Monday, November 30, 2009

The Jackals Of The Press.

The most fun not-really-news story of the weekend is Tiger Woods' car accident outside his home at 2:30 in the morning where his wife "saved" him, getting him out of the car by breaking a window in the back of the Escalade with a 9-iron. The family has issued a public story, sort of, but is a little hesitant to talk to the cops. The alternate story, which has the advantage of being plausible, is that Tiger and his hot blooded Scandinavian wife got into a knock-down drag-out over the story that Tiger has a mistress, reported in the National Enquirer.

If you see a tabloid up near the checkout stand at the supermarket these days, it is owned by American Media Inc. or AMI for short. There was a time when the Star was owned by Rupert Murdoch and was a competitor of the Enquirer. That day is done, as they are now both owned by AMI and Murdoch is out of the supermarket tabloid game in the United States, though he still owns the Sun in the U.K. The famously outlandish Weekly World News was also published by AMI, though it is now only available online. (No link offered.)

The National Enquirer is the flagship publication of this pile of dreck, and over the past decade they can point to some major scoops. They were the first to report on Rush Limbaugh's drug addiction and buying mass quantities of Oxycontin from several different doctors. They got the story right about John Edwards' mistress and love child, just in case you might think they had a one-sided political agenda. Earlier this year, the Enquirer had a headline that Michael Jackson had six months to live. As you can see from the headlines above, the Globe and the Examiner have gone after both Bush and Obama, and Sarah Palin was the Enquirer's cover girl for many weeks during the campaign. About the only thing all the magazines agree about is they don't like Brad and Angelina very much.

Back in the day, the tabloids were not trustworthy. Carol Burnett won a huge settlement from the Enquirer back in the 1980s and their reputation, if any, was badly tarnished. Since then, they have been more careful, but they are still getting stuff wrong. They openly admit to paying sources, a practice widespread in the U.K. which is frowned on by the "reputable" press in the U.S. AMI has been sued several times this decade, several cases getting settled out of court after the proceedings are dragged out as long as the publishers can afford. Most notably in recent years, they had to apologize for slurs against Elizabeth Smart's family and a case brought by the wife of former congressman Gary Condit was settled out of court.

And then there's their record with the "brave last days" alerts, as we used to call them when I was a regular over at alt.obituaries. They were right about Michael Jackson and Patrick Swayze, and of course, eventually they will be right about anyone they say is going to die. But currently, according to the tabloids, both Cher and Oprah have less than three years to live, so be sure to mark your calendars. They often make similar proclamations about anyone who is too fat, like Kirstie Alley, or anyone who is too thin, like Callista Flockhart. The queen of Brave Last Days alerts is Elizabeth Taylor, who has been at death's door more often than the Yankees have won World Series. Rumors persist to this day that she won her first Oscar for the run-of-the-mill potboiler Butterfield 8 because of a sympathy vote due to her poor health at the time being possibly fatal, and that was in 1961.

I don't actually read the tabloids. I have a rule that I'm allowed to look as closely as I want to the covers, but if ink actually gets on my hands, I am unclean and must perform ritual ablutions. I don't know if Tiger Woods is having sex with some big breasted skank from New York City, I just know what has been reported secondhand from the original reports in the Enquirer. The Enquirer and her sister publications can point to some solid scoops in the past decade, but that's only because the rest of the press doesn't show you the multiple steaming piles of crap they got wrong over the same period of time.


Padre Mickey said...

I know a guy who wrote a pop song about tabloids.
And I wrote a paper in seminary on Tabloid Eschatology.

Matty Boy said...

That's weird. I know those guys, too!

sfmike said...

I adore the tabloids but my no-ink rule is that they have to be read in line while at the grocery store, where I just happened to be today. LOVED the Tiger Woods Mistress story, partly because Tiger's been so squeaky clean in the press, and it was nice to see him pictured as an actual human being.