The powers that be have come a long way from Katharine Graham, William S. Paley, and the others from David Halberstam's great book of that name. Today, according to the November Brill's Content, they have names such as Xana Antunes, Renan Almendarez Coello, and Sorious Samura.
Those three and 54 others make up Influence List 2000, the magazine's breezy, incisive, and informative lead story. What such lists usually offer - Vanity Fair's "annual power 50" comes to mind - are the same old names, slightly reshuffled. (The "West Wing" prequel episode this season sent up the practice when press secretary C.J. Cregg was fired from a Hollywood PR job by an egomaniacal impresario who had fallen to No. 9.) Not only is Brill's list not hierarchical, it identifies new powers and new directions.
I wouldn't say I am familiar with more than a handful of the listees, and even among those I've heard of, Brill's offers perspective I'm not getting elsewhere.
For the record: Antunes is editor of the New York Post; Coello, a.k.a. El Cucuy, is a Spanish-language Howard Stern who has 1.3 million listeners in 11 markets and is angling to air in New York and Miami; and Samura is the freelance journalist responsible for "Cry Freetown," the documentary that plucked the violent anarchy of Sierra Leone from the obscurity of African unrest.
There is brilliance elsewhere in Brill's as well. In addition to a great tale about muckraker George Seldes's tilts with J. Edgar Hoover, several front-of-the-book features are worth your time. Don't miss Reality Check (which details violence at a UPN hip-hop awards show and the network's papering-over of it); the Pundit Scorecard (Note to John McLaughlin: Excellent choice of panelists, but you should consider shutting up); and Verbatim, which uses George W.'s slur on Adam Clymer as a springboard to list some famous presidential insults.
The November George also plumbs presidential history, but its choice, a Top 10 list of lame-duck executive moves, is merely lame. By the time the writers scrape their way to No. 10, they are recalling the time that scamp, Grover Cleveland, vetoed a bill.
George leads with "West Wing," totally appropriate fodder for a magazine seeking the intersection of entertainment and politics. But the story doesn't reveal much, other than to say, at least one time too often, that the show won't change even if Bush wins the election. So who said it would?
Go with experts
Conde Nast Traveler for November gives its readers' opinions on the world's best destinations. In New England, Boston's Four Seasons hotel shines brightest: It is ranked the 77th best place to be on the planet, and 10th among North American hotels.
Among small North American hotels, the Charlotte Inn on Martha's Vineyard is ninth and the Wauwinet Inn on Nantucket follows at No. 10.
Boston itself did no better than ninth among US cities.
A revolution televised
With coverage in Red Herring and EV (a new "supplement" to Variety that covers entertainment in the digital age), one of the flavors of the month for November is Tivo and products like it; essentially, they are interactive, digital VCRs with a few other bells and whistles. The hype is that they will cause TV advertising to mutate into forms not yet contemplated, by making it even easier to zap commercials.
Red Herring delves in as part of its cover package on the "sorry state of digital Hollywood," and though it doesn't parrot the hype, it is clearly excited about the changes that may come. For example, the machines will note what sort of shows a viewer likes, and suggest other shows of the same vein. (That might sound attractive, but at the same time, they will be building a file on viewer habits, allowing potential advertisers to target more effectively.) And when viewers do see something of interest, they'll able to pause the show and go to the product's Web site, if they wish.
EV columnist Josef Adalian, who's been using Tivo for three months, says he sees no threat to the networks' way of life, although he does like the product. "I'm watching a lot more TV since Tivo arrived, yet I feel less a slave to the medium than ever." Undoubtedly, he didn't have to pay the Tivo subscription fee ($200 lifetime or $10 a month).
Besides, to lead a revolution, the machines have to find their way into homes. Sunday, I saw the Tivo at Comp USA, marked down from $400 to $300, so it seems the overthrow has not begun.
Congrats to the corporate publicists with the Corning account: They got their client, a leader in optics, the first spot in Red Herring's appetizer section, and just pages and pages in the November Fast Company. . . . I never got inside Upside for November. The cover presents John Malone as telecommunications beefcake under the headline, "Telecom gets SEXY," and the notion was just too silly . . . Number of blow cards (the annoying subscription come-ons tucked into practically every magazine) discarded in the preparation of this report: 38.