Tabloids Scramble During Scare

Editors and reporters scrambled Monday to put together next week's issues of The National Enquirer, Globe and Star as investigators scoured the supermarket tabloids' headquarters for evidence of anthrax.

The FBI closed American Media Inc.'s office in Boca Raton early Monday after the bacterium was found in the nose of a co-worker of Bob Stevens, who died Friday from the extremely rare inhaled form of anthrax.

Three of American Media's six tabloids — the Enquirer, Globe and Star — were scheduled to go to press Monday, even as more than 200 employees lined up outside a clinic in Delray Beach to be screened for anthrax. The company also publishes the Sun, National Examiner and Weekly World News.

Editors were split between the company's accounting office in Delray Beach and its office 40 miles to the south in downtown Miami, laying out pages and arranging copy for issues scheduled to hit the newsstands Oct. 16.

Jim Johnston, a page designer for the Enquirer who worked with Stevens for 25 years, went to the clinic but saw the large crowd outside and left. Instead, he went to the Delray Beach office to lay out the front page.

"It's going to be tough, but we'll get it out," Johnston said.

At least 100 employees were sent to the Delray Beach office and 50 others will work out of the Miami office, said David Pecker, chief executive of American Media.

The company will search for space to rent for the next few months. Pecker said he does not know when workers will be allowed back in the building.

The FBI is investigating the possibility that the anthrax was deliberately released.

Pecker said he does not believe the company was being targeted by terrorists because of the papers' coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks and accused terrorist mastermind Usama bin Laden.

"Our investigating is nothing different than the mainstream," he said.

Stevens, 63, was a photo editor for the Sun. He was the first person in 25 years in the United States to die of the inhaled form of anthrax. The bacteria were also found on a computer keyboard found in the office where both men worked.

The man with the second case of anthrax was listed in stable condition Monday at an unidentified Miami-Dade County hospital.

In 1999, American Media, which already owned The National Enquirer, Star and Weekly World News, bought Globe Communications Corp. for $105 million. The deal gave American Media the rights to Globe, Sun and the National Examiner.