So How Was 2002 For You, Media? Let’s Say Pungent

During the 2002 Year in Media, everyone took their hits. In April, The New York Times won a record seven Pulitzers-it even got Abe Rosenthal back in the newsroom for champagne-but by December, the paper plunged in the rough of Augusta. Details won a National Magazine Award, then published the wrong Kurt Andersen. The Wall Street Journal managed to pull itself back inside its downtown newsroom. But by then it had lost Daniel Pearl.

There were promisers. Hugh Hefner promised a Playboy with less sex. Jann Wenner promised a Rolling Stone with shorter articles. And Tina Brown promised that if Talk had had just one … more … issue , they could have turned that publication around.

There were deliverers. John Huey rattled the corridors of Time Inc., expunging editors like George Steinbrenner used to chuck managers. Michael Kelly turned The Atlantic -that’s a monthly magazine published in Boston (which is north of New York City)-into thinking Manhattan’s hot new publication. And Bonnie Fuller, bless her paparazzo’d heart, turned Us Weekly into non-thinking Manhattan’s hot new publication.

The media year began amid war, in Afghanistan, and ended on the verge of war, in Iraq-but in reality, it was a diffuse 12 months. There was plenty of serious news-in Israel, in Bali, in suburban Maryland-but there was plenty of time for superfluous cartoons, too: crazy Asian fish, Ben and Jennifer, Michael Jackson and that poor baby.

It’s in this spirit of high and low-not J. Lo-that we bring you our 2002 Year in Media Awards. Someone here suggested calling them the “Pappu-litzers.” We don’t know about that-those Columbia J-School folks might object, and rightly so-but here goes:

Best Recycling of Killed Material from Own Magazine : Tina Brown. Not long after Talk shut up, Ms. Brown told The New York Times : “I have been swimming in a howling sea of schadenfreude for the past three years . ” Where’d she get such a sparkling bon mot? Maybe her own pages: Talk’ s unpublished last issue featured an interview with Courtney Love, in which the rocker was quoted complaining about her “three years swimming in a howling sea of schadenfreude.”

Best Comeback: Tina Brown, columnist. If only Talk magazine had been a … dishy media rant in The Times of London!

Best Dramatic Exit by Drama Critic: Peter Marks, formerly of The New York Times . This summer, Mr. Marks left The Times to become the chief drama critic at The Washington Post . According to Times sources, when Mr. Marks informed Mr. Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd on July 1 of his decision, a heated discussion followed. According to one source, Mr. Raines told Mr. Marks: “I don’t even know who the chief drama critic of The Washington Post is!” To which Mr. Marks responded, “You will!” and walked out.

Most Overpublicized Weight Loss, Editor in Chief division: GQ editor Art Cooper. Famous bon vivant Mr. Cooper dropped about half an Alan Richman from his waistline, and then happily told everyone in Manhattan about it.

Most Underpublicized Weight Loss, Editor in Chief Division : Esquire ‘s David Granger. Mr. Granger, who studied the editing trade under Mr. Cooper at GQ, estimates he’s lost “five or six pounds” over the last few months playing tennis. “I’m working on maintaining my weight,” Mr. Granger told Off the Record. “You don’t want to get small in this world.”

Most Paranoid Moment at National Magazine Awards : Time Inc. editorial director John Huey clamored around the pre-lunch reception outside the ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria like Robert Mitchum at the end of Cape Fear . “I feel like I have to watch my wallet!” Mr. Huey exclaimed. “I feel like somebody’s gonna pick my pocket!”

Best Unsolved Mystery: Who was “Kurt Andersen”? In August, National Magazine Award–winning Details disclosed that it had run a piece by someone it thought was Mr. Andersen, but wasn’t. Soon, the magazine became the town’s punch line as people questioned how a story could be assigned and fact-checked without anyone ever getting in touch with the real Mr. Andersen. Former Details senior editor Bob Ickes-who worked on the piece-has denied involvement in the hoax, and Fairchild Publications, which owns Details , never named a suspect or culprit.

Worst Unsolved Mystery: Why did Details give Bill Maher a column?

Best Use of Michael’s as a Junior High-School Cafeteria: George Steph-anopoulos and Michael Wolff. On March 27, the two media frenemies were set to have lunch at Michael’s when the restaurant called Mr. Wolff to tell him that none other than Bill Clinton-Mr. Stephanopoulos’ former boss and now nemesis-would be eating there as well. While Mr. Stephanopoulos decided whether to show, Mr. Wolff called around town, telling a bunch of people, who promptly made reservations.

