just a draft!

But there’s still room at the top for the old media, too. Among the prospective council members are Time managing editor Richard Stengel and Financial Times editor Lionel Barber, along with plenty of famous bylines: New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, New Yorker writers Ken Auletta and Seymour Hersh, and Washington Post (and Simon & Schuster) debriefer-of-the-mighty Bob Woodward.

Who’s missing out so far? New Newsweek editor Jon Meecham is not on the list with his rival Mr. Stengel; Times pundits David Brooks, John Tierney, Frank Rich and Bob Herbert also apparently did not make the cut.

Ms. Dowd, through a spokesperson, said she wasn’t aware of this list, and only attended the W.E.F. when it was held in New York City, in 2002. Fellow Timesman Tom Friedman said through a representative that he hadn’t been contacted, either.

Representing television is CBS’s Katie Couric, alone among current network news anchors (NBC’s anchor emeritus, Tom Brokaw, is also on the wish list). Joining Ms. Couric are PBS’s Charlie Rose, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and CNBC’s "Money Honey," Maria Bartiromo. Behind the faces, TV executives included CNN International managing director Chris Cramer, Al-Arabiya general manager Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, and Al Jazeera managing director general Wadah Khanfar.

Among other big shots, New York Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., who made his Davos debut at the 2006 edition, is on the draft list, as is fellow newspaper scion Donald Graham of the Washington Post. Mortimer Zuckerman is on the list (in his capacity as U.S. News boss, not Daily News publisher), but Rupert Murdoch is not.

And is it really worth going to Switzerland to huddle up with the same people you can find in Tina Brown’s dining room, or at the Bombay Club?

“I’m always suspicious of clubs and councils,” Mr. Zakaria said. He added that he would be interested in participating in a media council “as long as the involvement was fairly minimal.”

“One of the reasons to go to Davos is to meet unusual people from all of the world,” Mr. Zakaria said. “To go to Davos and meet the editor of the L.A. Times is not that unusual.”

In fact, while Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie is on the list, Los Angeles Times editor Dean Baquet is not. Nor is New York Times editor Bill Keller.

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Post Boasts, News Stews, as Cutthroat Tab Passes Foe; Next Step: Turn a Profit?

What’s the difference between the New York Post and most other daily newspapers?

“They are boring as bat shit,” said Post editor in chief Col Allan.

He’d like to attribute the Post’s recent milestone—according to a recent report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the tabloid saw the greatest increase in circulation over the past six months of any U.S. daily—to that fact.

The Post’s circulation—which is still subject to audit—climbed to a record 704,011.

With that 5.1 percent increase, the Post moved to the No. 5 spot among U.S. dailies, trailing behind USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times—all four of which witnessed drops.

But most importantly, for the first time, the Post edged out its tabloid rival, the Daily News.

Wasting no time, the headline “Post Beats News” appeared prominently on the newspaper’s Web site, and was later splashed across Times Square’s massive Panasonic screen.

News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch was also “delighted,” according to Mr. Allan, and placed a congratulatory call from London to his editor. “He told me that I needed to buy some people some cocktails this evening,” Mr. Allan said.

Around 10 p.m. that night, according to Post managing editor Steve Cuozzo, Mr. Allan was greeted by cheering employees upon his arrival at Langan’s Bar on West 47th Street. “It was amazing here yesterday,” said Mr. Cuozzo, a Post veteran since 1972. “Everybody who was here was in an absolutely ecstatic mood. It was like after the World Series or Super Bowl.”

Not surprisingly, the Daily News quickly countered that the Post’s circulation jump resulted from Mr. Murdoch’s willingness to pump money into a newspaper that is reportedly hemorrhaging millions annually.

“If you’d lost $300 million over the past five years, spent $200 million on new presses, carpet-bombed neighborhoods with free copies and lost fortunes to sell a few thousand papers in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, you’d be desperate to celebrate creeping a few copies ahead of us,” said Martin Dunn, the Daily News’ editor in chief and deputy publisher, via e-mail.

“Nonsense!” said Mr. Allan of his rival’s claims.

While Mr. Allan declined to comment on exactly how much money the Post loses each year, he confirmed that the newspaper remains financially in the red.

Bu Mr. Allan did make a bold prediction: The Post will soon turn a profit.

“Clearly, I think that it is a year or so away,” said Mr. Allan. “Our economic position has improved. I know that our market share, in terms of revenue, has improved against the Daily News pretty steadily.” Then, perhaps on second thought, Mr. Allan slightly altered his timetable for the number of years before profitability: “Two, maybe,” he said.

