MEDIA: Entertainment Weekly: buzz builders, buzz breakers - The Entertainment Weekly folks can help make or break the latest film, music or book release. Claire Atkinson finds out how to stay on their good side

Entertainment Weekly has had its finger on the pop cultural pulse for 10 years. For example, the Time/Warner title was one of the first magazines to identify the current craze for Razor scooters and to document the entrance of Budweiser's 'Whassup?' into common parlance.

Entertainment Weekly has had its finger on the pop cultural pulse for 10 years. For example, the Time/Warner title was one of the first magazines to identify the current craze for Razor scooters and to document the entrance of Budweiser's 'Whassup?' into common parlance.

Entertainment Weekly has had its finger on the pop cultural pulse for 10 years. For example, the Time/Warner title was one of the first magazines to identify the current craze for Razor scooters and to document the entrance of Budweiser's 'Whassup?' into common parlance.

'We are buzz builders,' says assistant managing editor Maggie Murphy, 'but we are also buzz breakers.' The title certainly plays a role in directing cultural traffic. According to Magnet Communications account executive Steve Tomasco, a placement in EW helped his client etown.com get pick up in Time magazine.

Murphy, who is 37 but looks like a teenager, admits that tracking pop culture is not always easy. She explains that some movies, such as The Sixth Sense, build a following so slowly that they miss out on becoming cover stories.

The WWF wrestling phenom is something Murphy wished the magazine had done more on, in retrospect. It finally made it to the cover under the headline: 'How Did Wrestling Get So Big?' But she says decisions about cover subjects are not always the result of critical judgment; they are sometimes chosen as a result of timing or what other titles have carried.

EW's main focus is the cultural mainstream. The mag has sections dedicated to movies, TV, music, theater, books and the Internet. The front of the magazine contains the newsier pieces.

Going Hollywood

'The News and Notes section has turned into a Hollywood Reporter-type inside-industry page,' says Porter Novelli media manager Lisa Concepcion, a regular subscriber to the title. 'And PR people should try for Jim Mullen's Hot Sheet.' That witty column lists the week's pop culture news. To make the Hot Sheet, Concepcion adds: 'Your item has to be really hot and buzzworthy and not just because the client says so.'

She advises people not to pitch the Flashes section unless they have an A-list celebrity. Otherwise 'you'd better have a big WOW factor,' she adds.

Murphy says the back-of-the-book Internet section is in a state of flux right now, trying to decide whether it should cover entertainment on the Internet or cover the Internet itself because it's entertaining. The section editor, Noah Robischon, is popular with PR pros due to his willingness to explain how the section works. 'They're changing the Internet section and they've been taking us through that,' says Simon Joseph, president of Dreamcoat PR. 'And that's a rare thing among mainstream media. They are willing to work with PR people and take you seriously.'

But when asked whether EW does deals with publicists on covers, Murphy gets defensive. 'Would you ask that question of Time?' she says. 'We don't give photo approval and we don't give writer approval.'

It is clearly a subject Murphy feels strongly about. She says every celebrity has the right not to answer questions, but publicists shouldn't ask reporters not to ask. 'We don't like to have our hands tied. If someone wants restrictions this isn't the right place.'

Despite the competition for celebrity covers, Murphy says editors of other magazines should not bow to such demands. EW's competition includes many titles, from the newsweeklies to Premiere and TV Guide.

'Magazines have to be extremely ethical. We have to say we are not giving away XY and Z. We are a journalistic enterprise,' she says.

Given the broad nature of the title, Murphy says it has a wide variety of choices for cover material. It also has the option of talking to directors, if stars are unavailable for interviews.

Late to bed, early to rise

The publication goes to bed late on Tuesdays and appears on some newsstands Fridays and nationally on Mondays. That makes Wednesday clean-up day, with Thursdays and Fridays dedicated to passing the review sections and Scout (a column on future trends). Calling early in the week is likely to irk reporters, who are divided into groups according to the main categories.

Murphy explains that members of the team evolve into specialists. For example Mary Kaye Schilling is the magazine's X-Files expert. Her name was even used by the show's writers in one episode. Jessica Shaw is the Beverly Hills 90210 expert.

In August, EW was sizing up the Democratic convention because of its location in Los Angeles, with the obvious celebrity connection. Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman is also a topic of interest because of his strict views on Hollywood. 'We cover everything through the prism of entertainment,' Murphy explains.

EW is also putting together special issues previewing the season's movie and TV releases. Other special issues include an EW on campus edition for students and a monthly Internet segment, called EWI. The 'It List' is one of four double issues published throughout the year. The others introduce the fall and summer movies and a round up of the year in pop culture in December. This year, the end-of-year double issue is set to include a more analytical look at pop culture throughout 2000 than the millennium round up produced last year.

Murphy says she's fortunate to have the job she has, given the time she spent as a kid listening to music and watching bad TV. 'Most people's hobbies are our jobs. We go to early screenings, read the industry trades, we talk to people and we try to break news.'

EW is aimed at readers between 18 and 34 years old, but Murphy says the pages contain something for everyone. 'We are for pop culture junkies; the boomers, the busters, Gen Y. Entertainment is the new sports. People follow it with the same passion.'



CONTACT LIST

Entertainment Weekly

1675 Broadway

New York, NY 10019

Tel: (212) 522 5600

Fax: (212) 522 6104

E-mail: firstname_lastname@ew.com

Managing editor: James Seymore

Executive editors: Peter Bonventre, Richard Sanders

Assistant managing editors: Mark Harris (movies), Maggie Murphy (news, fashion, trends), Mary Kaye Schilling (TV)

General editor: Cable Neuhaus

Senior editors: Marc Bernardin (video), Doug Brod (movies), Jamie Bufalino (TV), AJ Jacobs (News & Notes), Tina Jordan (books), John McAlley (music), Jay Woodruff (movie reviews)

Internet editor: Cable Neuhaus.



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