What does it take to launch a new national magazine? Investors. A distributor. Lots of presold ads. A writer or two. Oh, yes, and a launch party, the kind with a catered buffet, guests to be impressed and napkins and match books with the magazine's name engraved on them.
That was the scene Thursday night, when Time Inc. introduced its new Entertainment Weekly, a publication devoted to brief and beyond-brief reviews of movies, TV shows, recordings and books. Two and a half years in the making, EW is a multimillion-dollar gamble founded upon editor Jeff Jarvis' journalistic credo, put forth in his first editor's note: "Short is fine."
The guests at the kickoff included local media types come to check out the competition, as well as the usual have-food-will-travel party hangers-on. Someone inventive slung fluorescent plastic Slinkies from the ceiling for decor, and video monitors around the club bore a mysterious Big Brother-meets-Moon Zappa legend, "Kick back. Chill out. Hang loose. Have fun."
Party buzz reported one teensy problem so far: EW inadvertently miffed the powerful Disney Corp. this week with its less than flattering placement of a full-page ad for the studio's upcoming summer extravaganza, "Dick Tracy." (Dick was relegated to a lowly page somewhere in the back.) That morning, Disney sources were reportedly unhappy about the magazine's gaffe, and a Disney employee at the party confirmed that "the office is pretty ticked off"--only she didn't say ticked.
Guests received complimentary copies of Volume 1, Issue 1, with country singer k.d. lang grinning on the cover. The lack of a star turnout seemed strange at a Hollywood affair, but the magazine had opted to fete its advertisers rather than a bunch of freeloading celebrities--even preferring, it appeared, to feed a bunch of freeloading free-lance writers.
And publisher Michael Klingensmith went a long way toward assuaging any celebrity withdrawal symptoms when he announced, "In the grand tradition of Time and Time Inc., the bar is open." Now that was a journalistic philosophy everyone seemed to salute.