“Once we got there,” Mr. Wolff said, “George asked, ‘Well, do I speak to him first?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ It was completely eighth-grade.”

Best White House Groveling: Ann Coulter. At the May after-party for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Ms. Coulter spotted Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer and pleaded with him to have the President read and publicly carry her forthcoming book, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right .

“I will do anything!” Ms. Coulter said to Mr. Fleischer. “I’ll swear to you, you’ll like it! I will do anything!”

Best Irony (Ann Coulter Division): Ms. Coulter says she wishes Timothy McVeigh blew up the New York Times Building, gets New York Times best-seller.

Best Media Year by Member of McDonell Family: Teenage novelist Nick McDonell, who garnered more attention for his hot book Twelve than boldface McDonell père Terry did in taking over Sports Illustrated .

Best Double Whammy: Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times . Within the space of two weeks, Ms. Kakutani destroyed the second novels of both Dave Eggers and Donna Tartt, skunking the hype around both books and sending shudders up the spines of young authors everywhere.

Best New Enemy of Plastic Surgeons: Hugh Hefner. “I want us to pull back a little bit,” Mr. Hefner said of Playboy in October. “Pull back from the explicit nature of sexuality, to try to re-establish the connections for the reader and the advertiser that were there in earlier decades.”

Best Jann Wenner Decision (Non–Bonnie Fuller Division): His Jann-ness yanks Rolling Stone ‘s staff band out of cheesy competition with staff bands from Spin and Blender .

Long, Important Article Everyone Says They Read All of But Didn’t: William Langewiesche’s multi-part Ground Zero epic in The Atlantic.

Long, Important Article Everyone Says They Didn’t Read But Did: Ken Auletta’s tough-love profile of Harvey Weinstein in The New Yorker.

Media Book Everyone Said They Wouldn’t Read, But Did: Toby Young’s How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.

Media Book Everyone Said They Wouldn’t Read, and Didn’t: Richard Blow’s American Son .

Worst Trend: The stab-your-old-editor roman à clef. Vanity Fair , Vogue … what’s next? Hookers and blow in the mailroom of Reader’s Digest ?

Funniest Trend: Us Weekly closes later than Time .

Stop the Trend: The Atkins vs. carbs debate. O.K., we get it.

The We’ll Believe It When We See it Award: The rumored return of Mademoiselle .

Most Surprising Takedown: Liz Smith’s Dec. 10 knee-capping of Gangs of New York .

Best Editor in Limbo: Ex– Entertainment Weekly managing editor Jim Seymore, currently editor in chief of the Super Special Secret Time Inc. Project for Editors in Limbo .

Best Saying “Sorry” Without Saying “Sorry” : The Sept. 4 edition of The New York Times . In front-page pieces on Aug. 16 and Aug. 17, The Times included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger among opponents of an invasion of Iraq. Conservative critics howled, and on Sept. 4, the paper ran a rambling, 327-word “editor’s note” trying to explain itself. “I still don’t know what to make of it,” one Times source said. “I can’t tell whether we fucked it up or not. It took two weeks after the original Kissinger piece. Was it a correction or not?”

Best Out-of-Towner: Men’s Health editor in chief David Zinczenko has a hot magazine, parties in Manhattan, dates hot actress Rose McGowan, gets his name regularly in Page Six and works in … Emmaus, Penn.! Moo!

Best Exit: Men’s Journal executive editor Jack Wright quits magazine job to go work at a friend’s … hotel.

Saddest Exit: Adieu , “Mr. Latte.”

Best Ego, Columnist Division: Rick Reilly, Sports Illustrated , who changed the photo of his column three times … in three weeks.

Best Media TV Moment: Jane Pratt alongside Jane contributor Pamela Anderson on Larry King Live .

Best Media Credential for 2003: The New York Times , the Masters, Augusta National.

In mid-January, New York Times Magazin e senior editor Daniel Zalewski will leave the magazine to become a senior editor at The New Yorker .

Mr. Zalewski didn’t return a call seeking comment. However, New Yorker editor David Remnick said that like fellow senior editors Jeffrey Frank and John Bennet, Mr. Zalewski would be assigned to work with specific staff writers. Mr. Remnick said he hadn’t decided which ones.

