Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Weekly World News

Every time I pass through a supermarket checkout line I see what Hodding Carter III called "The Dark Side of American journalism." No, not National Review, but the tabloids.

I have never spent a penny on these strange papers and never will. I cannot imagine how they stay in business. Not because I think that most people share my scruples (the tabloid's continued success puts paid to that theory), but because as you pass them by you can read the headlines. And from the time or two I've (guiltily) opened the pages and looked inside, the headlines are the publication's best parts.

Years back, Dave Barry supposed that the tabloids composed headlines by reaching into a series of buckets and pulling out a series of names, verbs, and nouns: "Donny and Marie--are--Negros!"*

In the last few years, the old names in tabloids, National Enquirerer and The Star, seemed to have attempted to re-invent themselves as varieties of down-scale People Magazines.

But one paper has bucked the trend. The Weekly World News has apparently walked the Möbius strip of weirdness and met itself. Its new tagline is: "America's only Reliable Newspaper." And in a backhanded way, that may be the only true statement on the page and one of the most true statements in American journalism.

* In that column he announced a contest for the best tabloid headlines. In case you wondered, yes I entered, but lost. I think my entries were too good to win:
  • Top Scientists find real-life "Temple of Doom."
  • Elizabeth Taylor wants baby; Michael Jackson says, "No!"
Keep in mind this was the early 1980's, before the Space Alien endorsed Ross Perot.

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