Enquiring minds want to know

September 23, 2008

Some of the most sage words of advice I ever received as a professional came from a former journalism professor of mine:

“Don’t ever work for the National Enquirer.”

Before his academic tenure had begun, my professor had a decorated career, most notably at one juncture as the youngest editor-in-chief for a respected film magazine in L.A. While holding that top spot, he was being courted by one of the finest examples of journalistic endeavor five times the world over.

You guessed it. The National Enquirer.

He managed to secure an interview at the venerable establishment, where he was wined and dined on the grand tour that was the job interview process. Expense accounts, chance for world travel, job security in the often insecure world of the media … not to mention a nice, big, fat, hefty salary. It almost seemed too good to be true.

It was. Touting the paper’s benefits to a colleague upon returning back to his magazine digs, the elder employee gave him some sage wisdom of his own:

“Don’t ever work for the National Enquirer. It’s the last place you’ll ever work.”

Do you think you’ll work the beat for a few years at the Enquirer and then get a gig with the New York Times? the salty veteran asked his green friend.

“You’ll get laughed right out the building.”

Why? Well, obviously, because the Enquirer, the leading institution in scum-bucket, tabloid foddering, trash can rifling, paparazzi armed, celebrity stalking, sensationalistic UFO-loving reportage, employs, he said, staffers in the most peculiar places in their careers … the washed-up dead-enders, living on the fringes of life, who maybe were once onto something as writers, but were somehow led astray.

Think of Jack McGee in “The Incredible Hulk,” a once-great reporter who fell down a few rungs on the literary ladder when he was stuck working for the “National Register.”

My prof was lucky he didn’t take the job, else he wouldn’t have landed the teaching gig that surpasses two decades at the same university.

Why do I preface lengthily this blog entry with an invective filled with foreboding warnings of papers like the Enquirer? Because the supermarket aisle rag actually may be onto a thing or two, according to a report published by Newsweek.

Perhaps through the prideful clenching of teeth the magazine admits this, but it seems that major news outlets like the New York Times or the Washington Post (who the article references) are starting to pay attention to the fact that the Enquirer has been getting the scoop over everyone else lately. The John Edwards scandal? The Enquirer broke that before anyone else.

Mind you, it goes without saying that these scoops are most always obtained through the most unethical of efforts ($35,000 for a snitch?) that “regular” newspapers tacitly avoid.

Should the questionable tactics of the Enquirer, the Star and their ilk be welcomed into the fray, this brotherhood of newspapering? Does money buy the news? By giving the Enquirer some credit, are we pandering our journalistic integrity? Is Elvis alive and well and living in suburban New Jersey with his Martian family?

Enquiring minds, bat boy, the three-headed baby and Nostradamus want to know.



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