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JFK Jr.'s Wedding Gift to the Suffering Tabs

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The National Enquirer has aerial views of guests riding to the hush-hush island wedding in pickup trucks and a military vehicle.

Star magazine has a story about the bride’s “secret $10M wedding pact” and also claims that she’s nine weeks pregnant.

The Globe tracked down and photographed the newlyweds at their “honeymoon hideaway” in Istanbul.

The Sept. 21 wedding of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette on an island off the Georgia coast has given the leading supermarket tabloids plenty to enliven their Oct. 8 issues out this week. If the publications are lucky, readers’ interest in the elusive details of the marriage will help move stacks of copies off newsstands.

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For as the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations show, the Enquirer and Star have continued their free-fall losses in circulation, while the Globe has managed to halt its own dramatic slide by selling about 4,000 more copies a week. Despite the tabloids’ periodic ability to lead all media in pursuit of a story--the Star uncovered political consultant Dick Morris’ affair with a Washington call girl--the papers are struggling to arrest major circulation declines. The Enquirer plans to open a Washington bureau.

E. Daniel Capell, a respected numbers-watcher who publishes Capell’s Circulation Report, calls the past 10 years “a decade of disaster” for the tabs.

In 1986, the Enquirer’s average weekly circulation was 4.4 million copies, compared with 2.6 million during the first half of this year.

The Star was up at 3.6 million in 1986, compared with 2.2 million in the first half of 1996.

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The Globe boasted a circulation of 1.56 million a decade ago. Now, it’s 918,000.

Where have all those readers gone?

Capell said he believes the tabloid-style TV shows that proliferated in the past decade, such as “Hard Copy” and “Inside Edition,” have cannibalized the audience for tell-all celebrity gossip.

Other media observers suggest that the addition of tabloid fodder to all sorts of media--from “60 Minutes” to daily newspapers-- has put the weekly tabs at a competitive disadvantage.

“To the extent that the circulation of the Star and the Enquirer is down, perhaps this reflects the extent that tabloid precepts have seeped out into the media universe,” said Steven Cuozzo, executive editor of the New York Post and author of “It’s Alive” (Times Books), a recently published history of the tabloid and its effect on America’s news culture.

Cuozzo pointed out that the New York Times Sunday Magazine recently ran a piece about Amy Fisher, the so-called “Long Island Lolita,” and her jailhouse woes. “There’s such a multiplicity of voices that no particular organ rules the franchise anymore.”

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Change of Health: The small print under the American Health magazine’s logo used to say “Fitness of Body and Mind.” Starting with the new October issue, it reads “Smart Ways Women Stay Well.”

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The change, under Editor in Chief Freddi Greenberg, who had been with Child mag before joining American Health in the spring, is all part of a face-lift and repositioning to serve women 30 to 54 years old. No more coed focus. There’s a plan to increase the circulation to 900,000 (from around 800,000) next year.

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Afterwords: The British writer Nicholas Evans was paid $3.1 million for his first novel, “The Horse Whisperer,” which proved its value as a huge seller in Delacorte Press hardcover, published in 36 languages and picked up by Robert Redford for the movies. A year after the novel’s debut, Evans’ tale of love’s redemptive power was re-released Wednesday as a Dell paperback. The printing of 2.25 million copies is said to be the largest paperback volley ever for a first novel. . . .

“Just as I Am,” the autobiography of the Rev. Billy Graham, will be published next year by Harper San Francisco. The parent company, HarperCollins Publishers, said last week that Graham’s manuscript is in-house and will run more than 800 pages. The planned first printing is 1 million copies.

* Paul D. Colford is a columnist for Newsday. His column is published Thursdays.


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