“I have no idea if it’s losing money or making money,” said media-industry analyst Edward Atorino of the Benchmark Company. “It doesn’t really matter. For Rupert Murdoch, the Post is a great success story, because it has become an exciting newspaper. As far as News Corp. goes, it’s a third decimal point.”

The Post is regularly criticized for giving away free issues—on busy street corners or outside subway stops. Typically featuring a different cover, these sponsor copies—known in circulation lingo as third-party sales—are included in circulation statistics. That is, as long as the sponsor has paid for at least 25 percent of the basic home-delivery price, according to a spokesperson for the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The Post’s third-party sales are “half of both of those of The Times and the Daily News,” Mr. Allan said. He cited the A.B.C.’s figures, whereby third-party sales account for 43,864 copies of the Post versus 92,262 of the News. “I’d be happy to get rid of them tomorrow,” he said. “We do it less than any of them.”

In 2000, the Post—in an effort to boost circulation—dropped its cover price from 50 to 25 cents, half the price of the News. But Mr. Allan said that the price cut isn’t the only factor in the circulation jump: “If it were true that price was everything, then we would have gone up immediately.” And without missing a beat, he said that “the Post is half the price, and twice the value.”

In 2005, Lachlan Murdoch—then the Post’s publisher—told Business Week that he intended to increase the cover price to 50 cents again once the Post overtook the News in circulation. And now, Mr. Allan said he is unaware of any plan to increase the price.

On the other hand, the News maintains a sizeable lead in terms of Sunday sales: 780,196 to the Post’s 427, 264. And on Oct. 31, the News ran the headline “The #1 Newspaper in the City!” across the wood.

“The Daily News is STILL unequivocally the number one newspaper in the place that counts—New York,” said Mr. Dunn via e-mail. “Let’s see where we are next year.”

Mr. Allan, who took over as editor in 2001, said that he “brought to the paper some cultural changes, without losing the paper’s wit and humor.” Besides finding other newspapers boring, Mr. Allen has another problem with the competition: “I occasionally think that journalists spend too much time talking down to their audiences,” he said.

And which New York City papers is he referring to?

“All the rest,” he said.

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Fortune‘s Wheel Turns: Pooley Makes Quick Exit; Serwer to Face Portfolio

About a week ago, Time Inc. editor in chief John Huey called Andy Serwer, then senior editor at large at Fortune magazine, to ask him to become the managing editor of the magazine.

“I was really thrilled,” said Mr. Serwer. “John Huey is someone I’ve worked with for over a decade.

“He is the man. He is the maestro.”

Mr. Serwer said that he thought his experience in both Internet and television were part of the reason he was hired.

“It is so important for a magazine to be an excellent magazine,” he said, “but also to be distributed online and on TV as well.”

What about future competition in the business-journalism world, specifically from the spring 2007 launch of Condé Nast Portfolio?

“Condé Nast is having a huge rollout, [and] we welcome the competition,” said Mr. Serwer. “We are going to be competing vigorously in this space. I don’t think we’ll be partying like it’s 1999, but I look at this as a strong category going into next year.”

Since 1985—and minus two brief leaves of absence to co-produce a bluegrass music documentary—Mr. Serwer has worked at Fortune in various capacities.

“These are people I’ve worked with for over two decades,” said Mr. Serwer, “and they are the best of the breed.”

On the morning of Oct. 31, those people received an e-mail calling them to a mandatory meeting, beginning 20 minutes later in the second-floor conference room.

One Fortune staffer said that the brief meeting was “along the lines of ‘Everybody’s doing a great job and meet your new managing editor.’” Another staffer was “very surprised” by the abrupt announcement.

Abrupt because Eric Pooley, who preceded Mr. Serwer as managing editor, had only held the post for 18 months. He didn’t attend the meeting.

“Eric has real strength in investigative journalism and digging deep into a subject,” said Time Inc. managing editor Jim Kelly.

A Time Inc. press release said that Mr. Pooley would assume a new role in the company, working on “investigative projects” upstairs with Messrs. Huey and Kelly.

“There may be another component to this job,” Mr. Kelly said. “That’s why it’s as vague as it is.”

Although Mr. Serwer begins immediately, Mr. Pooley will not start upstairs until around Thanksgiving, according to Mr. Kelly.