Tina's time to prove it's not just talk

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IT HAS been so widely discussed for months that it already seems like a fixture on the media scene, but yesterday it finally became reality. Talk, the magazine edited by Tina Brown, hit the newsstands long after it made its first impact on the collective consciousness of America's chattering classes.

The first issue has received massive publicity because of an interview with Hillary Rodham Clinton in which she discusses her husband's infidelities. The cover shows the First lady, laughing, or perhaps screaming, accompanied by the coverline: "Hillary opens up".

The White House said President Clinton was "comfortable" with the views expressed by his wife in the article, in which she talked of her husband's "weaknesses" and blamed some of his problems on an abusive childhood environment.

Gwyneth Paltrow opens up for Talk in a different way, appearing in a photo spread clad in Barbarella-style finery. George W Bush, who looks most likely to carry Republican hopes in the 2000 presidential election, is also featured. And there is a late addition, a photo spread on John Kennedy Jnr.

An interview with Richard Butler, the former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, has him accusing UN secretary-general Kofi Annan of trying to destroy the weapons inspection operation because it was "too independent".

But so far, the content is not what people are interested in. Attention has focused on the editor, Ms Brown, and the image she has created around what is, in the end, just another magazine. This image-making included her starring in a video rapping about Talk.

Ms Brown arrived from the New Yorker, where she had alternately shocked and delighted the somewhat stuffy magazine's readership by flirting with show business, fashion and outrage. Talk, which aims to sell about 750,000, is pitched at a upper middle-market circulation, not the self-selecting elite which attempts to decipher the New Yorker's eerily incomprehensible cartoons. It is more than a little like George, the magazine founded by JFK Jnr; it could perhaps best be described as a cross between People magazine, Time and Vanity Fair, which Ms Brown also used to edit.

The contributors are drawn from the beau monde of Washington, Manhattan and London - Martin Amis will be a regular, as will George Stephanopolous, a former spokesman for President Clinton.

Talk is part-owned by Hollywood studio Miramax, which aims to use it partly as a vehicle for new film projects. Yet in many respects, it seems to be a throwback to an older, gentler age. Howard Kurtz, the media editor of the Washington Post, compares it to Life, Look and the Saturday Evening Post, once stalwarts of the US media scene.