‘Fred and Mort’s Divorce’ at the Daily News

Mort Zuckerman and business partner Fred Drasner are splitting up duties at the New York Daily News

The appointment, on Jan. 18, of Les Goodstein as president and chief operating officer of the Daily News is part of what insiders at Mortimer Zuckerman’s media holdings have taken to calling “Fred and Mort’s divorce.”

Fred Drasner, Mr. Zuckerman’s business partner who ran the day-to-day operations of the paper as its chief executive and co-publisher, is by all accounts more interested in his share of the Washington Redskins than the grind of publishing the News, U.S. News & World Report and Fast Company.

“This is really part of Mr. Zuckerman’s plan that he has talked about before, to become more directly involved with the newspaper and magazines,” said Emma Clurman, a spokesman for Mr. Zuckerman’s media holdings.

Some News staff members resented Mr. Drasner’s habit of referring to the editorial department of the paper as its “cost center,” though others said that at least he could be dealt with reasonably.

Mr. Drasner is not entirely out. He’s keeping his title. But the days of Mr. Drasner’s direct involvement with the paper seem to be over. No longer will you see him playing stickball in News TV commercials, or praising Mark Kriegel’s prose in radio ads for the tabloid.

Thanks to distractions like the Redskins and difficulties with another company he owns with Mr. Zuckerman, the prepress printing company Applied Graphics Technologies, Mr. Drasner hasn’t been especially involved for a year or so, said Zuckerman sources. In the past year, Ira Ellenthal restructured Mr. Zuckerman’s media holdings, separating the sales staffs of U.S. News and Fast Company. That job done, as part of the Jan. 18 shakeup, Mr. Ellenthal was moved off his job as chief executive and co-publisher of U.S. News and Fast Company and moved into Mr. Goodstein’s job overseeing ad sales for the Daily News.

That leaves U.S. News and Fast Company essentially as separate operations–leading some to wonder if, as has been reported, one or the other of them are going to be sold.

“He’s got a discrete property that’s not interlocked on the executive level, so it can be sold,” said one Zuckerman observer.

Ms. Clurman denied that U.S. News is for sale. She also said: “There are no changes in Mr. Drasner’s status, although Les Goodstein will be working closely with him.”

Instead, she emphasized Mr. Zuckerman’s increased involvement. “We all feel his presence,” she said Jan. 18. “He’s coming in this afternoon to talk to us. We’re on a first-name basis with him. He’s an involved owner.”

The new U.S. News publisher, William Holiber, who came over from the same job at The Atlantic Monthly after it was sold by Mr. Zuckerman last year, “is reporting directly to Mort,” Ms. Clurman added, as will Fast Company publisher Julian Lowin.

Mr. Drasner and Mr. Zuckerman have worked together for decades, only to grow apart. Some sources at the company said Mr. Zuckerman’s bringing in Harold Evans a year and a half ago as vice chairman and editorial director annoyed Mr. Drasner. (Mr. Evans has since left that post.)

In any case, Mr. Zuckerman and Mr. Drasner didn’t last long as part-owners of the Washington Redskins. Mr. Zuckerman “sold his interest in the team late last year,” said Ms. Clurman. “And that’s all part of this. It took up a tremendous amount of his time. But it’s not the core of his business. And he’s getting back to the core of his business.”

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Us magazine–soon to be Us Weekly–lost another editor, on Jan. 11, when its style director, Steve Garbarino, walked out.

Three days later, its executive editor Susan Pocharski and its managing editor Rachel Clarke took other jobs–Ms. Pocharski to a News Corporation start-up golf magazine (working title: Maximum Golf) to be run by veteran magazine editor Michael Caruso, and Ms. Clarke to Allure.

In recent months, Condé Nast has hired away a senior editor (James Ireland Baker) and its photo editor (Jennifer Crandall).

Former employees cited the fact that they didn’t want to work for a weekly as their reason for leaving. They also didn’t like the continuing construction of the new Us office. And some didn’t like the tension they sensed tension between top editor Terry McDonell and his No. 2 editor, Charles Leerhsen.

The magazine is busily out there trying to hire people, and, sources said, have made overtures to Daily News gossip duo George Rush and Joanna Molloy. (The duo had no comment.) Daily News sources said the duo has been a little touchy ever since gossipeur Mitchell Fink was handed a News column of his own.

The March Us is supposedly the magazine’s last monthly issue. It is supposed to go weekly beginning March 17. A Wenner Media spokesman said the magazine was still on schedule to go weekly: “Oh, my God, completely!”

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After America Online’s purchase of Time Warner, Time magazine was the only one of the three newsweeklies to put its own boss–Time Warner chief executive Gerald Levin–on its cover. By doing so, the magazine allowed Mr. Levin to continue the silly semiotics of posing with his tie off next to a tie-wearing Steven Case, the chief executive of AOL.

The picture did not come from the news conference during which Mr. Levin unveiled his with-it no-tie look, but from a separate photo shoot.

U.S. News & World Report and Newsweek put Mr. Case on the cover alone.

Why? Walter Isaacson, the managing editor for Time, didn’t return messages by press time.

His rival, Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker, was more forthcoming: “Look, there are a lot of good journalists working at Time Warner. There’s no question that it raises, if nothing else, questions of appearance. They’ve been dealing with this for several years, every time they put a Warner Brothers movie on the cover. But now that you’re talking about covering the Internet and the high-tech economy, which in many ways is the economy now, it’s harder. It was a week where a lot of us felt very good about working for a family-run journalism company that’s really just about the journalism.”

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Why is it so hard for Time Out New York to hold onto its features editors? They lost another one, Mark Cohen, to Men’s Journal, just before Christmas (he’d been there eight months), along with his deputy, Mamie Healey, who went to Oprah Winfrey’s new magazine, O.

Before Mr. Baker, there were two other features editors in as many years.


“It does burn you out,” said Mr. Cohen. “It’s a Catch-22. Once the department is up and fully staffed, it works well. They have it in the budget to have four people in the department. They’ve never had people there long enough so that it’s not crazy. It’s not so much that they’re cheap, but inevitably they’re down one person.”

According to staff members at the magazine, Mr. Cohen, who came from Philadelphia magazine, wasn’t too popular around the weekly by being too demanding. “Some of the stuff I wanted to do kind of put a strain on the system,” he admitted.

Time Out president and editor in chief Cyndi Stivers said they’d filled the slots now, saving two people from their doomed publications: Carole Braden, late of the late New Woman magazine, was named the new features editor Jan. 17, and Beth Greenfield, late of the Long Island Voice (which was shut after The Village Voice was sold), is her new deputy. “It’s very tiresome that people can’t seem to find talent anywhere but on our masthead,” she said.

Ms. Stivers elevated her executive editor, Joe Angio, to editor in November, apparently freeing her up to work on the announced intention to open Time Outs in Los Angeles or Chicago.

CORRECTION: The Jan. 10 edition of this column incorrectly reported that the publisher of Bride’s magazine was Deborah Fine. Ms. Fine is actually the former publisher of Bride’s and now holds that same title at a Condé Nast Publications stable-mate, Glamour. Nina Lawrence is the current Bride’s publisher. It was Ms. Lawrence, and not Ms. Fine, who gave Bride’s staff members that small vibrating massager as a gift in reward for their good work. Whether or not that small battery-operated massager should be properly called a “vibrator” or not remains open to debate and is, perhaps, a matter beyond this column’s turf.

‘Fred and Mort’s Divorce’ at the Daily News