Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Space Aliens Ate My Laundry!

On Aug. 27, Americans will get their last fix of the latest goss on Elvis and Bigfoot sightings, out-of-control space aliens and sumu wrestler-sized toddlers. Yes, the Weekly World News is going out of business. Trips to the supermarket, under the guise of stocking up on bread, soap and garlic (the only true defense against Vampire Boy), will never be the same. Nor will the journalism profession.

From the brilliant Washington Post tribute to WWN, Peter Carlson explains the editorial philosophy of the tabloid:

too many facts can ruin a good yarn, so [WWN editors] Pope and Clontz encouraged their reporters to embellish a bit. The reporters complied and started spicing up stories with lovely details that came straight from their imaginations. Gradually, true stories became half-true stories, then quarter-true stories, then . . .

"It wasn't like overnight we decided to start running fiction," Berger says. "We just added a few facts to a story and got away with it, and it went on from there."

WWN's writers had stepped out onto that proverbial "slippery slope" you hear so much about, and they gleefully slid down it, riding right to the bottom, giggling all the way. Soon they were producing "FAMED PSYCHIC'S HEAD EXPLODES" and "ELVIS TOMB IS EMPTY" and "HEAVEN PHOTOGRAPHED BY HUBBLE TELESCOPE," which was illustrated by an actual photo from the Hubble, enhanced just a wee bit to show a shining city so lovely it made dying seem like a small price to pay for admission.

I am tempted to use this space to blame the rise of mindless celebrity news for killing off WWN, but I'll leave you to ponder this at the check-out counter as you question whether or not there may be aliens among us, perhaps working the cash register. After the 27th, we may never know.


Anonymous said...

I thought the Weekly World News began going downhill in 1996, when the space alien (who'd previously been friendly with Clinton) decided to join The Economist and endorse Bob Dole. For me, that was a considerable blow to the paper's credibility.

Bernhard Warner said...

Think about it: a one-armed robot running for president. WWN had to endorse him!