What The Enquirer Can Teach You About Good JournalismReading about reading about National Enquirer founder Generoso "Gene" Pope Jr. in today's Wall Street Journal, it's hard not to wonder, how come MIT-educated CIA operatives don't start trashy tabloid publications anymore? And is that related to that other salient question, how come kids named "Generoso" don't seem to come through Horace Mann anymore? (The blanket answer to all this is that people just don't know how to have fun anymore, or else the progeny of Russia and China's mafiosos would have run DNA tests on Andrew Young's chewing gum by now, but that's another story.) Anyway, in a month that has seen so much news production "Made In China" so to speak we'd like to take a moment to appreciate the month's leading supplier of original domestic, vertically integrated, by us-for American newstrash, the National Enquirer, for some of the great techniques and philosophies of news gathering Gene brought to American publishing.1. Inculcate reporters in "When In Rome" philosophy of reporting:
An Enquirer reporter donned a clerical collar to infiltrate Bing Crosby's family-and-a-few-friends funeral. Hot-footing from the building with his exclusive, the reporter-priest was greeted on his way out — "Good evening, Father" — by another Pope man . . . posing as the doorman.
I don't see what's so wrong with this. Sometimes it's just easier to find out the truth if you happen to be wearing scrubs, or a burka, or long neon fingernails with rhinestones accents, or carrying a gun… 2. Never underestimate the extent to which people are searching for new gross shit to get grossed out by: From a 2004 review of a memoir by ex-Enquirer editor Iain Calder:
Gene was caught in a traffic jam and observed motorists rubbernecking to see the mangled bodies of crash victims,'' Mr. Calder explains. ''If that's what they want, he thought, that's what I'll give them.''
He proceeded to give them: Elvis Presley's coffin, Lee Harvey Oswald's autopsy photos, and such evocative headlines as "Digging Up Wife's Rotting Corpse And Tears It Apart" and "Mom Uses Son's Face for an Ashtray." Oh and also ""I Cut Out Her Heart and Stomped On It!" 3. Occasionally you have to spell things wrong on purpose. I'm extrapolating here, but I have yet to learn why he called it the "Enquirer." But it was probably for the same reason 2Pac called himself "Makaveli" or some people like to pluralize with "Z" and diner owners even in London, where Gene found some of his scrappiest journalists, insist on serving you "Belgium waffles." I dunno, maybe something about finding the nexus of "good branding strategy" and acknowledging the universe's absurdity? 4. As Gene used to say, "the Enquirer exists because celebrities do stupid things they regret." In other words, the Enquirer existed to lay bare the human condition. So does all the media! Seek the truth, because if it's not more perverted or weird than you ever imagined, there is probably something admirably stupid about it, like she is wearing a "Monkey Business" T-shirt or he brought his wife back to the same $129 Comfort Inn he fucked his mistress in the next week! So there you have it, tabloid king Gene Pope Jr.'s Rules For Running A Media Organization. Will they make you rich? Fuck no! The Enquirer is suffering from a serious case of cash cholera as we speak. But they'll always have Henry Kissinger's Maalox! Generoso Pope Jr. [Wikipedia] Inquiring Minds Still Want To Know [WSJ] Stop The Presses! Not Enough Alien Corpses [NYT]