News Alert!

The Black Widow of Journalism Sends Countless Publications to an Early Grave

Editors from several prominent publishing companies in the United States and Britain have recently issued a statement alerting colleagues of the menace that threatens their very livelihood.

“Heather Stimmler-Hall, also known as the Black Widow of Journalism, has been preying on defenseless publications around the word, including newspapers, magazines, and websites,” said the group’s spokeswoman who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. “Posing as an innocent writer, sometimes even an editor, she contributes to these publications, only to send them to that big recycle bin in the sky”.

Ever since Stimmler-Hall’s professional journalism career began in 1992, magazines, newspapers, websites and newsletters where she has worked as a freelance contributor or staff have folded under mysterious circumstances. The editors of these failed publications discovered, while commiserating over their latte’s at the local coffee house, that the one thing they all had in common was that they had hired the services of this mysterious Stimmler-Hall.

“She seemed like a nice enough girl,” said her former editor at the Phoenix Gazette, Lilly Rosenberg, “she was our Teen Correspondent and office gofer for almost a year, and didn’t even complain when we made her interview Joey Lawrence.” But within a few years of Stimmler-Hall’s suspect departure to pursue “college”, the daily newspaper was absorbed by a rival newspaper (owned by the same publisher), the Arizona Republic, and all of the staff were forced to find new jobs.

Stimmler-Hall, perhaps timid in her first kill, wisely decided to lay low for a few years in the arctic tundra of Minnesota, then moved abroad to France, where hunted criminals are rarely extradited back to US justice.

She quickly conned the editors at the French publishing giant Hachette-Filipacchi to hire her as a contributing editor at ELLE.com, the independent, online edition of the popular women’s magazine published in 23 countries. After a year of providing content for the Travel, Décor & Women’s Issues sections of the website, Stimmler-Hall once again jumped ship.

“She said she was following her husband, who was supposedly pursing an MBA near Antibes,” laments her former Editor-in-Chief, Diva Paquet. “but only a fool would believe there’s a decent business school on the seedy French Riviera!” Within six months, the Paris office of ELLE.com was closed, the domain name handed over to the ELLE USA staff in New York, and the staff suffered the indignity of French unemployment (or 60% of their former wages for the next two years).

Stimmler-Hall, armed with a high-speed, ADSL connection and a list of paying markets looking for content, set herself up as a freelancer in order to wreak even more havoc from the cover of her own home office. The vulnerable newcomers to the scene, website start-ups, were the first targets on her list: ChickClick.com, WalkinCloset.com, Sexilicious.com, Discovery Travel Online and ThemeStream.com (although, admittedly, no one mourned that loss).

With a string of doomed dot com’s in her wake, the Black Widow of Journalism conned the editor of The American Mix (Guinness/United Distiller’s “feature-friendly marketing magazine”) into assigning her several full-page features.

“I was blinded by her witty prose, her attention to detail, the way she always turned her text in on deadline,” said the highly indignant (and still unemployed) Communications Director, Phil Hamlin. “I should’ve realized that those photographs and snappy quotes were just too slick for a mere freelancer.” Indeed, the American Mix’s glossy, 4-color spread couldn’t save it from its fate as a three-issue flop.

The next two magazines to fall under the spell of this wily word smith were platinum [sic], an independent women’s magazine that hired Stimmler-Hall to write a column about the Paris fashion scene (then folded before they could even pay her), and the sexy, British lad’s magazine, Aggressive Bid (which paid Stimmler-Hall handsomely, but never got past the launch issue).

French gendarmes were asked to intervene when Stimmler-Hall started contributing to the local Riviera Gazette, once a highly successful weekly newspaper for the English-speaking expat community. Unfortunately, she was released from custody on a technicality when the publishers, who had returned to the UK in disgust, were unavailable to attend the hearing.

Caught off-guard in a tiny village somewhere in the hills behind the French Riviera (while walking her two, suspiciously tiny dogs), Stimmler-Hall had only one thing to say about these serious accusations: “Oh, I suppose the burst of the Dot Com bubble, the September 11 tragedy, and the reluctance of Americans to travel abroad has caused a few publications to go under in the past few years. But what about all those publications I’ve written for that are still doing well?”

Authorities believe it’s only a matter of time, and urge editors around the world to resist the lure of the Black Widow's prolific, yet poisonous, talent.

(*Editor’s names have been changed to protect the innocent)

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