REPORTING FROM BERLIN -- With a big and buxom front-page farewell, Germany's largest-circulation newspaper has pulled the plug on its legendary Page One Girl.
More than 5,000 topless women have graced the front page of the bestselling daily tabloid Bild over the last 28 years, but "the beautiful Eva from Poland" -- featured in a giant photo Friday under a banner headline announcing the end of the tradition -- will be the last.
The decision to do away with the Page One Girl was long in the making, said Tobias Froehlich, a spokesman for the multimedia company Axel Springer, which owns Bild and more than 200 other newspapers and magazines.
But the final move to go modest came from Bild's male staff members. Thursday was International Women's Day, and Bild management decided to conduct an experiment by giving its more than 300 female employees the day off. While they were gone, in a fit of remorse or German intellectualism, the male staffers decided that the Page One Girl was no longer appropriate.
Bild's success has been driven in part by its splashy front page, with its sensational headlines and dose of buxom beauty. (The word "bild" means picture or image.) But Froehlich said he's not concerned that Thursday's decision will hurt sales. More than 63% of Bild's 12.5 million readers are men, who presumably will still want to stay abreast of the news.
"We don't think the Page One Girl is the reason people buy the paper," Froehlich said. "It's just one aspect."
Because the Page One Girl sits below the fold on the paper's front page, he explained, it's not visible to readers who are scanning the newsstands.
"To say that the Page One Girl is responsible for people's decision to buy the paper, that's an exaggeration," he said. "So we're not worried."
Bild reassured its readers Friday that it would continue publishing "sexy" photos -- just "more modern, and better packaged in the inside pages of the paper."
-- Aaron Wiener