“Daniel’s reputation at The Times Magazine ,” Mr. Remnick said, “was as someone who was equally gifted as a sympathetic and clear-eyed editor of text and as an imaginative person of ideas.”

Calling Willie Morris …

According to sources close to Harper’s Magazine , former senior editor Barbara Jones has been working on a novel based on her experiences in the late 1990’s at the repository of leftist intellectual thought and goofy statistics.

To date, the book remains unfinished, but several chapters-which Ms. Jones has sent to potential publishers-have made it to the magazine’s offices in Noho. And while the book takes place at an architectural firm, according to sources, it reads like more like a roman à clef of life at Harper’s , including-you guessed it-a character based on that tall cup of coffee, editor Lewis Lapham. Once source called it more than a riff by an ex-employee, but “an attack on boys’ club culture.”

When contacted by Off the Record, Ms. Jones declined to discuss details.

“I’m working on a novel,” Ms. Jones said. “I really don’t want to say what it’s about, because it’s fiction. I’ve heard that people at Harper’s Magazine have a copy. I don’t know how they got it-which is weird, because it feels like my private enterprise at this point and they’re drawing parallels. You know, when I heard that, I was shocked. To me, these are my characters. They do bad things. They do illegal things. And even worse, they do morally reprehensible things. And while I might buy a roman à clef , or skim one at Barnes & Noble, I’m not really interested in writing one. And I’m not.

“If there’s something that’s resonating with people,” Ms. Jones said, “there’s nothing I can do about that.

But other than that, she’s not saying anything !

Ms. Jones who left Harper’s to become an editor at Real Simple , lately has been teaching at N.Y.U. and working as a consultant for Organic Style . She said she’d put down working on the novel temporarily, but would return to it in the New Year.

A Harper’s spokesperson wouldn’t confirm if Ms. Jones’ manuscript had been circulating through Harper’s . Asked to respond to rumors of the book, the spokesperson said, “I can’t wait to read it.”

E XCLUSIVE : Post accuses News of phony scoop!

On Dec. 5, the Daily News featured an “exclusive” by Richard Weir entitled “Hi-Tech Gizmos to Watch Cops,” about the super califragilistic ID cards that the New York City Police Department plan to use to monitor who’s coming in and out of 1 Police Plaza. The story even featured a photo of a prototype card featuring former President Theodore Roosevelt.

Ah, but what’s exclusive these days? A month earlier, on Nov. 1, nearly the identical story-Teddy Roosevelt included-appeared in the New York Post , written by criminal-justice editor Murray Weiss and called “City Adds High-Tech ID Cards.”

“It certainly devalues the word ‘exclusive’ a little bit,” said Post editor in chief Col Allan. “If you’re going to be exclusive on something, it should be that way. You run the risk of devaluing [the word] in newspapers, because it means something.”

However, Mr. Allan conceded that he’s living in something of a glass house: “We’re not immune from errors ourselves, so we should be cautious, my dear boy.”

When we called Mr. Weir, he said: “I knew the Post had done something on it.” However, he added, “there was information in my story that was exclusive.” (Indeed, Mr. Weir did break news that the Police Department planned to use fingerprint screeners in addition to the identity cards.)

Informed of the earlier story, News editor in chief Ed Kosner seemed conciliatory.

“Well, that happens sometimes,” Mr. Kosner said. “They were misled. And it happens on the other side even more often. If they had it, they had it. If we’d known they had it, we wouldn’t have labeled it exclusive. Somebody was misinformed. It happens.”

According to sources within The New York Times , David Shipley will replace Terry Tang as editor of the Op-Ed page in early 2003.

Mr. Shipley, the husband of Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women , currently serves as deputy editor for the page. According to sources, Ms. Tang will remain at the paper.

Ms. Tang was away from the office and unavailable for comment. When reached by Off the Record, Mr. Shipley declined to comment.

Meanwhile, The Times ‘ Houston bureau chief, Jim Yardley, is set to become a correspondent in the paper’s Beijing bureau. Speaking of the assignment, Mr. Yardley said, “You have this country that’s expanding economically and socially, coupled with a closed political structure that’s starting to grow. It’s a farce to call it a Communist Party anymore. It should be an amazing time to be there.” So How Was 2002 For You, Media? Let’s Say Pungent