National Enquirer Editor Corrupts Impressionable Columbia J-School StudentsS

If you're a journalism Brahmin who's simply appalled at the prospect of the National Enquirer winning a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of John Edwards' atrocious moral life, look out—they're going after your young now!

The high priests of pedigreed journalism-with-a-capital-j gasped at the news earlier this year that the Enquirer was throwing its hat in the ring for a 2009 Pulitzer Prize for its ownership of the John Edwards scandal. Well, it's too late—the foul tabloid barbarians have already penetrated the barricades of Columbia University's journalism school, the keepers of the hallowed prize. National Enquirer executive editor Barry Levine gave a lecture to journalism graduate students there last week.

"Yes, I was in the belly of the beast," Levine told Gawker. "I had never been there before. I was happy to be greeted by a giant statue of [tabloid progenitor] Joseph Pulitzer, which I thought was appropriate." UPDATE: A couple of commenters have pointed out, and these directions to the Columbia journalism school seem to confirm, that the giant statue that Levine saw was in fact of Thomas Jefferson. Whoops!

Levine had been invited by Columbia professor John Martin to tell the story of his paper's relentless, three-year pursuit of Edwards and Rielle Hunter, a story that he had virtually to himself for much of that time because "respectable" newspapers didn't deign to get down in the mud with trivial stories about politicians who cheat on their dying wives and have illegitimate children and attract federal grand jury investigations for paying hush money out of campaign funds. We learned of the visit from Gawker contributor Hunter Walker, a Columbia journalism school student, who spotted a leftover stack of Levine's business cards and some print-outs of a New York Post story about the Enquirer in one of the school's classrooms this morning. Like any upstanding member of Columbia's journalism community, Walker immediately reported the intrusion to a responsible adult grabbed a card for future employment prospects and contacted Gawker.

National Enquirer Editor Corrupts Impressionable Columbia J-School StudentsS

The lesson, apparently, is that Columbia is happy to let the rude, ink-stained wretches of the Enquirer teach its charges the hard-won lessons of how reporting is done, but when it comes to actually honoring that reporting—surely you jest! After initially trying to preemptively blackball the Enquirer based on the preposterous notion that it's really a magazine, and not a newspaper, the Pulitzer Committee has reportedly relented and will consider its application in earnest. Maybe they're doing so right now! Jurors are meeting as we speak in the school's "World Room." We hope they grabbed one of Levine's cards on the way to the meeting, because you never know in this economy.