Stuttering Spirits and Sexual Snafus

By: Dave Astor

Editor’s note: Starting the week of Nov. 11, “Syndicate World” will be posted on Thursdays rather than Mondays.

Legend has it that Wireless Flash News Service’s 1993 split from the Copley Radio Network had something to do with British royalty.

Back then, Wireless prepared a piece that mentioned Princess Di’s gynecologist and included the line: “At your cervix, Your Majesty.” This apparently was not appreciated by conservative-minded Copley officials, and Wireless soon moved to independence and self-syndication.

Wireless — specializing in entertainment news, quirky stories, and other water-cooler fare — may make another move early next year. It’s thinking of dividing itself into two parts, one offering offbeat and pop-culture content of a G-rated nature and the other providing “saucier” material.

“We did a survey recently,” said Wireless Senior Associate Editor David Moye. “Fifty percent thought we were doing too many stories geared to sex, while 33% thought we weren’t doing enough.”

This isn’t surprising considering that the news service’s 800 or so clients range from Howard Stern’s radio show and cable TV’s Playboy Channel to dailies such as the Los Angeles Times, the New York Daily News, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Toronto Star, The Oregonian of Portland, and Newsday of Melville, N.Y.

Newspaper Clients Increasing

Wireless started life 22 years ago solely with radio clients (its name has nothing to do with pagers). At least 85% of subscribers continue to be from the radio world, but there are now also Web sites, TV shows (including Jay Leno’s and David Letterman’s), magazines, supermarket tabloids, and newspapers.

“In the last two or three years, we went from 10 to 30 papers,” said Dave S. Louie, sales and marketing manager. “We signed four in the last two months.”

Clients receive dozens of stories and items each day. During one recent week, Wireless offered articles or briefs about dancing dogs, Saddam Hussein toilet paper, ghosts with speech impediments, an artist who paints with his rear end, Rita Moreno’s problems getting her West Side Story Oscar through an airport metal detector, genetically altered onions that don’t cause tears, a bottle of rice wine in China containing a live pickled snake, a young Englishman who keeps his dead pet owl in a freezer so it can be buried with him when he dies, a haunted brothel in Nevada, and an Israeli man who suffered a heart attack after hiring a prostitute who turned out to be his daughter.

Wireless, which provides contact information with its content, also lists celebrity birthdays as well as interesting past events from a particular date.

The San Diego-based service strives to make at least 70% of its stories original. (One of its mottoes: “News that’s first, fresh, and freaky.”) A core staff of six is augmented by “stringers, contacts, tipsters, moles, and spies,” said Moye, adding that Wireless also does news exchanges with international publications.

Most customers are regular subscribers, but Wireless also sells material on a one-shot basis via its Web site (http://www.flashnews.com).

Wireless — founded in 1980 by current Managing Editor Patrick Glynn — has nearly $750,000 in annual revenue.

In the future, Louie said Wireless would consider hooking up with a big syndicate for help with sales and distribution.

***

Pa. Paper Not Bringing Back Coulter


Publisher: Column Flap Didn’t Cause Unger Departure

With last month’s departure of Centre Daily Times Executive Editor Bob Unger, some people are wondering if the State College, Pa., newspaper will reinstate conservative columnist Ann Coulter. The answer is no.

“She’s not coming back,” CDT President and Publisher Henry Haitz told E&P Online.

Haitz said he supported Unger’s September decision to drop Coulter, agreed with the column Unger wrote “firing” the syndicated writer, and emphasized that the Coulter cancellation “had absolutely nothing to do” with Unger stepping down on Oct. 21.

In an Oct. 27 CDT column (http://www.centredaily.com/mld/centredaily/news/opinion/4374685.htm), Haitz wrote that he and Unger agreed to part ways because of differences relating to “staff development and how to best organize our resources on behalf of our readers.” He added: “Bob served the readers of our community very well during the two and a half years he was editor.”

After E&P Online ran an Oct. 22 story about Unger’s departure, some Coulter fans e-mailing this site assumed Unger lost his job because of dropping the columnist — and expressed satisfaction that Unger was gone. More than 70 people e-mailed E&P Online, with about 90% praising Coulter.

The CDT received a different e-mail reaction after its announcement of Unger’s departure. Haitz told E&P Online that more than 90% of the messages — which arrived at a rate of 20 or more a day — supported Unger’s September decision and hoped the paper would not bring Coulter back now that Unger was gone.

Haitz said he hopes to replace Unger by the end of the year.

***

Et cetera …

A Dallas Morning News column by three bilingual advice-givers is being offered twice a month by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services. “Consejos” is by Liliana Gundlach, Catherine Jagers, and Daniel Ramirez. …

A “Dick Tracy” story line running through Dec. 15 includes pictures and information about missing/abducted children. The Tribune Media Services comic is by Michael Kilian and Dick Locher, who are doing the sequence in cooperation with the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. …

United Feature Syndicate (UFS) columnist Judith Martin authored Star-Spangled Manners: In Which Miss Manners Defends American Etiquette (For a Change). It’s from W.W. Norton & Co. …

This year’s Newspaper Enterprise Association holiday strip is by “Raising Duncan” creator Chris Browne of UFS. The “Duncan’s First Christmas” sequence runs Dec. 2-25. …

Steve McGarry reportedly has become the first non-Australian to win a Stanley Award from the Australian Cartoonists Association. McGarry, who’s president of the U.S.-based National Cartoonists Society (NCS), was honored for newspaper illustration. His work includes the “Kid City” comic for UFS. …

Frank Evers, former New York Daily News editorial cartoonist and NCS president, died Oct. 25 in Brick, N.J. …

Editorial cartoonist Vic Cantone signed with the ArtistMarket.com syndicate.




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