National Enquirer: the Queen of Newspaper Tabloids

As I was waiting in line at a drug store the other day my eyes were drawn to the magazine stand. To my surprise there at the top of the stand was the National Enquirer.  I thought that old controversial tabloid had went out of business years ago. But the rag is still steaming off the presses. I guess certain people like to be entertained by reading made-up stories about the rich and famous. 

A reliable source this tabloid is not.  Funny, it is that.  The Enquirer is one step above Weekly World News, the WWN writes about women having Bigfoot’s babies.  The Enquirer doesn’t go that far, but as the headlines below demonstrate, it does go far. It did report with a straight face that Jack Black was pregnant.  Escapism in a very harmless way I suppose.

I always had my doubts about Doctor Phil.

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In 1926, William Griffin, a protégé of William Randolph Hearst, founded the paper as The New York Evening Enquirer, a Sunday afternoon broadsheet newspaper distributed throughout New York City, using money lent to Griffin by Hearst. As partial payment of his loan, Hearst asked Griffin to use the Enquirer as a proving ground for new ideas. Hearst took the ideas that worked in his successful publications; the less successful ideas stayed with the Enquirer, and as a result the Enquirer‘s sales never soared.

 

Cover from the 1960’s

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By 1952, the paper’s circulation had fallen to 17,000 copies a week and it was purchased by Generoso Pope Jr., the son of Generoso Pope, the founder of Il Progresso, New York’s Italian language daily newspaper. It has been alleged that Mafia boss Frank Costello provided Pope the money for the purchase in exchange for the Enquirer’s promise to list lottery numbers and to refrain from all mention of Mafia activities.

 

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In 1953, Pope revamped the format from a broadsheet to a sensationalist tabloid focusing on sex and violence. The paper’s editorial content became so salacious that Griffin was forced by the Mayor to resign from the city’s Board of Higher Education in 1954. In 1957, Pope changed the name of the newspaper to The National Enquirer and changed its scope to national stories of sex and scandal. Pope worked tirelessly in the 1950s and 1960s to increase the circulation and broaden the tabloid’s appeal. In the late 1950s and through most of the 1960s, the Enquirer was known for its gory and unsettling headlines and stories such as: “I Cut Out Her Heart and Stomped on It” (Sept. 8, 1963) and “Mom Boiled Her Baby and Ate Her” (1962). At this time the paper was sold on newsstands and in drugstores only. Pope stated he got the idea for the format and these gory stories from seeing people congregate around auto accidents. By 1966, circulation had risen to one million.

 

The Enquirer must have secret agents in the heart of the medical establishment, as they always seem to know about the impending demise of celebrities.

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The House Hippo

The house hippo is the subject of a Canadian television public service announcement (PSA) produced by Concerned Children’s Advertisers (now known as Companies Committed to Kids) in May 1999 and reintroduced by MediaSmarts in 2019. The original sixty-second clip was directed by Tim Hamilton of Avion Films. Effects were produced by Spin Productions.

The narration of the piece is spoken in the style of a Hinterland Who’s Who spot, showing footage and describing the behaviour of the “North American house hippo”, a fictional animal found “throughout Canada, and the eastern United States.” The hippo is shown foraging for the crumbs of peanut butter toast in a kitchen, escaping from a house cat, and making a nest from lost mittens to go to sleep.

Their stated intent is to educate children about critical thinking with regard to what they see in television advertising, and remind them that “it’s good to think about what you’re watching on TV, and ask questions”. Nevertheless, some viewers on social media have expressed that as children, they completely believed that house hippos were real based on this commercial.

Famous Monsters Magazine Covers

Famous Monsters of Filmland is a genre-specific film magazine started in 1958 by publisher James Warren and editor Forrest J Ackerman.

Famous Monsters of Filmland directly inspired the creation of many other similar publications, including Castle of FrankensteinCinefantastiqueFangoriaThe Monster Times, and Video Watchdog. In addition, hundreds, if not thousands, of FM-influenced horror, fantasy and science fiction movie-related fanzines have been produced, some of which have continued to publish for decades, such as Midnight Marquee and Little Shoppe of Horrors.

 

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Famous Monsters of Filmland was originally conceived as a one-shot publication by Warren and Ackerman, published in the wake of the widespread success of the package of old horror movies syndicated to American television in 1957. But the first issue, published in February 1958, was so successful that it required a second printing to fulfill public demand. Its future as part of American culture was immediately obvious to both men. The success prompted spinoff magazines such as SpacemenFamous Westerns of FilmlandScreen Thrills IllustratedCreepyEerie, and Vampirella.

FM offered brief articles, well-illustrated with publicity stills and graphic artwork, on horror movies from the silent era to the current date of publication, their stars and filmmakers. Warren and Ackerman decided to aim the text at late pre-adolescents and young teenagers.

 

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Weekly World News Headlines

The Weekly World News was a largely fictional news tabloid published in the United States from 1979 to 2007, renowned for its outlandish cover stories often based on supernatural or paranormal themes and an approach to news that verged on the satirical. Its characteristic black-and-white covers have become pop-culture images widely used in the arts. It ceased publication in August 2007.

In 2009, Weekly World News was relaunched as an online only publication. Its current editor-in-chief is Neil McGinness.

These headlines are from the online incarnation.

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