In the constantly-contradicting world of tabloid journalism, is anyone reliable? We analyzed 20 months of reported break-ups, marriages, and pregnancies to tabulate our first-ever Tabloid Reality Index, batting averages for America's five major celebrity glossies and the rumors they monger.
With the aid of Jezebel's trusty archive of tabloid covers, we looked at five types of falsifiable rumors—break-ups, pregnancies, marriages, engagements, adoptions, and reconciliations—published in Us Weekly, Star, Life & Style, In Touch, and OK! from the beginning of 2009 through the first eight months of 2010. (America's biggest celebrity glossy, People, publishes so few unconfirmed rumors—and instead relies on scoops that have been spoon-fed by publicists—that we didn't bother including it in the mix.) We then followed up on which rumors turned out to be true or false and used that data to estimate the accuracy of each magazine's stories and covers. These are the results. (You can read more about our methodology here, if you're interested.)
Click to enlarge
35% Cover Accuracy, 59% Overall Accuracy
Us Weekly is America's most accurate tabloid: 35 percent of its cover stories and 59 percent of the unconfirmed reports it published during the time period we looked at turned out to be true. (The magazine's solid batting average is derived, in part, from its tendency to rely on paid-for "exclusives" about reality stars and other C-listers.) Us correctly predicted the Winslet-Mendes divorce; it called Mel Gibson's separation from ex-wife Robyn; and it was ahead of the curve on Hilary Duff's engagement. Most impressively, every pregnancy and adoption Us reported during the time frame turned out to be true. The weekly did, however, muck up several major stories: It repeatedly reported Brangelina breaking up, said that Kate Hudson and Owen Wilson were reconciling, and claimed that Pink and Cary Hart were getting married. Us also jumped the gun on Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem's marriage by seven months—a big enough error for us to classify that rumor as "false."
Our all-time favorite Us story—that Jessica Simpson audibly farted in a meeting about her clothing line—remains proved neither true nor false to this day.
Life & Style
25% Cover Accuracy, 34% Overall Accuracy
In second place was de facto Gosselin biographer Life & Style: Jon, Kate, and their beloved Plus Eight grabbed 22 L&S covers in the space of 20 months. Despite a number of exclusives from both sides of the warring clan, L&S managed to mess up several Gosselin scoops, including one about Jon and Kate calling off their divorce. It also inaccurately predicted a Christina Aguilera divorce, a Beyonce pregnancy, and multiple buns in the oven for Jennifer Aniston.
9% Cover Accuracy, 21% Overall Accuracy
A significant drop in accuracy accompanies us to the third-place magazine on our list. In Touch correctly reported Avril Lavigne's split from Derrick Whimbley and was the first to report on Heidi Klum's most recent pregnancy. But with the magazine relying heavily on Brangelina rumors (almost all of which turned out to be untrue)—and with 19 incorrectly reported pregnancies (Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Eva Longoria) over the 20 months—In Touch's batting average took a hit.
7% Cover Accuracy, 14% Overall Accuracy
The exclamatory publication tied for last place with Star magazine. (OK! had better overall accuracy but Star had better cover accuracy, according to our figures.) OK! accurately reported Halle Berry's break-up with her Canadian model boytoy, as well as the Cruz-Bardem marriage. The mag's failures, however, were numerous: OK! falsely reported multiple Jennifer Aniston pregnancies, as well as a wedding, pregnancy, and break-up for Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. (The pair is still together, unwed and without child.) Amusingly, a falsely reported Kim Kardashian pregnancy preceded the news that Kim has joined OK!'s staff as a "Contributing Beauty Editor," so we'll have to see if this improves the quality of OK!'s Kardashian coverage.
9% Cover Accuracy, 12% Overall Accuracy
With less than 10 percent of the stories appearing on its covers turning out to be true, Star tied for last place on our list. Although it had some successes—such as correctly reporting Eminem's reconciliation with Kim Mathers and Tea Leoni's reconciliation with David Duchovny—myriad Star stories turned out to be false, including at least 25 celebrity pregnancy takes and several stories about Tom Cruise and Kate Holmes breaking up.
A Thousand Little Brangelina Cover Lies
What's the one story that the tabloids never get right? The neverending saga of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Jennifer Aniston. Click here for a look at the many lies over the years, and why tabloid magazines rely so heavily on the story.
Special thanks to Gawker's dedicated interns for their research assistance.
Click to view