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Magazine Will Keep On Going, by George

October 16, 1997|PAUL D. COLFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Absolutely, positively not. George magazine is not folding and not planning to fold any time soon, according to the publisher who bankrolled John F. Kennedy Jr.'s political magazine two years ago.

David J. Pecker, president and chief executive officer of Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, sought in a recent interview to silence recurring buzz in publishing circles that George is about to shut down. As the magazine's second anniversary issue circulated on newsstands, featuring a pouffy-haired Elizabeth Hurley as a Bond-era spy, one industry source went so far as to say that the January issue of George would be its last.

Nonsense, said Pecker, who described George as a growing success that has cost the deep-pocketed Hachette a lot less than it had expected.

"When we originally had our deal with John Kennedy, we appropriated $25 million toward this project," Pecker said. "So far we have another $15 million to go."

What's more, he said, George is running well ahead of financial projections and has racked up a circulation that is 100,000 copies stronger than Hachette had anticipated by this time. Pecker put total circulation at 410,000 copies, which includes an average monthly newsstand sale of 140,000 to 150,000 copies. (George has applied for membership in the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which has yet to release an audit of the magazine's numbers.)

Pecker also said that second-time renewals of subscriptions, widely considered a good measure of reader satisfaction, were coming in at a well-above-average rate of 55%.

"From everything I know, these are very strong signs and we really have something," he said. "This year we expect to have 800 pages of advertising."

Of course, a key reason George made it into print was the JFK Jr. connection. In some measure, George is a Kennedy fanzine. It runs interviews that Kennedy does with political figures, such as former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, and he has used the magazine to decry the wayward behavior of his cousins.

And after two years of publication, Kennedy, who continues to hold the title of editor in chief, has outlasted the magazine's original executive editor, Eric Etheridge (now the executive producer of Microsoft Corp.'s New York Sidewalk Web site), and his own business partner, Michael J. Berman.

Berman, a former public-relations executive, had been listed next to Kennedy on the masthead as president and co-founder of George before they had a split that sources have attributed to personality differences. Now, Berman is at the bottom of the masthead, identified only as co-founder.

An editor at a competing publication, puzzled by George's light-on-politics approach and heavy show-biz content, said recently that "If Kennedy quit, that magazine would shut down in six weeks."

"I've never seen a community so negative about a person and wanting him to fail," Pecker said. "People are very surprised that he's successful.

"He works 12 hours a day, he travels all over the place, he does the interviews," he said. Pecker insisted that Kennedy, who got married last year and reportedly underwent hand surgery last week, is not leaving the magazine.

"He has a multiyear contract," Pecker said.

College Ranklings: Rolling Stone's recent story about U.S. News & World Report's annual college rankings made for lively reading, mainly because it described how significantly the numbers affect the tide of student applications and the jobs of admissions personnel. But the story, called "The College Rankings Scam" (Oct. 16 issue), predictably irked U.S. News because it also reported that nervous colleges sometimes "cook" the figures that they submit to the news weekly.

U.S. News' annual rankings were first published this year in its Sept. 1 issue. The data also appear in the magazine's stand-alone guide, the 300-page "America's Best Colleges 1998," a big seller among college guides.

Alvin P. Sanoff, managing editor of "America's Best Colleges," says in a letter to Jann S. Wenner, Rolling Stone's editor and publisher, that the article contained "numerous factual errors and distortions." Sanoff says that U.S. News cross-checks submitted data. He also disputed reporter Stephen Glass' contention that the ranking formula is "secret" and that "the rankings end up pushing students into better-ranked schools," whether the students are suited for their choice of schools or not.

Rolling Stone plans to run Sanoff's letter at the end of November. Meanwhile, Managing Editor Sid Holt said Rolling Stone stands by its story.

Afterwords: That's John Travolta, author and illustrator. "Propeller One-Way Coach," a tale about an 8-year-old boy that the airplane-flying actor wrote and printed years ago as a Christmas present for family members, now has been published for everyone else, too. Travolta's 42-page hardcover, subtitled "A Fable for All Ages," is available from Warner Books. . . .

"Compan~ero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara" (Knopf), a new biography by Jorge G. Castan~eda, also has been published by Vintage Books in a Spanish-language edition, "Compan~ero: Vida y muerte del Che Guevara.". . . .

Charlton Heston recently offered forceful remarks in Washington in praise of the 2nd Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, saying it is "America's first freedom--the one that protects all others." In the November issue of Guns & Ammo magazine, Heston debuts as a regular columnist, writing "From the Capitol," about legislative issues. . . .

Amy Paulsen, deputy editor of TV Guide, is joining the new Teen People as executive editor, Editor in Chief Christina Ferrari announced this week. The People spinoff for teens is scheduled to publish 10 times a year, starting in February. . . .

* Paul D. Colford is a columnist for Newsday. His e-mail address is paul.colford@newsday.com. His column is published Thursdays.

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