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November 04, 1979 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-11-04
This is a tabloid page

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Thetichigan Daily-Sunday, Nove

Page 4-Sunday, November 4, 1979-The Michigan Daily
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By Eric Zorn

HE -STORIES are filled with romance,
intrigue, bravery, and mystery; they are
"incredible," "amazing," "shocking,"
"never before revealed," and, most sur-
prisng of all, factual.
The big news these days from the National
Enquirer, the grandpappy of supermarket tabloid
newspapers, is that it no longer prints idle,
speculative gossip masquerading as reality.
Everything the bored housewife reads is now the
truth, and nothing but the truth.
The whole truth? Well, let's not go overboard.
While every single word the Enquirer prints is, in
fact, substantiated and double-checked by an
aggressive and highly-paid research staff, the ar-
ticles themselves are marked by an upbeat, one-
sided simplicity. There is nothing confusing or in-
tricate or equivocal within the 64 pages of tonic
news each week.
A recent issue of the 40-cent "newspaper" (the
Audit Bureau of circulation considers it a
magazine) is, like every other issue, a tableau of
what one reporter for the paper calls "junk food
journalism." There are a couple of celebrity
romance stories (Sylvester Stallone plus Susan An-
ton; Sophia Loren plus Serge Lama), a few
celebrity expose stories (the trials of "has been"
Phil Silvers; Phil Donahue's son battles a coma),
some medical information stories (Good News for 1
in 3 Arthritis Victims;" "Beware-Your Washing
Machine Can Be A Health Hazard"), tales of the oc-
cult ("Woman Is Reincarnation of Girl Who Died
147 Years Ago"), government waste ("$3 Million
Grant Returned-But Govt. Refuses To Take It
Back"), extraterrestrial goings on ("Notre Dame
President: Why I Believe There Is Intelligent Life in
Space"), and a spate of human interest slices of life
("I Cried in Terror As The Enraged Grizzly Bear's
Claws Ripped Me").
This fare does not vary much from week to week,
as the publication is always directed to a fictional
"Missy Smith in Kansas City, the 39.4 year-old
housewife with one husband, two children, and a
high school education." She watches a lot of
television, worries about her health, is tantalized by
out-of-the-ordinary events, and would like to feel
abreast of goings-on in that confusing world racing
by outside.
Advertisements generally feature mail-order
remedies for baldness, small breasts, and medical
ailments, and it has only been recently that major
brand name advertisers have braved the tabloid
market to peddle their goods.
Headquarters for the Enquirer is a modern, one-
story office building just off U.S. Highway 1 in the
Atlantic coastal town of Lantana, Fla., just south of
Palm Beach. The premises are immaculately lan-
dscaped (owner Generoso Pope, Jr. is an avid gar-
dener), and the building looks for all the world like a.
peaceful suburban junior high school.
Inside, though, the newsroom is far from calm. A
furiously percolating center of activity during the
working day, the brightly lit room is tight with
reporters and editors squeezed together in rows of
tiny desks, battling to get their stories. There is a
tremendous pressure to produce.
No contract and no union exist for the reporting
and low-level editing staff, and the Enquirer is
famous for firing out-of-hand anyone who falls out of
favor, no matter how long he or she has served the
paper. "You're only as good as your last act," goes
a saying around the newsroom.
Firings typically take place on Friday afternoon,
and as many as twelve reporters have been given
the axe in any one fell swoop. After the news has
been passed around, the weekly cocktail party takes
place with solemn formality.
Officially, owner Gene Pope-reportedly hated
and feared by almost everyone on his staff-has
recently instituted a 30-day improvement plan in
place of the "Friday Afternoon Massacres." "Those
are just a formality," says an anonymous insider.
"When you hear that warning, it's time to pack up
your desk."
Indeed, fear and loathing on the trash news trail
Eric Zorn is co-editor of the Daily's arts

runs so deep that many reporters do not trust one
another and live in fear that their telephones are
being tapped. The story goes that a reporter was
once fired for spilling coffee on the newsroom floor,
and now everyone cautiously gets a plastic lid for all
Employees suffer the "mind warfare" at-
mosphere of the Enquirer because their payoff is so
very handsome: Starting staff reporters earn a
whopping $36,000 a year, three times the typical
beginning salary at the large Miami Herald daily
newspaper just south of the Enquirer, and the op-

ded and double checked for
more, all staffers most id
Enquirer reporters AND ref
to record the conversation
TAPE before a word of a stc
story is written, Enquirer
their sources and read back I
check for errors.
Still, after all this, fears
Enquirer is out to get them
for the staffers are sneaky, r
desperate to deliver the good

'The building looks for all the world like ajp
urban junior high school. Inside, though, th
isfar from calm.'

portunities for lavish travel and high living are
seemingly endless.
OPE, IT IS SAID, will pay anything and
stop at nothing to get a story. One of his
reporters traveled the world for four
months searching for "utopia." When
e returned he announced that utopia had eluded
him-but failed to mention that traveling the world
for four months at somebody else's expense IS
Aside from spending a lot of money-including
bribes to reluctant interview subjects-to get what
they want Enquirer reporters are known to do
anything, including lying, cheating, and stealing, to
get a story.
Reporters at the office still tell the tale of two
Enquirer staffers who were sent to check reports
that former President Richard Nixon was heating
his Key Biscayne swimming pool during a national
energy shortage. Equipped with heat-sensitive
photographic equipment, they rented a helicopter
and hovered over Nixon's pool to gather evidence.
At this point, secret service agents opened fire on
the plucky reporters, and they had to beat a hasty
Other reporters have caches of phoney business
cards that get them in the door so they can nab an
interview subject. In general, the paper has a extra-
ordinarily difficult time getting people to talk to
them because of its reputation for shading the
correct facts and dealing in half-truths: Doctors
and technical experts regularly hang-up on
Enquirer reporters, and celebrities slam doors in
their faces.
"I hear of reporters getting threatened and
assaulted all the time," says a staffer. "It's a lousy
feeling to have nobody trust .you and have
everybody think you're out to get them. They forget
that we tell the truth."
The Enquirer bases its pious claim for absolute
accuracy on a two-and-a-half-year-old policy that
every word of every interview must be tape recor-

common for reporters to get
go through their trash; to m
up until the last minute; to]i
of the story they are writ
James Bondian methods of s
The most famous display
of the Enquirer's power, r
nalistic tactics happened i:
Presley died.
Within hours after news of
tana, associate editor T
private jet with four report
and headed for Memphi
Enquirer staffers were flow
Kuncl rented the top flo
ment building, ordered 2
stalled, and spent four da:
"The Untold Story." To se
bits of information, say
"bought" many notables in
paramedics who answe
girlfriend who found the cor
second cousin, various gr
Memphis newspapers, and
could be paid off so that
anybody else.
For their zeal-and $75,0
up a lot of information that
wind of at all. For example:
on the toilet, and was f
bathroom floor and "his el
face with a purplish color
tongue was sticking out of h
down on it."
However, the Enquirer's
was the only photograph th<
in his casket. How they got
but its grisly presence in
helped to sell an Enquirer-r
Vernon Presley, Elvis's 1
the Washington Post as be

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