Diller backs Brill mag

One of three partners behind 'Content'

NEW YORK — Former Court TV and American Lawyer chief Steven Brill has inked deals with three “limited partners” to finance his new consumer media magazine, Content, with HSN Inc. chairman Barry Diller topping the list.

Brill told Daily Variety Wednesday that Diller, real estate and investment honcho Howard Milstein and Centre Partners Man-agement LLC managing director Lester Pollack have invested “personal funds” in the venture, scheduled to hit newsstands in June.

Brill has also funneled into the project a good portion of the reported $30 million he made in February 1997 when Time Warner bought all rights to American Lawyer Media (made up of the magazine, Court TV and several regional legal newspapers), making Brill “the majority and general partner” of Content.

While it’s not yet up and running, dissecting the kind of media feeding frenzy the American public saw this past week is exactly what Brill intends to be the new mag’s mandate.

“It’s been frustrating and not so frustrating to watch the coverage (of the White House sex scandal) this week, but the best stories are always the ones told after the dust settles,” said Brill. “It’s clear, though, that the majority of TV, print and Web journalists have abandoned standards of sourcing … they’re just throwing everything out and seeing what sticks.”

Brill points to vast public cynicism about the media as the reason he’s turning his notoriously keen journalistic eye on journalism itself, and says, “People are confused and frustrated about the most important thing in the Information Age — information. They don’t know who they can trust. We’ll show them how the media really work.”

Results of direct mail queries sent to subscribers of roughly 40 upscale consumer mags (including the New Yorker, Wired and Fortune) showed “a more than 5-1/2% return — more than enough to go ahead safely with a project like this,” according to Brill.

Eventually, Brill also plans to expand the mag to TV, with a show running examples of the best and worst of television news footage.

In the meantime, the 47-year-old is busy building up his cadre of journalistic gunslingers. Brill has so far signed Time magazine’s Michael Kramer to be his deputy, and brought in, among others, former White House communications director Donald Baer, New York Observer media writer Lorne Manley and U.S. News & World Report’s Amy Bernstein. New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin will also write a humor column.

In the first issue, readers can expect to see a column by paparazzi-hater George Clooney, and articles with titles like “The 10 Laziest Washington Reporters” and “Diane Sawyer’s Three Sappiest Interviews — And the Questions She Could Have Asked.”

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