Is The National Enquirer good, or is the mainstream media very bad?

Stephanie Clifford makes the argument that The National Enquirer has risen to the level of Journalistic Credibility since the tabloid has now been nominated for a Pulitzer in honor of its coverage of the John Edwards affair.

Barry Levine, the Enquirer’s executive editor in New York, describes the Eureka moment when he realized his publication was sitting on top of a big story.

Mr. Levine was intrigued when he looked up Mr. Edwards on Google and found a poll saying that the candidate and his wife, Elizabeth, had one of the most admired marriages of all the candidates.

That meant Mr. Edwards was on a pedestal, and revelations of an affair could knock him off it — in line with The Enquirer’s mission. “It still shows the reader that wealthy people, rich people, people who they may admire — when you take away the money, have the same types of problems that they have in real life,” he said.

So this kind of gossip-oriented hit piece is what the Times’s Clifford thinks “earns” a publication “some credit” in the world of mainstream journalism.

That makes sense considering how the media collectively jerked it to the scribblings in Game Change, the book written by high school cafeteria stenographers John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. This was a book about politics for people with no interest in politics, but tons of interest in petty gossip.

If you’re interested in the corporate takeover of American politics, or government corruption, or journalism, Game Change may not be the right book for you. But if you’re interested in reading about a hysterical, cancer-ridden Elizabeth Edwards confronting her adulterous husband in a parking lot, and tearing her blouse off during the frenzy, then read on.

If one considers that the Times’s Michiko Kakutani describes Game Change as serving up “a spicy smorgasbord of observations, revelations and allegations,” then it becomes easier to understand how the Times thinks the Enquirer was doing solid journalistic work in outing John Edwards even though he was no longer a presidential candidate, or holding any kind of public office when the story broke.

Kakutani goes on to admit that some of those “spicy observations” are based on journalist-like legwork, while others “simply crystallize rumors and whispers from the campaign trail,” and some are “hard to verify independently as more than spin or speculation on the part of unnamed sources.”

But nevermind. Journalmalism is sure fun to read!

Clifford makes the argument that there is “strong support” for the Enquirer bid from other publications and journalists. Those publications include Newsweek AKA The People Who Can’t Define ‘Terrorism,’ (who?), and the Times’s own spiritual advisor, Ross Douthat. It’s like Newsweek senior writer Steve Tuttle says, “If Hitler is, indeed, still alive and living in Argentina, and their reporting proves it, why shouldn’t they be honored?”


In fairness to the Enquirer, the Edwards story was certainly an impressive catch for a tabloid magazine. However, that doesn’t suddenly mean the Enquirer had joined the ranks of Serious Media. They’re still a gutter-dredging rag that publishes celebrity gossip and outright lies.

Erm, of course, the mainstream media led the parade into Iraq, constantly uses anonymous sources, and obsesses over Tiger Woods like he’s a close, personal relative.

(At one point in the article, in a rare moment of “thoughtful” dissent, Clifford scoffs that the Enquirer, “ran pieces based entirely on anonymous sources.” Outrageous! Certainly, the Times would never do that, right?)

If anything, the mainstream media has begun to resemble the Enquirer, and not the other way around. This means the standards for solid journalism are now so low that the Enquirer — of all godforsaken publications — has been nominated for a Pulitzer.

Clifford did get one thing right: the Times and the Enquirer do have tons in common. Only, not in a good way.

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– Allison Kilkenny


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