When Condé Nast parent company Advance Publications bought Fairchild Publications last October, it created a plus-size behemoth that seemed to threaten the hard-fought freedom of the fashion press. Who would stand up to the purveyors of pony skin, the vendors of Velcro closures? Is Fairchild trade paper Women’s Wear Daily still up to the task? These days, all the real rebels are on the Internet. Last week, the Web-based Fashion Wire Daily ran a two-part series titled “Newhouse’s New Toy” that suggested WWD was softening its coverage under its new ownership. (The New York Post picked up the story.) The piece ended with a quote from Harper’s Bazaar editor Kate Betts, saying “If Women’s Wear is no longer perceived as objective and a real source of useful information, then someone else will come along and become that.” Like, say, FWD? Brandusa Niro, FWD’s president and editor-in-chief, claims, “We don’t see ourselves as competitors to Women’s Wear Daily,” which she notes is a “trade,” whereas “we’re more consumer.” And by the way, “We think Women’s Wear Daily is boring.” FWD has just signed a deal to have its content distributed to other Websites by the Associated Press, thus becoming even more of a rival to WWD. Not surprisingly, Patrick McCarthy, who runs Fairchild, does see FWD as a direct competitor, “right down to the name.” Niro explains that “the reason why we did it is because we don’t like monopoly. It’s not a joyful moment in fashion,” she adds. “In my mind, the advertising can’t help but affect” WWD’s journalism. It’s a charge that McCarthy denies, but he was still stinging from FWD’s claim that the good review WWD gave John Galliano was designed to appease parent company LVMH. “We dish it out over here, so we have to be able to take it,” says McCarthy.